Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
1930s: Irene and Theodora
A pre-Christmas week of looking back at some of those great '30s stars and their iconic roles ....
THEODORA GOES WILD - why isn't this 1936 comedy better known or discussed today? How come I had never heard of it until recently - I had never even seen Irene Dunne until last year! Which goes to show how some star's reputations get unfairly sidelined over the years. When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s it was Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck who, like Bogart, got all the attention with movie revivals and we re-discovered Garbo and Dietrich, West and Harlow, Colbert and Lombard - but though we knew of Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, Norma Shearer, Katharine Hepburn's earlier roles or Margaret Sullavan their best work, in that pre-video age, was not really on show. So, let's rectify that...
But back to THEODORA: The blurb states: "The small-town prudes of Lynnfield are up in arms over 'The Sinner,' a sexy best-seller. They little suspect that author 'Caroline Adams' is really Theodora Lynn, scion of the town's leading family. Michael Grant, devil-may-care book jacket illustrator, penetrates Theodora's incognito and sets out to 'free her' from Lynnfield against her will. But Michael has a secret too, and gets a taste of his own medicine". It captures '30s small town life and bigotry nicely and builds to a stunning, hilarious, code-breaking climax.
Dunne plays Theodora, who lives a sterile life with her two aunts in a small, puritan, judgmental town. Douglas (like Boyer in his two with Dunne) is a perfect foil as he shows up in her home town as a down on his luck man seeking work and she's more or less blackmailed into giving him a job as the family gardener. He of course was also perfect opposite Garbo in NINOTCHKA and TWO FACED WOMAN. THEODORA is expertly directed by Richard Boleslawski.
Irene Dunne [1898-1990] now seems such an under-rated actress but of course was a huge star then, starring in great hits like the first versions of those classic weepies BACK STREET, LOVE AFFAIR (AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER), MAGNIFICIENT OBSESSION and that first KING AND I: ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM. She also stars in the delightful Astaire and Rogers ROBERTA and also that first version of SHOWBOAT as Magnolia. Then of course there are her movies with Cary Grant!
I grew up loving BRINGING UP BABY and HOLIDAY but for some strange reason never saw THE AWFUL TRUTH until last year when it of course bowled me over. It is pure champagne watching Cary and Irene fizz and spark off each other in this delightful classic. Their 1940 MY FAVOURITE WIFE (with Randolph Scott) is slightly less sparkling - and I still have to see their PENNY SERENADE! Irene was by all accounts a very popular, well-liked lady, one of Hollywood's leading Catholics (along with Loretta Young and Roz Russell) - she is perfect too in in one of her later roles in I REMEMBER MAMA in 1948, and she finished with the big screen with THE MUDLARK in 1950 playing Queen Victoria opposie Alec Guinness's Disraeli. She also did some later television roles. Here she is (below) (singing "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes") in ROBERTA and I REMEMBER MAMA. Irene Dunne now comes across as a delightful lady it is always a pleasure to see, and I must seek out her other movies. Next: Loretta Young