Watching 1939: Four Wives (1939)

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:  Four Wives (1939)

Release date:  Dec. 22, 1939

Cast:  Priscilla Lane, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, Gale Page, Claude Rains, Jeffrey Lynn, May Robson, Dick Foran, Eddie Albert, Henry O’Neill, Vera Lewis, John Qualen, Hobart Cavanaugh (uncredited), Ruth Tobey (uncredited), Olin Howland (uncredited), George Reeves (uncredited)
Archived information: John Garfield

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Director:  Michael Curtiz

Plot:
After the death of her husband, Ann (Priscilla Lane) struggles when she learns she is pregnant with his child. She is haunted by his memory, which makes her engagement to Felix (Lynn) difficult and strained. Her sisters Emma (Page) and Thea (Lola Lane) are both trying to become mothers and Kay (Rosemary Lane) falls in love with a young doctor (Albert).

1939 Notes:
• The Lane sisters (Priscilla, Rosemary and Lola) were in two movies together released in 1939. Rosemary Lane was in five films released in 1939, and Lola Lane was in two films released in 1939.
• Priscilla Lane was in five movies released in 1939 and she co-starred with Jeffrey Lynn in four of them: Four Wives, Yes, My Darling Daughter, Daughters Courageous and Roaring Twenties. Jeffrey Lynn was in six films in 1939.
• Gale Page was in six films released in 1939.
• The second in the trilogy of films starring the Lane Sisters and Gail Page. The movies include “Four Daughters” (1938), “Four Wives” (1939) and “Four Mothers” (1941)
• One of four films directed by Michael Curtiz released in 1939.
• Eddie Albert’s third film. Albert made two films in 1939.
• Dick Foran was in four films released in 1939.
• Claude Rains was in five films released in 1939.

Jeffrey Lynn and Priscilla Lane in “Four Wives”

Other trivia: 
• While John Garfield’s character died in “Four Daughters,” he makes an appearance in memories in “Four Wives.”
• Based on a magazine story called “Sister Act” by Fannie Hurst, published in Cosmopolitan magazine.
• In response to the success of “Four Daughters” (1938), “Four Wives” and “Four Mothers” (1941) followed in the trilogy. “Daughters Courageous” was made in 1939 in response to the success of “Four Daughters.” “Daughters Courageous” was not part of the trilogy but had a similar formula and the same cast. Michael Curtiz directed “Four Wives” and “Daughters Courageous” in 1939.
• Michael Curtiz only directed the first two films, “Four Daughters” (1938) and “Four Wives” (1939). “Four Mothers” (1941) was directed by William Keighley.
• Working titles were Family Reunion, Family Affair, American Family and Sister Act.

John Garfield appears briefly in “Four Wives” from clips from “Four Daughters”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
With the success of “Four Daughters” (1938), starring the Lane Sisters and Gale Page, a few films followed: two more films in the series “Four Wives” and “Four Mothers,” and another separate film “Daughters Courageous.”

Priscilla Lane, Lola Lane, Gail Page, Rosemary Lane in a publicity photo for “Four Wives”

While some film sequels (like some of the Gidget films) aren’t great, “Four Wives” is a good sequel to “Four Daughters.” When I first saw the movie in high school, I remember feeling frustrated that the romance between Priscilla Lane and Jeffrey Lynn wasn’t picture-perfect. However, now I think it makes it more interesting that we see Priscilla Lane’s character struggle with the death of her husband and having his child, though their marriage wasn’t ideal.

However, for me the highlight was Eddie Albert in his third film role and looking as handsome and adorable can be.

While Priscilla Lane and Jeffrey Lynn were in several films together throughout the 1930s and 1940s, 1939 paired them together four times: Four Wives, Yes, My Darling Daughter, Daughters Courageous and Roaring Twenties.

The film has plenty of dramatic moments, but there are also several humorous ones, particularly with May Robson, Eddie Albert. Frank McHugh and Lola Lane.

The film leaves off with the sisters and their new babies, leaving room for a third film: “Four Mothers,” which was the last film pairing of the Lane sisters and Gail Page.

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Watching 1939: Yes, My Darling Daughter (1939)

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:  Yes, My Darling Daughter

Release date: 
Feb. 25, 1939

Cast: 
Priscilla Lane, Jeffrey Lynn, Roland Young, Fay Bainter, May Robson, Genevieve Tobin, Ian Hunter, Robert Homans

Studio: 
Warner Brothers Studios

Director: 
William Keighley

Plot:
Trying to follow in her mother’s feminist footsteps, Ellen (Lane) decides that she and her boyfriend Doug (Lynn) will spend a weekend alone in a cabin before he goes to Belgium for two years for a job. Though her mother Ann (Bainter) lived a single life in Greenwich Village, she isn’t thrilled at the prospect of her unmarried daughter staying the weekend with a man.

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Watching 1939: The Roaring Twenties

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 Roaring Twenties (1939)

Release date:  Oct. 28, 1939

Cast:  James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Priscilla Lane, Gladys George, Jeffrey Lynn, Frank McHugh, Paul Kelly, Robert Armstrong (uncredited)

Studio: 
Warner Brothers

Director:  Raoul Walsh

Plot:
During World War I, three men meet in a foxhole and become friends: Eddie Bartlett (Cagney) who wants to go back to his pre-war job as a mechanic, George Hally (Bogart) who is a bit brash and wants to run a saloon, and Lloyd Hart (Lynn) who is college educated and wants to be a lawyer. When the war ends, Eddie returns home and can’t find work. Prohibition begins and Eddie gets mixed up with bootleggers. He also meets and falls in love with Jean (Lane), who doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, and gets Jean a job singing in a club owned by Panama Smith (George). The years go by and Eddie and George work together as bootleggers and Jean grows closer to Llyod.

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Musical Monday: Varsity Show (1937)

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, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Varsity Show (1937) – Musical #99

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
William Keighley

Starring:
Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Priscilla Lane, Ted Healy, Walter Catlett, Sterling Holloway, Johnnie Davis, Lee Dixon, Ford Washington Lee, John William Sublett, Mabel Todd, Edward Brophy, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, Carole Landis (uncredited)

Plot:
Winfield College students (Lane, Lane, Healy, Holloway, Davis) need a successful varsity show. The last few years have been a flop and the old-fashioned staff is ready to outlaw swing in the shows. The students try to get alumnus Chuck Daly (Powell), who is now on Broadway, to stage their show. While they think he’s a New York success, his shows have been flops.

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Musical Monday: Blues in the Night (1941)

Image

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, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Poster - Blues in the Night_01This week’s musical:
Blues in the Night” (1941)– Musical #191

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Anatole Litvak

Starring:
Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson, Richard Whorf, Lloyd Nolan, Elia Kazan, Billy Halop, Betty Field, Wallace Ford, Joyce Compton, Howard Da Silva, Faith Domergue (uncredited), Faye Emerson (uncredited), William Hopper (uncredited)

Plot:
Jigger (Whorf), Leo (Carson), Peppi (Halop), Nickie (Kazan), and Pete (Whitney) have formed a jazz band and want to take it on the road. With Leo’s wife, “Character” (Lane) as the lead singer, the group rides the rails and hitchhikes to each gig. Character and Leo’s marriage is unstable, as he gambles a great deal, and she’s afraid to tell him when she gets pregnant,because she knows he doesn’t want to be tied down. The group runs into escaped convict Del Davis (Nolan) who steals their money and then offers them a job at a New Jersey road house since they didn’t turn him over to the police. The road house is a dump but they eventually build it into a swinging establishment. Even with more steady work, their problems haven’t ended. Kay Grant (Field) first has her sites set on Leo and then turns to Whorf, causing him to eventually have a nervous breakdown.

Trivia:
-Harold Arlen (music) and Johnny Mercer (lyrics) were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Best Original Song, “Blues in the Night”
-Faith Domergue first role in a film as an uncredited jitterbug dancer.
-Richard Whorf’s role of Jigger was offered to both James Cagney and John Garfield, according to Anatole Litvak: The Life and Films
By Michelangelo Capua
-The original title of the film was first “Hot Nocturne” and then “New Orleans Blues,” according to Anatole Litvak: The Life and Films
By Michelangelo Capua

priscilla

Notable Songs:
-Blues in the Night performed several times throughout the film
-Hang on to Your Lids, Kids performed by Priscilla Lane
-Says Who? Says You, Says I
-This Time the Dream’s on Me performed by Priscilla Lane

Hightlights:
-Blues in the Night performed in the jail
-The crazy montage of when Richard Whorf has a break down

My review:

Betty Field in "Blues in the Night"

Betty Field in “Blues in the Night”

While categorized as a musical, “Blue in the Night” is an interesting blend of crime, noir and music. This isn’t your typical upbeat musical and Priscilla Lane isn’t plucky and carefree.
The film depicts the struggles of an up and coming jazz band and the dynamics of an unstable marriage. Priscilla Lane and Jack Carson are married in the film, but it’s clear that while he married her, he really doesn’t want to be tied down and is constantly gambling and carousing. When Priscilla Lane’s character gets pregnant, she is afraid to tell her husband because it would ruin his care free lifestlye and she fears he would leave her.
The movie has crime and gangster film elements as well when the band gets involved with Lloyd Nolan, a gangster who is hiding out, and his ex-moll, played by Betty Field who has her eyes on most of the men in the band.
Added bonus is that you get to hear Johnny Mercer’s “Blues in the Night” a few times throughout the film.
If you’re looking for a rollicking musical, “Blues in the Night” isn’t really for you.
But if you are looking for a characteristic brooding Warner Brothers film, this could be for you.

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Hollywood Military Wives in Arlington National Cemetery

Last weekend, filmmaker Brandon Brown and I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Spouses and minor children of veterans are able to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A few actresses are buried with their military husbands including Priscilla Lane, Constance Bennett and Phyllis Kirk.

Eligibility includes a widow or widower of an eligible member, including the widow(er) of a member of the Armed Forces who was lost or buried at sea or was determined missing in action. A surviving spouse who has re-married and whose remarriage is void, terminated by death, or dissolved by annulment or divorce by a court with basic authority to render such decrees regains eligibility for burial in Arlington National Cemetery unless it is determined that the decree of annulment or divorce was secured through fraud or collusion, according to Arlington National Cemetery’s guidelines.

Widows or widowers of service members who are interred in Arlington National Cemetery as part of a group burial may be interred in the same cemetery but not in the same grave.

Priscilla Lane and Joseph A. Howard

Actress Priscilla Lane in the late-1930s.

Actress Priscilla Lane in the late-1930s.

Actress Priscilla Lane, famous for her roles in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the “Four Daughters” trilogy and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Saboteur,” met Army Air Force Lt. Joseph A. Howard in 1942. They were married in May 1942, and Lane took a suspension from Warner Brothers so she could travel with Howard from base to base until he was shipped overseas to fight in World War II.

“At Warner’s it is said she requested the time off. But nothing has been said about her permanent retirement,” gossip columnist Louella Parsons wrote in an Oct. 2, 1942 column.

Lane turned down several movie offers and said marriage was a 24 hour job.

“Priscilla has had plenty of offers to return to the movies but so far has passed them up. “Marriage is a 24 hour job,” she says,” quoted in an Oct. 24, 1943, column by Inga Arvad.

Priscilla Lane, her husband Joseph Howard and their children in 1958.

Priscilla Lane, her husband Joseph Howard and their children in 1958.

Lane did not return to films until 1947 for the Eddie Bracken film “Fun on a Weekend” (1947).

“War veterans aren’t the only ones returning to movie sets,” said a June 13,1946, article by Bob Thomas. “At least one war wife is coming back too—Priscilla Lane. Three and a half years ago, Priscilla…disappeared from the Hollywood scene after making ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’”

Lane was quoted in the article saying she found other things were more important after the war started.

After the war, the Howards moved to Van Nuys, CA, in 1946 where Joseph worked as a contractor, according to “The Women of Warner Brothers” by Daniel Bubbeo.

They later moved to lake front property in Massachusetts. Rumors got out that Lane was retiring from show business, which she denied.

“I love show business, but my first duty is to a wonderful husband and my two lovely children,” she said.

Howard and Lane had four children together: Joseph (1945), Hannah (1950), Judith (1953) and James (1955).

She still did some commercials and had a morning show in Boston called “The Priscilla Lane Show” where she interviewed guests and screened old films.

Also in her retirement, she was active with her garden, volunteered in hospitals, was a Girl Scout troop leader and directed school plays. Her son Joe said she was similar to her characters on screen; high spirited and always in the mood for a joke, according to Bubbeo’s book.

Joseph Howard died in 1976 and Priscilla Lane died in 1995. Both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Joseph Howard died in 1976 and Priscilla Lane died in 1995. Both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

The Howards moved to New Hampshire in 1972 to the Howard family farm in Deer, NH. On May 8, 1976, Howard passed away at the age of 61 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

“I’m still trying to pull myself together,” Lane said about her husband’s death a year later in a 1977 interview in the Boston Herald American.

Lane was diagnosed in 1994 with lung cancer and refused radiation or chemotherapy, according to Bubbeo’s book. She passed away in 1995 and was buried with her husband in Arlington.

Constance Bennett and Brig. Gen. John Theron Coulter

 To get to Bennett and Coulter’s grave we hiked up a steep hill…realizing there was a road once we got to the top. This was the most difficult to find of all the graves we visited.

Actress Constance Bennett at the height of her career in the 1930s.

Actress Constance Bennett at the height of her career in the 1930s.

Actress Constance Bennett, sister of Joan Bennett and most famous in the 1930s, met John Theron Coulter in 1941 when he was an Army Air Corp colonel. Originally from Mississippi, Coulter’s love of flying took him to Officer’s Candidate School and he was then stationed in Riverside, CA. When World War II broke out, his commanding officer asked if he wanted to stay in the United States or go overseas. His wife Martha was in the hospital recovering from a wreck so he stayed in the United States with her, according to “The Bennetts: An Acting Family” by Brian Kellow.

In the United States, Coulter served as the technical advisor on military pictures at Warner Brothers Studios; teaching combat tips to actors such as Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, according to Kellow’s book.

Bennett and Coulter met at a Warner Brothers party that he was at with his wife Martha. He soon divorced Martha for Bennett. However, in April 1941, Constance married actor Gilbert Roland, but once Roland was drafted after Pearl Harbor, her relationship with Coulter continued. The two married in 1946, two days after her divorce with Roland was finalized. This was Bennett’s fifth marriage.

Constance Bennett and John Theron Coulter on their 1946 wedding day.

Constance Bennett and John Theron Coulter on their 1946 wedding day.

In 1948, Coulter, now a general, joined the Berlin Airlift Task Force in December 1948, as group commander of the 60th Troop Carrier Group. He became Wing Commander of the 60th Troop Carrier Wing and commander of the Royal Air Force Station, at Fassberg, Germany. When the wing and base were deactivated after the airlift, Coulter was named assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters, USAFE.

Morale was low on the Fassberg, Germany base and Bennett helped cheer people with her high spirits and kept the RAF wives entertained. She also attracted her Hollywood friends to come and entertain, according to “The Berlin Airlift” by Ann and John Tusa. Bennett would also work with the other wives distrusting coffee and cakes at Fassberg, according to “The Candy Bombers” by Wolfgang J. Huschke. Bennett also often greeted the pilots and ate with mechanics in the mess hall, according to “Daring Young Men” by Richard Reeves.

While stationed in Germany, Bennett also produced the play “John Loves Mary” for occupying forces starring father and daughter actors, Gene and June Lockhart.

Constance Bennett and John Coulter's grave at Arlington National Cemetery (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Constance Bennett and John Coulter’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

The Coulters moved to Washington, DC in 1952, where Bennett also produced plays in the area and occasionally had singing engagement. The couple lived on Northwest Thirtieth Street in Georgetown, according to a June 1953 Associated Press article.

In 1958, Coulter was named the commander of the 85th Air Division and the couple moved to Richard-Gebaur Air Force Base in Missouri, he was commander of the 20th Air Division. They also moved to Colorado, Paris and New Jersey.

Bennett died in 1965 of a cerebral brain hemorrhage. She was buried in Arlington National Cemetery due to her husband’s military involvement. After Bennett’s death, he married actress Virginia Pine in 1972. Coulter died in  1995 and is buried with Bennett in Arlington.

Phyllis Kirk and Warren Bush

Though I did not visit Kirk’s grave, I still wanted to note she was buried in Arlington.

Actress Phyllis Kirk in the early-1950s.

Actress Phyllis Kirk in the early-1950s.

Phyllis Kirk starred in 1950s films such as “Two Weeks with Love” and “House of Wax.” Towards the end of her Hollywood career, Kirk married CBS news producers Warren Bush in 1966. Bush was in the Army Air Force during World War II. Bush passed away in 1991 at age 65. Kirk died in 2006 and both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Oct. 2017 editor’s note: Maureen O’Hara (who passed away Oct. 2015) is also now buried in Arlington National Cemetery U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles F. Blair Jr.

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Classic Christmas Addiction

Part of why I love Christmas is getting to watch my favorite classic holiday films such as “Christmas in Connecticut”, “White Christmas” and “Remember the Night.”

But I also love looking at Christmas related photos with classic actors and actresses.

Every day since December 1, I’ve been posting a Christmas related photo on Comet Over Hollywood’s Facebook Page, and searching for the day’s photo can be an addicting task.

Even long after I find the photo of the day, I keep browsing-marveling at the ridiculousness of vintage Christmas photos.

I’ve found these classic photos can be divided into categories. Here are some examples:

Glamour: These photos show actors looking beautiful and wealthy at their homes during Christmas.

gina

Gina Lollabrigida looking glamorous in her Christmas tree

Copy of Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard

glam paulette goddard

Paulette Goddard

glam jean harlow1

Jean Harlow

glam Anite Page

Anita Page in 1932

glam christmas jennifer jones

Jennifer Jones

Adorable and cute: These involve child actors or actresses looking sweet and angelic. 

cute jackie cooper

Jackie Cooper

Bacall And Bogart

The Bogart: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and their son Stephen.

cute leslie

Joan Leslie

cute keatons

Buster Keaton and Natalie Talmadge with Junior and Bob

cute our gang

The children of Our Gang

cuteNatalie Wood

Little Natalie Wood

cute Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple in 1935

cute Priscilla Lane

Priscilla Lane

rita hayworth

Rita Hayworth

Ridiculous or funny: Photos that try way to hard to make a photo Christmasy or make it a sexy Christmas photo.

Dorothy Jordan and Gwenn Lee, I don't even understand what's happening.

Dorothy Jordan and Gwenn Lee, I don’t even understand what’s happening.

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford flirting with Santa in 1932

Janet Leigh

Janet Leigh with a Christmas tree hat

Esther Williams

Esther Williams in unreasonable winter clothing

funny Maureen Osullivan

Maureen O’Sullivan…..dressed as a choir boy.

funny Margaret Obrien

Margaret O’Brien…wrapped as a package?

funny Clifton Webb

Clifton Webb as the most unlikely Santa Claus

Visit Comet for more holiday fun this month!

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