June 30 on TCM: Directed by Preston Sturges

Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in “The Lady Eve”

R.D. Finch of The Movie Projector is hosting a wonderful blogathon in honor of American auteur William Wyler and I have been so busy finishing up my piece on The Letter (1940) that I’ve paid little attention to anything else. Meanwhile, Turner Classic Movies is about to pay tribute to one of Wyler’s great friends, writer/director Preston Sturges.

Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake in “Sullivan’s Travels”

Wyler and Sturges had collaborated on The Good Fairy (1935). Wyler directed the film for which Sturges had written a script with the starring role tailored for actress Margaret Sullavan. Wyler and Sullavan clashed on the set constantly – and then eloped just a month before the film wrapped. The Wyler/Sullvan marriage didn’t last, but the Wyler/Sturges friendship did.

Wyler had very fond memories of Preston Sturges: “He was a genius. He was also a tremendous egomaniac. I mean this in the most friendly sense because I loved Preston. We always spoke French together, funny enough. He wrote everything, directed everything, played everything out for actors. He later had a table at luncheon at Paramount where he held forth. As long as you didn’t open your mouth but let him do the talking, everything was fine. He was a marvelous friend and a great companion.”*

In 1959, after completing principal photography on Ben-Hurin Rome, Wyler and his wife Talli attended the opening of his most recent film, The Big Country, in London and passed through New York on their way to California. It was while in New York they learned of the death of Preston Sturges at the Algonquin Hotel. Wyler had last seen his friend in 1956 in Paris where Sturges was living at the time.

In his late years, when his career as a filmmaker was essentially over, Preston Sturges was involved in a variety of projects. In 1958 he took a supporting role as a French playwright in a Bob Hope vehicle, Paris Holiday. Here is a clip of  Preston Sturges, the actor…scroll down for the schedule of films to be featured during TCM’s tribute, Directed by Preston Sturges.

TCM presents Directed by Preston Sturges beginning at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific on June 30:

89m/5pm Sullivan’s Travels (1941) starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake

9:45pm/6:45pm Christmas in July (1940) starring Dick Powell and Ellen Drew

11pm/8pm The Great McGinty (1940) starring Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff

12:30am/9:30pm The Lady Eve (1941) starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda

2:15am/11:15pm Hail the Conquering Hero starring Eddie Bracken and Ella Raines

4am/1am The Palm Beach Story (1942) starring Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea

Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, Preston Sturges, Claudette Colbert and Rudy Vallee during the making of “The Palm Beach Story”

*from William Wyler – The Authorized Biography by Axel Madsen, Thomas Y. Crowell Co. (1973)

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What Sally Draper Saw…

During Season 4, young Sally Draper blossomed as one of Mad Men‘s most interesting characters. Continuing to act out in reaction to her parent’s divorce and her mother’s remarriage, Sally appeared one afternoon at her father’s office under the care of a stranger who encountered her heading for Manhattan – on her own. When the time came to return home, Sally threw a tantrum in the offices of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. By the time she finally left, she was very angry at her father.  But she didn’t stay mad for long.  A few days later Don called the house with a peace offering – tickets to the upcoming Beatles concert at Shea Stadium…Sally was…happy…(click on arrow, then ‘Watch on YouTube’)

And this is what she saw…

Click here to go to “Sunday Night is Mad Men Night” at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

Click here for The Lady Eve’s tribute to the Beatles on John Lennon’s 70th birthday

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VERTIGO, The Alternative Ending

When Vertigo was released in Europe in 1958, it contained an ending with an additional scene inserted.  According to most accounts, Hitchcock provided this extended ending in order to satisfy a foreign censorship committee that apparently would not accept onscreen murderers getting away with their crimes. In this ending, the final scene takes place in Midge’s apartment where she listens to a radio report about Gavin Elster’s impending capture in Europe.

A month long-tribute to Vertigo continues at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

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Obsessed with Vertigo

In 1997 American Movie Classics produced the original documentary, Obsessed with Vertigo, a fascinating look at the history of the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece and its dazzling 1996 restoration.

Two of the films stars, Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes, appear on-screen to talk about their experiences working with Hitchcock on Vertigo. Many of the film’s creative/technical team who were still (thankfully) with us in 1997 but are no longer, provide commentary: screenwriter Samuel Taylor, art director/production designer Henry Bumstead, long-time Hitchcock producer Herbert Coleman  and script supervisor Peggy Robertson.  Also featured are Vertigo‘s production manager C.O. “Doc” Erickson, Hitchcock’s daughter Pat, and filmmaker (and driving force behind the Film Foundation) Martin Scorsese. The two men responsible for Vertigo‘s restoration, James Katz and Robert Harris, are also prominently featured. Roddy McDowall narrates.

Click to watch:

A tribute to Vertigo is in progress now at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

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Essential Reading for Hitchcock Fans

Steven DeRosa, author of Writing with Hitchcock, offers an in-depth look into the partnership between Alfred Hitchcock and his most frequent screenwriting collaborator, John Michael Hayes, recommends what he considers the essential references on Hitchcock.

A month-long tribute to Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo is still on at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

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James Stewart on Working with Hitchcock, 1984

In this video clip from 1984 –  by way of VintageEuro TV from the Fench cult program “Cinema Cinemas” – actor James Stewart talks about first meeting and later working with Alfred Hitchcock. The interview is in English and begins at :46 and runs to 5:30. Fascinating!

A month-long tribute to Vertigo is in progress now at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

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Barbara Bel Geddes

Barbara Bel Geddes on the cover of "Life" - 1948

Actress Barbara Bel Geddes was born in New York City in October 1922. Her father was well-known stage designer Norman Bel Geddes. She first appeared on stage at age 10 in her father’s production of Dead End and later became a member of Elia Kazan’s Actors Studio. She made her name on Broadway, winning a 1946 Theatre World Award (Marlon Brando also won that year), before her film career began. She was later nominated for two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Play –  in 1956, as (the original) Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and in 1961 for Mary, Mary.

Barbara Bel Geddes arrived in Hollywood in 1947. She earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in her second film, the George Stevens classic I Remember Mama, starring Irene Dunne.

Lamb to the Slaughter/Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Along with theater and film, Bel Geddes was also busy working in ‘Golden Age TV’ live drama anthologies and turning in guest performances on weekly series TV. One of her best remembered appearances was an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode entitled, “Lamb to the Slaughter.” In it, she portrayed a woman who murders her husband, a police chief, with a frozen leg of lamb. Officers arrive at the scene of the crime and while they’re investigating she offers them dinner and serves up the murder weapon – leg of lamb fresh from the oven.

When the memorable primetime soap Dallas got underway in the late ’70s, Bel Geddes was the first cast member signed. She is probably still best-remembered for her portrayal of ‘Miss Ellie’ Ewing.  She appeared in the series from 1978 – 1990 (except for the 1984/85 season) and won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the Ewing family matriarch.

Vertigo screenwriter Samuel A. Taylor had Bel Geddes,  a friend whose work as an actress he admired, in mind when he contrived Midge, the only featured character who is stable,  grounded and has a sense of humor…

A month-long tribute to Vertigo is in progress now at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

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