Review: Star Reporter (1939)

Often while discussing films we rank their importance with the alphabet.

An A film is a mainstream, high dollar movie. A B movie is a low-budget commercial film that may have a quality story line and actors, but is less publicized. These films would be the bottom half of the double feature — sort of like the song on the 45 record that wasn’t the hit single.

“Star Reporter” (1939) would most likely fall under the “B movie” category.

star

Distributed by “poverty row” studio Monogram Pictures, this hour long film revolves around newspapers and crime.

Reporter John Randolph, played by Warren Hull, works for the Star Tribune newspaper but is also a “star” on the job. Considered bright and brilliant, his father was the owner of the newspaper and was recently murdered. Randolph believes his father was killed because he had information that could bring down the “underworld” of the town.

Randolph is also a big supporter of District Attorney William Burnette, played by Wallis Clark, and throws his support for the DA in each of his stories at the newspaper. Randolph happens to be engaged to the DA’s daughter, Barbara, played by Marsha Hunt.

But when a murder happens, secrets about Randolph and his mother Julia, played by Virginia Howell, are threatened to be dragged out.

It turns out that the deceased newspaper owner was not Randolph’s biological father. Mrs. Randolph was once married to Charlie Bennett, who disappeared and was believed dead. Bennett has now reappeared as the murderer using the name Joe Draper, played by Morgan Wallice.

Lawyer Whitaker tries to bargain with the DA.

Lawyer Whitaker tries to bargain with the DA.

Dirty lawyer Whitaker, played by Clay Clement, is defending Draper.  Whitaker knows Mrs. Randolph’s secret and threatens to reveal it, if she and the DA do not cooperate and close the case.

Draper already signed a confession with the DA, but it is stolen by a thief named Clipper, played by actor Paul Fix in a very small role.

The DA decides not to prosecute to protect the Randolphs. John, not knowing the family secret, turns against  his father-in-law-to-be. Now rather than backing the DA, he works to get him thrown out of office, which was Whitaker’s goal.

For an hour long movie, this is an awfully complicated and mildly confusing plot.

Unlike most newspaper films of the 1930s and 1940s, the majority of the film does not involve a reporter playing detective or getting in fights with gangsters.

I was pleasantly surprised by this, until the end. At the end of the film Randolph is in the same house as the gangster/his biological father with a gun pointing at him. Though as a reporter, it’s not terribly accurate. I wasn’t surprised by this plot development. In my experience as a reporter, I have never gotten in fist fights with gangsters, but then maybe it was different in the 1930s.

Reporter Randolph is engaged to the DA's daughter, played by Marsha Hunt.

Reporter Randolph is engaged to the DA’s daughter, played by Marsha Hunt.

I did like how some of the lines showed just how busy reporters are and how they frequently are on call or away from home.

“After we’re married you can furnish the pressroom as living quarters. That way I can run in and see you between murders,” Randolph said to his new fiancée Barbara.

“Our wedding guests were kept waiting because of a special edition,” Mrs. Randolph told Barbara.

These lines made me chuckle because anyone in newspapers know the words day off, weekend or quiet evening are almost laughable.

I discovered “Star Reporter” shortly after I started working at The Shelby Star in October 2012.

Over the last two years of working at the newspaper, I felt a special connection to the title, because I was (Shelby) Star reporter Jessica Pickens.

Now as I wrap up my last week at the newspaper, I felt it appropriate to finally review the film I’ve been meaning to write about for two years.

Is “Star Reporter” a great movie? No. The biggest names in the film are Paul Fix, who later went on to be in several John Ford films, and Marsha Hunt. Both actors are in the film for less than 15 minutes.

But it is mildly entertaining, especially if you are looking for a very brief film to watch.

In a year that released “Gone with the Wind,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “Wizard of Oz” –just to name a few of nearly 100 well received films- it is interesting to take a look at the B side of the year 1939.

In an age now where we only concentrate the blockbusters, these little hour long films are equally important to explore.

StarReporter1939

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

 

About these ads

Review: “Hot Rods to Hell” (1967)

hot rods to hellWe all have at least one guilty pleasure film that is so terrible, but we inexplicably love it.

I have several, and one of them is the 1967 drama/thriller “Hot Rods to Hell.” It is one of those films where you laugh at the ridiculous lines and moments but have a desire to rewatch it constantly.

Originally made for TV but released in theaters, the camp film stars veteran Hollywood stars Jeanne Crain, as Peg Phillips, and Dana Andrews, as Tom Phillips.

This is one of four films Andrews and Crain made together during their Hollywood careers that spanned the 1940s through the 1970s.

Their first film together was movie musical “State Fair” (1945) where Crain plays a farm girl named Margy who meets Andrews, a reporter named Pat, and falls in love with him at the state fair.

“State Fair” ends with the two happily running towards each other and kissing in the street.

I like to imagine that “Hot Rods to Hell” is Margy and Pat 22 years later with their children.

The movie follows the couple and their two children Tina, played by Laurie Mock, and Jamie, played by Jeffrey Byron, as they move from their New England home to run a motel in California after Tom is in a serious wreck.

The film begins with Tom driving home from a business trip to celebrate Christmas with his family. A reckless driver causes the accident and leaves Tom with a back problem and some mental issues. Due to the wreck, he no longer wants to drive and can’t listen to Christmas music.

Tom’s brother arranges for the family to move to California to run the motel, believing it will benefit Tom’s physical and mental health.

Drag racing teens running cars off the road: Ernie, Gloria and Duke played by Gene Kirkwood, Mimsy Farmer and Paul Bertoya.

Drag racing teens running cars off the road: Ernie, Gloria and Duke played by Gene Kirkwood, Mimsy Farmer and Paul Bertoya.

As the family is driving through the desert in their station wagon, they encounter teenagers drag racing a modified 1958 Chevrolet Corvette.

“Run them off the road, Duke. Run them off the road,” shouts the teenage girl Gloria, played by Mimsy Farmer, as she is perched on the back of the car as they race.

The teenagers are children of local, wealthy farmers who don’t care what the teens do. The teenagers have a constant thirst to get their “kicks” but nothing will satisfy them.

“What kind of animals are those,” Tom shouts as they are nearly run off the road. “They are insane.”

Peg covers her face with her hands and screams, “Tom I can’t stand it!”

Tina, who desperately wants to be a hip teenager, defends them by saying that all the kids drag race.

The majority of the 92 minute movie involves Duke, played by Paul Bertoya; Gloria and Ernie, played by Gene Kirkwood, harassing the Phillips family on the road. They tailgate the family through small towns, try to run them off the road and follow them to a picnic ground, where Duke attempts to seduce Tina.

Tina is frightened but fascinated with the bad kids.

When the Phillips finally arrives at the motel, rather than finding solace, there is more trouble.

The motel and the adjacent a bar and grill are inhabited by the drag racers and other teens like them. The previous owner allowed the teenagers to drink and have trysts in the motel. It makes you wonder if Tom’s brother did any research on the spot before encouraging the Phillips to move there.

When the drag racers discover the Phillips are the new owners, they do all they can to make them leave; knowing Tom will sanitize the spot.

The family is terrorized by the drag racers.

The family is terrorized by the drag racers.

Frightened and disgusted with what they find, the Phillips decide to stay the night at the hotel before figuring out what their next move should be.

Tina, still fascinated with Duke, goes to see him at the bar, almost like she is thinking, “Oh these people have been terrorizing my family all day. I think I’ll go hang with them.”

Jealous Gloria tells Tom and who tries to strangle Duke.

“Tina how far would you have gone,” Peg yells at her daughter. “Are you going to end up in a motel room with any man?!”

The family leaves the hotel to get the police, and the drag racers continue to follow the Phillips family.

“Oh they’re back again,” Jamie screams. “They want to crack us up!”

After even more harassment, Tom finally and successfully stands up to Duke and Ernie.

Tom places his car in the middle of the road in a game of “chicken” and the family hides. Duke and Ernie swerves to miss the car and crashes.

The crash causes an immediate attitude change and the boys tell Tom they won’t give him anymore trouble. The film ends with Tom deciding to go back and run the motel properly.

“Hot Rods to Hell” is truly a terrible movie, but I can’t get enough of it.

Duke tries to seduce Tina, played by Laurie Mock.

Duke tries to seduce Tina, played by Laurie Mock.

The hilarious lines and the over reacting to the situations make it a true guilty pleasure and cult classic.

But at the same time, it’s sort of sad. To see 1940s and 1950s stars Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain late in their career and performing in this type of film is disheartening.

Crain was a top star at 20th Century Fox in the 1940s and 1950s and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Pinky” (1949).

Dana Andrews previously starred in top notch films such as the noir “Laura” (1944) and the post-war drama “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946).

However, Andrews had children in college so he had to work, said the Carl Rollyson biography “Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews.”

While the old glamorous and glittering Golden Era of film was fading, the top stars were retiring or resorting to cult films like this one to continue to make money.

To compare, Joan Crawford was killing people with an ax in “STRAIT-JACKET” (1964) and Lana Turner was drugged with LSD in “The Big Cube” (1969).

While I marvel at the beautiful films in the early careers of these stars, I also can’t get enough of their late careers. Classic Hollywood’s career downturns have turned into our guilty pleasures.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Interview and review: “Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait”

vivien leigh book coverAfter 75 years, her fresh portrayal as Scarlett O’Hara is one of the most memorable screen performances of all time.

Last November, the “Gone with the Wind” actress celebrated her 100th birthday. And to help celebrate, film historian Kendra Bean published a biography on Vivien Leigh, “Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait.” Bean’s book is also the first book written about Leigh in 25 years.

Leigh won two Academy Awards for Best Actress during her short, 18 film career for playing two iconic Southern belles: O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind” (1939) and Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)

“An Intimate Portrait” tenderly chronicles Leigh’s life, from her childhood in India through her marriage and divorce to Laurence Olivier to Leigh’s early death at age 51. The book is well-researched, unbiased, beautiful and heartbreaking.

Through her writing, Bean shows her passion for the subject and allows the reader to connect with the English actress. Leigh feels relatable and human compared to the unreachable and ethereal portrait that usually seems to be painted of the mysterious beauty.

A publicity photo of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh for "Gone with the Wind" (1939). This photo also appears in Bean's book.

A publicity photo of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh for “Gone with the Wind” (1939). This photo also appears in Bean’s book.

Reading the page-turning biography is almost like reading “Romeo and Juliet.” Similar to the Shakespeare story that ends in tragedy, you are aware of the impending heartbreak in Leigh’s life. While reading about her successful career and marriage to Laurence Olivier, most readers know the whole time of her heartbreaking divorce, bouts with depression, tuberculosis and Leigh’s early death.

Bean chronicles these events sensitively and through extensive research, quoting interviews throughout the book. She is also the first author to delve into Laurence Olivier’s files. The 272 page book is also filled with gorgeous and rare photos of Leigh.

Bean started her Leigh and Olivier research on her website, VivandLarry.com, before moving from California to England to do more in-depth studying of Leigh’s life and romance with Olivier.

In December, she was kind enough to answer several interview questions for Comet Over Hollywood: 

Comet Over Hollywood: When did your love for Vivien Leigh begin? What started it?
Kendra Bean: I saw Gone With the Wind as a teenager and began reading everything I could get my hands on that would tell me more about the film, including biographies of the stars. The more I read about Vivien, the more interesting she became in my eyes. That’s really what started it. Having a website and online community centered on her and Laurence Olivier has definitely helped keep my interest alive over the years.

Vivien Leigh proudly holds her Best Actress Oscar on March 2. 1940. She was recognized for her portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.

Vivien Leigh proudly holds her Best Actress Oscar on March 2. 1940. She was recognized for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.

COH: I have always understood that you moved to England to better study Olivier and Leigh. Is that correct? How difficult of a decision was that? What was that transition like to study something you love?
KB: That was only part of the reason. I actually moved to London for graduate school. I did my BA in Film and Media Studies back in California and then spent the next four years working. But I knew I wanted to be a film historian and to do that, I felt I needed to get a further degree. I wasn’t really satisfied with what I was doing back home, and just felt like I needed a change if I was ever going to actually pursue these interests. I always wanted to live in London for at least a year, so I applied to the Film Studies graduate program at King’s College London. Luckily, they accepted me and offered a couple of scholarships, so off I went!
It was a big change, but I knew some people here already and knew my way around the city. I also made some great friends through the program who I still keep in touch with today. I think the most difficult period was the transition from graduation to whatever was going to happen next. I was determined to make this book project work, but the process of actually getting a publisher was a long one. It was a very stressful period because being on a visa kind of limits things. There were several times when I thought I might well have to move back to the US and that the book would never happen.

COH: You have been working on the book for five years. What all goes into the research that you had to do?
KB: There were two parts to my research: constructing the book and getting it published. Because it’s a coffee table book, a good deal of the process involved locating, sourcing, and licensing photographs (I don’t think a lot of people realize what a lengthy and involved process that is). I also spent a good deal of time in various archives in the UK and in Los Angeles looking for interesting information (fellow fans/research assistants sent me information from New York and Australia, as well), reading through various biographies, tracking down and interviewing people who knew and worked with Vivien, and seeking permission from various estates to quote from letters.
When I first started this project, I had no idea how to get a book published. So, I also had to do a fair bit of research into the actual publication process: how to get an agent, possible marketing angles, crafting a proposal, etc. It was a lot of work, but very much worth it in the end!

COH: What was a misconception you had that came to light during your research?
KB: I think there have been a lot of misconceptions about Vivien’s battle with manic depression (bipolar disorder) and her relationship with Laurence Olivier, in general. One major grey area has always been the infamous 1953 incident, when Vivien had nervous breakdown whilst filming Elephant Walk in 1953. She was flown back to England, legally sectioned, and committed to a mental asylum. The picture I had in my mind from reading previous Leigh biographies was something akin to Frances Farmer getting hauled off to the state institution.
There were also a lot of rumors surrounding this event, including the suggestion that Olivier was having a long affair with actor Danny Kaye and that this set Vivien off. I found no evidence to support any of that. Rather, there was plenty to support the fact that Vivien had been headed toward a mental health crisis for a long time and previous attempts at intervention in 1951/52 were refused by her. Although this was not surprising given the stigma surrounding mental illness in the 1950s, it was still sad to learn that there’s a chance that this particular incident might have been avoided. I was given access to some files pertaining to this incident that hadn’t been by previous biographers (of Leigh or Olivier). What emerged was a clearer picture not only of the harrowing experience that Vivien went through, but also how that experience affected those closest to her – particularly Olivier. It was a very stressful and frightening time for all involved.
Today it seems fashionable to focus on their interpersonal problems; specifically how horrible Olivier was to Vivien. Through moderating vivandlarry.com and the accompanying Facebook page over the years, it seems to me that there’s a tendency to view their relationship in black and white terms. In fact, it was very complicated. How could it not be? They were together for nearly 25 years and she remained obsessed with him for the rest of her life. Their marriage did turn very sour in the 1950s but before that, and I think sometimes during that period, there was actually a lot of love, respect, and camaraderie between them. That notion was reinforced when going through Olivier’s papers, and those of other people who knew them.

Arriving in New York by boat in 1951.

Arriving in New York by boat in 1951.

COH: Why is it important to study actors like Leigh and Olivier and their relationship?
KB: Because they both made significant contributions to 20th century popular culture. They considered themselves artists and their work deserves to be remembered and reappraised. Unfortunately, their stage work was very ephemeral but luckily their films still remain to be enjoyed and discussed by fans and casual viewers alike. On top of that, they lead interesting lives.

COH: Was there anything you learned that didn’t make it into the book and why?
KB: One of the main tasks of an author is to decide what is important and what isn’t for the story he or she wants to tell. Coffee table books require even more editorializing than standard biographies because they rely just as much – sometimes even more – on visuals as they do text. A couple of examples of things that were left out of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait: I was told some stories during interviews that I felt were interesting but they ended up being more about the interviewee than Vivien, or I didn’t feel they added anything thematically that hadn’t been said already, so they were left out. I also didn’t spend much time talking about the films she made for Alexander Korda in the 1930s, instead opting to cut to the meat of her fame, which really took off with Gone With the Wind. I did write an essay about these films for the Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection released in November by Cohen Films though, and that’s something I would definitely expand upon in a full biography.
leighOne of the challenges in writing a biography of a famous figure is that many materials are still in copyright and permission is required to publish them if they fall outside of fair use. This meant that, unfortunately, there were some letters and photos that I very much wanted to use, but couldn’t.

COH: Recently you have given several speeches and interviews. What has been your proudest moment since the book has been published?
KB: I think my proudest moment was actually getting the book published. It was such a long and often emotional journey and there were several instances where I worried it wouldn’t come to fruition.
I’m grateful for the opportunities that have arisen from being published. It’s been such a wonderful learning experience and I’ve met some very passionate and intelligent people because of it. I never thought I’d get to curate an exhibit at a major museum, for example, but Terence Pepper (who edited some of my favorite photo retrospectives) asked me to help curate the “Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration” exhibit that’s currently on at the National Portrait Gallery. I also gave my first-ever big lecture to a sold out audience at the NPG. Public speaking has always been one of my worst fears, but this went really well and has given me confidence for the lecture I’m giving at the V&A in February.

COH: Do you see another book in your future?
KB: Yes! Watch this space!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

“The Wizard of Oz” in 3D: Was it necessary?

My parents introduced “The Wizard of Oz” to me when I was a baby.

My sisters and I all have dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween or a book character day at least once.
We also have Dorothy Barbies, dolls and my mom owns “The Wizard of Oz” collectors decorative plates.

Needless to say, the Pickens family are fans of the film.

I grew up with “The Wizard of Oz” just as my parents did when it was shown yearly on television.

wizard of oz2

“The Wizard of Oz” was what taught me about the state of Kansas and what a cyclone was.
Like most movies, the information and lessons it taught me molded my young mind.

When I heard the 1939 film starring Judy Garland as Dorothy was going to be released in 3D and IMAX, I had mixed emotions.
1. I wanted to see the film on the big screen, because I never had before.
2. I don’t like 3D and avoid it at all costs. Why did they feel the conversion was necessary?

Though I wasn’t pleased with the thought of 3D or paying $17 for a movie ticket, I couldn’t pass up watching a classic film in a movie theater- something that doesn’t happen much in my area.

Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland as Dorothy and Jack Haley as the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz"

Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland as Dorothy and Jack Haley as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz”

Tuesday evening I made the 50 minute drive to Charlotte, NC to see the “Wizard of Oz.”

The Technicolor was lush, I laughed at the supporting characters, cried at the end of the movie and I enjoyed myself. It had been years since I watched “The Wizard of Oz” from start to finish. I forgot how funny the jokes are and how visually beautiful it is.

Having the opportunity to see a classic film on the big screen is a special experience. Even if you have seen the movie before, you pick up on jokes and subtle movements and expressions better than you can on your television. You are also forced to pay attention to the film, because it is just you and the screen.

But the big question is, was the 3D necessary or distracting?

The 3D wasn’t obtrusive or dramatic. Many scenes looked similar to if you were watching a 2D version of the film. The times it stood out the most were when the Wicked Witch (played by Margaret Hamilton) pointed at the camera or when Glenda the Good Witch (played by Billie Burke) gestured with her silver wand.

The Lollipop Guild

The Lollipop Guild

The 3D mostly was used for depth. Dorothy sat a little further out from her surroundings as she sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the Lollipop Guild stood out as well. These scenes weren’t bothersome, but there just wasn’t much purpose to it.

The only other 3D film I have watched in a theater the John Wayne film “Hondo” (1953) at the Turner Classic Film Festival. While the 3D wasn’t used excessively in “Hondo,” it’s use was more dramatic. Native Americans rode on horses towards the screen and arrows looked like they were coming at you.
There was nothing that dramatic in “The Wizard of Oz,” not even a flying monkey looking like it was going to share your seat.

There were a few times I felt 3D made things a bit blurry (or maybe it’s my bad eye sight) like when the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Dorothy (Garland), the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) and the Tin Man (Jack Haley) ran through the poppy field. Another area I felt was a bit blurry was when Dorothy opened the door to Oz-taking the film for sepia tone to Technicolor.

In general, I’m not a fan of colorization of black and white films such as “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946) or “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (1938). I feel that modifying a film from 2D to 3D falls under the same distasteful category as colorization. All of these tactics are to bring in younger audiences. But why change art? If a younger audience doesn’t like the “Mona Lisa” would we paint a smile on her?

“3D falls into the category of digital ‘remixing,’ colorizing and other changes,” said my broadcast journalism professor, Haney Howell. “The director shot the movie from his perspective, not that of some geek who thinks he can make it better.”

Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man but was allergic to the makeup. His big break came in the from of the 1960s TV show, "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man but was allergic to the makeup. His big break came in the from of the 1960s TV show, “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

From 1938 to 1939, the script of “The Wizard of Oz” had several rewrites and stars were recast in the film. Shirley Temple was originally considered for the role of Dorothy. Buddy Ebsen was going to be the Tin Man but was allergic to the silver face paint, and Jack Haley was cast instead. Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, received third degree burns on her hands and face during her firey exit with the Munchkins.

A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the director’s vision of “The Wizard of Oz.” Modifying the film from 2D to 3D is going against artistic wishes.

When it was announced “Wizard of Oz” was going to be in 3D, it was said, “If 3D was around in 1939, this is how it would have been shot.” Which is a ridiculous response.

Filmmakers have had 3D capabilities of some sort since the 1920s and 1930s. MGM even made a short film in 1935 called “Audioscopiks” testings 3-D. Then 3D film fell briefly into the mainstream from 1952 to 1954. Hollywood was using 3D to pull movie goers away from their television screens and back into theaters.
So saying “If 3D was around” is a fairly ignorant response.

But to answer the $64 question of “Was 3D necessary?”: No, probably not. But so far, since “The Wizard of Oz” was released last Friday, it has made roughly $3 million. It has served the purpose the money making purpose it was supposed to.

Regardless, I really enjoyed seeing “The Wizard of Oz” for the first time on the big screenscreen.

But as Dorothy says, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

The popularity of “The Wizard of Oz” has remained for over 75 years, so why look any further to improve on it when it isn’t needed.

sepia dorothy

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Before Lois Lane there was Torchy Blane

by torchy blane

She’s a fast talking blond who breaks every rule of reporting.
As a journalist, I should be appalled by Torchy Blane, but I really want to be her. She is the perfect mix of my profession and classic film love.
From 1937 to 1939, Torchy Blane solved crimes and caused trouble for her police detective boyfriend in nine films.

Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane- my role model.

Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane- my role model.

She also was part of the inspiration for Superman’s reporter girlfriend Lois Lane.
In a 1988 Time magazine article, creators of the Superman comics Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel credited Glenda Farrell’s performance as Torchy Blane with their creation of Lois Lane.
“My wife Joanne was Joe’s original art model for Superman’s girlfriend in the 1930s,” Siegel is quoted from the interview in the book The Women of Warner Brothers. “Our heroine was of course a working girl whose priority was grabbing big scoops. What inspired me in the creation was Glenda Farrell, the movie star who portrayed Torchy Blane. Because of the name Lola Lane, who also played Torchy, appealed to me, I called my character Lois Lane.”
Produced by Warner Brothers Studios, the Torchy Blane series was one of many Hollywood B-movie series of the 1930s and 1940s, others include Maisie, Dr. Kildare, Boston Blackie, The Falcon and the Lone Wolf.
Actress Glenda Farrell played Torchy in seven of the films while Jane Wyman and Lola Lane each played the role once.
Torchy Blane titles include:
Torchy Blane…Playing with Dynamite (1939)
Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939)
Torchy Blane in Chinatown (1939)
Torchy Gets Her Man (1938)
Torchy Blane in Panama (1938)
Blondes at Work (1938)
The Adventurous Blonde (1937)
Fly Away Baby (1937)
Smart Blonde (1937)
Though the other actresses play the part well, Farrell leaves a lasting impression. Her comedic timing, brassiness and nonchalant way about her brings Torchy to life. Her performances were complete with 400 word speeches given in 40 seconds that talked her out of trouble.
In many of the films, Torchy is causing more trouble than she is writing stories and meeting deadlines.
Each film has a mystery to solve, and before Torchy’s detective boyfriend Steve McBride can take finger prints, Torchy is one step ahead.
Her job is really more of an amateur detective than a reporter.
“Maybe you know who bumped him off,” Steve says in “Smart Blonde” (1937).
“Not off hand, but with a little time and something to eat, maybe I can help you,” says Torchy.
Our heroine usually solves the crime, leaving the police force and her detective boyfriend looking slightly foolish.

Torchy does some of her own sleuthing

Torchy does some of her own sleuthing

In today’s world of journalism, Torchy’s means of sleuthing and reporting are ethically questionable:
-Hiding in a trashcan to eaves drop
-Bugging rooms with microphones
-Snooping through rooms
-Talking with questionable sources
It’s amazing she even has a job at a publication.
At the end of each film, Steve McBride promises a steak dinner and marriage but at the start of the next film, there have yet to be any wedding bells.
Though the films were made for low budget entertainment, the New York Times in the 1930s gave the movies poor reviews, dubbing Torchy a “demon reporter.” They also wrote “we have a murder mystery solved by an endless succession of door-opening and shuttings, taxi-hailings, jumping in and out of automobiles and riding up and down elevators,” quoted in Howard Good’s book “Girl Reporter: Gender, Journalism and Movies.”
It’s possible that the Times mainly scoffed because the main character was a female star reporter, Good wrote.

Torchy and her detective boyfriend Steve McBride played by Barton MacLane.

Torchy and her detective boyfriend Steve McBride played by Barton MacLane.

Dressed in professional suits, Farrell modeled Torchy after female reporters she knew and tried to make her believable.
“Before I undertook Torchy, I determined to create a real human being, not an exaggerated comedy type,” she said in a 1969 Times interview, quoted in the book The Women of Warner Brothers. “I met those newswomen who visited Hollywood. They were generally young, intelligent, refined and attractive. By making Torchy true to life, I tried to make a character practically unique in movies.”
Reporters could argue that Torchy Blane scripts are not representative of the newspaper industry.
However, as a contemporary female reporter, I love Torchy. I even asked my editors if I could change my byline to Torchy Pickens…but was denied.
Her sass, beauty and energy is endearing, even if she breaks every media law there is.

This is part of the Summer Under the Stars blogathon by ScribeHard and Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence. 

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

“Babies for Sale” (1940)

“Babies for Sale.”

Few film titles have made me chuckle  as much as this 1940 B-movie did.

babies for sale

But the movie starring Glenn Ford and Rochelle Hudson is not a comedy but a crime drama about organizations posing as charitable adoption agencies who are actually selling babies for thousands of dollars.

The film prefaces with:

“Producers of the film are sympathetic with the 95-percent of the charitable organizations dealing with adopted children. These institutions are honest and worthy of all support. This picture is presented as a warning to all parents and to all who plan to adopt children. That some unsupervised private institutions do exist where babies are sold for cash. Where helpless mothers are victimized and where foster parents may find lifelong tragedy instead of happiness. This is a story of one such institution and victims.
What happens in this story could happen to you?”

What’s it about?

Rochelle Hudson and Glenn Ford, Columbia Pictures Studios tried to make the two actors a screen team.

Rochelle Hudson and Glenn Ford, Columbia Pictures Studios tried to make the two actors a screen team.

Ford as Steve Burton is a reporter who gets the scoop from Dr. John Gaines (Joe De Stefani) about fake adoption agencies. Gaines tells Burton that families pay anywhere from $50 to $10,000 for a child. Single women who go to these agencies to have their babies have to work there and earn $1,000 to get their baby.

After writing the story that uses phrases such as “Selling babies by the pound” and “Thousands of babies sold for cash,” Burton faces backlash and the editor is going to retract the story. Believing what he did is right; Burton quits but doesn’t give up investigating the case.

Then the audience gets a look inside one of these agencies.

Mr. and Mrs. Howard Anderson (character actor John Qualen and Helen Brown) are facing Dr. Rankin, the owner of the adoption agency. The couple’s child has defects and will never be well. Rankin says the baby was perfectly fine when he gave them the baby they paid $10,000 for—Basically making it sound like he sold the couple a car. Desolate Mrs. Anderson runs in front of a train with the baby after they leave.

Pregnant women earning their keep to pay for their babies once they are born. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Pregnant women earning their keep to pay for their babies once they are born. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

We meet pregnant Ruth Williams (Rochelle Hudson) whose husband died in an automobile accident.

Ruth has to work at the agency while she is pregnant to pay for her child once it’s born. During this time, Rankin tries to convince Ruth to give up her baby.

“We have to make sacrifices for the ones we love,” he tells her.

“I won’t give away my baby!” she demands.

Once her baby is born, Rankin tells Ruth that it was a stillborn, but she knows he adopted it to another family.

With the help of Burton, Ruth finds her baby through the use of baby foot prints taken after birth. They find Ruth’s baby with a friendly wealthy family who help put Rankin out of business.

The back story

Ex-reporter Burton helps Ruth get her baby back. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Ex-reporter Burton helps Ruth get her baby back. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

“Babies for Sale” was recently shown for the first time on Turner Classic Movies while the channel was celebrating the career of actor Glenn Ford. Ford was 24 and “Babies” was his fifth film.

It was Ford’s third film with Rochelle Hudson- who also starred in “Imitation of Life” (1934)- and Columbia Pictures was working to make the two a screen team but it never panned out, said TCM Primetime Host Robert Osborne.

Studious also worked to make Ford and Evelyn Keyes a screen team, starring in six films together, but their screen chemistry didn’t explode either. It wasn’t until Ford starred with Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” (1946) that he found his match.

Many of Ford’s early films were similar to “Babies for Sale,” with crime and corruption. “Babies” wasn’t made to be a box office sensation but to be shown during a double feature, Osborne said.

Also early in his career, Bruce Bennett can be spotted as a police officer.

What I thought
Though the title made me laugh, “Babies for Sale” is an entertaining movie. B-movies get a bad rap for being inexpensive, but they are some of my favorite films. The plot line are sensational using lines like “The mother had no right to keep her baby,” and the story can be told in just a little over an hour.

Ford showed potential even early in his career giving a solid performance and coming off as very likeable.

Next time you come across it, give it –and other B-movies- a chance. It will be a pleasant way to spend 65 minutes.

Ruth gets her baby back from a friendly, wealth family. (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Ruth gets her baby back from a friendly, wealth family. (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page and follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet. E-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Doris Day: From Hollywood party to leading role

romance on the high seasGeorgia Garrett is a fast talking, cigarette smoking, flirtatious night club singer–and she is the character played by Doris Day in her very first film “Romance on the High Seas” (1948).

While other actresses worked their way up to stardom through bit parts and uncredited roles, Day starred in her first movie.

And she continued starring in all 41 of her films from 1948 to 1968.

In the film, newly married Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) and Michael Kent (Don DeFore) worry that the other spouse is having an affair.

Georgia, a broke singer in a sleazy nightclub, frequents the travel agency and plans trips she never goes on and gets passport photos taken each time. Elvira meets Georgia in the travel agency while booking her trip to South America.

“But you have already had seven passport photos taken,” one travel agent says.

“But never as a blond,” Georgia coyly says.

Day as Georgia Garrett in the travel agency

Day as Georgia Garrett in the travel agency

On their third wedding anniversary, the Kents have to cancel a third anniversary trip due to business.  Michael tells Elvira to go without him.

Suspecting that Michael is going to fool around with his pretty new secretary, Elvira sends Georgia on the cruise in her place so she can stay behind and spy on her husband.

Also afraid that his wife is going to fool around on the cruise without him, Michael sends private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) on the cruise to look after his wife.

Paige as Elvira instructing Day as Garrett

Paige as Elvira instructing Day as Garrett

Georgia, while posing as Elvira Kent, falls for Peter, and Peter thinks he is going to lose his job.

Romance on the High Seas” isn’t Doris Day’s most well-known film, but it’s my favorite.

While in the 1950s and 1960s Day was known for her squeaky clean, virginal persona, but her character in “Romance” has some sass.

Day started her career as a girl singer in 1939 for big band leaders such as Les Brown and Bob Crosby, brother of Bing Crosby.

By 1945, she had her first hit with “Sentimental Journey” which resonated with soldiers fighting over seas. More hits followed such as “My Dreams are Getting Better all the Time.”

“In a sense, ‘Sentimental Journey’ became the serviceman’s theme song,” Day wrote in her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story.

Before heading back East after a visit to Los Angeles, Day was convinced to attend a party at the home of Jule Styne, an American songwriter.

When everyone started performing songs at the party, Day began to get uneasy.

Day as a nightclub singer singing "I'm in Love"

Day as a nightclub singer singing “I’m in Love”

“These people loved singing for each other but I am painfully shy at parties, and particularly shy about performing impromptu,” she wrote.

Day was also going through a divorce at the time with child actress Virginia Weidler’s older brother, George.

She was asked to sing and was convinced to sing the chorus of “Embraceable You.”

The Gershwin tune landed Day her first film role, as the star of a musical comedy.

Styne wrote the score to the Warner Brothers film “Romance on the High Seas.” Judy Garland was originally slated to play Georgia Garrett, but the deal fell through.

Then Betty Hutton was set for the film, but she got pregnant and couldn’t be in the film, according to Day’s autobiography.

“Acting in films had never so much crossed my mind. I was a singer…” she wrote. “They kept telling me how lucky I was to be testing for the lead in a major musical and how many girls would die to be in my shoes, but I was sitting glumly looking out the window, only half listening.”

Her look was made to resemble Betty Hutton and she was encouraged to sing in Hutton’s signature energetic style during the test.

“But when we shot the scene, I did it my own way,” she wrote. “I instinctively understood something then that was to sustain with me through all the years that followed-to thine own self be true. Don’t imitate.”

Jack Carson and Doris Day meet on board the ship

Jack Carson and Doris Day meet on board the ship

Through being herself, Day gives a hilarious performance in the sparklingly musical, comedy which included one of her top hit songs, “It’s Magic.”

After the film became a hit, Day’s option was picked up for more Warner films. However, she wasn’t pleased with the movie. She dressed very casually and didn’t like the ultra glamorous look she had in the film.

Though Day wasn’t pleased with her first film appearance, “Romance on the High Seas” is my favorite Doris Day film—and I have seen all but two of her movies.

Along with the main cast of Jack Carson, Day, Don DeFore and Janis Paige—the movie has top notch character actors. Supporting actors include S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Oscar Levant and Eric Blore.

Paige and Day would later star with each other again in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960). Carson starred with Day in her next two films “It’s a Great Feeling” (1949) and “My Dream Is Yours” (1949).

“Romance on the High Seas” has it all: glamorous wardrobes, sparkling color, hilarious jokes and quality songs written by Sammy Kahn and Jules Styne.

Though Day is best known for her bedroom farce films such as “Pillow Talk” (1959) with Universal, her early Warner Brothers films are some of her best.

Fresh faced films, sunny and shining with Day’s smile.

This is part of the Summer Under the Stars blogathon. Check here for other posts on Doris Day.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates.

Searching for ‘Rosebud:’ Child star searches for himself in autobiography

Dickie Moore with Pete the Pup in "Our Gang" in 1930. Moore said he didn't enjoy the Hal Roach series because he didn't feel he fit in

Dickie Moore with Pete the Pup in “Our Gang” in 1930. Moore said he didn’t enjoy the Hal Roach series because he didn’t feel he fit in

Dick Moore was searching for his “Rosebud.”

In “Citizen Kane,” a sled with the word “Rosebud” was the key to Charles Foster Kane’s lost childhood.

For Moore, early memories were a slew of movie scenes with James Cagney, Barbara Stanwyck and Paul Muni. He was the breadwinner for his out of work parents and went to school at a studio with other acting children.

His childhood was far a normal childhood of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and playing at recess.

bookIn Dick Moore’s book, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (but don’t have sex or take the car),” Moore shares his memories of performing as child star Dickie Moore and interviews 31 child actors to see how their experiences compare to his.

Some of these actors include Stymie of Our Gang, Roddy McDowall, Jane Powell, Jane Withers, Jackie Coogan, Edith Fellows, Natalie Wood, Jackie Cooper, Shirley Temple, Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary) and Peggy Ann Garner.

“All of us shared common lives and times, huge responsibilities and salaries that shriveled fathers’ egos,” Moore wrote

Some children wanted to go into show business, like Jane Withers. Others were pushed by their mothers (or saber-tooth tigers of the Hollywood jungle, according to Diana Cary), like Natalie Wood who sat on a director’s lap and sing him a song while a movie was location in Santa Rosa. And some happened by accident.

Moore was one of those accidents. A friend of a friend of his mother’s was a casting director who happened to stop by the Moore home. The studio pursued Mrs. Moore for Dickie to be in pictures. She said no, but finally gave in since Dickie’s father was out of work.

Dickie was 11 months old in his first film and playing John Barrymore as a baby.

Once Moore started acting, his father had an even more difficult time finding work. Employers assumed he made enough money and other parents brought their children to see Mr. Moore at work, hoping he could put them in films. Mr. Temple had the same problem.

The book explores how each child got into films, their home life, the affect on non-acting siblings and birthday parties.

Most of the young actors’ parties were opportunities for publicity and magazine photographers to put their faces in magazines.

“Everyone was posing. The whole business of publicity made parties seem synthetic. If you have a party, it’s supposed to just be with people,” said actor Gene Reynolds. “But most of our parties were stunt to get pictures in magazines so where is the fun in that?”

Shirley Temple cutting the cake at her birthday party in 1935.

Shirley Temple cutting the cake at her birthday party in 1935.

Shirley Temple, the first child to carry a full weight picture on her own, would have three birthday parties each year: one with other child actors, one on set with the crew and one with her family.

“The parties were endless…Fox would have one for a large number of people I didn’t know, a lot of children I’d never seen in my life and would never seen again. And I was he hostess. It was kind of strange. I figured it was part of my job.”

Temple was also very isolated, as were many children. Moore’s parents allowed him freedom to play outside while others had no friends.

“Parents often discouraged their children from forming solid friendships because friends might tell each other about a part that was coming up and then, from the parents’ point of view, that wrong child would get the job,” Moore wrote.

Competition was high among child actors: Who could cry the best on cue, lying about ages to be younger and trying to look young, i.e. pigtails, short dresses.

Adult co-stars and their treatment to youngsters are discussed in the book. Marlene Dietrich was warm and friendly in “The Blue Angel,” Franchet Tone taught him how to play chess during “The Bride Wore Red” and Gary Cooper suggested what type of gun Moore should buy.

Moore with Barbara Stanwyck in "So Big"

Moore with Barbara Stanwyck in “So Big”

But Moore’s favorite female adult star was Barbara Stanwyck was Moore’s favorite in “So Big.”

“Affectionate and demonstrative, she was easy to understand. She talked but didn’t fuss,” Moore wrote. “She was a direct and gracious woman, who seemed extremely interested in whatever interested me.”

Unanimously children liked working with Spencer Tracy because he would look right at you during a scene and listen to your lines.

Bobs Watson followed Tracy around during “Boys Town.”

“Often after a scene, he’d reach over and hug me and take me on his lap,” Watson said. “I felt like a little puppy. I would follow him around and stand close, hoping it would call me over and he often would.”

The two most disliked were W.C Fields and Wallace Beery.

“We did four long film together,” Jackie Cooper said about Beery. “They couldn’t find eight guys to carry his casket.”

Margaret O’Brien said he stole her lunch and Jane Powell said he would steal props off the set.

Two children got along with him: Darryl Hickman and Jackie Coogan.

Coogan’s father was a veteran in the business and it seems some of the tougher actors respected him because of this.

W.C. Fields and Gloria Jean in "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break."

W.C. Fields and Gloria Jean in “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”

Fields notoriously disliked children and was known for getting drunk while filming. But Gloria Jean got along with him, because she tried to look out for him.

While the book tells some humorous and heartwarming stories, there is an underlying sadness. It’s like reading Romeo and Juliet and knowing the lovers die at the end of the play.

You know that for many of the child stars, their career would come to an end.

Children such as Jackie Coogan and Baby Peggy faced financial problems when their family member squandered or stole the millions they had earned for their family.

The biggest fear for a child star is to age, as many faded away when they got older. Moore was in magazines and on ice cream lids (similar to baseball cards) until he had scarlet fever and was away from the screen for a year, taking him back to the bottom.

Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary) and her fan mail.

Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary) and her fan mail.

Baby Peggy felt she was a has-been at five.

Others like Jackie Cooper, Natalie Wood and Roddy McDowall went on to have a successful adult life.

But many child stars, even Jane Withers who loved acting, did not wish for their children to go into the business-they wanted them to have a normal childhood.

“They were wrong,” Roddy McDowall told Moore. “They were wrong to take us children and do that to our lives, to twist our environment in that way and then leave it for us to sort out.”

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star..” is one of the best classic Hollywood books I have ever read about one of the most complicated and fascinating subjects.

If you can find it for a decent price, I highly suggest it.

This is part of my Children in Film blogathon. Read all of the entries here: http://cometoverhollywood.com/2013/05/24/children-in-films-blogathon-the-contributors/

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates or follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet.

Did that performance deserve an Oscar?: Luise Rainer in “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936)

This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Once Upon a ScreenOutspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. It runs Feb. 1 – Mar. 3, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.

 Occasionally you look at Academy Award winners, raise an eyebrow and say, “Really?”

Luise Rainer’s 1936 Best Actress win for “The Great Ziegfeld” is one of those for me.

Now don’t get me wrong. I adore Rainer, nicknamed “The Viennese Teardrop.”

Luise Rainer as Anna Held in "The Great Ziegfeld"

Luise Rainer as Anna Held in “The Great Ziegfeld”

It’s amazing that she was the first actress to win two Best Actress Awards back to back and is still with us at age 103. She did a good job with her role in “The Great Ziegfeld” but it did not leave me wowed.

The Great Ziegfeld” is a fictionalized biography of Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld, played by William Powell.

Rainer plays Anna Held, who the film says is Ziegfeld’s first wife. In reality, Held and Ziegfeld lived together for a year while she was getting divorced. After the divorce was finalized, the couple announced that they considered themselves married, though they never officially were, according to Musicals 101. Ziegfeld later went on to marry Billie Burke, who many people know as Glenda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). Burke is played by Myrna Loy in the film.

Out of the nearly three hour movie, Rainer is in roughly 40 minutes.

In the film, Held is a bit of a diva. For example, she throws a temper tantrum (and orchids) when Ziegfeld tells the press that Held bathes in milk for publicity. Another time she gets upset because Ziegfeld is producing two shows, and will only let her be in one.

“I’m so disappointed in you I could scream,” she cries. “I thought you loved me more than anything else in the world. I thought I was your one ideal, your only ambition.”

In the end, Ziegfeld treats Held rather badly, going after a character played by Virginia Bruce in the film. I think Bruce’s character is supposed to be Lilliane Lorraine, who Ziegfeld left Held for in real life. In the movie, Anna Held leaves Ziegfeld after seeing him embracing another woman.

So let’s see who was Rainer up against in 1936:

-Irene Dunne for “Theodora Goes Wild

-Gladys George for Valiant is the Word for Carrie

-Carole Lombard for My Man Godfrey

-Norma Shearer for Romeo and Juliet

Of those films, the only one I haven’t seen is “Valiant is the Word for Carrie.”

Shearer, Dunne and Lombard were already established stars and are all excellent in their films.

However here is why I don’t believe they won:

1. “Theodora Goes Wild” and “My Man Godfrey” both were comedic roles. Though comedy is usually more difficult to perform, it doesn’t seem to be taken as seriously with awards.

2. Shearer is good as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” but she is a 34-year-old woman playing a 16-year-old girl. That may not have had anything to do with her not winning the award, but it does make the role less believable.

The 1936 Academy Awards had other odd nominations:

-Deanna Durbin musical “Three Smart Girls” was nominated for Best Picture

-Stuart Erwin was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Pigskin Parade

-Best Song nomination for “Do I Remember?” from “Suzy,” a song performed by a dubbed Jean Harlow.

Apparently, Rainer’s win was also controversial at the time, since she was still rather unknown and the role was considered more a supporting one.

Luise Rainer (center in black) performing "It's Delightful to Be Married."

Luise Rainer (center in black) performing “It’s Delightful to Be Married.”

Some say she won because of the $2 million budget MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer spent on the film (though this doesn’t make since to me, since it also won Best Picture). Others say it’s because of the broken hearted telephone call to Ziegfeld, congratulating him on his marriage to Billie Burke.

Why do I think Rainer won the 1936 Best Actress Award?

I personally wonder if it was process of elimination and reluctance to give the award for a comedic performance.

Who do I feel deserved the award? Either Dunne or Lombard.

Rainer went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1937 for her role as O-Lan, a Chinese woman, in “The Good Earth.” The role is a personal favorite of Rainer’s, and an award I feel she deserved.

Winning the Academy Award two years in a row is something Rainer said was one of the worse things that could have happened to her.

“The Oscar is not the curse,” she said. “The real curse is that once you have an Oscar, they think you can do anything.”

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page 

Liz and Dick (2012)……

“…….”

That was pretty much how I felt as the credits rolled Sunday night after the premiere of “Liz and Dick, the Lifetime dramatization of the tumultuous romance that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had during the 1960s.

Like most film fans, I was aghast when it was announced that Lindsay Lohan would be playing Elizabeth Taylor in a biopic. (In all honesty, I’m not the biggest fan of classic Hollywood biographical films, because they don’t seem accurate and draw on all the negatives of that performer.)

As Burton and Taylor's romance begins on the set of "Cleopatra"

As Burton and Taylor’s romance begins on the set of “Cleopatra”

However, many of us seemed to relax and laugh off the film when it was released that the film was made for the small screen, rather than for theaters.

Sitting down Sunday night, I was prepared for a good laugh, thinking the movie would be hilariously bad like camp classics “Susan Slade” (1961) or “Harlow” (1965).

But no. “Liz and Dick” wasn’t bad in a humorous way, it was just bad and unforgivably boring.

The 88 minute movie- two hours with commercials- dragged and seemed as long as Taylor’s three hour epic “Cleopatra” (1963).

The only actor who actually seemed like they were trying in the film was Grant Bowler who played Richard Burton.

Lohan seemed to go through the motions, even not trying to imitate Elizabeth Taylor’s voice. In one scene, Taylor has a temper tantrum and starts throwing things and knocking over tables. Lohan’s efforts were hilariously half-hearted.

Though Lohan’s has received bad publicity over the past several years, many people were saying this was her comeback, and she told new sources that she was excited about the role.

“I’m a huge Elizabeth Taylor fan and I relate to her on a lot of levels,” Lohan said in a Behind the Scenes interview. “Such as living in the public eye and the stress of what other people say about you, whether it’s true or not.”

The odd narrating technique.

The odd narrating technique.

But whatever excitement Lohan may have had for the role didn’t show through at all. On the contrary, she acted like she wanted to be anywhere but there.

Aside from the acting, the writing in the film was horrible.

The film begins with Burton and Taylor sitting in director’s chairs, dressed in black and telling us their story like we are in an interview. This made absolutely no sense to me, and I wasn’t sure why it was necessary.

The first twenty-three minutes involved Taylor and Burton sneaking around like 16-year-olds and having sex.

There were other hilariously odd lines like Taylor shouting “I’m bored! I’m so bored!” in which the viewers replied, “So are we.”

We were just as bored.

We were just as bored.

Other unintentionally hilarious moments were:

-Friend: “You’ve been married four times.” Liz: “Who’s counting?!”

-“I won’t live without you!” Liz shouts as she runs away from the camera like a six-year-old

-Liz having hysterics about her chubby fingers.

-1980s Liz, with Lohan looking more like Joan Collins from Dynasty than Elizabeth Taylor

The most angering part of the film is that Burton and Taylor’s second marriage was barely mentioned. The couple was married from 1964 to 1974 and then remarried again in 1975 to 1976.

Lohan looking like she's on the set of "Dynasty"

Lohan looking like she’s on the set of “Dynasty”

The appeal of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s romance is that they loved each other so passionately that they couldn’t live with or without each other and that did not show through on the screen to me.

In all honesty, in the last 30 minutes of the movie, I was so disgusted and bored, I was barely paying attention. The real entertainment from the film was those live tweeting, making witty remarks and sharing my sentiments.

A few of my favorite tweets from that evening:

livetweet5

livetweet4

liz and dick

livetweet2

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page