Watching 1939: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Release date:  Sept. 27, 1939

Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Vincent Price, Henry Stephenson, Henry Daniell, James Stephenson, Nanette Fabray (as Nanette Fabares), Ralph Forbes, Robert Warwick, Leo G. Carroll

Warner Brothers

Michael Curtiz

The film is a dramatic depiction of the political and romantic relationship between Queen Elizabeth I (Davis) Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex (Flynn). While Queen Elizabeth I is in love with Essex, her duty to her country comes first.

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Musical Mondays: “Thank Your Lucky Stars” (1943)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500.
To celebrate and share this musical love, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

Poster - Thank Your Lucky Stars_01

This week’s musical:
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) –Musical Number 470

All top Warner Brothers stars: Eddie Cantor, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Ida Lupino, Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, John Garfield, George Tobias, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Dinah Shore, Alexis Smith, Joan Leslie, Alan Hale, S.Z. Sakall, Edward Everett Horton,

David Butler

Warner Brothers Studios

Thank Your Lucky Stars” is a movie with less of a plot and more musical numbers from the top stars of the 1940s.
The plot that runs between the musical numbers is about producers (played by S.Z Sakall and Edward Everett Horton) who want to put on a wartime charity event for soldiers. Egotistical Eddie Cantor, playing himself, takes over the production. Singer Tommy Randolph, played by Dennis Morgan, and his girlfriend Pat, played by Joan Leslie, try to get into the show and replace the real Cantor with a bus driver who looks just like Cantor (also played by Eddie Cantor). Zany comedic moments and confusion ensue as Eddie Cantor has to prove he is the real Eddie Cantor.
Stars who usually don’t appear in musicals perform in the film such as Bette Davis, Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn.

Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are one of the few stars in "Thank Your Lucky Stars" who don't play themselves.

Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are one of the few stars in “Thank Your Lucky Stars” who don’t play themselves.

-This is one of the few movies where Bette Davis sings- another film where she sings is “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.” She performs the musical number “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.”

-During Bette Davis’s musical number, she jitterbugs with champion jitterbugger Conrad Wiedell. Davis never rehearsed the dance with Wiedell, because she was afraid she could only get through the dance once, according to the book “The Girl Who Walked Home Alone” by Charlotte Chandler.
 “Look, I’m not a movie star. I’m just some dame you picked up at the dance hall,” she told him.
She hurt her leg during the dance, and you can see she is limping at the end of the dance and rubs her leg but completes the number. Davis didn’t want to spoil the take, because she didn’t think she could do the dance again, according to Chandler’s book.
-This is the last of nine movies Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland star in together.
-Though not dubbed in every movie, Joan Leslie is dubbed by Sally Sweetland.
-Olivia De Havilland is dubbed by Lynn Martin.
-All of the stars were paid $50,000 for the film which was donated to the Hollywood Canteen, according to “Errol Flynn: The Life and Career” by Thomas McNulty.
-Errol Flynn proposed singing as the cockney bar patron, because he wanted to do something different, according to McNulty’s book.

Notable Songs and Highlights:
Almost every song in the movie is worth noting because so many unique performances from stars you usually don’t get to hear singing:
-Errol Flynn sings “That’s What You Jolly Well Get” as a braggart Cockney. Flynn does an EXCELLENT job. He dances and sings with ease and sells the song well, while being humorous at the same time.
-John Garfield sings “Blues in the Night.” Garfield is no crooner and the song is a bit rough. However, he gives it his all-while telling a story between the lyrics-and is very entertaining.
-Ida Lupino, George Tobias and Olivia de Havilland sing “The Dreamer.” Lupino and De Havilland sings as gum chomping, jitterbugging dames and make a hilarious trio with Tobias.
My only disappointment is that de Havilland is dubbed and it’s obvious. Tobias and Lupino sing well but their unpolished voices don’t mix well with the de Havilland’s dubbed voice.

-Hattie McDaniel belts out sings “Ice Cold Katie
-Bette Davis sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” and jitterbugs. The song was nominated for an Academy Award and became a hit because of Davis.
-Ann Sheridan sings “Love Isn’t Born” with a group of Warner Brothers starlets, including Joyce Reynolds. Her song is one of the best in the movie. Sheridan is a great singer was in a few musicals, though that isn’t what she’s known for.
My Review:
This movie is a delight!
If you are expecting a movie with a firm plot and a moral, this may not be for you. But if you want to laugh and smile, “Thank Your Lucky Stars” will do the trick. Every single musical performance brings a smile to my face, especially those performed by Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and John Garfield.
Movies that were basically musical reviews were not rare in the 1940s. Several World War II films took on a canteen-style approach with thin plots and dominate musical numbers such as Hollywood Canteen (1944), Stage Door Canteen (1943), Two Girls and A Sailor (1944) and Thousands Cheer (1943). Warner Brothers made a similar, but less appealing, musical review in the 1950s for the Korean War called “Starlift.”
Thank Your Lucky Stars ” also gives you an education of who the top actors and actresses were at Warner Brothers Studios during the 1940s.
I own this movie via the Warner Brothers Homefront Collection which includes “This is the Army” and “Hollywood Canteen” released in 2008. If you don’t own it, I highly suggest it.

Eddie Cantor in the "Thank Your Lucky Stars" finale

Eddie Cantor in the “Thank Your Lucky Stars” finale

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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From Hollywood to Raleigh: the biggest collection of Gone with the Wind memorabilia

gone with the wind

It started when James Tumblin, saw a dress from “Gone with the Wind” lying on the floor at Universal Studios in 1962.

It was the dress Scarlett O’Hara wore while riding through the shanty town in the 1939 film.


Found on the floor about to be thrown away, this was the first item in Tumblin’s Gone with the Wind collection-Scarlett’s dress she wore in the shanty town scene

“My mother always taught me to be respectful of belongings. Even if I’m walking through K-Mart I pick up clothing that’s on the floor,” said the former Universal Studios hair and make-up department head. “I picked up the dress and realized it was a dress from ‘Gone with the Wind.’”

Tumblin asked why the dress was on the floor and was told the dress was going to be thrown away.

“I asked if I could buy it and was told $20 for the dress and a whole other rack of clothes,” he said. “I casually accepted. I knew if I was too excited they would go up on the price. The rack of clothes didn’t include other Gone with the Wind costumes but had costumes that Judy Garland wore in ‘Easter Parade.’”

After that, Tumblin began getting phone calls from people who had items from “Gone with the Wind.”

Now, Tumblin owns the largest “Gone with the Wind” collection in the world. He owns at least 300,000 pieces of film memorabilia. Part of his collection has been displayed in the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh in the Real to Reel: The Making of Gone with the Wind exhibit. The exhibit started in Aug. 2012 and was originally supposed to end in January. It has been so successful, it was extended until April 14.

The hast worn by Vivien Leigh in the barbecue scene in Gone with the Wind

The hat worn by Vivien Leigh in the barbecue scene in Gone with the Wind

Tumblin’s collection is stored at his home in Oregon. The latest item he bought was a coat worn by a Munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

I traveled from Shelby, N.C. with my parents to see the exhibit on Saturday, April 6.

Vivien Leigh's Academy Award for Best Actress for Gone with the Wind

Vivien Leigh’s Academy Award for Best Actress for Gone with the Wind

The exhibit included costumes worn by Viven Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Wilkes, Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes, Ona Munson as Belle Watling and Cammie King as Bonnie Blue Butler.

It also had the script used by Hattie McDaniel who played Mammy, furniture used in the film and Vivien Leigh’s Academy Award for Best Actress as Scarlett O’Hara.

While walking in, one of the museum workers told us Tumblin, the owner of the exhibit, was inside.

I kicked myself for not bringing along a reporter’s notebook and scrambled to find paper in the museum so I could interview Tumblin. I settled for the back of several museum volunteer fliers.

Tumblin was sitting on a bench with his 27-year-old son Josh when I introduced myself as a reporter for the Shelby Star. The two scooted down and let me sit with them for about a 45 minute interview.


Owner of the collection, James Tumblin greeting visitors and answering questions at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh

“Are you going to click your heels three times and go back to Kansas?” he joked, glancing down at my bright orange flats.

Born in Denver, Colorado, Tumblin began working at Universal Studios in the late-1950s and retired in 1982.

“I wanted to make a lot of money and buy my mother a house,” he said. “I guess I was too naïve to realize rejection. But I kept going back and wore them down, and they finally gave me a job sweeping hair in the costume department.”

A muff and coat worn by Ona Munson as Belle Watling. This was costume designer Walter Plunket's favorite muff and coat. It took three years to restore it when it was found.

A muff and coat worn by Ona Munson as Belle Watling. This was costume designer Walter Plunket’s favorite muff and coat. It took three years to restore it when it was found.

Every night, he would stay and comb the wigs. One day his boss, Larry Germain, asked him if he had been combing the wigs.

“He told me that Debbie Reynolds liked the way I had combed her wig and said she wanted me to come out to her house and comb her wigs,” Tumblin said. “She paid me $200 to do it. It was the first time I rode in a limousine. They realized I had talent and that’s how it all started.”

He got along with many of the stars and it was a happy time. The only downside was when he found a favorite actor to be unpleasant.

Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo and Mae West are just a few people he worked with.

“Marilyn Monroe was lovely and child-like. Cary Grant was a lovely man. Garbo had already retired, but she would have me up to her apartment in New York to cut her hair,” Tumblin said. “Mae West was a hoot. She would have me up to her beach house and I did 30 wigs for her.”

Katharine Hepburn was another close friend who Tumblin frequently had as a house guest after he retired.

“She loved to drive my truck and always lectured me about my posture,” he said.

William Cameron Menzies's production painting for the burning of Atlanta scene

William Cameron Menzies’s production painting for the burning of Atlanta scene

Another friend was Doris Day. He had an ongoing joke with Day where he threw her into a swimming pool.

Movies he worked on include “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Psycho” (1960), “The Birds” (1963), “The Sound of Music” (1964), “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (1967), “Star Wars” and “The Terminator.”

“I worked for a year and a half on Lawrence of Arabia. I hadn’t seen it for 40 years when I saw it again at a film festival,” he said. “I started crying and my son asked me what was wrong. I worked on this film for a year and a half of my life and so many of these people are gone now.”

The dissolve of the studio system didn’t affect the costume department, but Tumblin didn’t like the situation.

The original score by Max Steiner for Gone with the Wind

The original score by Max Steiner for Gone with the Wind

“It was sad to see all of these people go. I used to see Fred Astaire coming in his convertible. Doris Day and Rock Hudson had dressing rooms next to each other,” he said. “Universal was the first studio to lease out a sound studio to television with shows like ‘Leave It To Beaver.’ Universal survived while other studios died when they turned their noses up to television.”

I even found that Tumblin and I share the same favorite classic film: “Since You Went Away” (1944).

“It was a job,” he said. “What’s nice to know is that I did it well enough that people still want to see my work in films.”

Room of costumes from Gone with the Wind at the NC Museum of History

Room of costumes from Gone with the Wind at the NC Museum of History

Costume designs for Gone with the Wind by Walter Plunkett

Costume designs for Gone with the Wind by Walter Plunkett

A suit worn by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. It was later worn by John Wayne, who at one point was the same size as Gable.

A suit worn by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. It was later worn by John Wayne, who at one point was the same size as Gable.

Tattered Civil War uniform worn by Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes

Tattered Civil War uniform worn by Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes

Worn by Vivien Leigh in the hospital scene in Gone with the Wind

Worn by Vivien Leigh in the hospital scene in Gone with the Wind

Worn by Cammie King as Bonnie Blue Butler during the horse riding incident

Worn by Cammie King as Bonnie Blue Butler during the horse riding incident

Worn by Olivia Deviland as Melanie Wilkes during the train station scene

Worn by Olivia Deviland as Melanie Wilkes during the train station scene

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“But first and foremost, I remember mama”

An actress won an Academy Award in 1948 for not saying a word.

But the actress I feel should have won, spoke with a Norwegian accent.

Jane Wyman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role as a deaf/mute in “Johnny Belinda.”

Jane Wyman winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Johnny Belinda

Jane Wyman winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Johnny Belinda

“I accept this very graciously for keeping my mouth shut once, I think I’ll do it again,” Wyman said when she accepted the award.

While I enjoy the movie “Johnny Belinda” and think Wyman did a good job, she isn’t the actress I would have picked.

The nominations that year were:

•Jane Wyman for “Johnny Belinda

•Ingrid Bergman for “Joan of Arc

•Olivia de Havilland for “The Snake Pit

•Irene Dunne for “I Remember Mama

•Barbara Stanwyck for Sorry, Wrong Number

Of the five women, I would have picked Olivia de Havilland or Irene Dunne.

I’m a huge Stanwyck fan, but her performance in “Sorry, Wrong Number” annoys me. I’ve never seen “Joan of Arc.” Olivia de Havilland gives a convincing, heartbreaking performance of a woman who can’t remember how she got into a state asylum in “The Snake Pit.”

But today I’m here to recognize Irene Dunne for her role as Martha “Mama”Hanson in “I Remember Mama.”

The movie, narrated by her daughter Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes), follows a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910 San Francisco as they grow up and face joys and sadness.

“For long as I could remember, the house on the Larkin Street Hill had been home. Papa and Mama had both born in Norway but they came to San Francisco because Mama’s sisters were here, all of us were born here. Nels, the oldest and the only boy, my sister Christine and the littlest sister Dagmar but first and foremost I remember Mama,” she narrates.

The Hanson family gathered, counting their expenses.

The Hanson family gathered, counting their expenses.

And every night the family would gather together, counting their expenses and the money brought into the house. The family never wanted to go “to the bank,” a little box kept in a closet with money that was supposed to be saved to get Mama a warm winter coat.

When the family wouldn’t have to take money from the bank, Mama would sigh happily and say, “It’s good, we do not have to go to the bank.”

The movie is filled with memorable scenes:

•Dagmar (June Hedin) has surgery and Mama isn’t allowed to see her. “I’m not a visitor, I’m her mama,” she says. Mama knows Dagmar is afraid staying in the hospital overnight, so pretends to be a cleaning woman and cleans the hospital floors working her way to the children’s ward. She then sings Dagmar, and all the other children to sleep.

Mama (Irene Dunne) pretends to be a wash woman in the hospital to see her daughter, Dagmar. (LIFE photo by Allan Grant)

Mama (Irene Dunne) pretends to be a wash woman in the hospital to see her daughter, Dagmar. (LIFE photo by Allan Grant)

•Papa (Philip Dorn) is watching as his son Nels (Steve Brown) tries to smoke a pipe for the first time. He lights the pipe for Nels, knowing his son will get sick, and then comforts him when he does-teaching him a lesson in smoking.

•Aunt Trina (Ellen Corby) wants to marry Mr. Thorkelson (Edgar Bergen), the shy funeral director, and her sisters make fun of her. Mama makes them stop by subtly reminding them about how one cried all night on her wedding night and the other’s husband tried to run away before the wedding.

•Mama (Dunne) goes to see famous writer Florence Dana Moorhead (Florence Bates) to help Katrin with her writing. Mama gives Miss Moorhead, a lover of food, recipes in exchange for Miss Moorhead to read Katrin’s stories.

I found Dunne’s role to be heartwarming and believable. In the film she handled situations firmly, with tenderness or humor.  The warm nature of the film may not have made it memorable to the Academy, but I like movies about families. I suppose it makes me think of my own and how my mother likes this movie as well.

This was Dunne’s last of five Oscar nominations she would receive. The others were “Cimarron,” “Theodora Goes Wild,” “The Awful Truth” and “Love Affair.”

While the performances by Jane Wyman and Olivia De Havilland were good, for me “first and foremost, I remember mama.”


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.

Just like the prince and the pauper…

Do you ever watch a movie and think, “Man, those actresses could be sisters.” or  “It’s hard to tell those two men apart because they look so similar.”   These actors could maybe even switch places just like Billy and Bobby Mauch did in “The Prince and the Pauper” (1937).

Younger movie viewers of today may say that all old actors all look the same. This isn’t true of course, but there are some that certainly look very similar. This is a result of being groomed by movie studios to have glamour and charm.

Actors and actresses also are given names that sound similar and can cause confusion.

Here is a list of actors who look similar and have confusingly similar names.


Joan Leslie, Joyce Reynolds, Teresa Wright

Joan Leslie, Joyce Reynolds, Teresa Wright
-Joyce Reynolds emerged in the 1940s in the movie “Janie” with a clean Joan Leslie appearance and a squeaky Teresa Wright voice.  Warner Brothers must have thought that Joan and Joyce looked similar as well, since Joan Leslie played Janie in the sequel to “Janie”: “Janie Gets Married.”

Vera Miles, Vera-Ellen, Mitzi Gaynor

Vera-Ellen, Vera Miles, Mitzi Gaynor
– I think the thing that is funniest is that two of the women have the same first name.  I can tell the difference between them, but you have to admit they all look very similar. All three women are very thin, blonde and rather tan. Vera Miles had one of her first acting roles on the TV show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and looked very similar to Vera-Ellen because she was thinner than I had ever seen her.   However, all three women had different careers.
Vera Miles stared mostly in dramatic roles, and occasionally in bit parts on TV (like a romantic interest for Fred MacMurray on “My Three Sons“) .  After Grace Kelly, she was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite actress, according to IMDB. Unfortunately, she had to turn down roles because she was pregnant. Miles is still living.
Vera-Ellen was a ballet dancer and was in several musicals. In earlier movies like “On the Town,” Vera was thin, but looked healthy. In later movies, like “White Christmas,” she was almost dangerously thin, because she was anorexic. She had the smallest waist in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s and suffered from early aging because of anorexia ,according to IMDB, so you will notice that she wears turtle necks to cover it.  After she retired she had severe arthritis and was practically a recluse, dying in 1981.
Mitzi Gaynor is best known for her role in movie musicals like “South Pacific.” Though she didn’t have a tremendous career, she was very successful with her comedic, musical variety TV specials in the 1960s and 1970s. Currently, Mitzi is performing a one woman show. 0

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland
-Anne Shirley  never had the same star power or acting skills as Olivia de Havilland, but you can’t deny their similar appearance. Particularly the way Anne Shirley looks in “The Devil & Daniel Webster.” The two starred together in the irritating comedy “Government Girl” (a movie that de Havilland hated and had to make because of contractual agreements. She purposefully acted ridiculous in the movie).


John Carroll and James Craig

John Carroll and James Craig
– Both men played small romantic roles in the 1940s when most of the lead actors like Clark Gable and Robert Taylor were fighting in World War II. Carroll starred with Esther Williams in “Fiesta ” (1947) and “Flying Tigers” (1942) with John Wayne. Craig was in several “feel good” movies in the 1940s like “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” (1945) with Margaret O’Brien and “The Human Comedy” (1943) with Fay Bainter.

Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern

Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern
-In the 1930s, Joan Blondell had a curvy, sassy look of her own; pretty but also comedic. In the 1940s, Blondell was a bit more curvy and switched from the tight 1930s hair styles to long and wavy. Her 1940s look was similar to Ann Sothern, who also was a bit curvy. Both actresses can be found in light comedic roles.

Names that confuse:

-Reginald Gardner, Reginald Owen, Reginald Denny (I’m still not sure which is which sometimes)

-Eleanor Parker and Eleanor Powell

-Margaret Sullivan and Maureen O’Sullivan

-Connie Stevens and Stella Stevens

What actors do you confuse? What names can you not remember?  Let me know!

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