Monday, April 27, 2015

Ulysses S. Grant in Movies

Today is the 193rd birthday of Ulysses S. Grant. Since I am related to him (fifth cousin, six times removed) I thought I would post about some of the movies in which Grant is a character.

Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States

The most famous image of Grant in a classic film is in the Cinerama epic How the West Was Won (1962). Grant is seen in the segment directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. He is played by Harry Morgan.

The next one is from They Died with Their Boots On (1941) starring Errol Flynn as Gen. Custer and Olivia de Havilland as his wife. Grant is played by Joseph Crehan (uncredited).

Crehan portrayed Grant 9 times: Union Pacific (1939) - pictured below, Geronimo (1939), Colorado (1940), The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), Silver River (1948), Red Desert (1949), San Antone (1953), and an episode of Jane Wyman Presents (1958).


In another John Wayne Film, The Horse Soldiers (1959), Grant is played by Stan Jones.

See a list of all the films with Gen. Grant in them here.
All images found via Google Images.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Netflix Monthly Movie: The Flight That Disappeared (1961)


The Flight That Disappeared (1961) is clearly a low-budget picture and has a very small scope. There's the interior of the plane (cockpit, cabin, and lounge), some shots of a plane flying - stock footage, and the interior of the control center/airport office (whatever they're called). It has three main characters played by actors that I have never heard of. It was directed by Reginald Le Borg and has a running time of 71 minutes.

The movie begins with passengers boarding Flight 60 on a small commercial plane en route to Washington DC. Three of the passengers are scientists, who have been summoned to DC to attend a classified meeting concerning a new bomb design. I enjoyed seeing the depiction of what early commercial flight was like. I don't know how accurate it was. The stewardesses seemed to be taking their time passing out the lunch trays.

The movie suddenly turns into a long episode of The Twilight Zone. The plane gains altitude in order to fly over a storm and continues to rise instead of leveling off. Then all of the engines stop running but still the plane keeps rising. No one can figure out what the problem is. The plane loses radio contact with their base and after a long time of there being no word from the plane, it is thought to have crashed. A search for the missing plane begins on the ground.

Meanwhile, in the air, the plane is still flying upwards. They are unaware of the search going on for them below. Some of the passengers start to need oxygen and the stewardesses slowly pass them out as the people begin getting light-headed or fainting one by one. They do this without supplying oxygen for themselves first, causing them to faint as well. Soon, everyone on the plane is sleeping/passed out, including the pilots in the cockpit. The only three people on the plane awake are Dr. Carl Morris - a scientist who has invented a beta-bomb, his assistant Marcia Paxton - a mathematician, and another scientist - Tom Endicott - who has invented a rocket launcher. They are played by Dayton Lummis, Paula Raymond, and Craig Hill respectively. The stewardesses are played by Nancy Hale and Bernadette Hale; I don't think they are related.

They discover that their watches have stopped and the plane does not appear to be moving. They also notice that their hearts are not beating, causing them to wonder if they are dead. While they are discussing this strange experience (in the lounge), they hear a voice from outside the plane. They exit and find themselves in a cloud and rock formation land. There they meet the people who will populate Earth in the future. These future people have summoned the scientists because they have created a bomb that could wipe out the Earth and therefore the future. They take a vote and decide to sentence them to remain in this limbo for eternity in order to give the future people a chance to live. The scientist run back to the plane which suddenly disappears.

The "future" people
Suddenly, everyone is back on the plane and awake. Tom discovers he hit his head and blacked out. The stewardess tells him he must have been dreaming. Dr. Morris has the other two come back to the lounge and they discover that they all had the same "dream."
When the plane finally lands, it is discovered that Flight 60 is 24 hours late! Then it wasn't a dream after all!
What do the scientists decide to do? Do they go ahead with the bomb? Or do they destroy the deadly knowledge they hold?

Dr. Carl Morris, Marcia Paxton, and Tom Endicott
The movie was a bit slow but I don't regret watching it. If you have an hour it's not a bad movie to watch, especially if you like The Twilight Zone (one of the less weird episodes). All of the main characters remind me of other, more famous actors. If this would have been a bigger budget film, it would have had Monty Wooley in the role of Dr. Morris, Barbara Hale (or Yvonne De Carlo) as Marcia Paxton, and Robert Cummings as Tom Endicott.

Here's a funny review of the movie (where I got the pictures - Netflix doesn't allow screenshots).

Plane interior


Which looks nothing like this one by the way...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Whole Town's Talking (1935)

I just discovered why I like this movie so much: the script is by Robert Riskin. He wrote the screenplays for both Platinum Blonde (1931) and Magic Town (1947), both of which I have written about, as well as numerous Frank Capra films. The following film however, was directed by the great John Ford, famous for his long-time film partnership with John Wayne.
The Whole Town's Talking was released in February of 1935, over 80 years ago! It featured two of the biggest stars of the decade: Edward G. Robinson and Jean Arthur. Robinson plays a dual role in this film, which has been sort of a theme here at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies this month. One of the roles he plays is that of a gangster named "Killer" Manion - no surprise there. The other is Arthur Ferguson Jones, a meek and shy office worker who is never late for work and who does the same thing every day. He wakes up at the same time, feeds his cat Abelard, feeds his bird Heloise, draws a bath... you get the picture. However, today is the day that his life changes. Due to get a raise for his punctuality, he is late for the first time in his life and almost gets fired. His long record of loyalty and dedication to his job works in his favor and he is allowed to stay - but no raise. One of his co-workers, "Bill" Clark (played by Arthur) - the girl he secretly loves - gets fired instead for taking up for him. However, in true Jean Arthur fashion, she doesn't seem to mind.
While cleaning out her desk, she happens to see a picture of Public Enemy #1 in the newspaper. He looks just like Jonesy!
The two go out to lunch together. While there, an upright citizen, played by Donald Meek, notices Jones, whom he thinks is "Killer" Manion, performs his duty and calls the police (there also just happens to be a reward). Within minutes the place is surrounded and Jones is hauled off to the city jail.
Jones and Clark insist that this is all a big mistake, but to no avail. Finally, Jones' boss comes down and identifies him. Since he looks so much like the gangster, Jones is given a special "Police Protection" pass to show the police if he is picked up again. The story of the gangster look-alike is printed in the local paper and "Killer" Manion finds out about Jones and his special, not to mention convenient, pass.
Seeing the publicity in this, Jones' boss has him write up a series of newspaper articles of his views on Manion. Jones agrees, but only is Miss Clark is put back on the payroll. Maybe looking like a gangster isn't so bad after all...
When Jones returns to his apartment later in the evening, a surprise awaits him.
Manion, being a ruthless gangster, comes up with the perfect plan. During the day, while Jones is at work, Manion will stay in Jones' apartment. At night, when Jones comes home, Manion will take his pass and go commit more crimes while being protected from the police. Jones can do nothing but agree. Unfortunately, he also has to agree to write his newspaper articles as dictated by Manion, leading many to be suspicious that Jones is lying about his identity.
See the resemblance?

The film ends with a showdown between the two characters. Manion sends his men to go kill Jones, who then unexpectedly shows up at their hideout. Manion's men think Jones is Manion and he tells them to let Jones go free. This final scene is extremely interesting to watch as Robinson has to play a meek guy pretending to be a gangster. He pulls it off brilliantly. His performance is so convincing in this movie that you really do see Robinson as two separate men. That alone makes this film worth watching.  Add Jean Arthur, a great supporting cast, and a witty script and you have cinema gold!

With growing indignity surrounding the perceived vulgarity of gangster movies, it was only due to its comedy content that the film avoided falling foul of the code William Hays drew up to enforce prohibition on subversive content in film — the principles of which went on to govern film narrative in Hollywood at the time. ~ source
There is one glaring goof in the picture. At the beginning of the movie, Jones starts the tub water running. When he realized he is late for work, he rushes from the apartment, and there is a close-up of the overflowing bathtub. When Jones returns from work, the water is not running and there is no "flood" like you are led to expect.

Make sure you read Silver Screenings post from 2013 on the Dual Edward!

This film airs on TCM on Sept. 20th at 8am EST.

All images found via Pinterest

Friday, April 17, 2015

Evil Twins in Classic Movies: Bette Davis in "A Stolen Life" & Olivia de Havilland in "The Dark Mirror"

The year 1946 saw two movies where the leading actress played a dual role: twins with herself. The most famous "twin" movie where only one actress plays the parts is The Parent Trap starring Haley Mills. Twins have always been fascinating studies. How are they different? How are they the same? More importantly, what happens when one of the twins is evil...

A Stolen Life starring Bette Davis and The Dark Mirror starring Olivia de Havilland are both examples of this. One of the intriguing things about them is that you get to see the actress in two very different lights: good and bad. I find it fascinating to watch these films because you both love and hate the actress. Let's look at each film separately and then compare them.

The first "evil twin" film I saw as A Stolen Life. It has a great supporting cast: Glenn Ford as the love interest, Charles Ruggles as the concerned Uncle, Walter Brennan as the lighthouse keeper, and Dane Clark as the cynical artist. The story takes place in New England, where old town charm and crashing waves heighten the battle of good vs. evil.

Davis plays Kate and Pat Bosworth. Kate is a painter, visiting her uncle in Cape Cod. She meets the handsome Bill Emerson (Glenn Ford) when she misses the boat back to the mainland (after touring a lighthouse where Bill just happens to be living at the moment) and he has to give her a ride in his boat. Kate, who wants to do a portrait of Bill's uncle who the lighthouse keeper, goes back the next day in her sailboat. The two begin to fall in love; Kate faster than Bill. But there is something Bill doesn't know: Kate has a twin sister.

Bill meets Pat and, thinking it's Kate, begins talking love to her. Pat, who now knows what the secret Kate has been keeping from her is, plays along. Just as Bill is about to kiss her, Kate walks up. Of course he is confused. To make it more awkward, he has just told Pat, whom he thought was Kate, that she was more beautiful than usual; that she has that extra something she lacked earlier. Of course, it's not evident to the viewer as Kate and Pat are both Davis. "Pat" is simply more forward.

After that incident, Bill double-checks every time he goes to pick up Kate. Pat however, being more aggressive and taking advantage of her "extra something" (not to mention that she's also a b*tch) slowly begins to lure Bill away. Kate of course  stands by and watches her twin steal the man she loves from her. Bill, being a patsy, ends up falling for Pat instead of Kate, whom he really loves. Pat is of course "so sorry" that Bill chose her. She "knows" how it must have hurt Kate to be passed over like that.

Pat goes so far as to marry Bill. Of course their marriage is a failure from the start as Pat's true side comes out. Bill realizes his mistake too late. To escape his loveless marriage, he takes a job in Chile.
Kate, meanwhile, helps out a struggling artist (Dane Clark), letting him work in her studio with her. He criticizes her work, saying it is stiff, and finds out about her lost love. This leads Kate to go back to the Cape to think about where her life is going. She discovers that Pat is also there visiting. While there, the sisters go for a sailboat ride. A storm arises and Pat is washed overboard and drowns (in keeping with the Hays Code, Pat get's what was coming to her). Kate is saved but becomes sick and is put to bed. Everyone believes she is Pat and that it was Kate that drowned.

Bill is summoned back from Chile. Kate awakes and discovers that everyone thinks she is Pat, because she is wearing Pat's wedding ring (which came off Pat's finger as Kate tried to save her). Everyone tells her how sorry they are that Kate drowned and how much they loved her. Instead of telling them who she is, Kate decides to assume Pat's identity. Now she is "married" to Bill! However, when Bill comes to take her home she learns that Bill and Pat were in the midst of getting a divorce, due to Pat's infidelity. This makes things awkward as she now has to break up with Pat's lover. Also, the dog doesn't know her, causing complications. She finds it very heard to pretend to be someone that everyone dislikes (which is putting it mildly). Kate's uncle figures out who she is but promises, ate her request and against his better judgment, to keep her secret.
How does the film end? Does Kate tell Bill who she really is? Or does Bill discover it for himself? Do they live happily ever after?

Unfortunately it's not showing on TCM anytime soon, but you can watch the trailer here. Or you can listen to the Lux Radio Theater broadcast.

Click on the pictures to view larger
This was given to the theatre's showing A Stolen Life to tell them how to get people to see the film. Love the "Follow-Up Stunt"

This ad uses the film to teach about safety

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~
Twins! One who loves, and one who loves to kill!
That's one of the taglines used for The Dark Mirror starring Olivia de Havilland, Lew Ayres, and Thomas Mitchell. The film was, to me, reminiscent of Gaslight (1944), where Charles Boyer slowly drives his wife, Ingrid Bergman, to insanity. In this case however, one twin is slowly driving the other twin crazy. I found this film particularly intriguing as one is not used to seeing the sweet Olivia de Havilland acting so evil and ruthless.

She plays twins Terry and Ruth Collins. One of them murdered someone. Both have perfect alibis. One is psycho. The other is slowly being made psycho. There are several scenes involving psychology, as the film was made in a time where psychoanalysis was a new field. There are several scenes involving the Rorschach ink blot test and it is even used in the opening credits. The twins are told this is for a twin personality study, but really they are trying to determine which one is the killer.

Meanwhile, the evil twin (Terry) is driving the good twin (Ruth) out of her mind slowly. She plays music on a record during the night and pretends not to hear it or remind her of things that one of them said that she doesn't remember. This causes the Ruth to start to lose her grip and wonder if  she maybe didn't commit the murder after all. She also begins to rely on sleeping pills to get a good night's rest, taking more than she needs at her sister's suggestion.

Ayres plays Dr. Scott Elliot. While conducting the tests on the twins, he falls in love with Ruth. After he has completed the tests, he knows which one is the killer and sets a trap. He invites Terry up to his apartment to tell her something "important" (the identity of the killer).
He makes Terry believe that he thinks she is Ruth. When Terry comes to his apartment, he confronts her and tells her that he knows she's Terry and that she did it. She still tries to blame it on Ruth. They are interrupted by a call that Ruth has committed suicide. They rush to the apartment and Scott goes into the bedroom to confirm the death. Terry, thinking that Ruth is dead, now pretends that she is Ruth and that she was trying to help cover up Terry's crime. As she talks, she becomes more and more into her lie. Suddenly, the real Ruth's reflection appears in the mirror. Terry throws an object at the mirror and completely breaks down. After she is taken away, Scott explains why the had to pretend she was dead and comforts her.

The girls wear distinctive personalized jewelry so you can tell them apart.

If ever I was to turn evil, I would definitely try and make the other person feel like they were going crazy. As long as you're good liar (and the other person is sweet and trusting) it would work.

You can watch the full movie here on YouTube.

de Havilland and Ayres with the director, George Cukor
Not even nature can duplicate character, not even in twins.
~ Dr. Scott Elliot, The Dark Mirror


Be sure to look for my post on The Whole Town's Talking (1935) on Sunday, where Edward G. Robinson plays the dual role of a meek office worker and a ruthless gangster (his specialty)! Also check out what's new to the blog, my post on look-alike celebrities (it's been all about twins here lately), and my 50th Anniversary Sound of Music posts!

This post is part of the Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy, Shadows & Satin, and Silver Screenings. Make sure and check out all five days of great entries!

All images found via Pinterest