Friday, May 23, 2014

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956): Que Sera Scare-a!

This blog post is hosted by the Fabulous Films of the 1950s Blogathon, hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA), running from May 22 through May 26, 2014.  We hope you’ll enjoy this blast from the past!

Today’s parents are often accused  of “Helicopter Parenting,” but after the harrowing adventure the McKenna Family endures in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much, who can blame them for being a heck of a lot clingier than usual?

As TCM’s Brian Cady notes, the original 1934 smash hit got Hitchcock started on a nearly unbroken string of wildly popular suspense thrillers that made him “The Master of Suspense.”

Hitchcock's films were well known for their cymbalism...
But Hitchcock had never been the type to rest on his laurels.  Sure, the original Man Who Knew Too Much (let’s just call it “Man,” we’re all pals here!) was already a classic, but Hitchcock felt his original masterpiece would be even better with Paramount’s glorious VistaVision and the other new technologies available at the time, making the 1956 version even better.

Friday, May 2, 2014

There’s Always a Woman: Blondell Ambition

The First Romantic Comedy Blogathon is hosted by Backlots and Carole & Co. from May 1st through May 4th, 2014.  Thanks for letting us play in your

I’ve always enjoyed screwball comedies that blend romance and comedy, and the zanier, the better, especially when there’s mystery in the mix!  Case in point:  Columbia Pictures’comedy-mystery There’s Always A Woman (1938).  All the filmmakers had to say to make me love this movie were three names
  1. Joan Blondell (Nightmare Alley; Three on a Match 
  2. Two-time Oscar-winner Melvyn Douglas (Hud; Being There; Ninotchka).
    (Fun Fact: Douglas was also the grandfather of actress Illeana Douglas (Dummy; Martin Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear.  
  3. Mary Astor, Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner for The Great Lie; The Palm Beach Story).
Based on a story from American Magazine and directed by Alexander Hall (My Sister Eileen; The Great Lover) and produced by William Perlberg (Miracle on 34th Street; The Song of Bernadette), There’s Always a Woman  is kind of like the wiseacre kid brother who’s really swell beneath it all. The cast includes Frances Drake of Mad Love; Thurston Hall (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Lady on a Train). 

Sally helps Bill to root, root, root for the home team!
Wow! Two Reardons for the price of one! 
What a scoop! Eat your heart out, Miss Marple!
Lola Fraser wears widows' weeds well!
Big owie!  That's what you get for hogging Sally's credit, Bill, you bad boy!
Bill and Sally get soused soused while looking
for clues at the Skyline Club!
Sally: "Why didn't you pick me up?" 
Bill:  "I did it before, and look what happened."

What does detective Bill Reardon have that
William Powell doesn't have, besides Myrna Loy?
Clients, that's what!
"I see it all now!  You and the upstairs maid.  Do the old boy in, you said.
Elderberry wine and old lace, you said!  Then, the clean getaway,
but you weren't smart enough, John, alias Johnny, alias Jack, alias Jackie!"
New York City private detective Bill Reardon (Douglas) went into business for himself, but  perhaps more successful detectives like The Thin Man's Nick Charles spoiled the broth in the Big Apple for Bill’s agency, no doubt snapping up the pricey clients that were just out of Bill’s reach.  Luckily, Bill’s former boss, the D.A. himself (Hall) is glad to have Bill back.  But Sally (Blondell), Bill’s wife and assistant, thinks she could cook up a clientele, being as loving as she is sassy and determined; what a gal!  Before Sally can start closing up shop for good, in comes Lola Fraser (Astor), a rich society matron who wants to find out if Lola’s husband is stepping out with lovely young Anne Calhoun (Frances Drake from Mad Love; It’s A Wonderful World).  Sally puts The Reardon Detective Agency under new management!  Then Lola’s hubby get bumped off, and suspects galore pop up, like shifty nightclub owner/gambler Nick Shane (Jerome Cowan from The Maltese Falcon; Miracle on 34th Street; quite a few familiar faces here!).

Joan Blondell's third degree didn't go as well
as the police would have hoped...

TCM’s  Lorraine LoBianco reports There’s Always a Woman set was a family affair, with ex-sister-in-law Connie, who’d just divorced Blondell’s brother, and then her sister Gloria  Blondell a contract!  No wonder Joan was happy to be at Columbia, except for just one little thing:  for some reason, Warner Bros. (where she’d worked at the time) didn’t want Blondell to wear her hair in her signature curly ringlets hair.  Luckily, director Alexander Hall gallantly made sure he had brunettes and redheads among the actors so that Blondell would attract all eyes.

Fun Facts:

There’s Always A Woman also had a 1939 sequel with Douglas, There’s That Woman Again.  This time, Virginia Bruce played Sally Reardon..

Also, don’t  blink or you’ll miss:
A young Rita Hayworth in a brief role as a secretary!
Whitey of the Dead End Kids, a.k.a. The Bowery Boys!     

Sally knows a detective must keep track of their partners
I bet they need more toilet paper, too!

*KLONG!* Big owie! That'll teach Bill to hog all of Sally's credit!

Those kooky lovebirds solve the case, though they'll need hairbrushes afterward!