Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Fabulous Films of the 1930s - Love Me Tonight (1932)

This is my entry in the "Fabulous Films of the '30s" Blogathon, hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Click HERE to view more fabulous posts about that fabulous decade and to earn more about this article's participation in an eBook for your reading pleasure. 


Maurice and his fan club

If movies are a dream of what could be, Love Me Tonight (1932) is a delicious one; a flight of fancy wrapped in a sublime and romantic reverie.

Just what is romance? Romance is much more than just sexual attraction. It is a big word with a big definition. Romance is grand, it is seductive, it is glorious, it is adventure, it is imagination, it is possibility, it is joy. In Love Me Tonight’s most enduring melody, composer Rodgers and lyricist Hart tell us that all romance can be found in all of these things:

* A beautiful day in Paris;
* A wedding;
* A well-tailored and beautiful suit;
* Children;
* The domestic bliss of ordinary life;
* A taxi ride;
* Artistic inspiration;
* Being moved by beautiful music;
* The camaraderie of soldiers;
* The hope in a lonely heart gazing at the moon;
* And yes, love, BIG romantic love.

The films of the early 1930s had not yet totally dispensed with the romance of the silent era. At times, even the grittiest story is tinged with stardust (especially at Paramount).  Therefore, the tale of a down on his luck tailor and an even more down on his luck royal has a storybook sparkle imagined without a trace of the Depression.

 Here is the cast of characters:

   The city of Paris: 
The Paris of 1932
  beautiful, noisy, bustling with life, humor,     humanity  and love.

   A tailor – and not just any tailor, a Parisian tailor so  debonair and bon-vivant. 
Oh! So Charming!
   He knows how to tailor a tux and a riding habit fit   for  a Royal.

   A princess: lonely, widowed, hungry for life and   love  and a widow of 22. 

A Princess longing for love

   She rides a horse.

   Her court: a playboy Vicomte who doesn’t pay his    bills, a count who is a less-than-inspiring-would be-    lover, a sex-starved and vixenish countess, and 3    spinster aunts as giggly as a gaggle of tweens. 

French Royalty of the Depression:man-hungry meets flat broke

   All presided over by a stodgy, stingy and drier than    dust Duke.

   The help: the doctor, the majordomo, the maids   and  others who keep the wheels turning at the   palace.

The help will not fluff and fold for a commoner!

Directed by Rouben Mamoulian with a skill and style that lies somewhere between Lubitsch and Renee Clair yet somehow surpasses both, Love Me Tonight is a tale of the joy of life and youth with a little class-war fun thrown in.

You see, our tailor, Maurice Courtelin (played by Maurice Chevalier with more youthful charm than he ever displayed before or since on screen), is a struggling tailor in this time of economic struggle. He feels blessed that he has such a prestigious client as the Vicomte Gilbert de Vareze (Charles Ruggles).  There’s only one thing wrong with the Vicomte: he never pays his bills. Outraged, Maurice, as a representative of all of the other tradesmen stiffed by the Vicomte heads off to the palace of the Duke (C. Aubrey Smith) to claim his due.

Maurice and his deadbeat client. Clothes do, indeed, make the man

Meanwhile, life at the palace is dull, dull, dull. Countess Valentine (Myrna Loy) is bored to tears and can only think of sex. The Vicomte needs money, but the old Duke won’t give him an advance on his allowance. And Poor Princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald funnier and sexier than she has ever been), married to an old man at 16, widowed at 19 and starved for love at 22, suffers from an unnamed malady (her doctor tells her “you’re not wasting away, you’re just wasted”). She has a bumbling suitor in the Count de Savignae (Charles Butterworth), but he leaves her cold.

No wonder the Princess is frustrated with friends and family like these

On his way to the palace, Maurice and Jeanette meet. He is smitten and she is haughty (but attracted). When he arrives at the palace, a mortified Vicomte introduces him as the Baron Courtelin and pleads for some time to get Maurice his money. Maurice doesn’t like the idea, but once he see Jeanette, he changes his mind. He goes on to charm the entire household (except Jeanette), but his identity is revealed when he simply can’t help adjusting Jeanette’s badly tailored riding habit. Everyone is outraged, but none more so than the help, who are appalled that they have been waiting on a commoner (The Son of a Gun is Nothing But a Tailor is a musical highlight).

Maurice takes the measure of Jeanette

Of course, in the end class does not matter and Jeanette and Maurice are united because, as we know, love conquers all.

Being a pre-code production, sly jabs, innuendo and lingerie abound (15 minutes of the original film was cut after the code for naughtiness). It is a work of genius (the Rodgers and Hart score is incomparable – Paramount used 2 signature songs from this film – Isn’t it Romantic? And Lover in many of its subsequent productions), but lighter than air. Isn’t it deep? Isn’t it scintillating? Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it romantic? Yes to all of the above.

It really is romantic ♥

Saturday, April 11, 2015


This is my entry in the Great Villain Blogathon hosted by the wonderful gals at SPEAKEASY, SHADOWS AND SATIN  and SILVER SCREENINGS. Click on their links for more dastardly deeds.

Mrs. Iselin was the very bad mama from John Frankenheimer's masterly "Manchurian Candidate" (1962). It seems she liked to keep a journal.....

A note from Mrs. Iselin

A woman in 1962 so rarely gets to tell her side of the story, especially in Washington. And, if she is smart and ambitious, she’d better be careful or she will be carted off to the loony bin. 

So, we Washington women must clink our cracked ice over lunch and smile and wear our tasteful and tailored suits while the men run the country. We must show ourselves to be concerned mothers and supportive wives. We encourage our sons to succeed. 

If I hadn't been born with a vagina I could rule the world. But, let me tell you, I am not going to let that part of my anatomy stop me. In fact, I’m making it work for me. That’s what a smart woman does; a smart COMMUNIST woman.

Sadly, the country is commie-crazy and the red hunt is on. So, I must disguise myself as a conservative patriot.  But this cloak of conservatism suits my purposes, for you see, I have a plan.

Step 1: Marry a likely candidate for President you can control. Senator Iselin is perfect – dumb as a box or rocks and easy to control (putting the old vagina to work, girls).

Step 2: Use superior brain power on inferior brains (otherwise known as “brainwashing”).

My poor son Raymond was sent over to Korea to fight the communists. Poor kid, ordered to fight against the people his mama supports. My son is weak and I do love him (in a weird kind of way) and I do not want him to be conflicted. And so, while spending a little time as a guest of the Communist Chinese, we perform a little experiment. Raymond and his captured platoon are so susceptible to brainwashing that they declare him a hero even though his handlers order him to brutally murder a fellow soldier.  Boy, they are a dumb bunch. Poor Raymond. I sort of wish we didn't have to use him this way, but he was the most malleable of the bunch. The rest of them were not much, but that Captain Marco bears some watching. Raymond is awarded the Medal of Honor. I've got it all under control.

Step 3: Set the plan in motion. It was a good plan. Brainwashed Raymond would come home and, like Pavlov’s dog, would become my slave when I utter the words “care for a game of solitaire?” Just in case, we keep a North Korean houseboy on hand. He is a good shot, so shooting the leading candidate for president shouldn't be difficult for him. This paves the way for me, I mean my husband, to become president. Oh what a good First Lady I will be!  The whole nation will know that red is my favorite color!

And this brainwashing thing is actually a kindness for Raymond, because once he snaps out of his trance, he remembers nothing. Such a good boy – I could just kiss him.

Now I only have to wait for the fools to begin their dance….

Post Script from Captain Marco:

What an evil broad! See, I started to have these dreams, visions really, and something in my gut told me my memories were all fake. Raymond thought so, too, and together we unraveled the master plan of his mama. I feared he was still under her spell when I discovered he was going to the convention to shoot the presidential candidate. But Raymond was clear – his rifle took out both Senator Iselin and his mother. Sadly, he turned the gun on himself, but he had this time earned that medal and done a real service to his country. Too bad his mother was red. I’ll bet she would have been a real ring-a-ding swinger.

One last thing... there is a rumor that Mrs. Iselin did not die that day, but instead was spirited away to Maine..some little burg called Cabot Cove....  A lot of people die in that town. Coincidence? I wonder....

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pre-Code Blogathon: Call Her Savage

This is my entry in the Pre-Code Blogathon, hosted by Pre-Code.Com and Shadows and Satin. Check both sites for more audacious entries!

I used to get a real kick out of this film. It is loaded with pre-code antics up the yin-yang. But now, I can't help but view with a little sadness, too.

Don't get me wrong. "Call Her Savage" (1932) is what enforcement of the code was all about. Bestiality (implied), prostitution (almost), a dead baby, a cat fight, a gay cafe scene, lingerie and an alarming lack of said lingerie: it's all there. For those not familiar with the film, here' the story in a nutshell:

Nasa Springer (Clara Bow) is an uncontrollable wild child. we know this because she whips a snake and a (pardon the expression, but it is much in evidence here) half-breed named Moonglow (Gilbert Roland). Nasa also leaves her house without her foundation garments, frolics herself into a kind of sexual frenzy with her Great Dane and, worst of all, her papa frowns at the sight of her.

In fact, scowling pops and the beau he had planned for her are such a drag that the spirited Nasa beats it out of Texas and makes for the bright lights of Chicago. There she marries a beast of a husband, has a baby, loses the baby in a fire and almost succumbs to the streets. She fights back from the depths and manages to give ex-husband Larry Crosby (Monroe Owsley) and rival Sunny De Lane (Thelma Todd) a chair over the head and a good hair pull, respectively.
When Nasa learns that her mother is ill, she returns home to Texas. Now, be mindful that early on in the film mom seemed to have had a cozy relationship with a Native American. On her deathbed she confesses all to Nasa: the source of her wildness, her savagery is the half of her that is not (gasp!) white. Yes, mother dallied with an American Indian (old scowly-face isn't her father after all!) and Nasa is a half-breed. That explains it all! And to put the cherry on top of the cake, Nasa can now live happily ever after with Moonglow because now the races are not mixing. Yay! 

This is all pretty heady pre-code shenanigans. What makes it sad for me, and what I missed earlier, is the cruel exploitation of the brilliant Clara Bow. A great silent star whose  mental and emotional states were fragile, Clara was the victim of scandal and scurrilous rumor, innuendo and outright lies. The opening scenes are shocking, outrageous and a crass exploitation of Clara's past and reputation (rumors of sex with her dogs was one of the most cruel things said of her). It was a comfort to her to have former lover and loyal friend Gilbert Roland as a co-star. Roland remained a supportive and gentle pal to Clara for the rest of her life.

The film never really gets out of the gutter (which is one of its chief pleasures), but, in spite of this, Clara rises to the occasion and proves herself to be a fine actress. Her performance is saucy, sexy, strong and touching. Her voice is good and she is always in control of the many emotions she portrays. Monroe Owsley also turns in an interesting performance. He was an interesting actor who died much too soon.

I suppose this film can be viewed as one that strikes a blow for women's independence, since Nasa defies her father and the arranged life planned for her to strike out on her own and follow her heart, but in telling this story, the film exploits the life of the woman on the screen. Clara Bow was 27 when "Call Her Savage" was released. She made one more film and then retires. She had had enough.

"Call Her Savage" is a pre-code extravaganza that is no better than it should be, but it hurts my heart a little to watch it.