Birthday Blogathon: Film #4 Since You Went Away 1944

For my fourth evening of birthday favorite films I chose:

Since You Went Away (1944)

Jane and Bridget listening to Anne read a letter from their father. (This actually is my desktop background).

Brief plot: The story of Anne Hilton and her two daughters Jane and Bridget on the American World War II home-front while their father is overseas fighting. The film stars Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Joseph Cotton, Robert Walker, Hattie McDaniel, Monty Wooley and Agnes Moorehead (among several cameo appearances).

Why I love it: 

Jane and Bridget talking about a boarder with their mom

My favorite time period is the World War II era. One thing that particularly fascinates me about this time is the war effort on the home front-what this film call the “unconquerable fortress”. This movie chronicles life on the home front and daily adjustments Americans went through in order to help soldiers overseas-there aren’t many films that show this. But aside from the historical aspect of the film, the actors, camera shots and script make “Since You Went Away” absolutely perfect.

Cast: This film has a very strong, star-studded cast and every actor is perfect. Claudette Colbert does an excellent job as Anne Hilton and Shirley Temple (Bridget) and Jennifer Jones (Jane) embody how I think a 1940s teenager would act. Joseph Cotton plays family friend Tony Willett who used to carry a flame for Anne. Monty Wooley is Col. Smollett who boards at the Hilton home during tough financial times and Robert Walker is his grandson Bill who falls in love with Jane.  Hattie McDaniel is the Hilton’s maid, Fidelia, who has to quit and work at another reason residence, because the Hiltons can no longer afford her. However she comes back to live with them, because she doesn’t like the other servants at the new employers home. Lastly, Agnes Moorehead is Emily Hawkins, Anne’s catty friend who thinks war sacrifices mean hoarding food in a cold storage unit and hosting canteen dances.

But one very special thing this film is the plethora of uncredited cameos. Tim Hilton, Anne’s husband that has already left for basic training when the movie begins, can be seen in photos. The actor who is supposed to be Tim is Neil Hamilton-known for his role of the commissioner in the 1960s show “Batman” and who usually played cads in early 1930s films.

Throughout the film, you can see:
-Dorothy Dandridge and Ruth Roman at the train station
-Guy Madison as the sailor Bill and Jane meet at the bowling alley
-Lionel Barrymore as a clergyman in the Hilton’s church
-Kennan Wynn at the Hilton’s Christmas party as Tony’s friend
-Silent star Alla Nazimova as Anne’s immigrant friend who works in the shipyards with her.
-Rhonda Flemming as a girl at the dance
-Terry Moore as a refugee child on the train
-Character actor Grady Sutton (who pops up in so many movies!) looking for Suzy Flemming at the dance-I wonder if he ever finds her?
-Jimmie Dodd of Mickey Mouse Club fame as a train passenger
-And other recognizable faces like Jackie Moran, Craig Stevens, Lloyd Corrigan and Irving Bacon.

Emily and Anne in the background of the Paradise Cocktail Lounge-strangers talking in the front.

Script:  
One that makes me laugh every time is when Fidelia brings in a cake for Col. Smullett’s birthday and says she did something different to it.
Col: “What was the experiment with this cake?”
Fidelia: “I tried something new:I bought it!
I also like when Jane tells Emily Hawkins off after Hawkins said well-bred girls shouldn’t be war nurses: “Please don’t worry if our hands come in contact with their mangled bodies. We’ll survive even if they don’t!”
But my absolute favorite part of script is something I’ve always thought was very creative. During four separate scenes-Anne and Emily at the cocktail lounge, the canteen dance, the train on the way to see ‘pop’ and the train station as Bill is about to leave.

The camera takes the audience through crowds of people, and we hear snippets of several different conversations. It gives you a sense of what different people were talking about during the war, patriotic or unconcerned with the country’s conditions. Here is the dialogue from each of those scenes:
-The Paradise Cocktail Lounge scene:
1.”The moral breakdown of this country is caused by drinking….this is lousy scotch.” 2. “I don’t mind red finger nails but red toe nails is going too far”
3. “I went shopping before the hoarders got there.”
4. “I can’t write everything the baby says down on those little V-cards.”
-The Canteen Dance scene:
1.“I feel so good, don’t you feel good?”
2. “Now Suzy Flemming, she’s a one man woman.”
3. “I love to read books, don’t you think they are so….”
4.”Why do they call you Walt, is that your nickname?”
-The Train to see pop:
1. Business Man: “If we keep stopping like this, I’ll miss the biggest deal of my life.’ Armless Soldier: “Well I’m in no hurry, I’ve got plenty of time from now on”
2.“My husband’s never seen the baby”
3.“And after the Germans came we didn’t have milk or meat at all”
4.“Only serving two meals a day is simply outrageous”
-Train Station as Bill is leaving:
1.“Let me look at your darling so I can picture you always…now go and don’t look back” (Said to two different girls by the same soldier)
2. To a crying baby held by Dorothy Dandridge: “Look at the nice apple daddy got you”
3. “I’m sorry mom I’ve only got 5 minutes, my furlough was canceled.”
4.”I swear I can’t tell any difference between it and butter.”
5. Little girl to MP: “Hello, my mommy’s a sergeant.” MP squats down to child: “She is!”
6.”What’s a good excuse for being AWOL?”
7. Ruth Roman: “Agnes, look at that dame, nylons!”
8. Soldier: “Five months pay…give me some War Bonds! Plenty of them!”
9. Two soldiers: “I wonder where we can go for free where we don’t have to dance with hostesses.”

Jane at the train station

Camera technique: I feel some of the camera techniques in this film might compete with Hitchcock. The director took advantage of light and shadows. One example of this is Bill and Jane sitting on the Hilton’s back porch talking. The two are back-lit so we only see their silhouettes. The only light from the couple is when Bill lights his cigarette. Another is when Jane is saying goodbye to Bill at the train station. She stands there waving goodbye, the camera pulls back and her shadow stretches about 100 feet across the station. Another shot I really like is when Guy Madison leaves Jane and Bill after they walk around downtown. He gets on the bus and walks to the back, but the camera stays on him as he walks and the bus is driving away to the left and going off screen. But some of my shots are during the dance at the canteen.  One part is the shadows as couples waltz (seen at 2:05 in the video below). Also right after they find out Johnny Mahoney dies, there is a shot through a star emblem and you see everyone dancing in the background, very beautiful.

Home front: I feel like this movie is so natural and believable not just a bunch of Hollywood stars playing roles. No, not all families were as well off as the Hiltons were before Mr. Hilton went off to war and not everyone’s mother looked like Claudette Colbert-but we see a lot of what I think is pretty realistic.
-A cop pulls Tony and Anne over just to chat, because he doesn’t see cars much since gas rationing.
-Bridget keeps a plant in the sink to make sure it gets water, because her father gave it to her.
-Anne initially doesn’t really understand why Tim enlisted. She doesn’t do much for the war effort to start out with, because she feels like missing her husband and taking in a boarder is enough. By the end she is working in a shipyard.
-Jane starts off as a silly, boy crazy high school girl and matures throughout the film. Part of it has to do with falling in love with Bill, but another part of it has to do with her work as a nurse and what she sees at the hospital.
-Bridget is in her early teens throughout the film, so she still is pretty young and unchanging, but she seems to be the average, patriotic teenager saying her “Pop looks like a parade all by himself” when he is in his uniform.
-We also see a glimpse of war life as people talk about rationing. There isn’t any ice cream at the soda fountain and instead they have a “Victory Punch,” and we see Bridget sorting scrap metal.
-Along with the patriotism we also see those who didn’t care about the war, like Emily Hawkins. At one point she flippantly says to Anne after Tim is missing in action, “Oh, and I’m sorry about Tim. I’m sure he’ll show up sometime.”

Hotel, after Tim couldn’t meet them

Drinking Victory sodas at the soda fountain

Bridget and Monty Woolley looking for “We-Took-It,” Texas on the map

To review: This film is two and a half hours so I feel like I could write on and on and on about it forever, but in a nut shell-I adore this film. It’s perfect. The shots, the characters, the American life on the home front. Its one that makes you laugh at some scenes and crying in the next. It’s one emotional roller coaster of a film-and I can sincerely say it’s my all time favorite.

This concludes Night 4 of Birthday Blogathon Week.

 Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page .

Advertisements

Birthday Blogathon: Film #2 Shadow of a Doubt

For my second evening of birthday favorite films I chose:

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

From LIFE: Stroboscopic multiple exposure of Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten talking and struggling as characters from Alfred Hitchcock's film "Shadow of a Doubt."

Brief plot: Charlotte “Charlie” Newton is bored with her small town life and feels her family isn’t living to their full potential. She wants a miracle to come along-it does in the form of her namesake- Uncle Charlie Oakley. However, her beloved uncle has a dark secret. The film stars Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotton, Henry Travers, Hume Cronyn,  Patricia Collinge, MacDonald Carey and Edna Mae Wonacott.

 Why I love it:

I’ve seen 40 of Alfred Hitchcock’s 57 films that he directed. I like almost all of them, particularly those from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s but “Shadow of a Doubt” is by far my favorite.

It’s much different than most of his more famous films like “North by Northwest”, “Psycho” or “The Birds.” I feel like the danger of the characters in those films is a little far-fetched. Not many of us steal money from our boss and flee, are chased by an airplane or live in a town inhabited by crazed birds.  The terror of “Shadow of a Doubt” is more realistic and obtainable to the average person.

Most of the cast, receiving gifts from Uncle Charlie.

The Characters: Though Charlie considers her family “average” they are actually pretty quirky. Dad (Travers) and his buddy (Cronyn) get together each night and harmlessly discuss ways to murder people without getting caught. Young Ann (Wonacott) is nosy, intelligent and is reading “Ivanhoe” while her father is reading dime store mysteries. The mother (Collinge) isn’t the grounded, serious type of mother you’d expect from a small town-she’s no Emily Hardy. She’s flighty, clueless and never shuts up. They are not what I would consider your typical small town, 1940s family.  All of the actors in this film are prefect as well. Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton are two of my all time favorite actors-not to mention Cotton is a huge heartthrob of mine.  Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn are adorable and Edna Mae Wonacott is hilarious.  Edna Mae hadn’t had any acting experience prior to this film, Hitchcock discovered her in her hometown of Santa Monica where the film was shot. You can read more in an excellent post The Lady Eve wrote about Edna Mae.

Location: It’s fun to see small town America in 1930s and 1940s films. I don’t know what Santa Monica looks like now, but I think it looks so beautiful in this movie. It’s also different than the locations we see in lots of other Hitchcock films.  “Rear Window” is in the city, “To Catch a Thief” is on the Rivera, “Foreign Correspondent” is in London,  “Lifeboat” is in the middle of the ocean.  Several of these film settings aren’t where your average American is going to be, but small town Santa Monica looks like the sort of place most Americans were familiar with during the 1940s.

Teresa Wright at the bottom of the stairs while Joseph Cotton looks down.

Camera Shots: This movie has some shots that are competitors with one of my all-time favorite shots-the strangling scene in “Strangers on a Train.”  Scene I love in “Shadow of a Doubt” include Joseph Cotton pacing back and forth and Hitchcock shoots up from the floor.  During another scene, Cotton is giving a rather powerful speech at the dinner table and we are looking at Cotton’s profile. Throughout the speech the camera gets closer and closer to his face until he looks straight into the camera and says the last word. So haunting and perfect. Another shot  interesting  is so simple but excellent. Joseph Cotton is walking up the stairs and turns around half way. We look down the stairs at Teresa Wright who is standing on the front porch with the door open looking back up at him. The angle along with the light coming in from outside and her shadow hitting the entry way floor is perfect.

Here is the scene with the speech I discussed-also my favorite part of the movie: 

Script: For a thriller, there are several funny, clever little lines in the film. One part that always makes me giggle is when Ann Newton (Edna Mae) is saying her prayers, “God bless mama, papa, Captain Midnight, Veronica Lake and the President of the United States.”

Another Ann Newton/Edna Mae line to Teresa Wright who is humming the Merry Widow Waltz: “Sing at the table and you’ll marry a crazy husband.” Younger brother Roger Newton says, “Supersticions have been proven 100% wrong.”

I also giggle when the father/Travers finds out they got a telegram: “I knew there’d be trouble if your Aunt Sarah got her license.”

But aside from the goofy little lines, there are some very powerful lines as well, such as the speech Cotton gives at the table about fat old widows and their money and later when he tells Wright that she is a silly, ordinary, small town girl.

Simple yet appropriate gown for Wright's character.

Fashion: This might seem silly, but I’ve always loved the clothes in this movie. The scene where Charlie is walking quickly, almost running away from her Uncle Charlie in downtown Santa Monica always sticks out for one main reason-Teresa Wright’s spectator pumps. While re-watching this, I thought about Wright’s clothes in this film and other movies she’s in like Mrs. Miniver. They dress her in very similar outfits: tailored suits and wide shoulders with white accents on the jacket or dress.  Even the evening gown she wears at the end is great. It’s not very glamorous, but it suits Wright’s personality and is appropriate for a small town high school girl. Joseph Cotton also looks severely handsome in every suit he wears. The only thing that bothers me in MacDonald Carey’s hair. What’s with that?

To Review: This has always been my number one favorite Hitchcock film-“Sabatuer”, “Foreign Correspondent” and “Strangers on a Train” following close behind. It pleased me very much that this was also Hitchcock’s personal favorite film. I think I like it so much because it’s simple and not very flashy. It gets overlooked by Hitchcock fans for this very reason but it has more meaning than most of his films-not to mention some of the best performances from all of these actors.

Here is the second speech I discussed about “ordinary girl in a small town”: 

 This concludes Night 2 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

 Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page .

Jessica Pickens: Girl Reporter

Comet Over Hollywood is moving!

Well…not the blog, but the blogger!

The backstory

Ever since I’ve been in the fourth grade I wanted to be a writer. I had a big imagination and pictured myself on the cover of Good Housekeeping magazine with my best seller.

In high school I got more interested in newspapers and majored in mass communications-journalism at Winthrop University getting involved in the school newspaper The Johnsonian, TV show, Winthrop Close-Up and radio station, WINR.

Starting in March, I started looking for a reporter position in the southeast. By the time I graduated in May, I figured out that getting a job at a newspaper was going to be harder than I thought (as some of you in media related fields might also have found).

For the past two months I’ve been working at a local Greenville newspaper as an advertising representative while still looking for a reporter position.

Two weeks ago, I got a job at The Elkin Tribune in Elkin, N.C. So I will be packing up and moving up to North Carolina-spreading my classic movie love to a whole new state!

Celebration

In honor of this exciting, nerve-wracking event, I’m dedicating this post to journalists in movies. Everyone is invited to the party!

Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blaine most likely up to no good.

Torchy Blaine Series: Torchy Blaine was a series of films made during the 1930s much like Boston Blackie, The Falcon or Andy Hardy. Torchy Blaine snooped and got into trouble in eight films from 1937 to 1939 (yep, they knew how to churn them out in those days). Torchy Blaine is a wise-cracking and troublesome female reporter. She eavesdrops, bugs rooms and follows people in order to get information-all highly illegal in these days, according to my Media Law and Ethics classes at Winthrop. Not only does Torchy usually get caught by the bad guys she is spying on, but she is constantly at odds with her policeman boyfriend, Steve McBride. At the end of each film, Steve and Torchy usually agree to get married but Torchy has to agree to give up her reporter career-as we all know, this doesn’t happen. Review: These films are very silly but equally entertaining. Through the eight part series, Glenda Farrell, Lola Lane and Jane Wyman all play Torchy.  But Glenda is my favorite Torchy. However, Lola wears some adorable lounging pajamas in “Torchy Blaine in Panama.”

Citizen Kane (1940): I don’t feel that I can discuss journalism movies without mentioning Citizen Kane. The film follows Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane and his rise as the top newspaper publisher. We all know this film is based off the life of William Randolph Hearst-who was still living at the time. In Joseph Cotton’s autobiography “Vanity Gets You Somewhere,” Cotton says “Kane” was set to premiere in Radio City Music Hall. Hearst made sure it did not play there-or in several other movie houses across the United States. That goes to show just how powerful he was. Review: I do really like this film. It was a bit of an ‘Indie’ film in its day so its funny that is revered so much now. I really enjoy it for the historical background of it as well.

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell getting the scoop in “His Girl Friday”

His Girl Friday (1940): When you say “female reporters in film” Rosalind Russell with her crazy hats in “His Girl Friday” automatically comes to mind.  Roz plays the ex-wife of Cary Grant, her reporter co-worker, and is engaged to Ralph Bellamy. On the day that Roz and Ralph are supposed to get married, a huge murder story breaks and news hound that she is, Roz can’t stay away. Not surprisingly, Ralph Bellamy doesn’t get the girl in the end (like always), and Roz and Cary fall back in love in the midst of copy and photography. Review: I really enjoy this movie, but you REALLY HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION.  For comedic value, Cary and Rosalind talk very, very fast. Several actresses turned down this role including Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne and Jean Arthur. I think Carole, Jean and Irene would have been perfect for the role, but I like seeing Rosalind in a role that is both sexy, funny and strong. Around this time she was flexing her comedic muscles with “The Women” and “No Time For Comedy,” and this is most definitely one of her best during this period.

Foreign Correspondent (1940): Though the United States had not yet joined the war, this Alfred Hitchcock directed film follows American reporter, John Jones-played by my heartthrob Joel McCrea-is sent on assignment to report on the war. Jones starts to uncover a spy ring in England that is aiding the Axis. Jones also meets and falls in love with Carol Fisher-played by one of my favorites, Laraine Day. I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to ruin this Hitchcock thriller, but watch for a disaster ending. Hitchcock does it ingeniously. Review: I actually think this is the film the secured in my mind that I wanted to be a journalist. The excitement and discovery that Joel McCrea experienced was irresistible. To this day my AIM name is even the title of this film.

Claudette Colbert and Ray Milland in “Arise My Love.” This photo has nothing to do with journalism. Just makes me happy!

Arise, My Love (1940): This film also follows a reporter in Europe during the start of World War II. This time our hero reporter is Claudette Colbert as Augusta Nash, based off real life reporter Martha Gellhorn. Nash saves pilot Ray Milland (as Tom Martin) before he is about to be executed by Fascists for his involvement in the Spanish Civil War. Nash saves him, exclusively for the purpose of a story. Martin is thankful for his life, but also a little peeved. The two begin to fall in love though they resist because of their conflicting life styles: Nash doesn’t want to give up her career and Martin wants to fight in the upcoming war. Review: Colbert said this was one of her favorite films that she made. It might be one of my favorites too. There is a good mix of romance, adventure and journalism. Ray Milland is probably at his handsomest here.

Meet John Doe (1941): This is another film about unethical journalism. Barbara Stanwyck as Ann Mitchell is fired from her reporter job. To get her job back Ann prints a fake suicide letter in the newspaper signed by “John Doe” who says he will kill himself on Christmas Eve because he can’t take the world’s ‘social ills’ any longer. To prove the letter isn’t a fake (which it obviously is) Ann searches for a man who agrees to pose as John Doe. Gary Cooper (Long John Willowby) and his friend The Colonel (played by Walter Brennan) are in need of money and John agrees to play the part. John Doe becomes a national figure, inspiring people all over to change their ways and come together. However, the role of John Doe requires John to commit suicide. If he doesn’t, it will let down his believers, and newspaper publisher D.B. Norton (played by loveable or hateable Edward Arnold) doesn’t want to disappoint his readers. Review: I love love love this movie. It’s a perfect example at just what journalism can do. Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper are so perfect together. We also get a treat of seeing Walter and Gary break out in mouth organ music. One of THE perfect examples of Frank Capra’s ‘social change’ films.

For other ‘Gary Cooper duped by the press’ films see Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.

The real Ernie Pyle who is portrayed by Burgess Meredith in “The Story of G.I. Joe”

Story of G.I. Joe (1945): This is a semi-autobiographical film about World War II war correspondent Ernie Pyle, played by Burgess Meredith.  Pyle joins Company C, 18th Infantry, lead by Lit. Walker played by Robert Mitchum, and fights with them in North Africa and Italy, documenting their experiences along the way. Pyle learns more about the men personally and we watch as battle wears on their nerves. The film follows real life and ends with Pyle being killed by a Japanese sniper. Review: This is one of my favorite war films, mostly because Ernie Pyle is one of my role models. When I interviewed at Fort Jackson-an Army base in Columbia, S.C.- there was a display about Ernie Pyle. I was so proud that they were honoring him and really wanted to be part of that newspaper. “G.I. Joe” was the only film Robert Mitchum was ever nominated for an Academy Award and unfortunately lost. I really feel that he deserved it.

There is an unintentional running theme throughout all of those films. All of them were made during war years and several from 1940. Here is a brief list of other films featuring journalists. I’ve listed the actors who portray reporters.

Other films:

My Dear Miss Aldrich (1937) -Maureen O’Sullivan and Walter Pidgeon

Nothing Sacred (1937)- Frederic March

Everything Happens at Night (1939)- Ray Milland and Robert Cummings

Philadelphia Story (1940)- James Stewart and Ruth Hussey

Lifeboat (1944)-Tallulah Bankhead

Objective Burma (1945)- Henry Hull

Close to My Heart (1951)- Ray Milland

The Sell Out (1952)- Walter Pidgeon

Roman Holiday (1953)-Gregory Peck

Never Let Me Go (1953)- Clark Gable

Teacher’s Pet (1958)- Doris Day and Clark Gable

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page  or follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet