Classic Films for the Classic Childhood: The Happiest Millionaire

LIFE LESSON: Fortuosity

The Happiest Millionaire: This is one of my favorites, with Fred MacMurray and newbie actress Leslie Ann Warren.

Yes, this is a musical, which means the kids will remember the songs and lessons, whether they want to or not! Key lesson in this film? Fortuosity: that life is always giving you exactly what you need when you need it. And that while family expectations are important, if you got a dream you need to follow it. Humorous antics like alligators in the conservatory, and a  father who fights off the boyfriends with boxing matches add a bit of extra fun.

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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

 

Mothers ~ Beulah Bondi

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Beulah Bondi, she surprised us in Vivacious Lady by showing us her jitterbug side, she protected her son Fred MacMurray from a Christmas shopping kleptomaniac Barbara Stanwyck in Remember the Night and was the stand by your son Mom in another Christmas must watch every year movie It’s a Wonderful Life. She is another actress that made a career out of playing Mom, Granny, or not so very nice Auntie. A talented actress that played Jimmy Stewarts Mom four times however the one person she really wanted to play Ma to Henry Fonda was a part that eluded her losing out to Jane Darwell the Ma Joad part in the Grapes of Wrath. She was nominated for Oscars as Best Supporting Actress in 1936 for The Gorgeous Hussy and 1938 for Of Human Hearts. However longevity and excellence in her craft finally paid off in 1977 when she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for a single appearance in a drama or comedy series in an episode of The Walton’s titled: The Pony Cart
She was never a mother in real life but hey who says you have to be a mother to play a mother, sometimes that mothering instinct just comes naturally. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the real, pretend or mothering just comes naturally even though I don’t have kids of my own ladies out there.

Mothers ~ Marjorie Main

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Marjorie Main was a wonderful character actress. She made you laugh, she made you cry, you felt her despair and pain. Whether playing the care-worn distraught mother of a killer gangster in Dead End or the grief stricken mother that watches her crippled son burn to death in a deliberately set tenement house fire in The Angels Wash their Faces Marjorie’s performances are always riveting and sympathetic.

Marjorie’s most memorable role though was a boondoggle for Universal International Studio.

The Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray movie: The Egg and I was based on a book written by Betty MacDonald and was the worlds introduction to the characters Ma & Pa Kettle.  Marjorie played Ma Kettle to perfection garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1947. And a character to play till her last Kettle film The Kettles on Old MacDonald’s Farm in 1957. Ma & Pa Kettle had 15 children but Marjorie’s one disappointment in life was that she had none. The mothers she played were always a little off kilter but hey isn’t that something that we all love about our own mothers. Thanks Marjorie for sharing all of those eccentricities.

Hollywood Good Girl Jean Arthur

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Hollywood Good Girl ~ Jean Arthur

Apart from the extremely steamy scene on the steps in The More the Merrier and the two husbands problem in Too Many Husbands, Jean actually was a very good girl. We saw it in innocent roles on screen in Easy Living as the broke writer who finds some good luck, and as the job seeking well meaning cook in If Only You Could Cook. Off screen Frank Capra could find no one more worthy to play his morally laced roles, even if she did throw up before shooting her scenes. Having left Hollywood at the height of her career after an Oscar nomination she went on to teach at Vassar for 5 years, and taught student Meryl Streep! Who knew?  Jean was only married twice(one annulled and one divorce), and spent the good part of her life alone with her cats… sad, and yet somehow, maybe for Jean Arthur, simply perfect.