irene dunne

Irene Dunne – ‘She longed to be called baby’ – Episode 19

Irene Dunne was the queen of melodrama, comedy and musicals, a leading lady adored by all and seen by female audiences as an ‘every woman’. Many critics over the years have labelled Irene as either the ‘female Cary Grant’ or the refined lady who excelled in maternal roles. We at Any Ladle’s Sweet beg to differ and offer a more nuanced view of this deeply funny lady who always longed to be called ‘baby’. We discuss 3 of her finest roles: Ann Vickers (1933, Theodora Goes Wild (1936), and Unfinished Business (1941).

Sources:
Ann Vickers (1933). Dir. John Cromwell [DVD] RKO Pictures.

Basinger, J. (2007) The Star Machine. New York: Vintage.

Bawden, J. and Miller, R. (2016) Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Bogdonovich, P. (1997) Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors. New York: Ballantine.

Carman, E. (2016) Independent Stardom: Freelance Women in the Hollywood Studio System. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Douglas, M. (1986) See You at the Movies: The Autobiography of Melvyn Douglas. (with Tom Arthur) Lanham: University Press of America.

Gehring, W.D. (2006) Irene Dunne: First Lady of Hollywood. Lanham: Scarecrow Press.

McCourt: J. (1980) ‘Irene Dunne: The Awful Truth’ Film Comment 16.1 pp. 26-32.

Theodora Goes Wild (1936) Dir. Richard Boleslawski [YouTube] Columbia Pictures.

Unfinished Business (1941) Dir. Gregory La Cava [YouTube] Universal Studios.

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carole lombard

Carole Lombard: Hoyden, Screwball, Mogul in the Making – Episode 17

Ice-blonde with blue piercing eyes and great gams, Carole surprised many with her salty tongue, endless pranks and keen head for business and publicity. A screwball comedy queen, she also had a big heart when it came to looking after everyone she came into contact with, on and off the set. A proto feminist, she strived for better contracts and demanded her way when it came to choosing writers, directors and cinematographers for her projects. Her life was tragically brief so we want to pay homage to this great lady who was really just getting started. In episode 17 we discuss Virtue (1932), No Man of Her Own (1932) and My Man, Godfrey (1936).

Sources:
Bogdanovich, P. (1997) Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors New York: Ballantine Books.

Carman, E. (2016) Independent Stardom: Freelance Women in the Hollywood Studio System. Austin: University of Texas Press.

My Man Godfrey (1936) Dir. Gregory La Cava [YouTube] Universal Pictures.

No Man of Her Own (1932) Dir. Wesley Ruggles [DVD] Paramount Pictures.

Swindell, L. (1975) Screwball: The Life of Carole Lombard Brattleboro: Echo Point Books and Media.

Virtue (1932) Dir. Edward Buzzell [DVD] Columbia Pictures.

Ott W. Frederick. (1972) The Films of Carole Lombard: The Citadel Press

sensesofcinema.com/2011/cteq/my-man-godfrey/

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barbara stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck: Ball of Fire – Episode 15

Bright, hard boiled yet deeply human, earthy, independent, consummate professional, passionate, conservative, world weary, astute, confident, funny, strong, loyal…you really can’t pin Barbara Stanwyck down to any one thing. In episode 15 we discuss (in our humble opinion) three films that showcase her best work – Ladies of Leisure (1930), Stella Dallas (1937), and Clash by Night (1952).

Stay tuned for episode 16 in which we discuss the wonderful Joan Bennett followed in episode 17 with the queen of slapstick herself, Carole Lombard!

Sources:
Ankerich, M.G. (2015) Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. Albany: BearManor Media.

Bogdanovich, P. (1997) Who The Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors. New York: Ballantine Books.

Callahan, D. (2011) Barbara Stanwyck The Miracle Woman. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Capra, F. (1997) The Name above the Title: An Autobiography. Boston: DaCapo Press.

Clash by Night (1952). Dir. Fritz Lang [DVD] RKO Pictures.

Ladies of Leisure (1930) Dir. Frank Capra [DVD} Columbia Pictures.

Stella Dallas (1937) Dir. King Vidor [DVD} United Artists.

Wilson, V. (2013) A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True 1907-1940. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Carman, Emily (2016) Independent Stardom: Freelance Women in the Hollywood Studio System. University of Texas Press

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Many Faces of Barbara Stanwyck –thehairpin.com/scandals-of-class…8648a2#.w82nq07ge

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The Melodramas Part 1: John M. Stahl – From Back Street to Heaven – Episode 11

Episode 11! Part 1 of a 2 part series on the melodramas of the ’30’s and ’50’s starting with the films of John M. Stahl. Stahl directed some of the most popular films of the romantic melodrama genre through the 1930’s, some of which would go on to be remade in glorious technicolor by Douglas Sirk in the 1950’s. He was forgotten in film history for many decades mostly due to the lack of availability of any decent prints. A resurgence of interest in his work was sparked by the Universal Pictures under Laemmle Jr retrospective in MoMA last year. For the first time since their release audiences were able to experience the pristine and slow burning beauty of Stahl’s films, where women were the centre of action and interest.

We also discuss the other forgotten man of that time, Laemmle Jr.

Charles Boyer is discussed in loving detail in our He’s a Keeper segment.

The Melodramas Part 1: John M. Stahl – From Back Street to Heaven – Episode 11 by Any Ladle’s Sweet

Episode 11! Part 1 of a 2 part series on the melodramas of the ’30’s and ’50’s starting with the films of John M. Stahl. Stahl directed some of the most popular films of the romantic melodrama genre through the 1930’s, some of which would go on to be remade in glorious technicolor by Douglas Sirk in the 1950’s.

Sources:
An Affair to Remember (1957) Dir. Leo McCarey [YouTube] Twentieth Century Fox.

Back Street (1932) Dir. John M Stahl [YouTube] Universal Pictures.

Back Street (1941) Dir. Robert Stevenson [Daily Motion] Universal Pictures.

Bawden, J. and Miller, R. (2016) ‘Interview with Irene Dunne’ in Conversations with Classic

Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Gaslight (1944) Dir. George Cukor [DVD] Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer.

Hold Back the Dawn (1941) Dir. Mitchell Leisen [DVD] Paramount Pictures.

Imitation of Life (1934) Dir. John M Stahl [DVD] Universal Pictures.

Leave Her to Heaven (1945) Dir. John M Stahl [DVD] Universal Pictures.

Le Bonheur (1934) Dir. Marcel L’Herbier [Internet Archive] Universal Pictures.

Liliom (1934) Dir. Fritz Lang. [YouTube] Fox Film Corporation/ Fox Europa.

Love Affair (1939) Dir. Leo McCarey [YouTube] RKO Pictures.

Magnificent Obsession (1935) Dir. John M Stahl [DVD] Universal Pictures.

Only Yesterday (1933) Dir. John M Stahl [YouTube] Universal Pictures.

Swindell, L. (1983) The Reluctant Lover: Charles Boyer. New York: Doubleday.

The Earrings of Madame de … (1953) Dir. Max Ophüls [DVD] Gaumont (France)Arlan (US).

When Tomorrow Comes (1939) Dir. John M Stahl [DVD] Universal Pictures.

brightlightsfilm.com/women-love-thr…/#.V69xApgrKM9

sensesofcinema.com/2014/feature-ar…irks-interlude/

www.filmcomment.com/blog/the-high-t…carl-lammle-jr/

Closing music from Where Does Love Go (1966) ‘La Vie En Rose’ sung by Charles Boyer

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Scene Dwellers – #8: Life fails to imitate art in Back Street (’32)

#8 Life fails to imitate art in Back Street (’32) [episode 11]

When it comes to female alienation, director John M. Stahl rivals Nathaniel Hawthorne in facility with piercing depictions of heroines made scapegoat for an affair that society codes illicit. In Back Street (’32), Irene Dunne’s character Ray Schmidt escapes the scarlet letter branding of Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne, but nonetheless endures a status of pilloried outcast. Furthermore, unlike Hester, Ray lacks a daughter to mitigate the wretched loneliness of her social oblivion. Both pariahs, Scarlet and Ray conduct a meagre living in the margins, as phantoms of their community.

Back-Street-1932-3

Initially, Ray seems light years ahead of the stultifying Puritan customs which dictated Hester’s exile. She drinks beer, dances with multiple suitors and generally does what she pleases. She falls for Walter (John Boles), a married man, and doesn’t blink before agreeing to let him pay to keep her in a walk-up flat. Tucked away like a dirty secret, Ray’s supposed ‘love nest’ soon grows into a prison cage.

A central scene in Back Street highlights an incongruity between Ray’s romantic ideal and reality. Airless, dingy and hemmed in by cacophonous building works, Ray’s joyless hovel generates despair. Two portraits in the room magnify Ray’s counterfeit life as a kept woman. They’re not really portraits, they are—like everything else in the room—bargain derivatives of middle class décor. The tiny flat reeks of cheap reproductions and ramshackle furnishing, especially with prints mounted on the walls. In the background, on a wall next to the front door, a knockoff of a classical painting portrays an Arcadian idyll, with a couple posing on a fresh country road in a regency-era composition. The woman and man sport ornate apparel and exude devotion in what might easily represent the work of Edmund Blair Leighton, or another artist who traded upon saccharine themes of family life. Ray’s situation with a married man boasts no finery, easy walks in public or romantic display as rhapsodised in art. Ray’s civic life remains solitary and desolate. She’s relegated to the ‘back streets’ of Walter’s life.

Back Street 1932

On the wall behind the settee, a picture symbolises everything Ray might have expected from her position, yet never experiences. The framed print renders a cossetted woman, one whose dress creates such an enormous spread that it produces a cushioning or pillow effect. She looks pampered, spoilt, and well-heeled sitting on plush tiers of luxuriant fabric. Ray’s circumstances resemble no degree of affluence. After Ray learns that she’s not part of the ‘we’ Walter includes on a surprise holiday to Europe, her stricken face registers only an initial measure of indignity she knows as mistress. Later, Ray conceals hardship under a brave face when he eventually returns a month late, having made no arrangement for her subsistence during his absence. Desperate to pay bills, Ray scrapes by selling pottery she paints by hand. Walter just simply forgot about Ray’s basic needs for survival that he had pledged to provide after she gave up a lucrative job to be at his beck and call. Walter seems more horrified by the news that she took to something as tawdry as peddling ceramics, rather than the fact that she may have been homeless or starved to death because of his thoughtlessness.

back-street

When his son (William Bakewell) changes tact and refrains from berating Ray, he appears visibly astonished at the $200 a month pittance that his father settled on Ray, which illustrates how little Walter thought of the so-called love of his life. Even worse, he made no provision for her when he died. Cheap pictures on the wall remind viewers how handily romantic sentiment translates into shabby treatment for a mistress. Instead of regarding the ‘kept woman’ theme popular in the Pre-Code era as a means for social mobility, erotic adventure, proto-feminist message, or wiseacre hijinks, Stahl explores a more likely naturalistic angle of how women readily consign themselves to the void when they surrender everything in the name of love. Romantic motifs often become serviceable to women’s erasure in the public sphere, as Stahl’s bleak realism demonstrates.

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NEXT >> #9 ‘THE NEAREST THING TO HEAVEN’ CHARLES BOYER V CARY GRANT
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