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The Major and The Minor

Isn't Romantic Comedy redundant?

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JackFavell
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby JackFavell » January 31st, 2013, 2:35 pm

Thanks, Robert, I think YOU hit the nail on the head, that Diana Lynn adds the spice in Morgan's Creek (my number 2 or 3 on all time favorite movies list), and I think to Major and the Minor as well. She takes a well worn plot contrivance and turns it upside down in both movies - her little sisters are no Shirley Temples. My dad had the most fervent crush on Lynn when he was about her age, and saw her in these movies when they came out. She really is something, the voice of cold blooded reason for these silly adults. It's a wonderful characterization. My favorite lines in both films belong to Diana, she cut's like a razor blade with her delivery.

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feaito
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby feaito » January 31st, 2013, 2:51 pm

Robert Regan wrote:Fealto, you're right about Helen Chandler. What was the film with her you just saw? And yes, the seven actresses you mention are all on my long list of candidates for Lost Women of Hollywood! Gotta get back to work on that soon, or my college friend Theresa will never speak to me again!


The film I saw was "The Last Flight" (1931), which I had seen some years ago for the first time. She becomes the mascot/pet of a group of Ex-flyers after WWI ("The Lost Generation").
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Robert Regan
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby Robert Regan » February 1st, 2013, 12:19 am

You're welcome, Wendy. And thank you. There are plenty of nails around, aren't there?

Fealto, The Last Flight is one of my favorites, and it is the movie that made me take a closer look at Helen Chandler. To use an over-used and mis-used word, she was unique, in spite of attempts to make her look like "all the other girls". Her eyes were almost always focused on something that only she could see. The only time I have seen her truly in the same scene with another actor was in Jacques Feyder's Daybreak where she was working with the amazingly warm and sympathetic Ramon Novarro. She is perfect in The Last Flight, a film I think of as a darker sequel to The Dawn Patrol. Great dialogue: "What are you going to do?", "Get high.", "Then what are you going to do?", "Stay high". Hemingway did not come anywhere near this in The Sun Also Rises. I love Ava Gardner (who doesn't?) who played this part more than once, but she always had both feet on the ground, unlike Chandler who was truly Lost.

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intothenitrate
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby intothenitrate » February 1st, 2013, 11:07 am

I have Helen Chandler in Dracula and The Last Flight, and those are pretty well known to us. I also have her in an early talkie called Mother's Cry where she plays the sister of David Manners in a family melodrama about one of the other brothers going bad. I became so interested in her after seeing her in The Last Flight, I got a copy of the film Outward Bound, where she is among a small group of passengers aboard a mysterious ship which is actually taking them to their final destinations in the afterlife.

I think she's a really good actress with a fantastic voice. There's also a frailty about her which brings out a protective instinct in me as a male audience member. She's like an exquisite glass flower that could shatter at a moment's notice. Of the four films, I like her best in The Last Flight.
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feaito
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby feaito » February 1st, 2013, 11:55 am

Hi Bob.

I agree with your assessments and thanks for mentioning Jacques Feyder's "Daybreak" (1931) a little gem that ought to be discovered and in which Novarro fares much better -IMO- than in Feyder's other MGM film of that year with him ("Son of India"). It's become on of my favorite early talkies and yes, the chemistry between Novarro and Helen Chandler is huge. They are both sensitive actors. And you are right about Helen, she conveys that she is truly "lost" in TLF. As far as I'm concerned, "Dracula" (1931) is my least favorite film of hers.

Another good film in which she appears is "The Worst Woman in Paris?" (1933) as the girlfriend of school-teacher Harvey Stpehens, who suffers when he falls for woman-of-the-world Benita Hume.

Intothenitrate, I think I have somewhere -recorded- "Outward Bound" (1930), a long anticipated film, whose remake "Between Two Worlds" (1944) I also want to see.
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Robert Regan
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby Robert Regan » February 2nd, 2013, 7:34 pm

Nitrate, I understand your desire to protect Helen Chandler. Her fragileness, though not insipid as in many other women, seems to cry out for a strong and sensitive man, like you or me.

Fealto, I'm glad you also like The Worst Woman in Paris, a delightful film, if not on the level with Monta Bell's two remarkable collaborations with John Gilbert, Downstairs and Man, Woman and Sin. He's one of those Subjects for Further Research.

And Daybreak is indeed a gem. Although I am neither an Austrian aristocrat nor a poor Viennese working girl, I have a soft spot for those prince and commoner tales of doomed love, especially Strohiem's The Wedding March, and Lubitsch's The Student Prince and The Smiling Lieutenant. In the latter, of course, the tragedy is alleviated by the revelation of how exciting Miriam Hopkins is after she discovers hot music and even hotter lingerie. Daybreak may not be in the same class with these three, but Feyder does a good job, and Novarro and Chandler are very good together.

Earlier in this thread, our dear friend the Maven quoted my Lost Women of Hollywood on Diana Lynn. The door being open, here's what I wrote there about Chandler:

In a way, it is not surprising that HELEN CHANDLER (1906-1965), in spite of demonstrated acting ability and exceptional blonde, blue-eyed beauty, never reached the heights that she might have in the movies. There was always something a little off about those eyes that probably kept her at a distance from her audiences. Variously described as “starry,” “ethereal,” and “almost translucent,” they seem to reveal nothing and usually to be focussed on something that only she can see. This worked to her benefit, and the film’s, in Browning’s Dracula. As Mina, her best-known role, she spends most of the picture under the thrall of the Count. It also worked well in William Dieterle’s first American movie, The Last Flight. In this story of American expatriates in Paris after the Great War, Chandler’s best picture and best performance, all the central characters are drunk throughout, and those eyes strikingly suggest her character’s alienation. There is an exception to this odd ocular effect in Jacques Feyder’s first English language film, Daybreak, a prince and commoner tale reminiscent of Stroheim. In this one, her eyes seem warmer and more “properly” focussed. Did Feyder understand her face better than most directors? Did she benefit from playing opposite the remarkably warm Ramon Novarro? Hard to say, but the odd focus is also strongly evident in William Wyler’s excellent A House Divided. From what we are able to see today, these would seem to be the highlights of her nine-year 22 film carer on the screen. Later in the thirties, she began to divide her time between pictures in Hollywood and London and stage work in NY. Her last movie in 1938 was a Stu Erwin vehicle, Mr. Boggs Steps Out, directed by one Gordon Wiles whose true niche in film history is as production designer of Gun Crazy. For a few years, Chandler was back on Broadway where she had worked from age 9 to 21, but her heavy drinking, reported to have begun as early as 1930, soon made her unemployable. She was committed to a sanitarium in 1940, and ten years later was disfigured in a fire thought to be started by smoking in bed. In 1965, after surgery for a bleeding ulcer, Helen Chandler died in Hollywood. It is said that no one claimed her ashes. This may sound like a minor career, and yes it was, but I can’t help feel that she could have done much more if the studios she worked for and her directors, with the four noted exceptions, had known what to do with her. And, of course, if she had been sober enough to make some better decisions.

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CineMaven
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby CineMaven » February 3rd, 2013, 5:39 pm

ImageImage

Makes me think a little of Yvette Mimieux, another fragile - looking blonde.
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Robert Regan
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby Robert Regan » February 3rd, 2013, 5:42 pm

I see what you mean, Theresa, but as much as I like Mimieux back then, she wasn't very deep. She was at her best playing that retarded girl in Venice.

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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby CineMaven » February 3rd, 2013, 5:48 pm

Only thinking of their similarity in looks.
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feaito
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby feaito » February 3rd, 2013, 5:55 pm

Bob thanks for sharing all that. I agree with you in everything!

And Maven, she resembles Yvette Mimieux.
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Robert Regan
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby Robert Regan » February 3rd, 2013, 10:20 pm

You're welcome, Fealto, and thank you.

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Fossy
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby Fossy » February 12th, 2013, 7:30 pm

What Ginger Said (Quote)

During a lunch break on the set of Roxie Hart , I received a telephone call from the guard at the automobile gate. Arthur Hornblow, Jr., and Charles Brackett wanted to talk with me. My agent had alerted me to expect them, but he didn`t say when. I had figured that they, being film producers and writers, wouldn`t come to visit a working star on her lunch break. But that`s what they were doing. I asked Charlie Brackett if I could see them at another time.
Charlie said, “ All we need is five minutes to tell you the outline of this story, and if you like it, we will tailor it to fit you”. I reminded them that I would have to return to the set the moment the assistant director telephoned. They agreed , and within minutes , Brackett and Hornblow were in my dressing room.
Actually, this dressing room had been built expressly for Fox`s biggest little star, Shirley Temple, and it was more like a small house. For years she had kept that company in business with her films.

Charlie and Arthur got right to the point, and related the first fifteen minutes of The Major and the Minor. The heroine, Susan Applegate, is desperate to leave New York City and go home to Iowa. She hasn`t got enough money for her train ticket, so she disguises herself as a child in order to ride half fare. I loved the story the moment I heard it. I told Charlie and Arthur that I had had similar experiences as a child on the interstate circuit: when mother and I didn`t have enough money to ride the train at full fare, I used my stuffed doll Freakus as a ploy and a pillow. The story they were telling me was, in a sense, the story of my life. At this point the telephone rang and, of course it was the assistant director calling me to the set.
As I was leaving, Charles Brackett said, “Now we would like to talk to you about the director. We have someone in mind and he has a great sense of humor. Though he`s never directed a movie in this country, I`ve worked with him on screenplays and he`s terrific. His name is Billy Wilder.
Though I respected their opinion, I asked to meet the prospective director at Lucy`s, an Italian restaurant across the street from RKO.
When Billy Wilder and I met I began to see why he had been selected. He had a wonderful sense of the ridiculous, and I concurred with Brackett`s evaluation of his talents. After talking with him for an hour, I could tell what type of director he would be. At my earliest convenience, I telephoned Brackett to inform him that I was sold on Wilder, too.

As promised the role of Susan Applegate was tailored for me, and I can`t tell you what a good time I had making The Major and the Minor. This was the first film I made for Paramount under a new three-picture deal.
Billy Wilder was a wonderful traffic cop for this film and couldn`t have been more enchanting. From the very beginning, he had the nicest attitude toward me and all the other actors. The “Major” in the story was played by Ray Milland, Rita Johnson played his snobbish fiancee, and Diana Lynn was her little sister, the only character in the story who recognised that I was Putting on an act. We also had many freah-faced young talents playing the cadets who were constantly after “Susu”, amog them Raymond Roe and Frankie Thomas Jr.. The main source of our off-camera laughter was the very talented Robert Benchley. One of his lines to me, written by Charles Brackett—“Why don`t you slip out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”—became a standard. Benchley`s on stage humor was the antithesis of the backstage Benchley I came to know. His innocent type of humor was very different from his own nature, for he was far more serious and complex. He would arrive at the studio in the morning punctually, carrying with him a stack of books, and would read, on average, four books a day. I was amazed at his literary accomplishments.

Filming had begun, but we were faced with a hole in the cast. We needed someone to play my mother in a brief scene at the end of the film. Billy tried to hire Spring Byington. She had recently played my aunt in Lucky Partners , and we had a definite family resemblance. Unfortunately Spring had already been offered another movie.

Charlie, Arthur, and Billy approached me and asked me who I thought would make a good parent for me. “What`s wrong with my mother?” “Do you think she would consider such a thing?” Charlie said. “Well,” I retorted “there`s only one way to find out, and that`s to ask her.”
Arthur Hornblow, Jr. contacted Lela at RKO. When she heard their request , she did not hesitate to ask, “What are you willing to pay?” After much back and forth she said “yes” to the figure they offered. Later the group laughed over her first reaction. They agreed to pay her $3000 for her work as an actress. I believe she had to join the Screen Actors Guild before she could appear on the set in costume. This was a big change for her; she had been directing young folks in her little theater on the RKO lot, and to change from director to actress can sometimes be a devastating experience. There was no need to worry about Lelee, though, she never needed a retake and remembered her lines perfectly. In addition she got along splendidly with Billy Wilder and gained a great deal of respect for his work. And it was great fun for me to have the joy of acting beside my mother.

When Billy finished a scene, if he liked the way the actors played it, He`d yell out, “Champagne for everybody!” Sometimes the crew would anticipate his accolade and would chime in, and the sound would reach up to the president`s office. Our set was known around the lot as a very happy and joyous one to visit, and we had many visitors. I believe I had more fun playing this role than any other, with one exception. . . Kitty Foyle. A lot of my enjoyment had to do with Billy. I would have loved to have made another movie with Billy Wilder, but it was not in the cards.

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feaito
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby feaito » February 12th, 2013, 9:59 pm

Thanks for sharing Ms. Rogers' remembrance with us Fossy. I enjoyed very much reading it.
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JackFavell
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby JackFavell » February 12th, 2013, 10:52 pm

That's great, thanks for posting her reminiscences!

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intothenitrate
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Re: The Major and The Minor

Postby intothenitrate » February 12th, 2013, 11:38 pm

Let me chime in too. Thanks Fossy. I'm a big fan of Ginger, and it's a treat to hear her voice through the writing you posted. It's also so interesting that Billy Wilder -- although it was his first time as a director -- had the poise and confidence to keep everyone's spirits high. That's pretty remarkable.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington


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