Undercurrent, 1946 Is Playing on TCM on August 7 (USA)

Undercurrent (1946) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Fri, August 07, 2015 04:00 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.

Director Vincente Minneli said of Undercurrent : He [Robert Taylor] out acted her [Katharine Hepburn] and stole the picture as the demanding and sadistic husband.  It was Kate who was miscast. (Charles Tranberg, Robert Taylor: a Biography, BearManor Media, 2011, pages 176-177.) 

abcAll of the criticisms of this movie might well be flushed down the loo. This is one powerhouse of an interesting movie.  Call it Film-Noir. Call it Mystery/Suspense. Call it Psychological Thriller. Call it what you may…I call it: absorbing drama.  It moves very deliberately…and the facts are revealed one by one, in true mystery fashion, until the fantastic, thrilling ending.

Those who say that Hepburn and Mitchum were miscast are just so wrong. Hepburn wasn’t playing Hepburn here…she wasn’t Tracy Lord here. She wasn’t a know-it-all New England uppity snob here. Not a worldly character at all. She played a different character than I’ve ever seen her do. Hepburn doesn’t rely on her stable of clichés to capture our imagination here. She does it with imagination and as few of the Hepburn cornerstone mannerisms as possible. Good result!

Und23 (10)Robert Taylor is fascinating to watch. He has so many secrets in this role. And they reside behind his facade for us to watch and enjoy. He slowly swirls into controlled mania and desperate determination. Very fine, indeed. He should have been nominated for this one.

And then there’s Mitchum! What can one say about Mitchum without gushing foolishly. Gee whiz…the first time you see him…he shows us a side of him we have hardly ever seen! He seems at peace, mild in character, mellow in mood…pensive…other worldly. Likable even! Never gruff or abrasive like we’ve seen him so many times before.

What is unique about this story is that we really do not know what is going to happen next. We spend most of the movie residing in Hepburn’s character’s mind. Her wondering, her confusion, her search for the truth — at all costs.

I was expecting not to like this movie. I was expecting it to be another formulaic Hepburn vehicle about high society. But this is where this movie takes a left turn into an underrated mystery.  I enjoyed the use of the theme to the Third Movement of Johannes Brahms’ Third Symphony throughout the movie. RT677It lent a delicious air of mystery, love and luscious pastoral passion to the whole affair.

And to say that Vincente Minnelli was WRONG for this movie? Gee whiz! He was perfect! Why compare him to Hitchcock? Minnelli has manufactured a mystery world all his own. Sure there are devices. All movies have devices. But they are handled so deftly…we don’t rely on them to make us aware of the story — they don’t get in our way. They heighten our interest and this very absorbing plot.

Well done. I wish it had been a longer movie…it was THAT kind of movie. I recommend this one…Review by Enrique Sanchez, Miami, FL for the IMDB.

 

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Robert Taylor Trivia: The “Think Pink” Party

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In the fall of 1963 Jerry Lewis gave a huge party called the “Think Pink.”  His wife Patty was expecting their sixth child and they really wanted a girl.  They already had five boys.  The room was elaborately decorated in … Continue reading

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Robert Taylor Trivia: Upstairs Downstairs

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Watching Downton Abbey brought to mind its predecessor in the 1970s, Upstairs Downstairs.  Recently Fred and I watched the whole series in order.  Then we decided to watch the 2010-2012 revival.  This series only lasted for two years because it … Continue reading

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Party Girl, 1958, Is Playing on TCM on July 31 (USA)

Party Girl, 1958, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on July 31 at 6.15 p.m. est.   Closed captioned.

1958 --- American actors Cyd Charisse and Robert Taylor on the set of Party Girl, directed by Nicholas Ray. --- Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

1958 — American actors Cyd Charisse and Robert Taylor on the set of Party Girl, directed by Nicholas Ray. — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

Nicholas 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.

1958

1958

There he finds that Rico has a job for him, defending a young gangster who Farrell refers to as a “dog with  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 Farrell 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.  Review by mamalv from the U.S. for the Imdb.

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Society Doctor, 1935, Is Playing on TCM on July 30 (USA)

Society Doctor (1935) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Thu, July 30, 2015 01:30 PM est. Not closed captioned. This is a rare chance to see one of the early movies Robert Taylor made before he was a star.  It’s probably also the movie that won him his role in Magnificent Obsession, that made him rise to the top.

RT6706

Chester Morris, Robert Taylor and Virginia Bruce.

It would take another 30 years before we would see another doctor like Chester Morris plays in Society Doctor and that would be on the small screen instead of the big one. Vincent Edwards might have seen what Chester Morris did in this film as the talented, but tactless surgeon and Morris could well have been his model for Ben Casey.

Society Doctor is the story of a pair of doctors in a large hospital, one like Morris very dedicated to his profession and the other being the up and coming Robert Taylor who has the talent, but wants to enjoy life as well. Both are courting Virginia Bruce who looks ravishing in her nurse’s uniform.

There are quite a few plot lines running through this story the main one involving Morris and his career choices. He’s stepping on a lot of toes at the hospital, but he’s managed to make a friend of society woman and hypochondriac Billie Burke who’s willing to bankroll him in a private practice. She wants to make him a Society Doctor.

But a few medical crises at the hospital and the possible loss of Bruce to Taylor who were seeing each other in real life at this time kind of make Morris’s choices clear.

Robert Taylor has an interesting scene in Society Doctor where he explains he’s undergone a transformation of character and now wants to be a serious doctor, as serious as his pal Morris is. The scene was well done and I’m certain that Carl Laemmle over at Universal must have seen it and thought that the young man would have been perfect casting for the lead in Magnificent Obsession which is a film entirely based on such a transformation. In any event a lot of people noticed Robert Taylor after Society Doctor, of that I’m sure.

Society Doctor holds up very well and packs a lot into its short 63 minute running time. And it seems to have influenced a few people in their careers.  Review by bkoganbing from Buffalo, NY. for the imdb.

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Forum: the Taylor-Stanwyck Marriage

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Beata, from Poland, sent this essay as a response to an earlier post called “Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck and Lana Turner.”  I think she has some interesting points to make and hope that some other people will respond in the … Continue reading

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His Brother’s Wife, 1936, Is Playing on TCM on July 15 (USA)

His Brother’s Wife  (1936) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Wed, July 15, 2015 06:15 PM est.  Closed captioned.

RT6346Folks, this one is from 1936 so we have to take it for what it is. During the early years of talkies, Hollywood came up with some very interesting tales to tell. His Brother’s Wife is one of them. Robert Taylor plays the younger brother to the brother that Barbara Stanwyck marries in retaliation for Taylor’s going into the depths of the Jungle to find a cure for some god-awful plague. Confusing? It is? Confusing and almost silly. Yet, there is a touch of that old classic film magic that makes it a delight to watch.

There is something about the on-screen chemistry between Taylor and Stanwyck, (most likely springing from their real life romance), that makes you keep watching. The scenes between the two stars make the whole twisted tale worth sitting through.

Now, don’t be fooled, there are many more films that have plots that are more contrived than His Brother’s Wife, but there is something about the jump from New York, to the Jungle, and then back to New York, then to the Jungle again, that makes this film a little more silly than most. But, lets face it, if you choose to watch this film you are doing so all for the man with the perfect profile’s smile (Robert Taylor) and The Ball of Fire’s spunk (Barbara Stanwyck).

All and all this is a fun film to watch. It by no means is predictable–most likely due to the fact that the plot is out of this world.

Enjoy. I did. Review by movieblue from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the imdb.

RT6586My take: His Brother’s Wife is the first film in which Mr. Taylor and Ms. Stanwyck co-starred.  Their real life relationship was in its early stages and the love scenes are quite convincing.  Although this film can’t decide whether it wants to be a light hearted love story or a serious medical drama, the uncritical viewer can enjoy it a lot.

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