David Niven ~ Star of the Month

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I’ve come to the conclusion that David Niven was a rich man; rich in friends, rich in talent, rich in words that describe a bygone era that we will never see again. David Niven experienced the spectrum of Classic Hollywood first doing extra work for various studios, supplementing his income as crew on deep sea fishing trips finding that deep sea fishing experience and sailing was as important for making contacts in Hollywood as playing a good game of tennis.
I re-read Niven’s book ‘Bring on the Empty Horses’ when I found out he was to be TCM’s October Star of the Month. It is a book I highly recommend. Niven always seemed to be at the right place at the right time, sharing rich humorous anecdotes about early Hollywood 1935 thru 1960. David signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn Studios in 1935. Other big names for that studio were: Ronald Coleman, Joel McCrea, and Gary Cooper. David writes about his friendship with: Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Ronald Coleman, Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant to name a few.
David also wore the hat of Producer when he and other foresighted friends: Ida Lupino, Charles Boyer, and Dick Powell formed Four Star Productions. Four Star produced some of the most popular television series in Classic Hollywood Television during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Producing, Directing, and Writing, Four Star was an outlet during the no longer leading man or leading lady era, it also brought in the bacon for other stars looking for work after the breakup of the studio system.
David Niven, Star of the Month, Oscar Winner, Actor, Writer, Producer. What an enjoyable month.

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Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House


Melvyn Douglas narrates this film, and as Bill Cole( aka the best friend/lawyer) shares the billing with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy ( Mr. and Mrs. Blandings).

Trapped in a small apartment in NYC, the uptight  Mr. Blandings needing something, anything… sees the potential for salvation in a broken down old house, while trying to avoid a 7,000 dollar interior decorating bill thought up by his wife. Bill acts as the only voice of reason, and Melvyn Douglas does a commendable job trying to talk the insane Cary Grant out of getting swindled in a country house purchase. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

“Good thing there are two of you, one to love it and one to hold it up.”

This, like so many other films, was remade into an 80’s Cult Classic with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long. While The Money Pit may seem like a far stretch given it’s classy and sophisticated predecessor- the premise is the same. Take your biggest and best dream, and finally get yourself into the place to reach it ( aka- the dream house), then watch it fall apart right before your eyes. Being the uptight, type A man- it’s difficult to let the dream go, so you poke it and prod it, and pour money into it. That’s what you do. All your beliefs support it. Meanwhile, your family falls apart and your marriage strains. The plumbing, electricity and foundation crumbles, and still you are sure, so sure, this is your dream- you must save it! So while you’re best friend makes a play for your wife, and your sad bank balance forces you to borrow credit, you stick by principles that you made up to support dreams you think you should have. But sometimes, most times, that little voice inside you knows what its doing. Sometimes its not blatant stubbornness, and the heart really does know what its doing. What culminates is something you can be proud of- an external representation of a necessary journey.

The Money Pit successfully drives this concept home through ridiculous antics( tom hanks stuck in the floor), and lots of screaming, while Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House uses cartoon imaginings and snarky remarks from Melvyn Douglas. But the message is the same,

“Why is he always hanging around, why doesn’t he get married or something?” “Cause he can’t find a girl as sweet and pretty and wholesome as I am.”

 

 

 

 

Melvyn Douglas

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TCM’s September Star of the Month Melvyn Douglas spent 63 years as an actor. From the eligible bachelor in his early films to notable character parts in his later years, you’re probably wondering why you don’t know him as well as Cary Grant. Perhaps most known for Ninotchka, he was the guy pursuing the very cold Greta Garbo, and made us believe she could finally be won over. Where do we like Melvyn Douglas best?

As the house guest and friend who won’t leave in Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House.

As the incorrigible playboy, opposite Irene Dunne in Theodora Goes Wild

Opposite Fred MacMurray fighting over Jean Arthur in Too Many Husbands

and of course as die hard Deanna Durbin fans

we love Melvyn as the crush catching Deanna’s eye in That Certain Age

See him Wednesdays this month on TCM

 

Hollywood Good Girl Irene Dunne

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Irene Dunne was truly a Hollywood Good Girl and best buddy to another Good Girl, Loretta Young. Irene met Francis Dennis Griffin a promising young Dentist at a dance in 1928, married him and stayed married to him until his death 37 years later. She was nominated for five Best Actress Awards (Cimarron, Theodora Goes Wild, The Awful Truth, Love Affair, I Remember Mama) unfortunately she is on the short list of never having received an Oscar after being nominated so many times. In 1944 she christened a newly built Liberty Ship the S.S. Carole Lombard. Irene retired from movies in the early 1950’s and then spent her time doing charitable works and public service. She was involved with the Red Cross, the American Cancer Society and was appointed as a special delegate to the United Nations in 1957. She received the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame as an outstanding member of the United States Catholic Laity, and was honored in 1985 by the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for her acting and charitable works. Unfortunately the Academy never got around to awarding Irene even an Honorary Oscar before she passed in 1990. I’m sure she never obsessed about it though, she was one girl that has many stars in her crown.