James Dean ~ Young Rebel


Sixty years ago today the world was shocked at the tragic death in a car accident of 24 year old actor James Dean. Sadly we only have three movies to turn to when needing a James Dean fix. If you want new material to study Dean’s acting style and early television in the 1950’s I suggest the two General Electric Theater presentations: The Dark Dark Hours and I’m a Fool.
To watch these shows you have to allow for the time they are filmed. They are set up as stage plays, film a bit grainy, the sound not the best it is what it is…its early television history.

In The Dark Dark Hours Dean co-starred with Ronald Reagan who was the host of the GE Theater from 1954-1962, the story seems to be a pre-curser to Rebel Without a Cause as Jack Simmons Dean’s co-star also appeared in Rebel with Dean as the character ‘Cookie’.
The Dark Dark Hours has teen dialog long forgotten: ‘Crazy Dad’, ‘Dig me…’ ‘Like…I need some music’, ‘Don’t goof on me now’, ‘If I can’t be the best, I’m going to be the worst’.
Reagan introduces Dean as a ‘Bright new actor in Hollywood’.

I’m a Fool: adapted from a Sherwood Anderson short story is a bit of a morality play, talky talky, but in the end if you are paying attention this show is the one you think about long after the film is over. How many times have we said or done something that we play over and over again in our heads that we deeply regret and beat ourselves up over for being a fool. Watching Dean and Wood in a more period piece is a bonus. If you missed the premiere of these shows on TCM last week check out your local Library these shows are available on DVD.

JAMES DEAN

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Kudo’s to TCM for premiering some historic rare live Television appearances of one of Hollywood’s 1950’s classic icon’s: James Dean on September 25th . September 30th will be the 60th Anniversary of Dean’s death. He first appeared opposite Natalie Wood in the General Electric Theater presentation of ‘I’m a Fool’ November 14, 1954. March 30th 1955 they met again to begin filming ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. In June of 1955 when production wrapped up on Rebel James Dean began filming his next movie ‘Giant’. Production for James Dean on Giant wrapped up on September 23, 1955 he died one week later.
The movie ‘East of Eden’ was released in April of 1955. The movie ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ was released October 27, 1955. The movie ‘Giant’ was released November 24, 1956.
James Dean posthumously received two Oscar nominations for Best Actor. One in March of 1956 for his role in the movie ‘East of Eden’, the second nomination he received in March of 1957 for his role in the movie ‘Giant’.
Thank goodness someone in early television thought to preserve on film James Deans performances for us to study sixty plus year’s later.

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.

Virginia Mayo

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November 30, 1920~ January 17, 2005          Virginia Mayo                    The Kid From Brooklyn

Virginia Mayo almost lost her chance at Hollywood when Selznick decides she wouldn’t fit into films. Luckily, Goldwyn saw the potential and tried her out in a few small roles. She hit the big time with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and later went on to do one of our favorites- She’s Working Her Way through College. While her acting and dancing talent was evident, Mayo’s vocals were not entirely up to par, and all 6 of her WB films were dubbed.  Thankfully, her future husband was more than willing to take the whole package (and voice), and made it known. Apparently Michael O’Shea just walked right up and kissed her! They married in 1947 and were together until his death.

Happy Birthday Virginia.

A Story of Illicit Sex

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Part of Warner Bros. new Archive Collection, The Voice of The Turtle was deemed, just that by the Breen Office in 1947, “a story of illicit sex without sufficient compensating moral values.”

And they were right! Absolutely no compensating moral values whatsoever! Apart from the few tears, and weak self-imposed regulation, Sally Middleton ( Eleanor Parker), is not so much saddened by her choice to just give it away, as she is about her inability to actually snatch a man that wants to commit. Coming off a very serious relationship with a Broadway hotshot who accused her of taking love too seriously, Sally lands smack dab in the middle of her friends (Eve Arden) servicemen smorgasbord.

Made to entertain Bill Page( Ronald Reagan), Sally seems to have entered her moral high ground one man too early. Feeling bad about that darn pouring rain, Sally lets Bill sleep on the daybed in the living room (because who doesn’t have a daybed in the living room?)and  all too quickly falls into her own too familiar trap. She has an extra toothbrush, pajamas, makes breakfast; anything that Bill may need.

What makes this story rather amazing is that as a piece of American History, we really can’t begrudge these poor women for attempting to catch ‘em while they can, especially when the men were often only home for a weekend. War time inherently deems a sense of now or never, and it was never fresher in the minds of everyone than it was in the 40’s when women still heavily depended on men not only for their support (financially, mentally, physically), but also their reputation and worth as a woman.

Eleanor does a great job of portraying the OCD Sally, and we automatically like her more for all her strange, extremely visible weaknesses. Ronald plays the man wounded from Olivia’s( Eve Arden) slight, and convincingly brings a past love-affair-gone-wrong to the table.  As compromised players in the game of love, we see jealousy, fear, shame, guilt, envy—a whole slew of ugly human emotion.

If you can get your hands on it, this film is highly highly recommended!!!

Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations

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I was never a fan of Ava Gardner’s.  After reading The Secret Conversations, I am rethinking that statement. The book is a fast read. The printer did not accidentally leave out any pages (re: Unsinkable).
Peter Evans writing kept the story moving. There are those that will read the book for the salacious parts. But even with the salacious parts I came away with the impression that Ava was loyal to her friends, (going out in the middle of the night to check on worried friend Debbie Reynolds daughter Carrie Fisher re: Unsinkable) and even to her ex’s. How was she supposed to know that the author she chose to write her biography was being sued by her ex-Frank Sinatra?
I loved the slang and ‘swears like a sailor’ salty language Ava used to describe events in her past.
Her concern of not wanting her story to sound like Old Mother Machree was legitimate but her stories especially about her parents only made her seem more human with faults and feelings like the rest of us.
After reading the book I watched: Whistle Stop~1946 United Artists, The Killers ~ 1946 Universal, The Killers ~ 1964 Universal, and The Barefoot Contessa ~ 1954 United Artists
Has anyone else read the book yet, any thoughts?