Tuesday, June 22, 2010

'His Girl Friday' Open Thread

What did you think?


  1. Nicholas, you need a "home button" on every page--or make your blog name in the header a hidden link. It makes it so much easier to get back when you comment.

    I just had a long comment eaten by your system. I'll stop here to see it this maks it.

  2. Darrell, you're supposed to start off one of these open threads with something like

    "Hey, wow, this will be fun! Is this available on Netflix as a direct play?"

    ... not some technical discussion of the various blog short-comings! Anyway, the blog name up top is a link to the front page, or should act that way.

    Dang, a long comment eaten by the system? Darrell, you know you need to copy those before trying to post, just in case. Drat!! Now we are all going to have to wonder where you were commenting and what you might have been saying!

  3. Hey, wow, this will be fun! Is this available on Netflix as a direct play? For free. Did I win a pony?

    I was just sharing some trivia about how this was supposed to be a simple remake of "The Front Page" and how Hawks' secretary reading the draft script set the old light bulb off in his head. How they kept the dialog essentially the same, even though Ros's character was a male in the original. How Russell hired her own writer to spice up her part because she thought Grant had all the good lines. How he spotted that and was quick enough to ad-lib his way around her "new" lines that he was hearing for the first time. But that's all available on the web. In spite on all of this (including Russell to be practically the last actress in Hollywood Hawks wanted for the part)--or maybe because of it--it has become a classic.

  4. Hey, Darrell -- it's also on Hulu! Gonna play?

    I LOVE old movie trivia. Oh -- is there a movie version of The Front Page with Jack Lemmon? I think I saw that a thousand years ago, too, and didn't realize it was the same story. Yeah, well, I didn't pay nearly as much attention to stuff on TV when I was young and foolish.)

  5. No pony for you, Darrell!

    Wow, that sounds like it was a really good comment. Shame it was lost to the unknown. It may show up yet.

    Anyway, that was pretty interesting background on the movie. Now I am all the more interested to watch it, to see if I can catch some of what you speak. I have never seen this. It was suggested by our mutual friend. Come join us if you get the notion.

    This should be fun!

    : )

  6. Now I'm bummed about the pony!

    Hawks started out to remake the 1931 version of "The Front Page"--the one that starred Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien. The 1974 version with Jack Lemmon and Walther Matthau is from the old days? Shessh! Just how young are you? I would have let you ride the pony, but Nicholas stuck a pin in that balloon!

    I'm in. If you're keeping up with Hulu, I'm sure you've noticed that a new "Lie To Me" is up, and well as the other shows I mentioned. That "Discuss" thread is getting a bit long and needs to be archived. April's either ignoring me or figuring out how to do that.

  7. Make the popcorn, pull up a cozy chair and curl up with a blanket.

    Movie night tonight!

  8. OK. I finished my assignment.

    It's been awhile since I last saw it, and quite a few things stand out now--the line about it being a Democratic paper for twenty years and all that "red scare" stuff. The movie was made in 1939, remember. I see Hollywood was trying to lead public opinion toward the Left and Soviet Union even then. And another thing I hadn't noticed in my previous viewings was that Walter Burns doesn't seem to have any redeeming values and that sort of surprises me given the time period. I'm wondering how the picture fared outside of maybe NYC. I recall that my parents, who grew up during the Depression, didn't much care for "the lovable scoundrel" angle. People that stole from other people were just crooks. I guess you develop a point of view when you exert so much effort to get so very little and someone is trying to cheat you out of that. My dad would have "pasted" him the second time Walter pulled one of those stunts. But, somehow I have been exposed to so many "lovable scoundrels" in the popular media that it doesn't bother me the same way. Didn't lead the same life, either, so I can't tell which was the deciding influence.

    I could see myself being with the Rosalind Russell character--up to the point when she decided to fall for Walter's crap again. What?
    Everything is NOT about me? What's the fun in that?

    I'm sure you all caught all those inside jokes and name dropping. Trivia had it that the studio wanted all of that gone--too cute!

  9. This one takes us back a ways to a world I am not that familiar with. Strange that other movies made in this same time period I am quite comfortable with, but this one not so much.

    I have to say that though Cary Grant played a terrible scoundrel, I enjoyed his charming manner. Of course, whenever I thought about the situation, the woman he loves preparing to marry another man, it was impossible to imagine being so calm and calculating as Grant's Walter Burns was.

    I really enjoyed the press corps, though it was funny to see how quick they could generate a narrative and put pressure on the sheriff or the mayor, and the narrative they spun and came up with independently all worked along the same lines. Now that hasn't changed much!

    Their conversations through the card game, their admiration for Hilde Johnson, and their mutual addiction to breaking a story..I enjoyed all of that. And as cynical and calloused as they all gave off to be, with their ready acceptance of the execution of Mr. Williams and their disparagement of Ms. Malloy, they all felt rather disgusted with their treatment of them, as we saw as soon as Molly left the room.

    That Williams was quite the piece of work. He shot a cop, dead. Then shoots a psychiatrist in his escape attempt, and who knows how badly injured he was. Then he is threatening Hilde with his gun and squeezes off a couple more rounds before he is empty and Hilde wrestles the gun away from him - for a guy who would never commit a murder he sure has few qualms about throwing the lead around. And the cops, spraying machinegun fire here, there and everywhere. They spray their own building and nearly hit the press corps (was that an accident?) Talk about keystone cops.

    Well, random somewhat scattered observations.

  10. But he didn't mean to do it!

  11. I watched this, I'm gonna say, 30 years ago -- and loved it. The back-and-forth between Grant and Russell, whether it was the relatively languorous pace of the first scene or the mania towards then end, and the scenes at the courthouse, with the reporters dictating their stories in a sort of round -- I had never seen (or heard) anything like it.

    And there was a lot that I didn't pick up on enough to remember -- like the "red scare" thread Darrell mentioned, and that casual discussion of the significance of the "colored vote" in the upcoming election, and how it influenced the prosecution of Williams' case.

    But, even though I enjoyed the rapid-fire dialogue, and appreciated the satire that I missed years ago, I didn't like the movie.

    I think the biggest problem was with the "romantic" elements of the comedy, and Hildy's having to discern her best path. Obviously, Bellamy's character is played for laughs, and I certainly found him comical the first time. And still, the running gag of buying time by having him arrested, over and over, is still funny. But Grant is all hollow razzle-dazzle in this movie -- I can believe that Burns loves Hildy, in his own way, but his own way is very selfish and thoughtless -- and Hildy's love for him is completely bound up in the highs of the work they share. Here is a woman who, when she's not high on the adventure, knows she wants a more conventional lifestyle, and a family. And there is Bruce Baldwin, a nice, normal guy who wants to share a nice, normal life with her. He is attracted to her different-ness, and clearly open to having a wife who's unconventional, and instead of making a life with him, she takes Burns up on his offer to... have everything on his terms. She's an idiot.

  12. I did like the scenes with the fellow bringing the letter from the governor, though!

  13. Still... It sure would have been nice to ride the pony.

  14. What is really intriguing about Cary Grant, and that we didn't get to see in this picture, is his ability to play a man with unclear intentions. Suspicion is an excellent example, as is Notorious. Those dark silent eyes..what is the man thinking back there..what is he capable of? I love that. Now this was a romantic comedy, so you are never going to get that kind of intrigue, but still as despicable a character as Walter Burn's was, you kind of like him. And I think shows like this were a forshadowing of what he was capable of. No one made better use of it than Hitchcock, who loved taking a hero and stretched our natural tendency to pull for him by allowing a darkness to be underlying his actions, or lack of them. The direct, purposeful action that Grant takes at the end of Notorious... oh, but that's another discussion thread.

    When Walter sends the blonde down to throw another curve ball at Hilde's fiance, and she asks what he looks like, and Grant replies, "Oh, like that movie actor fellow...Ralph Bellamy." That was good fun. You may not be able to go along with the moral decisions of the characters in this movie, but some good laughs were still to be had.

  15. What is really intriguing about Cary Grant, and that we didn't get to see in this picture, is his ability to play a man with unclear intentions.

    How funny you should mention that! I watched him with Audrey Hepburn in Charade this afternoon (Cary Grant can ALWAYS perk up laundry day), and it was all about trying to figure out his intentions. (I didn't think Charade was a great movie, although not because of him.)

  16. He also uses his own legal birth name--Archie Leach--when he was talking about characters he had a run-in with and bested, near the end in that conversation with the mayor.

    Williams shot a "colored cop" according to Walter's account and that made the death penalty a certainty--also according to Walter. And here I believed "Cold Case" that white-on-black crimes were never even investigated prior to 1980.

    I just thought it was unusual (for 1939) that they didn't show Walter doing anything moral, legal, or ethical. Not one redeeming act. You might say that he was taking care of that short gangster character, but that was for the things he did for him.

    I wonder what was up with that lunch in the restaurant when Walter ordered a roast beef sandwich--bring the mustard--and got what looked like stewed chicken with mashed potatoes.

  17. I did think Charade was a great movie!
    There was nothing like it before--except the better Hitchcocks. The split screens, animated titles, the Mancini score? I wonder if seeing many of those plot elements stolen and reused in later movies and TV shows did anything to influence your opinion. The age difference between Cary Grant(59) and Audrey Hepburn(34) does bother me a little now, as well as the fact that they don't spent any time making that love seem plausible--it's too quick with very little foundation. It bothered Grant, too, who had them redo the script to make sure that Hepburn was doing the chasing. And they did also pair her up with much older men (Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Henry Fonda, Fres Astaire, Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier) didn't they?

    The only way I can think of making this film better is to take away your memory of having seen it so that you could experience it for the first time again.

  18. *Massive Charade Spoilers*

    I did love the titles, and the music. And aside from the immediacy of the wedding plans, I quite liked the relationship between Grant and Hepburn -- especially his holding her off (which did a lot to reassure that he was a Good Guy, when everything else about him was uncertain), and the increasing playfulness between them. And Matthau was fine. But many of the scenes with James Coburn and George Kennedy were pretty awful, and even a couple of scenes between Grant and Hepburn at the beginning of the film felt stilted and artificial. But the story -- keeping you guessing throughout -- was good. I really liked the scene with the stamp dealer, so profoundly happy to have had those treasures in his keeping, however briefly. And the scene at the theater, with Grant trying to figure out which trap door to work, while Matthau closes in on Hepburn -- I do think that was timed beautifully.

    Now that you mention it, did Audrey Hepburn make any movies opposite a man her own age?

  19. George Peppard in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."(1961) He was just a year younger. There were more after. Audrey did seem to be drawn to older men in real life, so I suspect she never had a problem with that.

    Audrey Hepburn was a most interesting person. Her appearance was due to the starvation she endured in Holland during the war. She was a ballerina who helped raise money for the Dutch resistance. She also help prepare food, like grinding dried tulip bulbs to make a flour and then bread or biscuits. She helped distribute the food, but rarely took any herself because she saw so many suffering people. She also acted as a courier for messages from the resistance. I remember an interview she gave with the Chicago Tribune Magazine late in life when the interviewer asked her about the first time she had thought about acting. She told about carrying a message when she was stopped by German soldiers and questioned. She was walking away when they called her back. She knew they would find the massage and was shaking like a leaf. She mustered her best German and her most authoritative voice and mannerisms to spin around and tell them that she was on an errand for a German officer before meeting him and that heads will roll she when she tells him who spoiled his plans for the evening. They told her to go. That's when she knew. You have to remember that she was around eleven when the Germans invaded, fifteen when the area was liberated. The Tribune writer separately asked an expert who was in the Dutch resistance about Hepburn who had been to Chicago promoting a book and he stated that she did far more than she ever told. He knew of her and had spoken to people she worked with and they had lots of stories. They thought she was the perfect carrier--frail and weak looking, passing for a boy or a girl, and smart enough to give smart answers.

  20. Future husband Mel Ferrer in War and Peace, was closer, twelve years her senior, George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's was a year older, while Ben Gazzara in They All Laughed was a year younger. (!)

  21. Drat! That darn Darrell beat me to it - again!!

  22. Oh by the way, I can click the blog title on my MAC and get back to my front page, but it doesn't work on my Dell. I have to hit the title on my favorites list. Don't know why, but there it is.

  23. So you're saying you're a tool of Steve Jobs? Unless you actually start delivering the ponies and Macs, perhaps the "Home" button would be a more cost effective alternative. I'm only so blunt because of that little girl crying herself to sleep tonight because she won't get that pony ride--Cathy. Ride in your sleep, Sweetie! Ride like the wind! Sniff. . .

  24. Darrell, you are too funny.

    But if you want to think I'm young enough to remember riding a pony, that's OK with me!

  25. Yeah, right, well meanwhile I've got to try and figure out how to add a button to this thing. Hmmm. Is it back on the Dashboard?

  26. You know, I don't actually know if I ever did ride a pony.

    But, I got my picture taken on Rex Trailer's horse the summer I turned seven!

  27. Rex Trailer was born the same year as Audrey Hepburn. The circle is complete.

    There is a picture of me on a pony at age 3 or 4 around somewhere...Some guy just brought his pony to the hood to sell pictures. That's what makes America great. Rex probably required more of a steed, though. Boston was a booming beantown back then.

  28. I have been thinking about what might be fun for us next in the movie club, and the show I would like us give a look to is the 2007 BBC production of Jane Austin's Persuasion, with Sally Hawkins taking the role of one of my favorite characters, Miss Anne Elliott. I think you would enjoy it. I know I would love to see it again with you all.

    I should have it up by the end of the week. I hope you will be able to join me in giving it a look.

  29. Cool! I have the 1995 version, but have never seen this more recent one.

    I seems to be available on YouTube, according to Jane Austen Today.

  30. Yes, I have seen the 1995 version, and I loved Ciarán Hinds in it. He really was perfect as Captain Frederick Wentworth, and I enjoyed how Amanda Root's character starts out rather gray, the key event missed, shoved off to the side and generally overlooked as unimportant, but over the course of the story it becomes clear that she is a woman of considerable substance, who is much valued and sought after still, and the change is reflected in her appearance, as vibrance and vitality are infused into her. Yes, that was excellent, though somewhat odd in its treatment of some scenes, such as when Captain Wentworth finally takes Anne's hand and they walk off, while a circus act (!) walks through the street? Was that really in the book (I am about half way through it). I doubt it, but Cathy this is an entirely different post and we can discuss it when we can get to it...which who knows?

    Rest assured though, we are on to the good stuff here. Sally Hawkins is in her first leading role, and is so very good as the steady, intelligent, heartbroken Anne. Rupert Penry-Jones is a handsome devil to be sure, and I did enjoy him as Captain Wentworth, but compared to the singular strength, and later desperation of Captain Wentworth, he doesn't take anything away from my favorite, Ciarán Hinds. Still, she seems to like him, so Rupert Penry-Jones it is. We have plenty to work with here.

    This should be good fun!

  31. Are you reading Persuasion, also?

  32. There are so many books I want to read. They surround me and tantalize me, and I end up with too many oars in the water. I am about half way through Persuasion, but I am reformed and committed to keep at one work at a time. I continue to enjoy Jane Eyre, and am moving forward with chances stolen here and there at the end of the day in an evening coffee shop (it's great fun!). Persuasion I have not forgotten, and will return to soon...

    ...but not until I do right by Miss Eyre.

  33. Well, we follow more than one tv show at a time...

    But I think I've decided not to watch a production based on a book while the book is really fresh in my mind -- I get too nit-picky about the changes, and don't enjoy the show as much. Of course sometimes the liberties taken are so egregious it could have been ten years since you last read the book, and you're still going "Give me a break!" in the theater. (No matter how warranted, it still disconcerts the sister-in-law.)

  34. I'm sure it does. It is generally understood among the more stuffy and less gracious among us that productions are not intended as audience participation events.

    Of course, here at What the...?!, audience participation is coin of the realm. Your participation is highly regarded and enjoyed!

  35. Well, to be fair, we're pretty good friends, and all she did was glance at the people around us, and stare at me meaningfully. And in my own defense, the filmmaker decided to have livestock wandering through the Bennet house.

    And we had had girlie drinks at lunch.

  36. Mrs. Bennet and her infamous "poor" nerves would certainly NOT have countenanced a farmyard intrusion into her domestic domain. Revisionist history is not confined to the strickly political realm. When Director Joe Wright proclaimed that he was being true to Jane Austen's spirit and the spirit of her stories, I knew to expect the exact opposite. A tale of society and marriage and a complex class structure that is unknown to most viewers gets reduced to a tale of haves and have-nots and romantic comedy. Too bad a glass slipper wasn't added as well.

    On a related note, If the BBC keeps fooling around with Agatha Christie stories, she will soon become the premier champion of gay rights. And viewers will only have to look for breeders to solve the who-done-it parts. The Left turns more than Mrs. Bennet's home to squalor. It is one way to keep mysteries fresh, however:Different murders with each new version.
    I'm sure Ms. Christie wouldn't mind at all. ;-)

  37. If there ever was a time to shout "Bother this!"
    it was then. No drinks or invitations required.