Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Every Girl Should Be Married (1948): Cary Grant Blogathon

I am excited to be participating in Phyllis Loves Classic Movies' Cary Grant Blogathon! One reason I enjoy contributing to blogathons is that it gives me a chance to revisit films and see them in a new light. This week I rewatched the 1948 comedy Every Girl Should Be Married starring Cary Grant, Franchot Tone, Betsy Drake, and Diana Lynn. Viewing it for the first time in over a year, I noticed new aspects of the dialogue and final scenes that gave me a new appreciation of the movie.

The film revolves around Anabel (Betsy Drake), the over-eager and a bit stalker-ish protagonist who sets her sights on Dr. Madison Brown (Cary Grant). Obsessed with marriage and babies, Anabel learns everything she can about Dr. Brown and puts herself in places she knows he will be. In the role of Anabel, actress Betsy Drake is an odd mixture of quirkiness, spunkiness, and devotion, a combination that can border on annoying for some viewers.

To be honest, Betsy's performance has grown on me with each viewing. I love her fresh-faced beauty, the way she dresses in simple clothes and simple hairstyle, and her interesting speaking voice. The character of Anabel, however, absolutely goes too far with some of her romantic schemes and I can see how that might come across as the opposite of attractiveness. From the beginning, Anabel asserts a modern view that women should be able to chase men just as aggressively as men chase women. But the character's old-fashioned obsession with being a wife and mother at any cost negates that progressive notion. Having said that, the film is still a great deal of fun with fantastic performances from its main cast.

When Anabel sets her sights on Madison (Grant), she infiltrates his entire life. She spends every lunch hour interviewing all who know him and memorizes all of his favorite hobbies and haunts. Madison is a handsome bachelor with every intention on staying that way. Cary is perfectly cast as the charming doctor who is more knowledgeable about Anabel than he lets on. Madison has a witty response to each of Anabel's schemes and Cary's sarcastic, playful portrayal is just what the script demands. Apart from amusement, Madison shows no interest in Anabel, so she decides that he must have a rival to create jealousy.

That rival comes in the form of Roger Sanford (Tone), the wealthy, twice-divorced owner of the department store in which Anabel works. Madison has caught on to Anabel's intentions, so Anabel attempts to throw him off the trail by telling him that she is actually using him to get to Roger! A self-assured ladies' man, Roger assumes Anabel truly does want him, despite her private protests that it's Madison she's after. Following a date in which she must escape the amorous Roger's physical advances, Anabel puzzles her boss by passionately kissing him on a busy street. Newspaper photographers are on hand to capture the kiss and soon Anabel is approached by tons of companies to endorse their products. Businessmen hope that if Anabel likes their products that the rich Roger Sanford (now frustrated with Anabel's antics) will invest in them.

Although a second lead, Roger is one of Franchot's best roles of the late 1940's. Franchot performs the part of the carefree, self-absorbed Roger with a lightness that complements Betsy Drake's goofy, but sometimes intense Anabel. Everyone knows that Cary Grant will get the girl in a Cary Grant picture, but Franchot's Roger is a likeable, handsome, and entertaining rival. (Franchot lost the girl to Cary once before—Jean Harlow in the 1936 drama Suzy.)

Anabel passes on all the free products offered to her. All but one—a cozy cottage that she is allowed to live in for one month. Madison agrees to dinner at the cottage, but disappoints Anabel. She asks, "Isn't everything so lovely and romantic?" Madison, fully aware of how the romantic dinner, cottage setting, and marriage conversation fit into her plan, responds, "Almost like a stage setting." When she presses forward, Madison confesses:
Well, I'll tell you what I actually do think Anabel. Uh, I don't know quite how I'm going to go about telling you this, but I want to be as much on the level with you as I know how to be. Now, you see, I don't consider myself any prize package. That's why this is going to be so difficult, but it's just got to be done because there's something I want you to understand. Clearly. Once and for all. Now, now just a second. Just hear me out and please don't try to twist my words around to suit yourself. I'm not in love and I have no intention of getting married. I think you're far too fine a person to persist in these silly schoolgirl maneuvers of yours. It'll only mean you'll end up embarrassed, hurt, and I don't want that to happen.
By the time Madison finishes his speech, Anabel is already embarrassed and hurt. She seems genuinely devastated by his words.

Depressed over Madison's rejection, Anabel is surprised to learn that Roger is in love with her now that he realizes Madison is truly a rival. Roger's marriage proposal proves that Anabel's plan of rivalry worked. Just with the wrong man!

What results is an incredibly humorous evening with not two but three suitors (Eddie Albert joins the fun as Anabel's high school sweetheart Old Joe) vying for Anabel's affection in her cottage. The final scene includes some unexpected revelations from Madison and Anabel, which I seem to forget between viewings and am happily surprised by each time.

Enhancing the romantic comedy is the fact that Cary Grant would, of course, marry his costar Betsy Drake in 1949. Cary had seen Betsy performing in a London play in 1947, been impressed with her acting, and encouraged her to pursue a film career (and the film executives to sign her to a contract.) Every Girl Should Be Married was Betsy's first film. She would costar with Cary (with whom she was married until 1962) in 1952's Room for One More, a favorite film of mine.

Source: Modern Screen.
Source: Modern Screen.
Source: Modern Screen.
Every Girl Should Be Married is available on DVD. Please check out the full roster of posts celebrating Cary Grant over at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Here is Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 (to come.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Franchot on French Film Finances

When reporter Harmon W. Nichols interviewed Franchot about the production of The Man on the Eiffel Tower, Franchot tried to explain the film’s financial situation. Nichols said a patient Franchot “hemmed and hawed and he drew pictures on the tablecloth,” and finally, Nichols asked Franchot himself to write the article. Here’s what Franchot wrote:
The interesting thing about the financing of The Man on the Eiffel Tower is that because of making it in Paris with a French co-producer, a large part of the cost of the production was paid for in French francs instead of American dollars. These francs could be recouped from almost all countries where American motion picture earnings are blocked. The French have trade agreements with almost every country in the world, which permit them to repatriate to France the foreign earnings of any picture made in France.
The advantage of this picture is that all these countries which will not permit conversion of picture earnings into dollars, will permit the earnings of this one (because it was made in France) to be converted into Francs. The French co-producer of the picture will recoup his investment from countries that an American producer cannot look to at the present time. And the result will be that a large part of the cost of making the picture will be for receipts in countries from which a Hollywood production cannot expect to receive the benefits of his earnings.
Nichols, Harmon W. "Franchot Tone Gives Lessons about Finance." Star News. February 13, 1950.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Gorgeous Hussy: Franchot & Politics

I'll conclude my Franchot & Politics series with a look at the 1936 film The Gorgeous Hussy. Directed by Clarence Brown and based on the 1934 novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams, The Gorgeous Hussy was a period piece designed for Joan Crawford in the part of Peggy Eaton. In addition to Crawford, the film starred Lionel Barrymore, Robert Taylor, Beulah Bondi, Melvyn Douglas, Franchot Tone, and James Stewart.

A warning should anyone be watching solely for Franchot's part: I would not consider this a "Franchot Tone film." He doesn't appear in the first 45 minutes and although his scenes are good, they are certainly not abundant. However, this is an ensemble drama, so no actor apart from Joan is really present for the majority of the film.
The Gorgeous Hussy is a fictional account of the life of Peggy O'Neill Eaton, the beautiful, flirtatious daughter of a hotel proprietor who faces criticism as a senator's wife and friend to President Andrew Jackson. In the film, Joan is flirtatious, but much more than that, comes across as extremely kindhearted and lovely (not nearly as bold and controversial as the real Peggy was reported to be.)
The film shows a young Peggy enjoying the advances of the politicians who frequently stay at her father's hotel. We find that unlike most women of the time, Peggy is privy to much political discussion and exposed to confidential  information. Peggy's childhood friend Rowdy (James Stewart) is smitten with her, but she sees him only as a friend. Peggy is head over heals for senator John Randolph (Melvyn Douglas), who although protective, rejects her declarations of love.
By the time Randolph discovers that he does indeed have romantic feelings for her, Peggy has married Bow Timberlake (Robert Taylor). Timberlake leaves for duty the morning after their marriage and soon dies in action.
In the midst of Eaton's romantic drama, we see that she is, innocently, the apple of senator Andrew Jackson's eye. She is beloved by Jackson (Lionel Barrymore) and his wife Rachel (Beulah Bondi). Jackson is well-liked, but his wife Rachel is regularly insulted in public because they view her as uneducated and unsocial. Peggy cares for Rachel as if she's her own mother and tries to shield her from public scorn, a scorn Peggy will feel herself after she takes care of Jackson following Rachel's deathbed request. Quickly becoming the newly elected president Jackson's confidante, Peggy is the focus of much gossip.
Franchot Tone is senator John Eaton, a man who proposes to Peggy after many years of admiring her from afar. Peggy is still deeply in love with Randolph, but they are unable to get past their political differences.  Not out of love, but to please president Jackson and improve her reputation, Peggy marries senator Eaton.
After visiting a wounded John Randolph without her husband present, the cabinet (and, especially, their wives) are furious about her indecorous behavior and demand that president Jackson banish her. Instead, Jackson demands the resignation of all members, except Eaton (this would become known as the Petticoat affair.). In the film, Peggy realizes that her notoriety will overshadow Jackson's progress and requests that she and her husband be sent away.

The film strays from the true account of Peggy's life (you can read about the real woman here,) but the costumes and sets perfectly capture the historical time in which its set. I found The Gorgeous Hussy a bit tedious in places and apart from Beulah Bondi's performance (wow!), wouldn't call any of the performances in this movie the best of their careers. Good, yes, but not the best. It's an interesting film to check out just to see the likes of Barrymore, Crawford, Taylor, Tone, and Stewart working together.
In some ways, I agree with Frank S.Nugent's review in the New York Times:
We don't believe in Miss Crawford's Peggy, we have reservations about Lionel Barrymore's Andrew Jackson, we discount Sidney Toler's Daniel Webster, we pity Melvyn Douglas's Senator John Randolph of Virginia and we cannot even recall Frank Conroy's John Calhoun or Charles Trowbridge's Martin Van Buren.
What we have here, and you might as well make the best of it, is a thoroughly romanticized biography in which Miss Crawford is gorgeous, but never a hussy. An innkeeper's daughter she may be, but that is all the women of Washington can possibly hold against her. Sweet, demure, trusting and of rather doubtful inspiration to Old Hickory—even though Mr. Barrymore gallantly implies she is his chief prop in his efforts to preserve the Union against the States-righters—Miss Crawford's Peggy is a maligned Anne of Green Gables, a persecuted Polyanna, a dismayed Dolly Dimple.
The Gorgeous Hussy is definitely a heavily romanticized tale, but it's worth watching for its legendary ensemble cast and nod to a historic event in U.S. history. It is available on DVD.
I've taken great pleasure in writing a series of posts devoted to one subject over the past 6 weeks. If you've missed any previous posts in my Franchot & Politics series, you can access those below:

From here until the new year, I'll be writing about a variety of Franchot-related subjects and am happy to be participating in blogathons devoted to Cary Grant and Agnes Moorehead in December.
Nugent, Frank S. "Democratic Unconvention in 'The Gorgeous Hussy,' at the Capitol -- 'A Son Comes Home,' at the Rialto." September 5, 1936.