Category Archives: Film Actors

Celebrating Claude Rains in New Hampshire

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About three weeks ago, my husband and I paid a visit to the Lake Winnipesaukee area.  I was  to be one of the reps at the Sisters In Crime booth at NELA in Burlington, Vt., so the day before we went north and visited the resting place of my favorite actor, Claude Rains.  It was a beautiful weekend!  The fall colors were in full flourish.  On the way up, we stopped in Concord for lunch then proceeded to the small, country cemetery that Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary made their final resting place.

You can see Red Hill in the background,  much more of a mountain that a hill than some of the “mountains” that Yang and I have hiked.  One of my knees was acting up from climbing one of those smaller mountains – that was still big enough to give me trouble – so we didn’t go up that day.  I highly recommend the hike, though.  It’s invigorating and beautiful.  Anyway, that gave me more time for contemplation.

The stones for Claude Rains and Rosemary are beautiful  shiny black Gothic arches.  The script on them is also reminiscent of Gothic.  I love the sentiment of faith and endurance on both.  On Claude’s is:  “All Things Once/Are Things Forever,/ Soul Once Living/Lives forever.”   Rosemary’s says:  “When I Am Gone My Dearest,/ Sing No Sad Songs For Me,” a variation on a poem of Christina Rossetti (one of my favorite poets). I wonder whether they picked their epitaphs or if a loving family member selected them.

It’s nice to see that we aren’t the only admirers of Mr. Rains.  Yang and I left the pumpkins in honor of the autumn season of  harvest.  Someone else had also expressed his/her regard by carefully placing beautiful sunflower stalks,  before the stones.  In the center, you can also see some artificial flowers that have been set there in respect quite some time ago – we’ve seen them there over the years.  Perhaps someone else in our group payed respectful visits?

 

This cemetery is  beautiful.   I’m glad Claude and Rosemary picked it.  I have to share some lovely shots we got of the gorgeous New Hampshire foliage show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I especially like the second one, because of the handsome guy in the shot: aka my husband who is always game for adventures in the wilds of the Northeast!

 

Finally, here are shots of the majestic farmhouse that Mr. Rains called his last home. I wonder what the inside is like? Isn’t the tree next to the house gorgeous?! We took three shots, but one came out too fuzzy.  Not supernatural interference, just our not being able to get the best lighting since we wanted to be unobtrusive.  Let no one calls those who honor Claude Rains stalkers!  I think this one might be the best shot, the crispest, anyway.  Below are some interesting links that tell you more about the cemetery and the farm house.  Just remember:  respect the privacy of others.  But I don’t have to tell that to anyone in our illustrious group!

 

So long for now and happy belated Claude Rains’s birthday to all!

Claude Rains’s Grave Atlas Obscura

O.T.I.S. – a nice description of the graveyard and the house

 

 

Holiday Noir

So, Christmas noir?  The opening of a lively chorus caroling and holiday cheering over Christmas cards displaying the credits evokes holiday spirit, except litl_c-0-1080-0-0there’s always just the slightest manic edge to their liveliness creating a noir frisson.  Then the chorus ends in a startled drop as the last card slips away to reveal a gun.  Click here for a Silver/Ursini commentary on the opening.

You have holiday parties, mistletoe, presents that give away true intentions, mixed with a disappearing adulterous wife, her charmingly sleazy actor boyfriend, her sophisticated and two-faced husband, a high-class gold digger of an assistant publisher, a brutal and p1969_p_v8_aaprobably crooked cop, and a high strung mystery woman.  Leon Ames is at his most smarmy-charming as the husband, Audrey Totter is tart as a Granny Smith as the assistant, Lloyd Nolan is at his menacing and slightly psychotic best as the cop, and Jane Meadows is positively manic.  I needed a sedative after five minutes of her.  Bob Montgomery’s Philip Marlowe wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t my favorite.  He was smart and wary, but he was also a little too full of himself – especially when putting down Audrey Totter’s publishing executive.  Lloyd Nolan wasn’t the only one who wanted to slap him around.  And speaking of Lloyd, the character he plays here went a long way to inspiring one of the characters in the sequel to Bait and Switch, which I’m polishing up to send to my publisher:  Letter from a Dead Man.

I just love the great Chandler names:  Muriel Chess, Adrienne Fromsett, Derace Kingsby, Mildred Havilland, Chris Lavery, and Det. Degarmot – they just roll off your lady-in-the-lake-movie-titletongue.  But they’re real names, too, with the quirkiness you find on class rosters or employment lists.  Spolier Alert for people who speak French:  The actress playing Crystal Kingsby is listed as Elay Mort (Elle est morte.)

The plot’s a convoluted, dashing sleigh ride but it’s worth the trip.  Have fun!

Here’s a link to a trailer for the film.

If I have time, I’ll try to review some other Christmas or Holiday noir, like Coverup, Lady on a Train, Repeat Performance, or The Thin Man Goes Home.  Otherwise, there’s always next Christmas – with any luck!

collection of Lady in the Lake title cards: http://annyas.com/screenshots/updates/lady-in-the-lake-1947-title-sequence/

poster:  https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/movieposters/1969/p1969_p_v8_aa.jpg&imgrefurl=http://google.com/search%3Ftbm%3Disch%26q%3DLady%2520in%2520the%2520Lake&h=1440&w=960&tbnid=QS6aVEtEp-I23M:&vet=1&tbnh=186&tbnw=124&docid=E4FjWx9Gi_vlZM&itg=1&usg=__KVBoURWNv4fAKtZKjVPaG8cgtzY=&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwja3L3RgInRAhVojlQKHXOOBc8Q_B0IcjAK&ei=imhcWNrvLuic0gLznJb4DA

Plymouth, NH Trip – May

When we went to Plainfield for me to participate in the Sisters in Crime panel on creating mysteries, we stayed over night in Plymouth, NH at one of our favorite places, the Red Carpet Inn.  For years Yang and I, myself alone, or myself and a pal had stayed there for the Medieval and Renaissance PlymouthForum when it was at Plymouth State University.  It’s always been pleasant.  Look at the beautiful view we had from our window!

 

The next day, we drove over to the Red Hill Cemetery where Claude Rains is buried with his wife Rosemary. Plymouthmay3 He has a beautiful epitaph:   “All things once are things forever, Soul, once living, lives forever.”  His wife’s is a variation on lines from Christina Rosetti’s “When I Am Dead” Sonnet –  one of my favorite poems.  We always try to pay a visit.  Just a simple way of saying, “Thanks for the great celluloid memories.” DSCN2816 It’s a special treat to know that my favorite actor is resting near me.  It almost feels like we’re neighbors.  Don’t they have a beautiful view? That’s Red Hill in the background, which Yang and I try to climb in good weather –– we’re tired afterward, but it’s worth it.DSCN2813

 

 

 

 

 

When we stopped in Center Harbor, I found a neat independent book store, Bayswater Book Co.  (12 Main St.).  Of course, I scoped out the lovely little shop –– and ultimately managed to make arrangements to give a reading Dustyaand signing on Saturday, July 9th, from 1:00-3:00.  Drop by and meet me.  Bait and Switch‘s Dusty will be be on the lookout for you!

 

I always wonder if this pun carries exactly the right connotations to bring in customers.  It must work, ’cause it’s been there for like 20 years!Plymouthmay1

 

Once we got home, we were happy to see that, on occasion, sleepingcats2Rosalind and Natasha can rest peacefully together.  The Moe will lie down with the Curly.

Yang Speaks!

So, to keep you entertained while you breathlessly await the forthcoming blogs on my appearance at The Book Lover’s Gourmet and my adventures at the Shakespeare of America Convention in New Orleans, here’s a link to an audio interview with me by Pat Driscoll for The New Worcester Spy.  It contains more details on my interests in film noir and horror, on film and on the page, and even a little more on my background. Just click here.  It’s what Dusty would want! Dusty reduced1

 

 

Smart Talking Gals Part 3 Lynn Bari

Blog 15  Smart Talking Gals Part 3

Lynn Bari:

Home Sweet Homicide, Nocturne, Tampico, Sleepers West, The Amazing Mr. X

Lynn Bari, of the apple cheeks, sweet but knowing smile, dark hair, and warm, throaty voice is one of my favorite smart-talking gals. Like some of the other females in this hall of cinematic fame, she could play a fourteen-karat stinker. Think of Sun Valley Serenade and Margie. Still, when she was on the side of the angels, with a little pitch fork to keep things hopping, she could be a great one to have in your corner. HomeSweetHomicideIn Home Sweet Homicide, Bari plays an attractive widow with a brood of kids whom she supports through writing murder mysteries. A real murder on her block, and the kids plot to solve it to get their mother publicity for her books and to match her up with police detective Randolph Scott. Lynn gets off some nifty quips while taking guff from no one, not even Randolph Scott (cue the celestial choir in Blazing Saddles). When he tries to imply she’s an inadequate mother who has raised a passel of overly imaginative, disingenuous children, she sets him straight without being the least flapped. First she smoothly calls him on his right to pass judgment with the smiling query, “How many children have you raised?” then puts a nifty finish on his criticism with this amused inquiry to his response, “Do you know anything about children, except what you read in books?” When he tries to offer evidence that her children aren’t telling the truth by recounting the unlikely stories they’ve given him about being born in Peru, China, and other foreign points, she affably reveals his need not to be bound by limited expectations with the information that she had traveled the world with newspaper man husband. She finishes with a show of her strength, adventurousness, and open mindedness by turning back his pity for her difficult life with the warmth in her eyes and words as she tells him, “It was heaven, and I wouldn’t have traded it for all the tea in China.”

TampicoIn Tampico, Bari plays a survivor of a U-boat attack whom merchant marine captain Edward G. Robinson fishes out of the South Atlantic. (Tampico)After some nifty verbal exchanges, the two fall in love and marry. All is not peaches and cream after that, as Robinson is led to suspect Lynn of being a Nazi fiver. Is she? Would those big brown eyes and apple cheeks serve de Fuhrer? Watch the movie and find out.

Lynn5The best of her smart-talking roles, though, is as aspiring actress Frances Ransome, opposite police detective George Raft in Nocturne. Tough guy Raft is on his mettle to match her self-confidence and smooth, mordant wit. This gal is unflappable. When Raft demands of her, “Why did you kill him?” she shoots back nonchalantly, with a hint of a smile “Which one?” A pushy date tries to top off, “Gee, Baby, it’s been a swell evening,” my forcing a kiss and she Lynn2 deftly checks him with, “Why not let it stay that way?” followed by a gentle shove and a sarcastically sweet, “Good night.” Raft tips his hat to her prowess with a dryly admiring, “As good a block as I’ve ever seen. Ever thought of playing for the Green Bay Packers?” Bari’s Frances keeps Raft’s Detective Warne firmly in place, at one point telling him, “I have a late date. And even if I hadn’t I still wouldn’t go out [with you]. Is that clear enough for you?” Later, on the set of a movie in which she’s an extra, he tries to pull off a threatening bluff to force her to come clean about the murder. With perfect control, she cuts him dead with, “Why don’t you hop on your scooter, sonny boy, and blow. I’ve got to emote.” And she doesn’t care what people think about her as long as she knows the truth. Raft tries to take her down a peg by inferring from her fancy digs and couture that he sees her as a kept woman. Instead of angrily or affrontedly protesting the truth that she’s borrowing both from a pal (hinted to be Ginger Rogers), she plays along with his misjudgment for her own amusement, responding with mock innocence, Lynn9“Can I help it if people like to give me things?”  Needless to say, Warne thinks she’s swell, doesn’t believe she’s the real killer, and takes the needling in stride, even fun, enjoying the challenge rather than looking for a crushing conquest. And those outfits! Especially the sequined cocktail dress – which leads to another great quip. Her sister comments on liking the outfit, and Frances indirectly twits Detective Warne with, “This isn’t bad considering I ran it up on a sewing machine salesman! Lynn6 Still the Detective gets a kick out of, admires, her smart sauciness, her self-confidence, and the good heart he can see keeping both company. He also has a healthy respect for how she fills out a bathing suite, as well. Lynn1 Appearances in Sleepers West and The Amazing Mr. X deserve honorable mention in the smart-talking gal category.

I’d love to think up a plot for a mystery where she could be inspiration for my heroine.  I’ll have to get cracking.  Maybe at some point she could help out Jessica and Liz in one of my sequels to Bait and Switch?  Suggestions from any Lynn Bari fans?

Last updated 8/31/15

 

Smart-Talking Gals Two: Lucille Ball

Blog 12: Smart Talking Gals Two

 

Publicdomain LucyLucille Ball

Before Lucy became the daffy redhead of I Love Lucy fame in the ’50s, she was a sharp as a fox smart-talking gal in the late ’30s and ’40s. She had more than a few roles as a no-nonsense, sharp-witted, tart-tongued redhead, but the three that stand out the most for me came in the late 1940s: Easy Living (1949), Two Smart People (1946), and The Dark Corner (1946).

In Easy Living, Lucy’s Anne Lenehan is secretary to a football team owner/manager, played by Lloyd Nolan –– and she has it bad for good-guy-with-problems and star player, Victor Mature. But this gal in no moony pushover. She talks tough and keeps her guard up, deftly deflating Mature’s celebrity by dryly calling him “Miraculous” and warning him when a team mate gets cut, “You ride the gray train, too. Don’t wait until they shove you off.”

Why is she so acerbic? Another player comments sympathetically to Mature, “She was married to a heel” –– whom we later find out ran around on her and was so bad that even his pop, Lloyd Nolan, condemns him as, “No good.”

There’s a neat little scene in Mature’s train compartment that shows Ball at her fast-talking best, just letting her integrity shine through tiny cracks in her cynicism. Mature asks what she’s doing in there, and she quips, “Just for a change of pace, I want to be with someone who doesn’t like me.” When Mature turns that into a crack about her having dated most everyone else on the team, she sets him straight with a little anecdote about her being the subject of a story on “The New York Girl,” that ends with telling her date she had “a lovely evening” and “kissing him good night.” Then she lets him know how she feels, but that she’s no pushover, by kissing him before saying, she’s had a lovely evening and then leaving.

So, what’s really keeping then apart? His wife, whom he loves –– the dope! This time out, it’s the wife who’s greedy, superficial, and a two-timer, EasyLivingselling herself to a wealthy older man to get a boost for her decorating business. Now it’s the other woman who’s the loyal, sharp, wise one –– and Vic’s too much of melon-head to catch on. He almost does, but then decides to literally “slap some sense” into his wife –– leaving us relieved that Lucy’s Anne dodged that bullet, even if not everyone in 1949 figured that one out. You never know, though.

In Two Smart People, Ball plays Ricki Woodner, master con artist, who matches wits right off the bat with another primo scammer, Ace Connor (John Hodiak). Right at the picture’s start, they have a clever little exchange about ortolans (look it up or watch the movie!) and plums, before they each Lucy15proceed to masterfully undo the other’s plot to take the same pigeon. Ricki follows Ace onto a train he’s taking for a roundabout gourmet lover’s trip back to New York where he’s cut a deal to take the rap for some bonds he stole, without actually having to return the $500,000 they’re worth. Ball’s character starts off with a plan to get even with Connor for scotching her swindle, but the two end up falling in love, without either getting too soft. When Ace cracks that she’s going soft, Ricki knowingly comments, “Pretty sure you can walk away from this? You might change, too.”Lucy17a In the end, Ricki outfoxes Elisha Cooke’s crooked hood, who’s been on their trail and tried to get her to help him cheat Connor. Lloyd Nolan (again!) is along for the ride, literally, as the detective bringing in Connor, but joining him in making the trip back one last fling before the con artist has to take on five years in the pokey, all while trying to dope out where Ace has hidden the bonds. Both guys have way too much class to even think of taking a poke at Ricki –– and if you see her in action, you’ll figure they made a smart choice.

The last movie, The Dark Corner, is probably one of the best parts for Lucille Ball –– and she gets top billing! Once again, Ball is an all-knowing secretary, deftly demonstrating her wit, loyalty, and authority by parrying the intrusive questioning about her P.I. boss from a police detective with, “I don’t know anything you couldn’t find out by asking Mr. Galt.” Lucy2When the detective pushes his luck, she shuts him down with, “I sharpen pencils, do the typing, answer the phones, and mind my own business.”

 

 

Her earlier comment to the policeman about her boss, “I like him,” tips her hand that she might be sweet on him. Lucy However, when she tells Galt to put his detecting skills to work and find her a pair of nylons, her flirting is sharp and sexy; she’s nobody’s pushover and he’s got to impress her. Galt takes her out to dinner and then the arcade, and after a successful run in the batting cage, she quips, “What else can I beat you at?” when he tries to put the moves on her, she cracks, “I know when you’re pitching a curve at me.” Galt humorously defends himself with saying that you can’t blame a guy for trying “to score,” and she cracks back, honesty and authority wrapped in wit, “‘I don’t play for a score; I play for keeps,’ said she with a smile.” Lucy4aKathleen gives him an equally clever check at the end of another date, when she stops him at the door and he “innocently” asks if he can’t even come up “for a drink of water.” Without skipping a beat, she smiles dryly, “Pitching low and outside.” She’s not turning him down out of virginal innocence or prudery; she knows she’s worth more than just a toss in the hay. No one’s going to take advantage of her. Galt’s grin and goodbye show he enjoys and respects her street smarts, humor, and independence.

And Kathleen shows herself a valuable ally in practical ways. She doesn’t lose her nerve following Lucy7a thug type (William Bendix!), cleaning up a crime scene for a murder’s frame job of Galt, tracking down clues, stalling the cops, and figuring out the real genius behind the murders. Lucy8aSo, when Kathleen tells Galt, “C’mon, open up the steel safe. I want to know. I want to help,” he knows she’s going to see him through his troubles with the cops, a former crooked partner who’d sent him inside on a bum rap, and a murder frame. He knows that she has the insight, the smarts, and the guts to be as good as her word. He’s got a primo smart-talking gal in his corner.

Lucy13a

Images from The Dark Corner and Easy Living @1949 and 1946, respectively, RKO Picture; images from Two Smart People @ 1946  MGM.  Color image of Lucille Ball from Google Public Domain Images of Lucille Ball.

Smart Talking Gals, Part One

Blog #7 Smart-Talking Gals27-claire_trevor

One of my friends was asking me about my inspiration for Jessica Minton and Elizabeth Hennessey in my novel Bait and Switch, and I explained that I love creating characters in the vein of those smart-talking gals from films of the 1940s (sometimes ‘50s and 30s, too)––especially film noir. Lots of ink has been devoted to the femme fatale/innocent girl split-personae of women in noir, but not enough has been devoted to the women whom writers and actresses created who could not be easily relegated to either the “whore” or the “Madonna” category. Sheri Chinen Biesen moves us in that direction, though, with her article “Manufacturing Heroines: Gothic Victims and Working Women in Classic Noir Fiction,” where she discusses “multi-faceted, working career women” as part of the film noir cast of characters. I can see definite overlapping between her working girls and my smart-talking gals. What I’d like to do is focus on several actresses who made careers out of playing the smart talking gal––and you can feel free to suggest and write about such actresses, yourself, in this page’s comments.

JoanCFirst, though, what is a smart-talking gal? She’s too sharp witted, independent, and experienced to be the virginal, innocent. Still, she has too much wit and class to be anyone’s moll. Further, she’s definitely not a femme fatale. She doesn’t so much use wiles as wit; and her strength, smarts, and experience serve to get at the truth, solve conflicts, and protect herself and those she just might let herself care about––if they prove they’re worth it. She has a heart, but hard knocks have taught her to armor it. She may be sexually RainesBexperienced, she may not be; she’s definitely not an innocent. This type redefines what it means to be a “good girl.” Some actresses who best personify the smart-talking gal include Joan Bennett, Claire Trevor, Ella Raines, Ida Lupino, Veronica Lake, Lucille Ball, Lauren Bacall, Rosalind Russell, and Lizabeth Scott. How about we look at a few of them at a time?

Joan Bennett: Joan has to be my favorite, and in many ways, she inspired the wit and JoanAindependence of Jessica Minton in Bait and Switch. Now, Joan could play the evil femme fatale with the best of them. Think of Kitty March in Scarlet Street. Still, even some of her “hydrochloric dames” (as a NY Times critic put it) revealed genuine humanity behind caustic smart talk and ostensible manipulativeness. In The Woman in the Window, The Macomber Affair, and The Woman on the Beach, her characters act in defense against the bullying of men, and their seeming femme fatale status is a projection of a man’s fears and darker nature. However, in other films she’s a lot more fun––or at least clearly not the villainess. This is definitely more like Bait and Switch’s Jessica. In House Across the Bay, Joan’s a show girl not about to let anyone reduce her to a kept woman “dressed up in furs” who “takes a Pekinese for a walk around the block.” She’s also no pushover for a tough broad, either. When a jealous dame calls her, “Cheap, cheap, cheap,” she laughs back, “Where’s the bird seed?” And when that same dame pushes her luck further, Joan’s Brenda Bentley nails her with the rejoinder that she has a voice like “four panes of cracked glass.” The Man I Married finds Joan getting away JoanDwith kicking Nazis in the shins and telling a German-born husband who has let German imperialism go to his head, “Heil, Heel!” In Confirm or Deny, she forestalls Don Ameche’s passes with dry humor and upholds national security with determination as the London blitz rages on. While in The Secret Beyond the Door, when faced with almost the same problems as the second Mrs. deWinter, rather than turning to whimpering mush, she uses common sense, humor, honesty, self-confidence, and a healthy dose of Jungian analysis to set everyone, including herself, straight. The Scar shows Bennett at her most incisive and tart, deflating Paul Henreid’sJoanF attempt to charmingly snow her with, “First comes you, second comes you, third comes you . . . . and then comes you.” When he later calls her “a bitter little lady,” she shoots back a cool, “It’s a bitter little world.” And yet Joan’s Evelyn Hahn has the heart to trust him when he finally does try to be on the square with her, only to have that heart smashed when fate, not his duplicity, makes it seem he has deserted her. In my film noir class, all the students, upon seeing her shadowed expression of resignation at the end of the movie, call for a rewrite.

Claire Trevor: Here’s another actress who can also hand you a dangerous femme fatale, but with NO redeeming traits. Her sexy villainesses in Johnny Angel; Murder, My Sweet; and Born to Kill all epitomize the characterization made by Anne Shirley’s character in Murder, My Sweet as “‘big league blondes.’ Beautiful, expensive babes who know what they’ve got . . . all ClaireTrevorBbubble bath, and dewy morning, and moonlight. And inside: blue steel, cold––cold like that . . . only not that clean.” Nevertheless, Claire could deftly play the smart-talking gal with wit and warmth, as evidenced by her art critic in Crack-Up, Brian Donlevy’s seen-it-all secretary in The Lucky Stiff, the girlfriend who helps Dennis O’Keefe escape prison in Raw Deal (and gets one, herself when he dumps her for Marsha Hunt), and her government agent in Borderline. She’s particularly fun to watch in Crack-Up and Borderline. In the first, she helps a former “Monuments Man,” played by Pat O’Brien, evade the police when he’s framed for art theft and murder, while juggling Herbert Marshall’s British Intelligence agent and the police. Driving up and rescuing O’Brian’s fugitive art expert from being picked up by the police, she responds to his suspicion and lack of gratitude by pulling the car over and TrevorAremarking with a neat blend of sharpness and warmth: “You can wait here. They’re going to put in a streetcar soon. Unless . . . unless you have some dim idea of what you’re doing and want me to help you.” Borderline finds Trevor as an undercover police woman trying to crack a narcotics ring by pretending to be part of a couple whom a drug trafficker will use to smuggle drugs. What she doesn’t realize is that her “husband” is also an undercover agent with a different agency, who is just as ignorant about her. The two have some wonderful exchanges, and their attempting to get each other to “cooperate” and go straight with each other’s agencies at the border is worth a chuckle or two.

Ella Raines: Ella Raines of the pert page-boy bob; the mischievous, knowing half-smile; and the clear green eyes that hint of something devilish up her sleeve is always a joy to watch. In RainesAThe Phantom Lady, she’s Kansas, the faithful secretary who’ll move heaven and earth to clear the boss she unrequitedly loves of a murder frame-up. She’s tough enough to stalk a bartender to break his lying testimony (only to overplay her hand when she frightens him into running in front of bus rather than into telling the truth). She’s intrepid enough to doll herself up like a tart to try and pump a hyped up (or is it hopped up?) drummer for exculpatory info. Yet she’s compassionate enough to tread gently when she finally finds the fragile woman who holds her boss’s (and beloved’s) alibi in her broken mind. The Runaround finds Raines outsmarting two P.I.s hunting her down to bring her back to a father who doesn’t want his daughter marrying the man he believes a bounder, all with a knowing twinkle in her eyes. In The Web, she playsRainesC Noel Faraday, efficient and almost all-knowing secretary to shady Vincent Price––she doesn’t realize quite how shady Vincent is. All this while, initially parrying the come-ons of a brash lawyer played by Edmond O’Brien, replying to his claim that when he has “forty million” he’ll have a secretary that looks like her with: “Oh, my tastes are fairly simple. Twenty million would be quite enough.” Also check her out The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry, Impact, and White Tie and Tails.  A neat web site on Raines can be found at: http://ellarainesfilms.blogspot.com/2013/01/ella-raines-in-web.html

Quotations from Claire Trevor’s movies can be found at “Claire Trevor,” on the IMDB, under quotations for the film.  Quotation from Ella Raines’s film can be found at “Ella Raines,” on the IMDB, under quotations for the film. Quotations from the Joan Bennett films can be found in the films noted. I remember them. What can I say; I’m a movie geek––but I don’t live in my parents’ basement.  So there!  Photos of Joan Bennett from the author’s collection (mostly bought from Jay Perino’s The Mint); photos of Claire Trevor from unknown sources; and photos of Ella Raines from the ellarainesfilms.blogspot (second image) and unknown sources.

The Marvelous Mr. Rains

claudeWhom do I see as the finest actor of the twentieth century? Claude Rains. Who else? Some of the younger folk, or just people who aren’t movie connoisseurs, will probably say, “Who?!” Well, if you’ve seen Casablanca, you’ll recognize Mr. Rains as the smoothly sardonic Captain Renault. You know, the fellow at the center of the following oft paraphrased exchange:

Renault: “I’m shocked, shocked to discover gambling going on here.”

Breathless employee: “You’re winnings, sir.”

Renault, “Thank you.”

And back to blowing the whistle on his raid, without missing a beat.

Rains could play it all, and all with that gravel-wrapped-in-velvet voice, thanks to being gassed in WWI trenches (an attack that “bestowed” similar satisfying tones on Ronald Colman). He could be magnificently dastardly as the villain of swashbucklers when going up against Errol Flynn in The Prince and the Pauper and The Sea Hawk. On the other hand, Rains could also play it quietly calculating, icily superior as a disguised Nazi in Sealed Cargo, an amorally inventive mystery radio host in The Unsuspected, or a hard-dealing man of [shady] business in Rope of Sand or Lisbon. And no one could go grandiosely maniacal like Mr. Rains does in The Invisible Man and Crime without Passion. cr67smYet he could easily, and convincingly, switch gears to give us the tender and eccentric fathers of the Four Daughters films or White Banners. Still, this playing is layered. In Mr. Sceffington, he projected such quiet ferocity within his refusal to lose his daughter to his divorcing wife, that Bette Davis, playing the object of that hostility, reports he genuinely frightened her! Then again, in this movie and in The Passionate Friends, he gave his powerful captains of industry humanity by revealing a capacity for deep passion, tenderness, and forgiveness. Finally, he could play a wise man who could out-Yoda Yoda, with more wit and a far better grasp of syntax. Dr. Jacquith deftly guides Charlotte Vale to emotional stability and maturity in Now, Voyager through humor, penetrating insight, and shrewd devil’s advocacy. We see him providing similar help in This Love of Ours and Moonstone, although the latter in a rather scruffy guise. Unfortunately, even Claude’s reasonable, thoughtful Sir John Talbot could not save his son Larry from going all werewolf about Universal Studio’s version of ye olde English village in The Wolf Man.

 Though some of Rains’s very early roles have a tendency to an over-the-top quality typical of early sound films, the main quality that you do see in his playing is honesty, genuineness. He plays with the type of sincerity that you expect from a Spencer Tracy, a Vic Morrow, or a Vincent D’Ofrio. There are two good biographies of Rains. The one by David J. Skal and Jessica Rains (the actor’s daughter and an actress, herself) is Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice. The other is by John T. Soister and JoAnna Wioskowski, Claude Rains: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference to His Work in Film, Stage, Radio, Television and Recordings. 6cd7_1

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