Golden Age of Hollywood

Thanks, God, We’ll Take It From Here

Have you ever heard of some fellows who first came over to this country? You know what they found? They found a howling wilderness, with summers too hot and winters freezing, and they also found some unpleasant little characters who painted their faces. Do you think these pioneers filled out form number X6277 and sent in a report saying the Indians were a little unreasonable? Did they have insurance for their old age, for their crops, for their homes? They did not! They looked at the land, and the forest, and the rivers. They looked at their wives, their kids and their houses, and then they looked up at the sky and they said, “Thanks, God, we’ll take it from here.” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Bishop’s Wife

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Continuing our look at Advent and Christmas movies:  The Bishop’s Wife from 1947.    David Niven is an Episcopalian Bishop of a struggling diocese;  Loretta Young (ironically one of the more devout Catholics in the Hollywood of her time) is his wife;  and Cary Grant is Dudley, one of the more unimportant angels in Heaven, sent by God to lend the Bishop a hand.  The film is a graceful comedy which effectively and quietly underlines the central importance of faith in God as we see in this little scene:

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Brother Orchid

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Brother Superior: When the heart speaks, Brother Orchid, other hearts must listen.

Brother Orchid (1940)

Interested in seeing a screwball comedy-film noir gangster-western-religious flick?  I am always on the lookout for oddball films for Advent and they don’t come odder, or more heart warming, than Brother Orchid (1940).  Starring Edward G. Robinson with a fantastic supporting cast including Humphrey Bogart, Ann Southern, Ralph Bellamy and Donald Crisp, it is a trip back to the Golden Age of Hollywood when literate, thoughtful films were considered mass entertainment.  It also is a fine exponent of a facet of the human condition that is not much commented upon today:  the seductive power of goodness.  A review of the film is below with the usual caveat as to spoilers. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Ave Atque Vale Cheeta

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One of the last remaining survivors of the Golden Age of Hollywood has passed away:

It is with great sadness that the community has lost a dear friend and family member on December 24, 2011,” the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor announced on its website.

Cheetah had performed in Tarzan The Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan And His Mate (1934), classic films about a man reared in the jungle starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan.

The chimpanzee – who arrived at the sanctuary in 1960 – loved finger-painting and watching football and was soothed by Christian music, the sanctuary’s outreach director Debbie Cobb told the Tampa Tribune.

Back in the Sixties the old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies were replayed endlessly on TV, and as a boy I loved them.  Completely inaccurate as to Africa, and with plots as skimpy as some of the costumes worn by Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane, they were always good, and, not infrequently, hilarious entertainment.  I have always treasured Tarzan’s commentary on the legal system in Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) where an evil circus owner is attempting to use the courts to win custody of Boy: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Bette Davis, Abortion and Irony

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Recently on the American history blog Almost Chosen People that Paul Zummo and I run, I wrote a post, which may be read here, saluting the actress Bette Davis for the ardent patriotism she displayed during World War II.  In the course of my research however, I came across information which paints a very bleak picture of the famed actress indeed.

In the video at the beginning of the post we see a clip from the movie Juarez (1939) where the Empress of Mexico, Carlota, superbly portrayed by Bette Davis, is begging the Blessed Virgin for a child.  This scene is extremely ironic, since throughout the thirties and into the forties, Davis, for the good of her career apparently, and with the consent of her husband, had a series of abortions.  She opined in an interview in the eighties that she did not believe that abortion during the first month of pregnancy was the taking of human life, which leads me to wonder if she did not routinely go through pregnancy tests and abortions as a matter of course.  The cold bloodedness of this needs no amplification by me. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Sergeant York and Gary Cooper-Part II

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Continuing on from the first part of this post on Sergeant York and Gary Cooper.

Frank James Cooper, a\k\a Gary Cooper, was a child of the last century, being born into it on May 7, 1901, the son of Charles and Alice Cooper.  Unlike Alvin C. York, Cooper was born into a prosperous family, his father being a farmer turned attorney who would eventually serve on the Montana Supreme Court.  His parents were English immigrants from Bedfordshire, and from 1910-1913, Gary and his brother were educated in England.

After high school, Cooper went on to study at Grinnell College for a few years, although he did not receive a degree.  After an unsuccessful attempt to earn a living as an editorial cartoonist in Helena, he followed his parents out to Los Angeles where they had retired.  Cooper later said that if he was going to starve, he might as well do it where it was warm rather than where it was freezing.

Out in the land of fruits and nuts, Cooper tried his hand at many things in order to earn a living:  promoter for a  photographer, a seller of electrical signs and even applied for work as an ink-stained wretch at a newspaper.  Out of desperation for employment rather than any burning desire to be an actor, Cooper began to work as an extra in movies.  A friend, Nan Collins, advised him to change his name to Gary after her hometown of Gary, Indiana, and Cooper took her advice.  After several years as an extra, Cooper achieved early stardom in the western, The Virginian.   Although he would appear in every type of film imaginable in his career, Cooper always appeared most comfortable in Westerns, a genre which fit his understated, laid back acting style, and his laconic speech.  Cooper specialized in playing ordinary decent men, trying to do their best in extraordinary situations.  He also had a flair for comedy where his dead pan delivery, combined with a dry wit, ensured laughter whatever “funny” lines he was attempting to deliver.

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The archetypal film during this period of his career for Cooper was The Westerner where he played a cowboy who tangled with “Judge” Roy Bean, “Law West of the Pecos”, magnificently portrayed by Walter Brennan who appeared with Cooper in several films, including Sergeant York as York’s pastor.  The film is a skillful mixture of comedy and drama, with Cooper giving a bravura performance.

Alvin C. York had been approached by Hollywood producer Jesse Lasky several times, beginning in 1919, to make a movie of his life.  Each time he refused, summing up his position simply with the phrase, “This uniform ain’t for sale.”

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Hard Boiled Hobbit

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This video re-awakened one of my alternate history fantasies:  Tolkien publishes the Lord of the Rings in the Thirties to immediate acclaim.  The film rights are bought by Hollywood with the condition that Tolkien has script approval.  Tolkien relunctantly travels to Hollywood during the filming where an epic, and comedic, struggle ensues as Middle Earth and the Golden Age of Hollywood come into mortal combat.  →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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