Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday: Ray Milland!

Ray Milland (3 January 1905 – 10 March). One of Ray Milland's first film performances was, I Wanted Wings(1941). Directed by Mitchell Leisen. Cast: Ray Milland and William Holden. It also stars Wayne Morris, Brian Donlevy, Constance Moore and Veronica Lake.

Production began in the summer of 1940 at Randolph Field near San Antonio, Texas. The United States Army Air Corps provided 1160 airplanes, 1050 cadets, 450 officers and instructors and 2543 enlisted men for the film.

The movie is also famous for being Veronica Lake's first major film role. The Story is about the training and personal lives of three recruits in the Army Air Corps: a wealthy playboy, a college jock and an auto mechanic. Love interest is a female photographer and a blonde.

When working on, I Wanted Wings, he went up with a pilot to test a plane for filming. While up in the air, Ray decided to do a parachute jump (being an avid amateur parachutist) but, when the plane began to sputter, the pilot told Milland not to jump as they needed to land. Once on the ground, the costume man told Ray that the parachute was "just a prop".

Part 1 of 12 videos.

Next he went on to film, Reap the Wild Wind (1942), a group of stories written by Thelma Strabel in 1940 for The Saturday Evening Post. It was the basis for the 1942 film directed by Cecil B. DeMille, his second to be filmed in color. The film was a swashbuckling adventure, set in the 1840s along the Florida coast.

While he based his film on Strabel's story, DeMille took liberties with details such as sibling relationships and sub-plots, while staying true to the spirit of the story, which centers on a independent woman, played by Paulette Goddard.

During the filming of, Reap the Wild Wind (1942), Milland's character was to have curly hair, so the studio used hot curling irons on his hair. Milland felt that it caused him to go prematurely bald and ruining his career.

The pinnacle of Milland's career came when he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film, The Lost Weekend (1945).

Directed by Billy Wilder and starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. The film was based on a novel of the same title by Charles R. Jackson about a writer who drinks heavily out of having doubts about his identity.

The film's musical score was among the first to use the theremin, which was used to create the pathos of the disease of alcoholism. This movie also made famous the "character walking toward the camera as neon signs pass by camera effect.

In 1951, he gave a wonderful performance in the film, Close to My Heart, starring with Gene Tierney as a couple trying to adopt a child.

The Story is about Midge Sheridan and her husband Brad, who can not have children of their own. Brad's gift of a puppy gives them the idea to adopt a child. After they learn from Mrs. Morrow at the adoption agency about the two-year waiting list, they look for other ways to find a baby. Midge reads in the newspaper about a newborn left on a police station doorstep and she convinces her husband to find him. He finds the baby at the foster home of Mrs. Barker, then he and Midge pretend they are writing an article for the newspaper. Midge falls in love with baby Danny at first sight. Brad writes about Danny in his column, looking for Danny's parents.

Midge, is secretly visiting Mrs. Barker and helping with Danny's care. When Mrs. Morrow drops by the Sheridans' house for an inspection, Brad learns that Midge has decorated the nursery for Danny. Mrs. Morrow tells them that they must accept that the background of any adopted child is concealed. Though the adoption is not final, Danny is given to the Sheridans.

Later, Dunne, a taxi driver who has read his article, contacts Brad at the office. Dunne remembers driving a woman with a baby to a police station and takes Brad to her apartment. There Brad finds the woman, who says that the child's mother, a neighbor who she barely knew, died three days after giving birth to her son. The woman gives Brad the child's mother wedding ring, which is inscribed with "ML--ECH." Brad writes asking his readers for any information about Danny's mother. He eventually finds Martha's former boardinghouse in Bakersfield, California. Through his search Brad learns that Danny's mother, was a schoolteacher, who eloped with a man named Edward Hewitt. Mrs. Morrow, has learned about Brad's investigation and takes it as a sign that Brad is still uncomfortable with the adoption. Brad is just about to sign the adoption papers when his city editor, "Frosty", tells him that Edward has been identified as Evarts Heilner, a convict on death row at San Quentin. Meanwhile Mrs. Madison has also learned the father's identity, and comes to the Sheridan home to take back Danny. When she arrives, she finds only Midge at home, as Brad is visiting San Quentin. Brad meets with Edward, who is guilty of killing a policeman and a prison guard. Will they win back Danny?

This is a very charming movie. Gene Tierney's character is very sweet, Ray Milland is also very good in his part. Fay Bainter the adoption agency supervisor comes over as heartless.

In 1954, he starred opposite Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock's, Dial M for Murder.

The story begins when, Tony Wendice a professional tennis player, now retired lives in a London with his wealthy wife, Margot. Who is having an affair with crime-fiction writer, Mark Halliday. Needing money, Tony comes up with what he thinks is the perfect plan to have Margot murdered.

When Mark shows up at the apartment, Margot introduces her "old friend" to Tony. After sending them out to see a play, Tony makes an excuse to stay behind so he can meet with, Swann.

Tony has been following Swann, one of his old college friends, for quite sometime. He has learned that he has become a small time crook. He uses the information to blackmail him into committing the murder. Tony shows Swann a love letter from Mark to his wife. After tricking Swann into leaving his fingerprints on the letter, Tony offers to pay him £1,000 to kill Margot. If he refuses, Tony will turn him in to the police for trying to blackmail his wife.

After Swann agrees, Tony tells him his plan: First, He will take Mark for the evening, leaving Margot alone at home. Next, he tells him where he will hide her key. Then Swann, is to sneak into the apartment after Margot goes to bed and hide behind the curtains and wait for Tony to telephone. That will be the signal for the plan to go into motion. Swann is to kill her and leave signs of a failed burglary, then exit through the front door, again hiding the key under the staircase carpet. Will Swann complete their perfect plan for murder?

Dial M for Murder, is one of my favorite films. It is a wonderfully fast paced film. The ending, is very entertaining.

TCM is celebrating Ray Milands Birthday with the films featured below:

Life Of Her Own, A (1950) An innocent small-town girl climbs to the top of the modeling business man by man. Cast: Lana Turner, Ray Milland, Tom Ewell. Dir: George Cukor.

Safecracker, The (1958) . A reformed burglar calls on his criminal skills to aid the war effort. Cast: Ray Milland, Barry Jones, Jeanette Sterke. Dir: Ray Milland. BW-96 mins, TV-PG


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