Lady of the Tropics, 1939, Is Playing on TCM on July 14 (USA)

Lady of the Tropics (1939) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on July 14 at 6:15 a.m. est. Not closed captioned.

For those who don’t realize it the Lady of the Tropics we’re referring to is Hedy Lamarr who falls big time for visiting playboy Robert Taylor in Saigon. Of course one look at Hedy Lamarr and his romantic goose is cooked as well. But there’s is a forbidden love and sad to say the message in Ben Hecht’s screenplay is stick to your own kind.

Lady of the Tropics was shot while Hedy Lamarr was on hiatus from the ill-fated I Take This Woman. Louis B. Mayer nor any of the other movie moguls believed in letting their players sit idly by. So Lady of the Tropics became Lamarr’s second film and her only pairing with that other screen beauty Robert Taylor.

Taylor plays a very honorable character here or at least more honorable than most. He’s part of a visiting party of tourists off a yacht that lands in Saigon right before World War II starts. As we well know Vietnam was then under that colonial umbrella known as French Indo-China and Saigon was its capital. Among others Taylor is with is his American fiancé Gloria Franklin.

Of course the romantic sparks start the second that Lamarr and Taylor catch sight of each other in that Saigon café. Taylor does an unheard of thing, he breaks it off with Franklin and weds Lamarr post haste.

Sad to say, but implicit is the message that what you do with exotic beauties not 100% Caucasian is bed them don’t wed them. But Taylor and Lamarr don’t see it that way. As was said by Queen Latifah in the recent Hairspray, they’re in for a whole world of stupid.

This was 1939 not 1967 in America. We still had miscegenation laws in most states at the time so the message of sticking to your own kind was in keeping with 1939 mores. This is the exact opposite message the screen would give in 1967 in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

Taylor and Lamarr are stunning, no two ways about that. The sets showing tropical Saigon are great and the film did get an Oscar nomination for cinematography. But the story is both melodramatic and thank God, dated. Review by BKoganbing, Buffalo, New York,  for the IMDb.

Some behind the scenes photos:

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And some promotional materials:

 

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Tip-Off on Taylor

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Movies Magazine, ca. 1940 At four o’clock one Saturday afternoon, Robert Taylor left the set, having spent the day testing under the technicolor lights.  The director called out, “Get a good rest over the weekend, Bob.” “Rest?” Bob repeated, “my … Continue reading

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Devil’s Doorway (1950) LOTS OF SPOILERS

This gallery contains 25 photos.

The other night I watched Devil’s Doorway and was so moved by it that I wrote the following.  The film is available on DVD from the Warner Brothers Archive Collection. Anthony Mann’s first Western the noir-flavored  Devil’s Doorway (1950). He … Continue reading

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Party Girl, 1958, Is Playing on TCM on July 7 and July 8 (USA)

For some reason, Party Girl, 1958 is playing on Turner Classic Movies on both Saturday July 7 at midnight and on Sunday, July 8 at 10 a.m. est. Both showings are closed captioned.

On the set of Party Girl

Cyd Charisse and Robert Taylor in Party Girl.

Nicolas Ray uses color in this movie like some directors use dialogue. It is spectacular to look at with reds and blacks predominate all through the film. It is old-fashioned in it’s appeal to the film noir lover. This is the last film Robert Taylor did for MGM, and it is a great performance. The character of Tommy Farrell is, if you excuse the pun, tailor made for Taylor. Again he is the man with a secret past, as he has been in other film noir classics such as the High Wall, and Rogue Cop, two of his better roles. He is a mob attorney who is drawn to the “fastest way,” which in this case is working for Rico Angelo (Lee J Cobb). Cobb is always wonderful to watch and his role here is one of overstated ignorance, and brutal power. Tommy walks with a limp due to a childhood accident, and hates women because of his ex-wife’s repulsion of his crookedness. She destroyed his masculinity, by denying him access to both her bed and her love. He meets Vicki, played well by Cyd Charisse, at a party given by Angelo, takes her home to find her room mate dead in a bloody tub scene. He is drawn to her, but chases her away telling her “a girl deserves what she can get,” after Vicki wants him to return money given to her by John Ireland at the party.

She follows him to court and watches as he uses his limp to get sympathy from the jury, freeing murderer Ireland. His unique approach also includes the use of an old simple watch that he tells the jury was given to him by his father while he was in the hospital as a boy. It is the secret to his success with the jury. She tells him if that is what he wants “pity” then he has hers. He snarls at her telling her to get out. Afterwards he goes to the club where she is a dancer, every night finally taking her home, and telling her about his past with the wife. They fall in love and that is the beginning of the end for Farrell. She wants him to quit, he can’t. He does go to Europe to have his hip fixed and they vacation, until Rico summons him back to Chicago. There is finds that Rico has a job for him, defending a young gangster who Farrell refers to as a “dog with the rabies.” He tries to leave only to find that Rico will disfigure Vickie if he doesn’t go along. Reluctantly he agrees and in the pursuit there is a massive machine gunning down of the young gangster and his associates.

Farrell escapes unharmed, and goes to Vicki, telling her they must run. She refuses, and the cops take them both to jail. In the end he rats on Rico to save Vicki, he thinks, until he is taken to a broken down meeting hall, where Rico presents Vicki to him, wrapped in bandages. They unveil her still perfect face, but also a bottle of acid, which Rico tells Tommy he will use if he doesn’t take back the testimony. The cops were tipped where to find Rico, and they attack the hall with a hail of bullets causing Rico to tip the acid on his own face, falling to his death through a plate glass window. Vicki and Farrell leave, meeting the District Attorney on the way, with Farrel giving his watch to Kent Smith, “as a remembrance.”

The wonderful thing about this performance by Taylor is that his looks only add to the sadness of the character, his blue eyes showing the conflict within this man. Still magnificent to look at we feel for his plight with the crooked body, not be able to love again until Charisse loves him as is. Taylor is just great here, a mature, restrained Tommy Farrell, in love at last but conflicted about his job, and how he gets his money. A must see film noir. Revew by Mamalv, United States for the IMDB.

Some behind-the-scenes photos:

Off-Stage Star: The cameraman catches Robert Taylor during some "away from the camera moments" on the set of "Party Girl." The film, which stars Taylor, Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb, is a Euterpe production produced by Joe Pasternak for MGM release. Nicholas Ray directed. (original caption).********: Taylor Robert. Rome, Leonia Celli Collection*** Permission for usage must be provided in writing from Scala.19581958
Left to right: Off-Stage Star: The cameraman catches Robert Taylor during some “away from the camera moments” on the set of “Party Girl.” The film, which stars Taylor, Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb, is a Euterpe production produced by Joe Pasternak for MGM release. Nicholas Ray directed. (original caption); Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse.

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Robert Taylor, Cyd Charise, Leon Alton and Herb Armstrong.

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The Crowd Roars, 1938, Is Playing on TCM on July 7 (USA)

July is going to be a good month for Robert Taylor films on Turner Classic Movies.  There are 6, including two showings of Party Girl.  The first is The Crowd Roars, made in 1938.  It is showing on Saturday July 7 at 6 a.m. est.  Not closed captioned.  Although I am not a boxing fan, I love this film.

crowd3Boxing doesn’t appeal to me, either for real or on screen so I approached The Crowd Roars with some trepidation. However, boxing is only the excuse for a film on the Depression, on corruption, on poverty and crime. Robert Taylor is superb as Tommy “Killer” McCoy, a young man who enters the ring strictly for the money. He has had the wolf at the door and doesn’t want to see it again. His distaste for being a “pug” and his longing for respectability come into play as he meets Maureen O’Sullivan and gets a glimpse of how “the other half” live. The fight scenes are exciting and vivid but not glamorized. A scene in the gym introduces a cast of brain-damaged pugs as Taylor prepares for his first big fight. The cinematography is excellent as is the lighting. There are no bad performances. Frank Morgan is the drunken father, Maureen O’Sullivan is the love interest, Edward Arnold the gangster, Lionel Stander the trainer. Jane Wyman has a small but pivotal role as a southern airhead. Highly recommended.  Review by me for the Imdb.

Some behind the scenes photos:

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Left to right: unknown; Gene Reynolds, Robert Taylor; Frank Morgan, Mr. Taylor, Lionel Stander; Frank Morgan, Mr.Taylor, Edward Arnold

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Left to right: Robert Taylor, unknown; unknown, Margaret Sullavan, Mr. Taylor; Richard Thorpe, Mr. Taylor

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A break on the set.

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In Memoriam Robert Taylor

In Memoriam

Robert Taylor

August 5, 1911

June 8, 1969

George Cukor, director. “Robert Taylor was my favorite actor. He was a gentleman. That’s rare in Hollywood.”

(W.F. Buckley, “MGM Moles Dig Themselves a Hole,” Column, Jan 30, 1990)

Mr. Taylor’s ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery.  Ursula Thiess’ ashes are now with his.

May they both rest in peace.

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Broadway Melody of 1936, 1935, Is Playing on TCM on June 5 (USA)

Broadway Melody of 1936, 1935, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, June 5 at 4:15 p.m. est.  Not closed captioned.  This the only Robert Taylor film on TCM in June.  July, however, will be a feast. There are 7 of them.

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Robert Taylor, Eleanor Powell, Jack Benny, Una Merkel, June Knight, Buddy Ebsen, Vilma Ebsen

Broadway Melody of 1936 is a confection of a movie, meant to sweeten the lives of Depression weary Americans. It stars the unlikely triumvirate of Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell and Robert Taylor. The plot is flimsy, involving the parallel efforts of a columnist (Benny) trying to save his career, a Broadway producer (Taylor) trying to find a star for his new show and a dancer (Powell) trying to get her big break on Broadway.

All this is secondary to the wonderful songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed: “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin'”; “Broadway Rhythm”; “You Are My Lucky Star”; “On a Sunday Afternoon”;” Sing Before Breakfast.” The production numbers for each song range from clever to spectacular. “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin” is sung by Taylor and New York actress June Knight. The special effects are a delight, especially as they are done so long before CGI.

Powell proves, as always, that she is unmatched as a dancer—her energy, grace and strength are a marvel. She dances solo, with Buddy and Vilma Ebsen, with Nick Long, Jr. and with huge choruses.

Nor can the acting be faulted. Jack Benny is excellent as the gossip-obsessed wise-cracking and scheming columnist. Robert Taylor is remarkably poised and mature for his years (24) and even has a nice singing voice. The second banana roles are filled admirably by Sid Silvers and Una Merkel. If Powell and Knight are less impressive when their feet are still, it doesn’t matter—their dancing more than redeems them.

“Broadway Melody of 1936” was a high budget, high gloss, pull out all the stops, MGM production. No expense was spared for the costumes, sets, choreography or photography. The direction by Roy del Ruth is crisp and effective. We could use more films like this in our own difficult times. Review by me for the IMDB.

Robert Taylor and June Knight filmed a dance sequence for Broadway Melody of 1936 that did not appear in the final film.  These pictures are all that is left.

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