Born Mary Elizabeth Riggs in Tampa, Florida, on October 20, 1899, to a fourteen-year- old Italian mother and a seventeen- year-old Irish American father, the actress had a miserable childhood. Her father died when she was three years old and her mother died and left her penniless at the age of fourteen.
Betty visited the studios at Fort Lee, New Jersey and began appearing as an extra, with her first credited role as Betty Riggs in Maurice Tourneur’s 1914 production of “The Pit.” Evelyn met Olga Petrova while appearing in the Metro production of “The Soul Market (1916). And Olga encouraged her career in film.
The actress changed her name to Evelyn Brent with “The Lure of Heart’s Desire” in 1916 and the size of her roles gradually increased. By 1920, she had saved $500 and decided to visit Europe. Evelyn made her first British film, “The Shuttle of Life” opposite C. Aubrey Smith that year.
Evelyn came to California for the first time and revived her American career with Metro’s Held to Answer (1923). Evelyn made thirteen films in Europe. Ten in Britain, two in The Netherlands and one in Spain. Trapped by the Mormons (1922) and its sequel was Evelyn’s worst film.
From 1926 to 1930, Evelyn was under contract to Paramount and was one of the stars of the studios first talkie, Interference (1929). She made 56 more films, with roles gradually getting smaller and the production quickly diminishing in importance and quality.
Aside from Underworld (1927) and The Last Command (1928), Evelyn’s best films were probably Blind Alleys (1927), The talkie, The Silver Horde (1928) and the talkie, Traveling Husbands (1931). Evelyn’s last film was Again Pioneers from Religious Film Associates in 1950. Evelyn died on June 4, 1975 in her small Westwood apartment.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
A Tribute to Nita Naldi
When actress Nita Naldi came on the scene, the day of the serious vamp was ending. Theda Bara had retired in 1919, and fellow vamps Valeska Surratt, Virginia Pearson, and Louis Glaum were also fading away. Nita was one of those women who bridged the gap between the vamp and the jazzy little flapper. Pola Negri, Barbara La Marr and Dagmar Godowsky were neither one thing nor the other, and their careers ultimately suffered .
Even though Nita Naldi was not the greatest actress of her day, she enjoyed a respectable run in the 1920’s, including three films with Rudolph Valentino.
Nita went to an Italian convent in Hoboken, New Jersey where her great-aunt was the Mother Superior and she grew up in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the East Coast center of film production.
Stage Struck, Nita left school and started a modeling career. She eventually began appearing onstage with The Passing Show (1918) and the scandalous hit Aphrodite (1919). In 1920, Nita appeared in “The Bonehead and Opportunity” and then got her first film role.
Although Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is always mentioned as her feature film debut, she actually appeared in Selznick’s A Divorce of Conscience (1921), filmed in Fort Lee, New Jersey. She was already renamed Nita Naldi when discovered by John Barrymore and cast as a Spanish vamp. The mid 20’s were good to Nita. Someone at Jesse Lasky’s Paramount studios spotted Nita and cast her as Dona Sol in her first film role with Rudolph Valentino, Blood and Sand (1922). Aside from Blood and Sand (1922), in which she is campy, she was selected by Spanish novelist Vicente Blasco Ibanez. Nita also vamped Rudolph Valentino in A Sainted Devil (1924) and Cobra (1925). Nita was shipped out to the West Coast with a five-year contract.
By 1923, Nita was appearing in film after film for Paramount such as “Lawful Larceny” “Glimpses of the Moon” “You Can’t Fool Your Wife” and “Hollywood” Her
biggest hit that year was Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” in which she played an evil half-caste vamp who lures Rod La Rocque away from Leatrice Joy.
Nita’s highly dramatic death scene is never to be forgotten once viewed. However, as early as 1924, she loved to get away from vampire roles. Everything about Nita made headlines, from her 1923 appendectomy to her weight gain due to her diet of lamb chops and pineapple.
Nita took off for Europe in the summer of 1924 with Rudolph and Natasha Rambova Valentino to make “The Hooded Falcon,” but the film never came out. Nita was reported to be married to Cleveland banker Giacimel Sanges, but he was already married. In November of that year Nita took off for Europe again without telling Paramount. The studio put out an all-points bulletin, even contacting the State Department. This time, Nita did find a husband in Europe, a wealthy middle-aged businessman named J. Searle Barclay. She and Barclay lived in Paris, Hungary and Germany, returning to the United States some time after the stock market crash. By 1933, they declared bankruptcy. Barclay died in 1945, and Nita’s plight became more desperate. Nita moved into The Hotel Wentworth, a seedy establishment off Times Square. Her rent was partially paid by the Actor’s Fund.
After her death, a rumor was started that Nita had been a drug addict. There is not a shred of evidence to support this claim, but it’s easy to see had it all started. Nita frequently went faint because of a heart condition. Nita was also nearly blind for the last ten years of her life.
Nita was philosophical about her rise and fall. She had no complaints, even though she could never keep a nickel. Nita died of a heart attack in her sleep on February 17, 1961, just shy of her sixty-fourth birthday.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Sunday, July 28, 2013
That Touch of Mink(1962). Romantic/comedy starring: Cary Grant, Doris Day, baseball stars Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra make cameo appearances. The film was Grant's last role in a romantic lead. Although, in his next role he romanced Audrey Hepburn in Charade (1963), she was the pursuer at Grant's request, because of the 25-year age difference. In one of my favorite scenes in the classic film, That Touch of Mink, is when the couple go to an under-construction apartment building, Philip (Cary Grant) makes a proposal which is not quite what Cathy (Doris Day) was expecting...
Video: the surprise proposal....
North by Northwest(1959). Thriller, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. North by Northwest, is a story of mistaken identity, with an innocent man pursued across the United States by secret agents, who want to smuggle out microfilm containing government secrets. In one of one my favorite scenes, is when Cary Grant's character Roger, is waiting alongside a deserted road in the middle of empty farm fields where a crop duster is flying over head. The crop duster turns towards Roger and makes several attacking passes at him. Roger hides in a corn field, but the plane dusts the field with a chemical powder, forcing Roger back into the open. Spotting an oncoming tanker truck, Roger flags it down and stands directly in its path, forcing the tanker to stop. The plane swoops down at him and smashes into the tanker. When passers-by stop at the scene, Roger steals a pickup and drives back to the hotel.
The aircraft seen flying in the scene is a Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Canary, a World War II Navy pilot trainer sometimes converted for crop-dusting. The aircraft that hits the truck and explodes is a wartime Stearman (Boeing Model 75) trainer. Like its N3N "look a like", many were used for agricultural purposes through the 1970's. The plane was piloted by Bob Coe, a local cropduster from Wasco. Hitchcock placed replicas of square Indiana highway signs in the scene.
Houseboat (1958). Romantic/comedy starring Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Martha Hyer, Paul Petersen, Charles Herbert and Mimi Gibson. My favorite scene in the film, is when Grants character Tom begins to date Carolyn and buys her a dress for the country club dance. Just as Carolyn and her friends arrive and after one of them insults Cinzia, Tom orders them from the houseboat. He then takes Cinzia to the country club dance and as they kiss and then he realizes he is in love with her...
Video: With friends like these who needs enemies...
To Catch a Thief (1955). Romantic/thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The movie stars Cary Grant as cat burglar, who has to save his reformed reputation by catching a new "cat" preying on the wealthy tourists of the French Riviera. Grace Kelly, is his romantic interest. My favorite scene in the film, is when Grace as Francie, greets Cary as John wearing a beautiful diamond necklace trying to taunt him with it. John knows the gems are fake and he and Francie kiss, as fireworks light up the night sky...
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). Comedy film starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. The house built for the 1948 film still stands on the old Fox Ranch property in Malibu Creek State Park in the hills a few miles north of Malibu. It is used as an office for the Park. One of my favorites scenes is when, as soon as work gets underway, unforeseen construction problems and questionable workmen begin to work on the Blandings home. An embedded stone "ledge" requires blasting before the foundation can be laid and the water well cannot be built until costly drilling reveals a water source...
Video: That is no rock..
The Bishop's Wife (1947). Romantic/comedy starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven in a story about an angel who helps a bishop with his problems. In one of my favorite scenes, after retiring to his study, Henry prays for guidance and a few moments later, Dudley mysteriously arrives and informs Henry that he is an angel sent in answer to his prayer. Henry is skeptical and when Julia comes in a few moments later, Dudley introduces himself as Henry's assistant, which pleases her and upsets Henry....
Video: The first meeting..
Suspicion (1941). Romantic/psychological/thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine as a married couple dealing with strange events ...
Video: put on a happy face..
Only Angels Have Wings (1939). Starring Cary Grant and Jean Arthur. It is regarded as being among Hawks' finest films, particularly in its portrayal of the professionalism of the pilots, its atmosphere and the awesome flying scenes!
Video: All clear...
Topper (1937). Comedy, starring Constance Bennett and Cary Grant. The film was adapted by Eric Hatch, Jack Jevne and Eddie Moran from the novel by Thorne Smith. Directed by Norman Z. McLeod. The supporting cast includes: Roland Young, Billie Burke and Eugene Pallette.
New York banker Cosmo Topper's wife Clara, insists that they live a well-ordered life, the complete opposite of bank owners George and Marion Kerby, who live for fun and excitement.
After a board of directors meeting, the Kerbys try to convince Topper to stop doing what his wife says and "live." On the drive back to their country home, just after Marion says that she wants to make Topper over, George, loses control of their speeding car and they crash. Though they feel all right, George and Marian quickly realize that they are transparent and died in the crash.
As Topper thinks over the Kerbys' fate, he receives delivery of their newly repaired car and takes it for a drive, after the mechanic says that he is not the type for the car and Clara, forbids him to buy it. Speeding along, Topper, swerves off the road in the very spot where the Kerby's died. Although, shocked to see the Kerbys' spirits, Topper, likes Marion's ideas to make him a new man.
The Kerby's then take Topper to their New York apartment, where he dances, then passes out from drinking. Deciding that Topper needs a Bromo Seltzer, George and Marion de-materialize and help Topper to their car, then cause a near riot when some chauffeurs get into an altercation with Topper. A policeman hauls Topper, off to court where he is charged with drunken and disorderly conduct. Reporters, recognize his name and news hits the papers.
The next day, Clara, is certain that her dream of socializing with the prominent Mrs. Grace Stuyvesant is now impossible. To her shock, however, Mrs. Stuyvesant is dying to meet Clara's now notorious husband and invites them to a party.
At the bank, Topper's employees look at him with new respect and Marion, appears to get him to take her for a soda. Instead, she stops to shop at a lingerie store, where she sees a pair of flying lace underpants. Topper, stuffs them in his pocket then accidentally drops them in front of Clara back at home.
When she accuses him of infidelity, Topper packs a bag and drives off. Marion, then appears in the car and suggests that they check into the Seabreeze hotel and have some fun. Meanwhile, George materializes and looks for Marion, at the Topper home, where he tells Clara, that she forced Topper away.
Back at the hotel, Marion's, constant appearing and disappearing gets Topper, into trouble with house detective Casey. When, George arrives, the situation worsens until Topper finally begs to leave. On the way home, George suddenly speeds up the car and says he can't stop and the care crashes at the same spot again.
Topper, is not dead, only unconscious. He says that he would rather be with George and Marion than back home, but they convince him to change his mind. Topper, awakens in his own bed and Clara goes to him, wearing the lace underpants. Knowing, that Topper, will now be all right, George and Marion, say goodbye as Clara and Topper embrace.
Video: Movie in full..
Some great sight gags made this a big hit for Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, who certainly are a handsome leading couple but it's Roland Young, as "Cosmo Topper," who steals the show. He's a stiff old man who quickly loosens up and the transformation is fun to watch. Bennett was a legitimate 1930's glamour girl who looks just great in here and pairs off well with the handsome Grant. The two of them also exhibit a good comedic touch. Even more handsome than those two was the automobile, what a great-looking sports car!
The fancy finned-back car driven by the Kerbys was custom built by the Bohman & Schwartz Co. using a 1936 Buick Roadmaster chassis. Originally the producers had in mind to use a coffin-nosed Cord, but it wasn't large enough. In the custom-made Buick there were special compartments for camera equipment, etc. The Buick resembles a Cord, but the supercharger pipes on the side were just decorations (a Cord comes with an actual supercharger). After filming the Buick was bought by the Gilmore Oil Co. and was used for promotional purposes for many years. It was updated in 1954 with a Chrysler Imperial chassis and drive train. The car driven by Cosmo Topper is a 1936 Lincoln Model K.
Friday, July 26, 2013
A Tribute to Florence Turner, the Vitagraph Girl
Born in New York on January 6, 1887, Florence Turner spent a number of years on stage and in vaudeville before joining the Brooklyn-based Vitagraph Company in 1907.
At that time, she was hired not only as an actress, but also as a bookkeeper, pay clerk, accountant, and wardrobe woman. Florence starred in a vast number of one-reel short subjects, including Shakespeare adaptations and Southern melodramas.
Florence was the sole performer in a 1911 short titled “Jealousy,” a study in the art of dramatic expression. A year later Florence had consolidated her popularity by making the first personal appearance by a screen star at a movie theatre in Brooklyn. Florence was a little old for the title, but she was recognized as “The Vitagraph Girl.”
When Florence left Vitagraph in 1913, it was not to join another American producer, but to travel to England, where she set up her own production company with Vitagraph director, Larry Trimble. In all, she starred in more than 25 British films. The most prominent are the five-reel adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd (1915) and My Old Dutch (1915). In 1916, Florence and Larry Trimble returned to the United States. In the three years she had been away, The American film industry had changed drastically, with many of the old producers fading away and the feature film replacing the short subject. There was really no room for Florence. Unfortunately, there were also changes in the British film industry. Production was hampered by a lack of funds and lack of public interest in British films. By 1924, the slump was such that all production ceased.
Small roles were all that were left for the pioneering actress, usually those of the mother, as in the Buster Keaton vehicle College (1927). By the 1930’s, Florence was playing extra and early in the next decade, she entered the Motion Picture Country House, where she died on August 28, 1946.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Carefree(1938). Musical starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Carefree, is the shortest of the Astaire-Rogers films, featuring only four musical numbers. Carefree, is often remembered as the film in which Astaire and Rogers shared a long on-screen kiss at the conclusion of their dance to "I Used to Be Color Blind". The eighth (of ten) dancing partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
After his fiancee, singer Amanda Cooper, has broken off their engagement for the third time, lawyer Stephen Arden shows up drunk at the office of psychiatrist Dr. Tony Flagg asks him to psychoanalyze Amanda. Tony agrees to see Amanda, but while she is waiting for him in his office, she overhears a phone recording in which he calls her as a dizzy, mindless female. Amanda, insulted leaves his office.
Later, Tony runs into Amanda, Stephen, Amanda's aunt Cora and Judge Joe Travers at the Medwick Country Club but is again snubbed by her.
During a bicycle chase through the park, Tony catches up and forces Amanda to tell him why she is so angry with him. After, apologizing, he tries to talk to her about her fear of marriage. Amanda, has no answer to his question...
That night at dinner, Tony orders her "dreaming" food. When Amanda still can't fall asleep, she decides to take a sedative, which Cora takes instead by mistake. Eventually, Amanda does fall asleep and dreams about Tony.
The next day, Amanda shows up in Tony's office with Stephen and announces that their engagement is back on again. Amanda, then tries to tell Tony about her Little Red Riding Hood dream with a twist. Convinced that Amanda is a once-in-a-lifetime patient, prepares an injection of truth serum.
After Amanda is injected, Stephen bursts in and informs her that she is late for a radio singing engagement. At the studio, the drugged Amanda insults the sponsor of the show on the air. When she then hits a policeman, she is arrested and brought before Judge Travers, who blames Tony for her actions.
Later, Amanda admits to Cora that she loves Tony, but when she tries to break the news to Stephen, he assumes that he is that she is in love with and immediately announces his engagement to a crowded restaurant. Amanda then tells Tony her true feelings. Through hypnosis, he convinces Amanda that she loves Stephen.
Now desperate to be with Stephen, Amanda goes to the country club where he and Judge Travers are skeet shooting. Seeing the judge, Amanda grabs a skeet rifle and starts shooting blindly at him, while shouting to Stephen that she loves him. When Tony finally confesses to Stephen that Amanda is in love with him, Stephen accuses his friend of trying to steal his fiancee.
The night before Stephen and Amanda's wedding, Tony wants Connors to re-hypnotize Amanda, but his attempt fails. At the wedding, Tony knocks out Stephen and then knocks out Amanda... who will end up walking down the aisle with Amanda.
This charming and glamorous musical is a fun way to spend a hot summer afternoon. You may also enjoy watching Ginger sing the 'Yam "song.