Interesting. I've read Cain's effective, if too detailed, novel. Never seen any of the film versions. I'm not sure I'd even heard of this one. For a writer known for sparse, blunt prose, this book could shed about 100 pages and get to the point. Nonetheless, it has something to say, and eventually says it well. It's worth reading for fans of the author.
RedRiver wrote:Interesting. I've read Cain's effective, if too detailed, novel. Never seen any of the film versions. I'm not sure I'd even heard of this one. For a writer known for sparse, blunt prose, this book could shed about 100 pages and get to the point. Nonetheless, it has something to say, and eventually says it well. It's worth reading for fans of the author.
I agree, Red. Cain could be so sparely realistic and precise sometimes, but in other books he is trying to shock and impress a reader so much, I think those stories, like Serenade, come out a bit uneven. Of all the versions of the original novel that I have seen, the closest to the original storyline emerged in the Mario Lanza comeback vehicle, believe it or not! Of course, instead of a gay impresario seducing his student, Warner Brothers was compelled to take the domineering musical figure and split him into two characters--the entertaining if fey and harmlessly catty Vincent Price and the über feline-destroyer-of-talent played to a fare-thee-well by the socially prominent Joan Fontaine who seduces the hero while Vinnie looks on in mock horror. Mario is actually pretty effective and believable in some of his writhing and suffering moments--perhaps because of Anthony Mann's careful direction of him--and because the situations did bear some resemblance to Lanza's own emerging problems with stardom (though as far as I know, Mario's biggest problem was Mario, not some sinister mentor). Of course, the ending of the movie was 180 degrees different than the novel.
Btw, Serenade (1956) was issued on DVD for the first time last January, though I only saw it on TCM last year for the first time.
Another Cain based film I'd like to see is MONEY AND THE WOMAN. It's probably not real good. Seems to have been forgotten. But I'm a fan of the genre. And this story is closer to the "double cross blowing up in your face" theme we expect!
RedRiver wrote:Another Cain based film I'd like to see is MONEY AND THE WOMAN. It's probably not real good. Seems to have been forgotten. But I'm a fan of the genre. And this story is closer to the "double cross blowing up in your face" theme we expect!
Gee, Red, I had never heard of this movie, though the 1940 film seems to have impressed the few people who reviewed it on IMDb, though The New York Timesreview at the time of its original release was really snotty about the limitations of the programmer (but we know better, don't we? little movies can be more fun).
I wish that TCM could show a month of James M. Cain stories transferred to films. It would be even better if the focus included comments on the various themes and censorship issues involved and the convoluted way his stories found their way to the screen. I tried to look for a DVD-r copy of this particular obscure movie, but nothing seems to be available, though I did find the photo below showing Jeffrey Lynn, John Litel and Brenda Marshall. I have liked Jeffrey Lynn ever since seeing Underground (1941) and the intriguing Strange Bargain (1949), which highlighted his ability to convey an unease with changing values in American life. Before that I thought he was just the straight-arrow guy who was always paid to stand around and be boring to give a nice contrast to edgy guys like John Garfield and Humphrey Bogart.
The trailer for Money and the Woman (1940) can be seen here. It sure had that lickety-split timing and pep that was classic Warner's if this clip is to be believed. Any movie with Lee Patrick & Big Boy Williams in the cast can't be all bad, can it? Btw, In David Madden's "James M. Cain: Hard-Boiled Mythmaker" (Scarecrow Press, 2011), the author comments that this movie, which was released when Cain was less than revered as screenwriter or as a novelist in those pre-Double Indemnity (1944) days, was not quite an accurate transfer of the material to this medium. Madden wrote that "[t]he trailer is really only tangentially related to the film's actual plot, but it plays up a false conflation of Cain's popular crime fiction of the thirties and contemporary gangster flicks, which featured high-octane robberies and shoot-outs that were absent from Cain's work; and it prefigures the central role of women in the crime in film noir."
Cain himself told an interviewer that "I wrote one story in 15 days (The Embezzler, aka Woman and the Money) with the IRS after me for $3,000.00 due on a previous book. Mildred Pierce took me a year and Mignon probably ten, altogether. Yet The Embezzler is a better book. If it takes you too long, you could be suspicious of the idea. It ought to take work and plenty of it, but too much work is not a good sign with a book." All this makes me want to read the story and see the film more.
I was checking the video clips of some rare early talkies that have been released by The Warner Archive, and boy! the prints are wonderful, crisp, pristine and the sound crystal clear...What a treat! And the scenes chosen are excellent! These are: "The Matrimonial Bed" (1930) with Florence Eldridge and Frank Fay; "Conspiracy" (1930) with Hugh Trevor and Bessie Love and "Lovin' the Ladies " (1930) with Richard Dix, Lois Wilson, Rita La Roy...Check them!
feaito wrote:I was checking the video clips of some rare early talkies that have been released by The Warner Archive, and boy! the prints are wonderful, crisp, pristine and the sound crystal clear...What a treat! And the scenes chosen are excellent! These are: "The Matrimonial Bed" (1930) with Florence Eldridge and Frank Fay; "Conspiracy" (1930) with Hugh Trevor and Bessie Love and "Lovin' the Ladies " (1930) with Richard Dix, Lois Wilson, Rita La Roy...Check them!
Wow, these sure are pristine! Had to wait 'till the end of the clip of LOVIN' THE LADIES for Richard Dix to show up- but I'd sure want to see this one.
Don't know about THE MATRIMONIAL BED; the Art Deco set dressings are scrumptious, but goodness, Frank Fay's wearing more eye make-up than any of the dames. And here is the blurb about the plot: "Oh, it's Adolphe! It must be!" Lovely Juliet Corton (Florence Eldridge) is sure the dashing coiffeur who just arrived to style her hair is her husband, presumed dead in a railway crash five years earlier. The dashing stylist (vaudeville star Frank Fay) is sure she's nuts. But what if Juliet is right? What if a hypnotist could restore Adolphe's memory of their marriage, lost after the crash? Who could possibly object to such a happy ending? Perhaps Juliet's new husband (James Gleason), who is not eager to vacate the matrimonial bed. Complications abound in this racy Pre-Code farce that also includes a wacky set of friends and servants, a second case of amnesia, a nice hot bath, the wife Adolphe acquired after the accident and two sets of twins, all spinning merrily along under the expert hand of one of cinema's greatest directors, Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy). WHO WRITES THIS STUFF!!!!
Fernando, I can't wait to see Lovin' the Ladies. Richard Dix shows up at 2:30 in this clip.
I don't know if I can get through The Matrimonial Bed, largely because of Frank Fay. I recorded and have been trying to get through God's Gift to Women (1931-Michael Curtiz) for two days. It's only 72 minutes long and features actors I normally enjoy quite a bit (Joan Blondell, Laura La Plante, Alan Mowbray, and in a tenth-billed role, the now iconic Louise Brooks, on the downside of her career in movies but still incandescent). However, each time that the self-congratulatory Frank Fay comes into the frame, he makes me cringe, especially when he snuggles up with one of his conquests. Maybe he didn't care by the time that this movie was made since he was at the end of the arrangement with Warners, or maybe he was just kidding in a once-appealing style that now seems stale and artificial, but no matter when I've seen him, including Love Nest (1951), his last movie, he gives off a strange vibe. Here's the clip:
Has anyone ever noticed the resemblance between Frank Fay and Liberace? Or maybe I'm delusional after watching Sincerely Yours (1955) recently. They could have been brothers, though in that odd fifties movie, Liberace exudes a gentler nature and an aspect of "niceness" that is genuinely likable, despite the script and the production code silliness.
I'm glad you pointed out that Cain originally called his book THE EMBEZZLER. There was at least one movie by this title. But, from what I can gather, that bears no relation to MONEY AND THE WOMAN. (That was a hard sentence to write without being redundant!) So Cain preferred this story to MILDRED PIERCE? Who am I to challenge the author? But that's like comparing a Big Mac to a steak dinner!
There are several favorite films as well as obscure but interesting ones on tap from the Warner Archive this week. For those of us who feel tenderly toward B movies and movies we have never heard of, the Warner Archive is trying to make us smile--and shell out for some nifty gems from the vault.
Some of the ones that might deserve a second look:
Big City (1948), one of the last Margaret O'Brien movies made at MGM with some charming moments from the talented cast, which included Betty Garrett, Robert Preston and Danny Thomas. Bewitched (1945), a fascinating crock from Arch Oboler film about split personality, with a very good Phyllis Thaxter and an even creepier Audrey Totter as her alter ego, who is only heard as a voice in her head. Westward the Women (1951), The long-awaited release of William Wellman's beloved western story is now available, and features a commentary from Scott Eyman, as well as an MGM featurette about the making of the film. Desperate Search (1952), directed by Joseph Lewis, offers a fresh look at adult pettiness as the two children (Lee Aaker & Linda Lowell) of a divorced couple (Howard Keel and Patricia Medina) huddle together after a plane crash. Also featuring Jane Greer & Keenan Wynn. Clear All Wires (1933) is a fascinating pre-code look at the foreign press in the Soviet Union with motormouth Lee Tracy and James Gleason keeping this movie blithely moving along.
BIG CITY (1948) Prodigiously talented Margaret O’Brien displays all her showbiz skills as she sings, dances and acts through this post-war fable about three New York dads and their little lady. O’Brien plays Midge, a foundling who finds herself fostered by an unlikely trio of “fathers” — a Jewish cantor (Danny Thomas), a Protestant preacher (Robert Preston) and an Irish cop (George Murphy). All is going swimmingly for the unconventional clan until amour arrives and drives a wedge between Midge’s three dads. Midge must find a way to heal the ever-widening rift before her family is sundered forever. Norman Taurog directs, Broadway star Betty Garrett makes her big screen debut, and immortal opera star Lotte Lehmann makes her only stateside screen appearance. Edward Arnold, Butch Jenkins and Karin Booth are on hand to add spice to this familial film stew.
BEWITCHED (1945) Natural-born storyteller Arch Oboler ruled the radio drama roost with his inventive, haunting tales and his bravura bag of dramatic tricks and devices. One of his best-loved tales — “Alter Ego,” a genre-defining tale of multiple personality and murder that originally starred Bette Davis — forms the basis for Bewitched. Leanly crafted, finely acted and cannily directed (by Oboler, who also penned the adaptation) Bewitched makes a welcome return to the light from the shadows. Phyllis Thaxter plays the tormented heroine, while Edmund Gwenn plays the shrink who must prove to the world that the voices inside her head are real — before her time runs out.
BEAT THE BAND (1947) It’s a swinging coloratura con when a rather-be be-bopping opera student (Frances Langford, fresh from her WWII USO triumphs) takes voice lessons from a less than legit music prof (Phillip Terry). But because the professor is pulling the con in order to reunite his swing band to share the bill with Gene Krupa, grifter and mark might actually end up making beautiful music together. Also stars a pre-This Is Your Life Ralph Edwards and features Krupa’s stunning “Shadow Rhapsody.”
TRUCK BUSTERS (1943) It’s big rigs against the big machine as independent teamsters fight for the right to ride. After rebuffing the mob’s attempt at control, truck driver Casey Dorgan finds himself driving down Vengeance Avenue after the crooks make it personal. Helmed by veteran actioneer B. Reeves Eason, Truck Busters barrels down the road with speed, grace and superb stunt sequences. Future Folger’s Coffee pitchwoman supreme Virginia Christine costars.
HITTING A NEW HIGH (1937) This week we are fortunate to bring you not one, but two, examples of the rarified genre henceforth known as the opera con job swing musical comedy. In this outing, Edward Everett Horton stars as a big money opera buff who treks to Africa to ‘discover’ singing sensation Oogahunga the Bird-girl (Metropolitan Opera mainstay Lily Pons). In reality, this ersatz Rima has been cooked up by an enterprising press agent (Jack Oakie) and actually hails from the jungles of Paris jazz clubs where she answers to Suzette. Raoul Walsh ably steers the story between the sublime and the silly, aided by a cast that also includes Eric Blore and John Howard and Pons’ superb voice.
WHILE THE PATIENT SLEPT (1935) Nurse Keate takes is on the case in this installment of Warner Bros. “Clue Club” series that also gave birth to the classic Warren William Perry Mason series. Aline MacMahon and Guy Kibbee take on the roles of Mignon Eberhart’s crime busting creations, Sarah Keate and Inspector O’Leary in this tale of treachery and death inside an old dark manse. Keate and O’Leary must decipher the clues and uncover the secrets of a stroke victim’s family in order to find a murderous culprit. Allen Jenkins aids with the police (and comedy) work, while Robert Barrat, Lyle Talbot and Patricia Ellis round out the suspects.
SMASHING THE RACKETS (1938) Chester Morris stars as Jim “Sock” Conway in this thriller inspired by the exploits of real-life New York DA Thomas Dewey. Conway, former fighter and former fed, is benched by the political hacks infesting the DA’s office and his racket busting days are now seemingly over. But when the mob’s muscle leans a little too hard on some neighbor pals of Sock’s, it’s time for the Assistant DA to don the gloves of a Special Prosecutor and give the rackets a licking they deserve. This tight, no-nonsense crime thriller is ably directed by B-Movie maven Lew Landers and features outstanding supporting performances from co-stars Rita Johnson and Frances Mercer.
THE CASE OF THE BLACK PARROT (1941) The dead man bore two small marks on his neck. Could it be the marks of a snakebite? Or, more terrifyingly, the small puncture marks made by the beak of a parrot? A…black parrot?!? The astounding answer lies within the confines of this classic crime thriller, in which a reporter (William Lundigan) battles a mysterious international criminal mastermind while his victims get bumped off, one by one. The Case of the Black Parrot is full of true pulp mystery and mayhem, from masked criminals to unexpected twist and an ending that does not stint on surprise.
WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951) We are more than pleased to bring you the DVD debut of one of William Wellman’s best and most overlooked films. Based on historical record, Wellman directed this genre busting western-ladies picture from a story by fellow silver screen-wizard Frank Capra with production personally overseen by MGM gem Dore Schary. Detailing an arduous 2,000 mile trek from Chicago to California that sees a wagon train ‘manned’ by a group of women, Wellman quickly pulls back the curtain of pre-conception and convention to reveal that Western sobriquets like pioneer, trailblazer and gunfighter are not confined to the masculine side of the species. Shot on location in often harsh conditions - Wellman famously informed his cast that there would be no room for prima donnas during the 11 week shoot - the film’s rugged authenticity of setting and actors shine on the screen. Western great Robert Taylor is at his gritty, hardest best as Buck Wyatt, the scout who finds himself at the head of a train of ladies with Denise Darcel, Julie Bishop, and superb character actress Hope Emerson. Special Features include an Audio Commentary by film historian Scott Eyman and a vintage MGM promotional featurette “Challenge the Wilderness”
BRIGHT ROAD (1953) MGM deliberately threw its glamor and glitter under a low-budget bushel in order to ensure street-level authenticity for this big screen adaptation of Mary Elizabeth Vroman’s award winning short story, “See How They Run”. The film’s leads include a revealing pre-Carmen Jones pairing of Miss Dorothy Dandridge and Mister Harry Belafonte. Bright Road shines an inspirational spotlight on the oft’ unseen, unnoticed and uncelebrated but oh-so-crucial work done by educators across the nation by focusing on the herculean and humble efforts put forth by a fourth grade teacher (Dandridge) in order to reach C.T., a troubled pre-teen (Philip Hepburn). Belafonte, in his screen debut, plays the school principal. Directed by Gerald Mayer with cinematography by the gifted Alfred Gilks (An American in Paris). REMASTERED
DESPERATE SEARCH (1952) Joseph H. Lewis, an archetypical auteur-theory director, lends his one-of-a-kind stylistic flourishes to this taut tale of search and survival. Howard Keel stars as bush pilot Vince Heldon, who frantically flies all over the wilderness searching for the crashed airliner that was carrying his two children. When he’s joined by his steely pilot ex-wife (Patricia Medina) it brings his marriage to the current Mrs. Heldon (Jane Greer) close to the breaking point. Can he find his children before their time runs out? Rin Tin Tin’s Rusty, Lee Aakers, also appears as does the always welcome Keenan Wynn.
EXCLUSIVE STORY (1936) Like last week’s Smashing the Rackets, Exclusive Story is loosely based on the real-life story of New York district attorney Thomas E. Dewey. This muscular Franchot Tone programmer sees MGM making a grab for some of the headline-ripping grit that was made famous by the Brothers Warner covering the essential Thirties’ gamut of Mobsters, Society Swells, and the Reporters that cover them. And it wasn’t the Dewey headlines alone that MGM ripped for this svelte suspenser, the film’s explosive climax onboard a burning ocean liner no doubt drew from the then-recent Morro Castle disaster. George Seitz directs a cast that includes Madge Evans, Stuart Erwin, Robert Barrat, and Louise Henry.
I’LL WAIT FOR YOU (1941) Robert Sinclair helms this remake of the popular 1934 Robert Montgomery vehicle, Hide-Out, in which a louse with a heart of gold finds love while on the lam. Robert Sterling plays the racketeer on the run, while Marsha Hunt plays the farmer’s daughter who offers him more than simple sanctuary. Fay Holden, Henry Travers and Virginia Weidler round out the farming clan whose simple, hardworking ways change the life of a hopeless hardcase.
TISH (1942) A trio of character titans team up for this charming tale of three spinsters and a little lad. Marjorie “Ma Kettle” Main takes point as the film’s titular Letitia “Tish” Carberry, while Zasu Pitts and Aline MacMahon round out the triangle as Tish’s two crony crones. After they make a disastrous muddle of a match-making, Tish finds herself caring for the unintended consequence, a baby boy. A boy that she announces is her own…to no inconsiderable consternation. S. Sylvan Simon directs, with Lee Bowman, Susan Peters, Guy Kibbee, and Virginia Grey also lending their talents. Based on the Tish stories by Mary Roberts Rinehart.
THREE LOVES HAS NANCY (1938) Broadway scribes Bella and Samuel Spewack (Kiss Me, Kate) lend their guidance to this screwball 4-sided romance starring Janet Gaynor, Robert Montgomery, Franchot Tone and Grady Sutton. After small town girl Nancy (Gaynor) gets stranded at the altar sans suitor, she heads to the big city to track down her tardy intended (Sutton). She soon finds herself getting sized up by a sleek scribe and his society sophisticate sidekick when her original suitor returns, threatening to send Nancy’s New Love Deal south. Produced by that prolific purveyor of modern fairy-tale romance, Norman Krasna.
IF WINTER COMES (1941) If Winter Comes charts the course of a star-crossed affair, when two middle-aged former lovers try to rekindle their romance. Walter Pidgeon plays leading man surrounded by an extraordinary array of leading ladies - Deborah Kerr, Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh. If Winter Comes features both Leigh and Lansbury at the dawn of their careers, but you would not know it from Lansbury’s (usual) extraordinary performance, inhabiting the role of a bitter, middle-aged housewife 15 years her senior with ease. As their actions upend their lives and the lives of those around them, false accusations and an unintended pregnancy sow further chaos. That and a world war is waiting in the wings…Victor Saville directs this Pandro S. Berman production, an adaptation of the best-selling novel by A.S.M. Hutchinson. Adapted during the silent era by Fox Studios, this subsequent version moved the action from the first to the second world war, but retained all the human tragedy and searing drama of the original plot.
PENROD AND SAM (1937) Penrod takes on America’s most wanted! After a fellow Junior G-man’s ma is murdered in a bank shoot-out, Penrod and the rest of his crew of kid crime busters vow to bring the crooks to justice. Events take a twisted turn when the killers use the kids’ clubhouse as a hide-out. Only events this dire could force Penrod to join forces with his detested rival, Rodney Bitts. With Billy Mauch, Spring Byington, and Frank Craven.
PENROD’S DOUBLE TROUBLE (1938) It’s more Penrodian peril in this tale of a doppelgänger dilemma. After Penrod disappears, his parents post a reward for his safe return. A carny huckster claims the cash by delivering an ersatz Penrod, his disaster prone double, Danny Dugan (Bobby Mauch). But Danny’s guilt soon compels him to rally the neighborhood kids on an emergency Penrod search and rescue mission.
A YANK AT ETON (1942) Mickey Rooney stars in this thematic sequel to George Oppenheimer’s A Yank at Oxford. In this fish-out-of-water go round, Rooney plays All-American Football loving Tim Dennis who finds his dreams of Notre Dame and gridiron glory dashed when his mother marries a proper gent and whisks him and his sibling off to the dreary greens of Merry Olde England. And waiting for Tim is both the confines of ultra-proper Eton and a step-brother (Freddie Bartholomew). This final film pairing of the two cinema wunderkinds was ably directed by Norman Taurog. Edmund Gwenn and Peter Lawford co-star.
CLEAR ALL WIRES! (1933) Lee Tracy, The Front Page’s original Hildy Johnson, plays another of his patented fast-talkers with a taste for the flim-flam in this pre-Code press comedy. Tracy plays Buckley Joyce Thomas, a brash foreign correspondent who schemes to get his job back by staging an assassination attempt and scooping the world. Also stars Una Merkel and James Gleason, with a script by the team of Bella Spewack and Samuel Spewack.
Wow, I didn't think any WA DVDs ever had extras beyond a trailer...but Westward the Women sounds like a rare deal. Their prices are so far out of my reach that I generally only get movies I'm absolutely dying to have. I'm temped by this one for the commentary, Eyman packs a lot of information into them, typically.
Long unavailable in any form, the first season of Dr. Kildare, the television series that premiered in September, 1961 and begat a kajillion other medical shows, is finally available from the Warner Archive at the link below. Can Ben Casey be far behind??
The very young Richard Chamberlain, who sometimes resembles a faun startled awake by a sudden noise, may not hold every viewer's attention (though his undeniable fair beauty and gentle earnestness can be very appealing), but Raymond Massey made his own unique interpretation of the erudite and philosophical Dr. Gillespie an interesting and human mentor.
The 33 episodes of the first season also feature many noteworthy actors (some of the actors include Charles Bickford, Cathleen Nesbitt, James Earl Jones, Dabbs Greer, Ellen Burstyn, Joseph Cotten, Glynis Johns, and Joan Hackett). The nuanced stories, notably avoiding pat endings in several episodes, also added to the quality of this then groundbreaking medical show.