“The Gorgeous Hussy,” 1936, Is Playing on TCM on September 3 (USA)

“The Gorgeous Hussy,” 1936, is playing on Turner Classic Movies at 4:15 a.m. Closed captioned.  *NOTE*:A TCM programming day begins at 6:00am EST on the calendar day listed and runs to 5:59am EST in the morning on the next day. Hours listed at 12:00am to 5:59am EST in your reminder will be shown on the NEXT calendar day

RT and Joan Crawford in "The Gorgeous Hussy." 1936

Robert Taylor and Joan Crawford in “The Gorgeous Hussy.” 1936

It’s a story about Washington D.C. It’s about dirty tricks, sleazy operatives, scurrilous personal attacks and lies. The 2012 presidential campaign? No, “The Gorgeous Hussy.”

The story centers around Peggy O’Neill, Joan Crawford, an innkeeper’s daughter called “Pothouse Peg,” for her politics and her men. The men are a list of Metro’s best—Robert Taylor, Jimmy Stewart, Franchot Tone, Melvyn Douglas and Lionel Barrymore. Robert Taylor dominates the first quarter of the picture with his enormous energy, his playfulness, his rapport with Crawford and his skin-tight costume. Taylor even sings and dances.

After Bow Timberlake’s (Taylor’s) heroic off screen death, things settle down. Andrew Jackson (Barrymore) dominates every scene he’s in. Beulah Bondi, as Rachel Jackson, is equally good. She won an Oscar nomination for her role. Joan Crawford is usually criticized for appearing in an historical picture because she was too “modern.” Here she handles her costumes beautifully, using her skirts to express a range of emotions. While her acting is fine, she is overwhelmed by the male contingent.

Franchot Tone, Crawford’s husband at the time, is quietly effective as Peg’s second husband John Eaton. Melvyn Douglas brings strength and intelligence to his role as Virginian John Randolph. Jimmy Stewart is wasted as Peg’s failed suitor. “The Gorgeous Hussy” is fun, sometimes moving and a reminder that political behavior wasn’t all that different in the 1820s.  Review by me for the IMDB.

 

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Calling All Robert Taylor Fans

This post also appears under the header picture on the home page of this blog. It will stay there so you can see it any time. Thanks for your help. Judith

RT4640I am asking my fellow Robert Taylor fans to contact Turner Classic Movies to ask them to include Robert Taylor on next year’s “Summer Under the Stars,” preferably on his birthday, August 5.*  TCM appears to like snail mail letters although they also accept phone calls.

 

 

You can write to:

Robert Osborne or Ben Mankiewicz
TCM
1050 Techwood Drive NW
Atlanta, GA 30318

Charles Tabesh
Sr. Vice President of Programming
TCM
1050 Techwood Drive NW
Atlanta, GA 30318

or You can leave TCM a message via phone at 404-885-5535, but please note that due to heavy volume of calls and letters, they are unable to answer all questions.

Use your own words but I would thank them for the two times in 2001 and 2010 that Mr. Taylor was Star of the Month.  Just let them you know you appreciate the many Taylor films that they show.  Then make your request pleasantly.  You know how to do this.

After all, we don’t want to see the end of Robert Taylor.????

*This year TCM honored Barbara Stanwyck on Robert Taylor’s birthday.

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Letters to LIFE Magazine about Robert Taylor

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Letters to Life Magazine Robert Taylor and Time/Life publications were not a good match.  They looked at him as a good looking star and nothing more.  Mr. Taylor didn’t think much of them, either.  The following is a selection of … Continue reading

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The Epic “Quo Vadis,” 1951, Is Playing on TCM on August 26 (USA)

“Quo Vadis” (1951) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 10:45 a.m..  Closed captioned.  If you haven’t seen this, you’ve missed something truly special.

RT6154The 1st century Roman Empire, the fire of Rome, early Christianity, martyrdom…this historical content was dealt with in many films before and after 1951. Yet, it is LeRoy’s QUO VADIS most viewers associate with the infamous period of Roman history, the reign of Nero (A.D. 54-68). Why? There are, I think, several reasons. One is, definitely, the source, a Noble Prize winner novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. The Polish writer, being an acknowledged historian, contained detailed historical facts and a vivid fictitious story in his novel. As a result, QUO VADIS is a universal masterpiece, absolutely worth reading for anyone. But, since the film, though an adaptation of the book, skips many events or even characters, we may treat Mervyn LeRoy’s QUO VADIS as a separate Hollywood production. In this respect, the movie is also well known as a gigantic spectacle with great cast, lavish sets, crowds of extras, which constitutes a magnificent journey to ancient Rome, the Rome which was on the verge of becoming “Neropolis”. Then, a viewer does not have to know the novel and will enjoy the film.

THE STORY: If we consider QUO VADIS? as an entertaining movie only (which is, of course, a limited view), then anyone more acquainted with cinema will find much in common with Cecil B DeMille’s great epic THE SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932). Yet, comparison does not work that well concerning the perspective of QUO VADIS (1951). After deeper analysis of the films, a lot of differences occur. While DeMille’s film based on Wilson Barret’s play shows early Christianity in Rome, it foremost concentrates on the clash between the new religion and the Roman order being put in danger. LeRoy’s movie, since based on Henryk Sienkiewicz’s, focuses on the undeniable victory of Christianity. Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) at first finds a new faith meaningless. He has reasonable arguments from the Roman point of view (what about slaves, conquest, enemy treating, etc). Yet GRADUALLY thanks to love for Lygia (Deborah Kerr) and the courageous faith of the martyrs, he shouts out with confidence “Christ, give him strength!” The story of Nero and “the imperial companions” is also much more developed. Yet, Nero (Peter Ustinov) is not only the one who heads for delicious debauchery but also wishes the crowd to have one throat that could be cut. He is an artist who burns Rome in order to create a song. He is a coward who blames the innocent for his own guilts. He is a cynic who collects tears in a weeping phial after the death of his “best friend” Petronius (Leo Genn). Finally, he is a lunatic who praises his “divine ego” and screams at his death seeing no future for Rome without him.

CAST: Anyone who has seen ancient epics must admit that most of them can boast great performances. Nevertheless, I believe that QUO VADIS is one of the top movies in this matter. Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr are a gorgeous couple portraying a Roman leader and a Christian girl. Taylor naturally expresses a change of heart. Kerr appealingly portrays innocence, gentleness and true love. Leo Genn is excellent as Petronius, a man of art and elegance who is fed up with Nero’s “secondary songs and meaningless poems.” Peter Ustinov gives a fabulous performance as Nero combining all wicked features of his character. I also loved Patricia Laffan as lustful empress Poppaea with her two pet leopards. There is no milk bath of hers, she does not imitate Ms Colbert but Laffan’s Poppaea is foremost a woman of sin, a woman of lust, and a woman of revenge. The Christians, except for a number of extras, are portrayed by very authentic-looking actors: Abraham Sofaer as Paul and Finlay Currie as Peter…not more to say than that they look identical to the old paintings.

SPECTACLE: The movie is a visually stunning epic that can be compared in its magnificence to BEN HUR (1959) and even GLADIATOR (2000). There are numerous breathtaking moments: arena scenes, lions, bull fighting, triumph in the streets, and foremost the fire of Rome. We see the real horror within the walls of the burning city. A moment that is also worth consideration is Vinicius hurrying to Rome on a chariot being chased by two other men. When he comes nearer, we see the red sky… The authenticity is increased by a lovely landscape of Cinecitta Studios near Rome where the film was shot. For the sake of spectacle, I went once to see QUO VADIS on a big screen in cinema and felt as if I watched a new film made with modern techniques. It was a wonderful experience.

All in all, I think that QUO VADIS by Mervyn LeRoy is a movie that has stood a test of time. Although it is 55 years old, it is still admired in many places of the world. It’s one of these movies that are the treasures of my film gallery. Not only a colossal spectacle, not only great performances but a very profound historical content at which Henryk Sienkiewicz was best.

QUO VADIS DOMINE? Where are you going, Lord? These are the words that Peter asked Christ while leaving Rome. After the answer that Peter heard from his Lord, he turned back… in order to proclaim peace to the martyrs and to be crucified. Yet, where once stood decadent “Neropolis” now stands the Holy See where people yearly pilgrim to the tombs of the martyrs and where the blessing “Urbi et Orbi” is goes to all the corners of the world. Sienkiewicz writes about it in the touching final words of the novel. Yet, LeRoy changes it a bit in the film…

A small group of Christians who survived, including Lygia and Marcus, are on a journey. But after a short stop at the place where Peter met Christ, the journey seems to turn into a pilgrimage towards “the Way, the Truth and the Life”   Review by Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland for the IMDB


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“Ambush,” 1950, Is Playing on TCM on August 17 (USA)

Ambush (1950) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Sun, August 17, 2014 07:15 AM est. Closed captioned.

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Ambush is a gripping, authentic, action-packed, dramatically compelling picture of the United States Cavalry in the 1870’s Arizona territory. It was producer/director Sam Wood’s final movie, filmed shortly before his sudden death in September 1949 and released in January 1950. For top star Robert Taylor, now in his early forties (actually 38), weathered but gracefully aged, it was an auspicious beginning to what would be a close association with the Western genre for the rest of his career.

While there is plenty of action in Ambush, its intense, nuanced character studies are what sets this dynamic Western apart from the crowd. Taylor plays a tough, savvy civilian scout at odds with by the book Army captain John Hodiak, both over campaign strategy and the affections of gorgeous Arlene Dahl, a late general’s daughter hoping the cavalry can rescue her sister from Apache captivity. As if one love triangle were not enough for a dusty, little Army post, the first lieutenant Don Taylor is madly and hopelessly in love with the beautiful Irish laundress (Jean Hagen), the loyal Catholic wife to a drunken lout of an enlisted man (Bruce Cowling), who frequently socks her around. When a disabling injury to the major in command of the post (Leon Ames) puts the spit-and-polish captain temporarily in charge, everything comes to a boil. Not as soapy as it sounds but sensitively directed by Wood and perfectly acted by all concerned. The scenes of poignant longing tinged with guilt between Don Taylor and Ms. Hagen nearly steal the show. The rich supporting cast includes, as well as Ames and Cowling, John McIntire as an older scout, Pat Moriarity as the top sergeant, and also Charles Stevens, who claimed descent from Geronimo, as the vicious, resourceful Apache leader Diablito.

The script by Marguerite Roberts from a Luke Short story is intelligent and engaging with clever, brisk, colorful dialog. Harold Lipstein’s moody black and white cinematography and Rudolph G. Kopp’s textured score enhance the gritty, realistic, yet slightly nostalgic ambiance. Editing is silky smooth, as in almost any big studio picture of this era. The all important pacing is perfect. The compact 89-minute running time moves along at a brisk pace, building suspense, never dragging, but taking enough breathers to build character and create atmosphere. Costumes and sets are first-rate and authentic. Real-life western Army forts during the Indian War era did not have palisade walls, and, refreshingly, neither does the one in this handsomely turned out Western. More importantly, the characters act like nineteenth century people, with the social attitudes of the time, yet without seeming stiff.

With apologies to John Ford fans, which includes yours truly, Ambush is the best of its type. Whereas Ford, who liked to portray everything bigger than life, tended to make the cavalry too grand and romantic, Wood gives us the real Old West Army — long-service soldiers serving loyally but thanklessly at dusty, out of the way posts neither finding nor expecting much in the way of comfort or glory.

Ambush is a thrilling, dramatic, atmospheric, authentic adult Western, engaging, charming, and entertaining from beginning to end. The opening and closing scenes of this picture are both real knockouts! This is an unappreciated classic. Top-notch entertainment from Old Hollywood’s Golden Era.  Author: oldblackandwhite from North Texas stocks for the IMDb.

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“When Ladies Meet,” 1941, Is Playing on TCM on August 16 (USA)

When Ladies Meet (1941) is playing on Turner Classic Movies  on Sat, August 16, 2014 07:30 AM est. Closed captioned.

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Mona Barrie, Greer Garson, Robert Taylor in “When Ladies Meet.”

“When Ladies Meet” is the story of a married couple, a lady author and a charming single journalist. Joan Crawford, the author, considers herself a “modern woman” freed from tiresome conventions and moral imperatives. Despite the movie’s 1941 date, the author’s relativistic attitude toward marriage and fidelity would be right at home in today’s left-wing intellectual circles. Her gradual evolution towards a different attitude is the meat of the movie. Mirroring the situation in her book is the situation of the married couple, Greer Garson and Herbert Marshall. The fourth member of the group is Robert Taylor as a journalist whose surface gaiety hides a serious moral foundation.The four actors make the movie much better than the script. Garson and Crawford strike sparks off each other in every scene they share. Herbert Marshall is suitably smooth and sleazy. But it’s Robert Taylor in a role involving physical comedy whose work is the most impressive. As it turns out, he is the person most grounded in reality–and the hidden hand behind everything.

Everything has the expected MGM gloss–extravagant costumes, beautiful sets, excellent photography. Highly recommended.  Review by me.

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“High Wall” Is Playing on TCM on August 16 (17) (USA)

“High Wall” (1947) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Sat, August 16, 2014 03:00 AM est.  Closed captioned.  *NOTE*:A TCM programming day begins at 6:00am EST on the calendar day listed and runs to 5:59am EST in the morning on the next day. Hours listed at 12:00am to 5:59am EST in your reminder will be shown on the NEXT calendar day.

Steven Kenet is a patient in the County Asylum.

High Wall is a departure for Robert Taylor. In the 30’s he portrayed mostly handsome society boys. In 1941 he toughened up his image with Johnny Eager. This is an entirely different path. The lead character, Steven Kenet, has returned from a job flying freight in Asia after his service in WW II. He’s eager to see his wife and displeased to find out she has a job. Kenet is even more displeased when he discovers she is having an affair with her boss. To complicate matters, he has a brain injury and is suffering blackouts and other symptoms. Seeing his wife in her lover’s apartment triggers rage and violence. The wife is dead and Kenet is the only suspect. He confesses and is committed to a mental institution for psychiatric evaluation. The unique thing about the film to me is Taylor’s ability to play vulnerability. Kenet is neither a pretty boy nor a villain. He is a man in torment. Taylor uses his shoulders beautifully to portray hopelessness.

They droop in the scenes where the character is locked in solitary confinement. After his operation they are straight. The confusion on his face when he’s offered an opportunity to see his son at the hospital is masterful as he passes through a range of emotions moving from delight to doubt to anger to confusion. There is a remarkable sequence in which Kenet is dragged off after attacking a visitor. Taylor’s body positions change constantly–this is hardly the “wooden” acting for which he is so often condemned. Another great sequence is his walk up the stairs at the end to see his son. Kenet’s face radiates joy. The camera work is stylish and the chiaroscuro is masterful. This movie was apparently not well received in its time probably because it isn’t the “Robert Taylor” people expected and it is largely forgotten now. It deserves to be remembered. Review by me for the IMDb.

 

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