Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. Kildare

Boyishly handsome, Lew Ayres.
Photo Courtesy of
Lew and Louis Wolheim in
Quiet on the Western Front.
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     Today would be Lew Ayres's 108th birthday. He was born on December 28, 1908 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but was raised in San Diego, California. He is most famous for his role as Dr. James Kildare, but had been acting in bit player roles since 1927. His first starring role was in the 1929 silent film The Kiss which starred Greta Garbo, in her last silent film, and Conrad Nagel.
     It was the very next year that Lew starred in the epic World War I film, All Quiet on the Western Front as Paul Baumer, that he became a star. In the years to come he would star in Common Clay with Constance Bennett, The Doorway to Hell with James Cagney in his second film role (all 1930), Iron Man with a still relatively unknown Jean Harlow (1931), the original 1933 film State Fair, and in 1938 he would star as Katharine Hepburn's drunk brother in the wonderful gem, Holiday.
Lew as the adorable drunk brother of
Katharine Hepburn.
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Lew and love interest, Mary Lamont,
portrayed by the beautiful
Laraine Day.
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     After the wrap of Holiday, he made his first appearance as Dr. James Kildare in Young Dr. Kildare. This was actually the second film in the series; Joel McCrea having been the first to portray James Kildare in Interns Can't Take Money with Barbara Stanwyck the previous year. He would go on to make eight more films as Dr. Kildare until the character was written out of the series, which would continue on with Lionel Barrymore's character Dr. Gillipsie. Also in that year he starred with James Stewart and Joan Crawford in The Ice Follies of 1939.
Both Lew and Jane were nominated
for an Academy Award for their
perfomances in Johnny Belinda.
Jane would be the only one to take
home Oscar.
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Lew and Olivia. Lew was often typecast as a doctor.
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      Perhaps due to his role in All Quiet on the Western Front, Lew was a conscientious objector of war, and when the United States entered World War II, he made it known that he was so . . . which didn't sit well with anyone. Before he decided to become an actor, Lew had went to the University of Arizona to become a doctor. Taking this experience, he decided to join the Medical Corps. None of the forces, however, could guarantee him this position, and so he reported himself to the Civilian Public Service (CPS). Having such a well-known figure as Lew declaring himself in that position, the armed forces, not wanting to look bad, revised the rules, and Lew joined the Medical Corps.
     After the war, it seemed as though Lew's career in Hollywood was over, but then Olivia de Havilland demanded that Lew be cast as her love interest in 1946's The Dark Mirror, that he was once again accepted by the movie going public. Two years later, Lew was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor in Johnny Belinda alongside Jane Wyman.
As the V.P. who everyone ignores . . . kind of like they do
now, too.
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     Mostly after Johnny Belinda, he would make few films. He guest starred on a few television shows such as The Ford Show with Tennessee Ernie Ford, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, and The Barbara Stanwyck Show, and he also starred in several television miniseries. His biggest film after Johnny Belinda was Advice and Consent as the Vice-President that basically everyone ignores, with Henry Fonda.
     Lew married three times: Lola Lane of the Lane Sisters (1931-1933), Ginger Rogers (1934-1940), and finally Dina Hall, whom he married in 1964 and stayed married to until his death on December 30, 1996--only two days after his eighty-eight birthday. They had a son named Justin. It's a shame that because of his way of that his career which was so very promising was basically destroyed. In my opinion, Lew Ayres was a fantastic actor, and had he gotten more roles such as that of Paul Baumer in All Quiet on the Western Front or as Dr. Robert Richardson in Johnny Belinda, perhaps he wouldn't be so easily forgotten by so many of us today, including us classic film fans. I hope, however, he knew that the films he did do: All Quiet
on the Western Front, the Kildare series, and Johnny Belinda, plus many others, are loved by those that watch them, and that he, too, is loved by all of those that remember him.

Awww . . . Lew and Ginger fishing.
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bogie: In His Own Words

Bogie + Dark + Brooding = Sexy
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     If there ever was a man that did things his way and said to fudge with anybody and everybody that didn't like the way he did it, that man would be Humphrey Deforest Bogart.
     In all reality, Bogie should never had made it in Hollywood. After all, he wasn't classically good looking. He was short. And he had a peculiar way of speech. Yet, by his own force of nature, he did make it. He bid everybody a fond "screw you", and proceeded to show them all. Being that Bogie is one of my favorite actors of all time, I'm very glad that he did.
   I've never been a part of a blogathon, and I'm still getting a hang on this whole blog bit in the first place, so when it came to deciding what I should do for this Bogie Blogathon, I found myself on a never ending merry-go-round. First I decided to do a film review, but then I scratched that idea. I could, I thought, write a little mini-biography. Again, I scratched that idea. I was up at bat, and already had two strikes. The next idea was going to go one of two ways: another strike, and it was game over for me, or a home-run in the idea department (or at least one that got me to first base). Finally, I got a hit.
     Ever since I "discovered" the classics, one of the greatest things I love about the films besides the actors, actresses, directors, etc., etc., etc., is the most terrifically awesome witty lines that has ever been written in film history. It was through my love of classic film quotes, that I hit upon the fact that Bogie's way of life could be explained through his own quotes in his own films. So, here we go.
Bogie and The Maltese Falcon
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The Maltese Falcon Quotes:

Sam Spade: I don't mind a reasonable amount of trouble.

(Bogie got into a lot of "trouble" in his life. He was one half of the Battling Bogarts, and if that doesn't spell trouble, I don't know what does. He also, along with wife Lauren Bacall, spoke his mind about what he thought of the Red Scare in Hollywood. The Panda Bears incident . . .)

Sam Spade: When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it.

(Again, Battling Bogarts. Suffice to say Bogie knew how to handle his own.)

Sam Spade: People lose teeth talking like that. If you want to hang around, you'll be polite.

(Some say he was a hard one to handle. He liked to bait people, get their hackles raised. Others of course said he was very nice, polite.)

Sam Spade: Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be.
Rick in the rain, reading Ilsa's letter. One of the saddest
scenes in the whole film to me.
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(Many have said that Bogie wasn't really like a lot of the tough characters he portrayed.)

Casablanca Quotes:

Rick: I stick out my neck for nobody.

(Ah, but we all know he did.)

Major Strasser: What is your nationality?
Rick: I'm a drunkard.
Captain Renault: That makes Rick a citizen of the world.

(He really was a citizen of the world.)

Rick: I'm the only cause I'm interested in.

(Again, we know this wasn't so.)

Rick: I'm on their blacklist--their roll of honor!

(He found himself on the Warner Bros. "Black List" a lot of times.)

Rick: Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the word, she walks into mine.

(Just as it was for Rick and Ilsa, it was fate for Bogie and Lauren Bacall to find one another.)
In a Lonely Place: Did they, or did they not
kill? That is the question.
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In a Lonely Place Quotes:

Mildred Atkinson: Before I started to go to work at Paul's, I used to think that actors made up their own lines.
Dixon Steele: When they get to be big stars, they usually do.

(Being one of the biggest stars ever, did Bogie ever make-up his own lines? I think maybe he did.)

Dixon Steele: There's no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality.

(He made sacrifices, and thanks to celluloid, he will be forever immoral.)

Dixon Steele: It was his story against mine, but of course, I told my story better.

(Bogie had a lot of stories to share, and they were unlike any others.)

Dixon Steele: It's much easier to get people's names into the papers than it is to keep them out.

(And Bogie saw his name in the papers a lot of times . . . for the good and the bad.)
Bogie on The African Queen.
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The African Queen Quotes:

Charlie Allnut: One thing in the world I hate: leeches. Filthy little devils.

(Self explanatory I think . . .)

Rose Sayer: Who do you think you are ordering me about?
Charlie Allnut: I'm the captain, that's what!

(He was the captain of his own boat, The Santana.)

Charlie Allnut: Let's go while the going's good.

(He went, and the going was fantastic.)

Charlie Allnut: Never say die. That's my motto.

(It was also his way of life in the early part of his career.)

Charlie Allnutt: It's a great thing to have a lady aboard with clean habits. It sets the man a good example. A man alone, he gets to living like a hog.
Bogie with co-star Pard, played by Bogie's
real life pooch, Zero the Dog, on the set of
High Sierra.
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(If there were truer words ever spoken, I've yet to hear them.)

High Sierra Quotes:

Roy Earle: I wouldn't give you two cents for a dame without a temper.

(Bogie had a few of those in life . . .)

Big Mac: Times have sure changed.
Roy Earle: Yeah, ain't they? You know, Mac, sometimes I feel like I don't know what its all about anymore.

     Well, this has been my contribution to the Bogie Blogathon. Perhaps some might disagree with the quotes that I have chosen, but I feel that they are a perfect example of the life of the one and only Humphrey Deforest Bogart.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jerry Lewis and Me

My Fella . . .
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      Anyone and everyone that knows me knows that I'm infatuated with Dean Martin. He didn't become apart of my life until I was about fifteen-years-old, and he had been dead for over fourteen of those years. I "discovered" him, at first, through his music. It was only until I did a little research on my own that I discovered he had been a huge presence in not only the music industry, but he was just as huge a presence in the night club/stage, television, and film parts of the entertainment industry. I learned that he was The King of Cool. I also learned that with his partner, Jerry Lewis, he was one half of one of the biggest and most successful comedic teams of all time.
Jerry taking a break.
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     As my infatuation grew, I had to satisfy my need to see him, listen to him, and learn everything about him that I could. Doing this, I kept reading and hearing over and over again how he was treated when he was partners with Jerry: how everybody thought that Jerry was the "funny" one, how he was the "gifted" one, and how Dean was only the "good-looking" guy who could sing and always got the girls in the end. Basically, everyone thought he was a second banana to Jerry. I've always been one to root for the "underdog", and that was just what I did. Dean was being treated as the underdog, and I naturally sided with him. By doing this, I left Jerry out in the cold. I liked him, but only if he was with Dean. I liked the films he did, but never did I watch one of his that he did on his own, only the ones that he did with Dean, though I never have watched the last film they did together, Hollywood or Bust, nor will I ever. When they broke up, or rather, when I had come to that point in Dean's life, I sided with him. I asked no questions. I simply went with Dean.
     It wasn't until today when I watched a documentary on Jerry called Jerry Lewis: The Method to the Madness, that I decided I had to give him a chance. They had been playing a selection of his films since two o'clock, but because none of them were the films that he and Dean had done together, I decided to forgo all of them . . . Damn was I an idiot. In the beginning I had only wanted to watch the documentary because I knew they couldn't talk about Jerry's life without mentioning Dean. It was, and is, impossible to do so. After the documentary, which by then I had began to feel something but what it was, I couldn't quite tell, I decided to watch The Nutty Professor, the last film that they were showing.
I do believe if the "Nutty Professor" was
my chemistry teacher, I'd like chemistry.
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     I laughed, laughed, and laughed some more during the whole film. I really felt for the Professor, and even when Buddy Love was around, I felt for him too because I knew that the Professor's feelings of insignificance, trepidation, and sadness were still, even through all of Buddy Love's rude, he-man, macho guy stuff, coming through. And the speech that the Professor gives near the very end of the film, even after more than forty years later, still runs as true today as it did back then, even more so in fact.
     It was clear to me by the end of the film that I knew what I was feeling: Guilt. I was feeling gulity because I hadn't even given Jerry a chance. I found that I did like him. In fact, film wise, I like him better by himself than I do with Dean. In most of their films, I found him annoying, and his "idiot voice" got on my nerves a lot of times (and I don't like how Dean was portrayed for most of their films). I've always loved them during their Colgate Comedy Hour shows best because they were more free, the ad-libs were always bouncing off the walls, and, most importantly, they weren't bound by a script.
     Point is to all of this, I found that I could enjoy Jerry without feeling as though I had betrayed Dean by doing so. I'll never feel for Jerry as how I do for Dean, but now I can respect him as the great talent he truly was, and still is. It's also needless to say that The Nutty Professor will not be my last Jerry Lewis film.
Though Buddy Love is perhaps the embodiment of all the bad qualities
 of Jerry's (and a few others), he's still very much loveable because
you know deep down that's not who he truly is.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Twelve Days of Ol' Blue Eyes

Buon Compleanno!
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     Happy Birthday to You/Happy Birthday to You/Happy Birthday Ol' Blue Eyes/Happy Birthday to You!
     I, unlike "The Voice", cannot carry a tune, but that is of little matter. For he could carry a tune then, and from here to eternity (like my pun?) will still be able to carry a tune.
     Music is a timeless piece of art. Though according to my brother, I'm 'too young to be acting so old', Frank's music can be, and is, enjoyed by anyone from any generation, young or old. His music touches so many, and will continue to touch people as long as they continue to listen. And they will continue to listen. They will listen until music is no more. Perhaps they might have to be given a litte nudge to finally become "introduced" to Frank, and his contemporaries, but if they have any smarts, any taste, they will realize that these fellas were--are--legends.
     That's a dangerous word to use, for it's thrown around today like rice at a wedding. It's a word that many have forgotten the true meaning of. They were, as the Cole Porter song goes, 'the top', and everybody today is, in my opinion, 'the bottom'.
     Frank's music is not only just for the 'young' or 'old', but also for the 'weak', 'strong', 'sad', 'happy', 'mad'. His music is for anyone that has a soul. It's for anyone that needs to laugh, to feel alive, and to cry. Frank, in every song I've ever heard him sing, put his whole being into the music. He made that song tell a story, not just any story, but his story. Not too many can claim to do the same. Not then, and not now.
     So, in salute, I listen to Frank's music, his stories, his life, and today, I say: Happy ninty-six birthday, Frank.

Listen to his music, and you'll know the man.
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