Evelyn Prentice (1934)

The union of marriage is one that is cherished and celebrated by virtually all societies. It represents love, companionship, and most of all trust between two individuals with presumable a deeply shared connection. A great deal of responsibility, compromising, and openness must be mutual between both parties in cultivating an increasingly grounded and resonant amalgamation, especially with children present. It is when mistrust and dishonesty begin budding that this growing, anchored foundation may become windswept. It is history and sincerity that then drives the path towards dissolution or resolution. “Evelyn Prentice” is a 1934 drama directed by William K. Howard starring the dynamic duo of William Powell and Myrna Loy exploring this very issue with a very unique, unusual, and devastating secret at its core.

John Prentice (William Powell) is a confident and flirtatious defence lawyer who has the reputation of winning all of his cases. Nancy Harrison (Rosalind Russell) is his latest client who he acquitted who is obviously very grateful for his services, but wants to continue a very different kind of service with him behind closed doors. John’s marriage to Evelyn (Myrna Loy) is deemed to be quite peachy to others, but his physical and mental absence related to work poses great discomfort with Evelyn. She catches the eye of master money manipulator Lawrence Kennard (Harvey Stephens), and they begin written correspondence. Various events lead to Evelyn asking Lawrence to end their communication, but he threatens her with blackmail. A gunshot is then heard with Evelyn running out of the apartment, and speculations subsequently run wild.

This particular project is obviously quite different from Loy and Powell’s other well-known pairings for two obvious reasons that come to mind. It is definitely NOT a comedy, and the gumshoeing as per the Thin Man movies is not collaborative at all. In fact, there is a high amount of secrecy and concealment on Evelyn’s part. Despite the differences and intermittent datedness of some core messages in the film, it still displays the timeless ample tension, doubt, and fear that accompany a team in distress. Loy and Powell demonstrate their chemistry and charisma in this dramatic and problematic atmosphere that would only grow with further pairings, helping to create the iconic partnership forever embedded in cinema.

3d1354df6987c46e5a3bc9e608bc7219-myrna-loy

I do not own the above photo. Also, this post is part of the Bill and Myrna’s New Year’s Blogathon hosted by The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies! Please check out the other posts!

bill2band2bmyrna2b4

Libeled Lady (1936)

All individuals find themselves in precarious situations from time to time. These embarrassing events may be completely unexpected, but more often than not there were precipitating instances leading to this specific moment in time. One’s wit, pride, righteousness, as well as their negotiation skills and shrewdness with other players shapes further twists and turns in this scenario, especially the outcome and potential lessons learned. Screwball comedies embody this overall comedy of errors, and the 1936 screwball Libeled Lady directed by Jack Conway with an all-star cast does this splendidly.

Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracy) is the managing editor of the New York Evening Star, a frenetic newspaper trying to obtain the latest scoop like all of the other competitors. Both he and his lovely fiancee Gladys Benton (Jean Harlow – my absolute favourite actress) are getting dressed for the wedding and are heading to the church. On that same day, a false story is posted about a wealthy socialite’s role in dissolving a marriage. Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) becomes the “libeled lady”, suing the paper a whopping five million dollars for libel! At this moment, Haggerty makes a beeline to the newspaper, leaving Benton extremely angry and hurt over his decision yet again to prioritize his work over her needs.

So, Haggerty has made his decision to deal with the needs of the newspaper. He feels as if he has to quickly use his noggin to persuade Allenbury to drop the suit. His old colleague and foe, the ever so suave and single Bill Chandler (William Powell), becomes involved in this cantankerous scheme at the pleading of Haggerty. Chandler’s role is to convince Allenbury to fall in love with him but to be caught scandalously with her by his wife. Who becomes his wife, you ask? None other than Benton! She obliges at the cajoling of her beloved fiance so that he can save face. As Haggerty says, “she may be his wife but she’s engaged to me!” As you may guess, much humour and tomfoolery ensues!

libeled-lady-harlow

This film has so many twists and turns throughout the plot’s plethora of deceptive arrangements, shifting attractions, and discontentments. It ensues to reach an emotionally intense yet hilarious finale. As with all screwballs, sharp repartee, a grand battle of the sexes, and memorable scenes (especially the greatest fishing scene in the history of cinema) are weaved throughout the film.

The electric cast and star power amplifies the film’s wit, storyline, and chemistry. All of the stars had contracts with Metro Goldwyn Mayer during the studio system era, and it was therefore much easier to create a vehicle with this star power fuelling the engine. It was Myrna Loy and William Powell’s fifth film together out of fourteen collaborations throughout their careers. While it was no secret that Powell and Harlow were a couple at the time, the studio pushed for another coupling of Loy and Powell secondary to their box office success. Either way, the winning screwball formula of this film created the impetus for a Best Picture nomination at the 1937 Academy Awards.

It is no doubt that screwball comedies are a true joy to inhabit and experience as a viewer. However, I feel as if this film and many other screwballs convey themes and messages that grapple with struggles at the core of humanity. Relationships are constantly tested in this genre of film, which is a fear yet reality of the human experience. As well, the division between social classes is a common theme. In this film, a man of the working class tries to undermine rich elitists. Variations of this plot device are present in many screwballs, which was quite reflective and contemporary to many in the Great Depression era. Therefore, I believe that great comedy can touch audience’s lives not just through humour but with a high degree of familiarity to our struggles and also our greatest delights.

jean-harlow-myrna-loy-spencer-tracy-william-powell-libeled-lady

I do not own any of the photos in this post. As well, this post is part of the “Addicted to Screwball Blogathon” hosted by Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies! Please check out the other posts over the next day related to other fabulous screwball comedies!

addicted-to-screwball0

 

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

The pursuit of the perception of greater prestige is one that encompasses Western society’s identity. The quest, attainment, and dissolution of achievement creates an inner restlessness to strive towards higher prosperity without appreciating and smelling the roses. This eventual dissatisfaction inevitably leads to risk-taking, with disastrous and/or meaningful results.  In H.C. Potter’s 1948 classic screwball “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House”, the commonplace and relatable journey from leasing to owning and then renovating a home is the focus. Disillusionment of the idyllic country life is eye-opening to the tired yet wide-eyed urban dwellers in the film.

Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) is an advertising executive and family man who has just been assigned to the doomed ham/WHAM campaign, much to his displeasure. He is also frustrated with the tiny square footage and lack of closet space in the New York apartment which he shares with his wife Muriel (Myrna Loy) and daughters (Connie Marshall and Sharyn Moffett). Much to the dismay of his lawyer “best friend” Bill Cole (Melvyn Douglas), the Blandings are deceptively swindled and decide to buy a somewhat dilapidated home that has been erect since the Revolutionary War. This purchase obviously and inevitably does not come without challenges. The multitude of foundational issues with the “new home”, the Blandings’ sometimes varying opinions on construction and blue printing, writer’s block regarding the ham-like WHAM, as well as finance and jealousy all collide to create calamity in classic screwball style.

f072f3a48a085f062c30b16fde042a6d

Becoming a home owner has become a pinnacle of success in our current landscape. It signifies that an individual or family appears to be financially stable and at ease in their lives, prepared to take on this rewarding challenge. Owning a home also signifies autonomy and independence, and undertaking renovations can be an extension of one’s creativity. If the owners are in a relationship, this whole process can also be a test of strength, endurance, and compromise in their unity. It is the hope of all involved that the “ultimate dream home” helps to create actualization and a future of stability and fulfillment.

blandingsdreamhouseplanweb

 

I do not own any of the photos in this post. As well, this post is part of the Favourite Film and TV Homes Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and Love Letters to Old Hollywood! Please visit their sites between May 5 – 7, 2017 to check out many great posts regarding this wonderful topic!

blandings_banner_1

Unsung Heroes Blogathon – Myrna Loy

When I first heard of this great idea for a blogathon hosted by KG’s Movie Rants, I could think of no one better to write about than Myrna Loy. After much lobbying from the Writers Guild of America as well as various heavy Hollywood hitters in the form of screenwriters, actors, and directors, Myrna Loy received her Honorary Oscar in 1991 at the old age of 86. Some receiving honorary Oscars have received Academy Award nominations and wins in their careers. It is astonishing and baffling that she did not receive any nominations despite having a body of work including 129 films! If she’s not an unsung hero, I don’t know who is.

Born in 1905 in Montana, Myrna Adele Williams grew up on a humble farm. It was after her father’s death in 1918 that her mother decided to move the family to Los Angeles, as he objected a family uproot to the City of Angels. Once the family was settled, Myrna began participating in local theatrical productions at age 15.

Myrna’s beauty caught the eye of Rudolph Valentino and subsequently Warner Brothers, where her surname was eventually changed to “Loy”. I have not seen any of her silent era films whereby she was often cast in very exotic roles. I am so accustomed to her comedic skills and endearing, relatable characters that it would be difficult to imagine her portraying a femme fatale role. Thankfully, W. S. Van Dyke took a chance and insisted on her being cast in a string of films that would change the course of her career…

The aforementioned director was at the helm of “The Thin Man”, a mystery/comedy film released in 1934 starring charismatic movie star William Powell in addition to Loy. It was released three weeks after their pairing with Clark Gable in the compelling and heartbreaking “Manhattan Melodrama”. Nick and Nora Charles are a couple who are private detectives, whimsically solving criminal cases. The electric chemistry between Powell and Loy was undeniable, launching a franchise of five more “Thin Man” films. They complemented each other extremely well, and were the yin to each other’s yang. Powell’s bravado and Loy’s subtlety made for a captivating movie experience (also, the wire-haired fox terrier Asta helped a lot!).

a56a5cdfcf3662a1c8e221ae3ac1459e

Many in her repertoire of films showcased her sharp comedic timing. Some of my favourites include “Libeled Lady”, “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer”, and “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House”. Her co-stars in these films included some of the most magnetic stars in Hollywood – Cary Grant, Jean Harlow (my personal favourite), Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable. Her dramatic roles were also very impressive. “The Rains Came” is one great example, and her performance in “The Best Years of Our Lives” is simply stunning. Her portrayal of the spouse of a man returning from WWII is a true embodiment and representation of a wife and mother struggling to come to terms with a world and a husband forever changed by the effects of war.

Her roles in the 1950s and beyond were less in frequency than in the previous two decades. As well, her humanitarian work indicated her commitment to the betterment of mankind. She was involved in the Red Cross in WWII, co-chaired theAdvisory Council of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, and was involved in UNESCO later in life. She was also a breast cancer survivor.

It is no doubt that Myrna Loy has a remarkable resume of films, and her talent is just unfathomable. As I learned while writing this post, she is an unsung hero in many ways beyond the world of film.

af300e5c7c3ff24b5ac987680539da68

Fun fact: As a teenager, she posed for a statue entitled “The Fountain of Education” in 1922. It stood in front of Venice High School where she was a student. The statue was replaced in 2010 by a bronze duplicate.

fa058195a3a7fafa922b5a1a176a3005