WEIRDLAND: July 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Franchot Tone & Joan Crawford's sophistication

Joan Crawford surprised everyone in "Today We Live" (1933) by not making a play for Gary Cooper – whose other conquests had been as diverse as [Lupe Vélez] and Marlene Dietrich – but for the fourth lead, the more sensitive Franchot Tone.

In "Dancing Lady" Joan looks fabulous in costume and braided blonde wig. Of the male leads, however, it was Franchot Tone’s irascible playboy who stole the show, resulting in his being offered the second lead in Joan’s next film, "Sadie McKee."

As for Gable, he was ordered to take time off and fix his rotting teeth. Throughout the shooting of "Dancing Lady" he had been in agony, constantly swigging whisky to numb the pain, and many of the cast had complained that, even from a suitable distance, his halitosis had made them retch. Gable hit the roof upon learning that Franchot would be partnering Joan in the film.

Joan’s next film was No More Ladies (1935), of note only because it was directed by George Cukor, with a screenplay by Donald Ogden Stuart. ‘The sophistication of No More Ladies is the desperate pretence of the small girl who smears her mouth with lipstick and puts on sister’s evening gown when the family is away,’ the New York Herald Tribune remarked.

It told the tale of society favourite Marcia (Joan) and her involvement with two men: Jim (Franchot Tone), who shares her ideal that a person should only have one partner in their lifetime; and Sherry (Robert Montgomery), who has had more women than hot dinners. Joan had wanted Clark Gable for the Robert Montgomery part in the film, but he was busy with Mutiny on the Bounty – as was Franchot, whose part in "No More Ladies" had been trimmed to allow him more time on the more important production. -"Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr" (2008) by David Bret

David O. Selznick, had just arrived at Metro from a tenure at RKO, and he was assigned to handle the production of Dancing Lady. Selznick had no great fondness for musicals, but he saw at once that the script lacked precisely what would make it a success for MGM and Crawford. Warner Bros. had just released the musical extravaganza 42nd Street, which was so lucrative that it very quickly saved that studio from bankruptcy. Selznick then clinched the deal with Joan by telling her that Clark Gable was available to be her leading man, and by agreeing to her request that the important supporting role be given to Franchot Tone, who was then being photographed as Joan’s escort around town.

Despite all the production setbacks, Dancing Lady shines with good humor, engaging songs, lively dancing and an astonishing polish, justifying Selznick’s belief that Metro could out-Warner Warner when it came to musicals. The picture provided a major boost to the careers of Crawford and Selznick.

Another of Joan’s contributions to the screenplay was the development of Franchot’s character, a snob forever tutoring Janie Barlow on proper grammar and the best way to dress. Those moments of corrective etiquette were lifted right out of the Crawford-Tone relationship. -"Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford" (2010) by Donald Spoto

The Gatineau Lakes area is one of Canada’s most beautiful lake regions. The area lies in the heart of the Gatineau Hills located north of Ottawa. Most major lakes are an hour’s drive via Hwy 5 North from Ottawa, Ontario or the neighbouring city of Gatineau,Quebec. The Gatineau Lakes are known for their freshness, solitude, natural setting and the surrounding hills. There is a huge history of hunting, fishing, tourist lodges and cottages. Aside from generations of Canadian families, Americans and Europeans also own exclusive properties here.

Famous Hollywood celebrities such as Joan Crawford or Zsa Zsa Gabor have also vacationed here. The family of Franchot Tone - one of Hollywood’s leading male actors in the 40’ & 50’s – still has a cottage property in the Gatineau. The four largest lakes are 31 Mile Lake, Lac Heney, Lac Pemichangan and Blue Sea Lake. They are located in the Upper Gatineau near Gracefield, Quebec – one hour north of Ottawa. Source:

Vaudeville had flourished in America from 1881 until its final demise when the Palace Theatre closed its doors in 1932. Vaudeville had been the training ground for all the aspiring young comics, the battlefield where they sharpened their wits against hostile, jeering audiences. However, the comics who won out went on to fame and fortune. Eddie Cantor and W. C. Fields, Jolson and Benny, Abbott and Costello, and Jessel and Burns and the Marx Brothers, and dozens more. Vaudeville was a haven, a steady paycheck, but with vaudeville dead, comics had to turn to other fields. The big names were booked for radio shows and personal appearances, and they also played the important nightclubs around the country. Toby Temple played them all, and they became his school. The names of the towns were different, but the places were all the same. Toby’s act consisted of parodies of popular songs, imitations of Gable and Grant and Bogart and Cagney, and material stolen from the big-name comics who could afford expensive writers. All the struggling comics stole their material, and they bragged about it. “I’m doing Milton Berle.” “You should see my Red Skelton.” Because material was the key, they stole only from the best. Toby had lunch with O’Hanlon and Rainger at the studio. The Twentieth Century-Fox commissary was an enormous room filled with wall-to-wall stars.

On any given day, Toby could see Tyrone Power and Loretta Young and Betty Grable and Don Ameche and Alice Faye and Richard Widmark and Victor Mature and the Ritz Brothers, and dozens of others. Some were seated at tables in the large room, and others ate in the smaller executive dining room which adjoined the main commissary. Toby loved watching them all. In a short time, he would be one of them, people would be asking for his autograph. Toby appeared so innocent and wistful, standing up there on that stage, that they loved him. The jokes he told were terrible, but somehow that did not matter. He was so vulnerable that they wanted to protect him, and they did it with their applause and their laughter. It was like a gift of love that flowed into Toby, filling him with an almost unbearable exhilaration.

He was Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney, and Cagney was saying, “You dirty rat! Who do you think you’re giving orders to?” And Robinson’s, “To you, you punk. I’m Little Caesar. I’m the boss. You’re nuthin’. Do you know what that means?” “Yeah, you dirty rat. You’re the boss of nuthin’.” A roar. The audience adored Toby. Bogart was there, snarling, “I’d spit in your eye, punk, if my lip wasn’t stuck over my teeth.” And the audience was enchanted. Toby gave them his Peter Lorre. “I saw this little girl in her room, playing with it, and I got excited. I don’t know what came over me. I couldn’t help myself. I crept into her room, and I pulled the rope tighter and tighter, and I broke her yo-yo.” A big laugh. He was rolling. He switched over to Laurel and Hardy, and a movement in the audience caught his eye and he glanced up. -"A Stranger in the Mirror" (1976) by Sidney Sheldon

Love on the Run (1936): Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Franchot Tone

Love on the Run, directed by W.S. Van Dyke in 1936, starring Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Franchot Tone.

Behind the Scenes:

Clark Gable was assigned to the role to give Joan Crawford a hit; the only hits she had had in the past few years had been her films with Gable and her career was stalling.

Amelia Earhart’s $80,000 plane was used in the film.

Nobody would have been surprised to hear that Clark and Franchot did not get along on the set of this film. Back in 1933, both were costarring with Joan in Dancing Lady. Clark and Joan had been embroiled in a heavy off-and-on affair since 1931, and when Clark missed a lot of time on the set due to illness, Franchot and Joan fell in love. Clark, despite the fact that he was very much involved at the time with British actress Elizabeth Allan AND despite the fact that he was still married to second wife Ria, felt burned when he returned to the Dancing Lady set and saw that Franchot was a frequent vistor to Joan’s trailer.

Joan and Franchot eventually married in 1935 and so were married on the set of Love on the Run, although because Franchot was pretty much doomed to sidekick Siberia in the 1930′s he gets to watch Clark woo and win his wife. Despite this, Clark and Franchot were actually good buddies. They had discovered they had joint loves of booze and cards while on location for their film Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935. Franchot and Joan were the two bickering on the set, actually. All was not bliss in the Tone household. Source:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Five Tips for Weathering Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

Hurricanes, floods and damaging winds are increasingly commonplace around the globe. In 2013, weather events claimed the life of 445 people in the U.S. and injured 2,766 more. The National Weather Service (NWS) is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and provides early warnings for major weather events to allow residents in affected areas time to prepare or evacuate before the storms arrive. By heeding the warnings issued by the NWS, individuals and families can increase their chances of survival when dangerous weather conditions occur. Here are five important strategies for riding out the storm in safety.

Don’t Delay

State and local authorities can issue voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders for residents in the path of a hurricane. Complying with these orders is vital to survival. For those who live along coastlines or in areas that frequently experience tropical storms, maintaining a kit that contains basic supplies for the entire family can make the evacuation process much faster and easier. Fill up the family car before leaving the local area; during hurricane evacuations, fuel stations along the highways and major thoroughfares are likely to have long lines and extended wait times.

Water, Water Everywhere

Floods are especially dangerous in low-lying areas or coastal regions. Ironically, however, one of the biggest risks associated with floods is the contamination of water supplies in the days and weeks following the storm. Maintaining at least a week’s worth of bottled water can help families during the cleanup period and can reduce the risk of dehydration or illness from drinking potentially contaminated water. Most authorities recommend storing at least one gallon of clean water per day for each person in the home to ensure adequate supplies during and after the storm. Pets will need the same amount of water per day to stay healthy and hydrated.

Batten Down the Hatches

Boarding up windows and closing storm shutters can often provide a modicum of protection for homes and personal belongings in minor to medium-strength storms. For families that plan to stay in their homes, taking steps to keep the worst of the wind and water out can offer added safety inside. Additionally, boarding up windows can help to deter vandals or thieves in the event of a full-scale evacuation order. Individuals and families who live close to the coastline, on coastal islands or who reside in mobile homes, however, should not remain in their homes at all if a major storm has been forecast for their area.

Monitor the Airwaves

Residents of coastal regions should obtain a NOAA-approved weather radio and keep a supply of batteries handy for the device. Weather radio broadcasts offer valuable information about the likely path of incoming storms, the strength of winds and the likely effects on homes and property. Official bulletins can also provide information regarding mandatory and voluntary evacuations, allowing residents in at-risk areas to make plans before the storm hits.

Prepare for the Worst

For families and individuals who elect to stay in their homes during the storm, a few simple strategies can help to ensure greater safety and comfort:

• Turning the temperature control on the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest possible setting and moving as much food as possible to the freezer can help to preserve it during a prolonged power outage. If the power goes out, be sure to keep the refrigerator and freezer closed to retain the cold as long as possible.

• Filling all sinks, bathtubs and large containers prior to the storm can provide water for washing hands and managing basic hygiene without dipping into bottled water supplies.
• Shutting off propane tanks and turning off gas lines into the house can reduce the risk of fire during and after the storm.

• Turning off or unplugging all non-essential appliances and electronic equipment can protect your home and belongings. If an electrical outage or power surge does occur, this will reduce the risk of damage to these items and will lessen the drain on the electrical system when power is restored.

Residents should be prepared to leave immediately if the storm strength is upgraded or if local or state authorities issue an evacuation order for the area.

Complying with evacuation orders promptly is the single most important factor in surviving hurricanes and other large-scale tropical storms. By preparing for major weather events well before they are forecast, residents in coastal areas can minimize the last-minute rush and can increase their safety during and after the storm.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Barbara Stanwyck!


“What those two [Frank Capra and Willard Mack] saw in me,” said Barbara, “I still don’t know.”

"Something is gone. They were beautiful, romantic films, not as stark and realistic as today’s, and I loved doing and watching them. Now we’ve matured and moved on." -Barbara Stanwyck on classic vs modern films

Despite Capra’s prediction, Barbara’s name for 'Ladies of Leisure' was not among those actresses singled out for their work for 1930. Nominated were Nancy Carroll (The Devil’s Holiday), Ruth Chatterton (Sarah and Son), Greta Garbo (Anna Christie), Norma Shearer (The Divorcee), and Gloria Swanson (The Trespasser). Shearer received the award for Best Actress. It was rumored that Metro had asked its employees in a memo to vote for Norma Shearer, Mrs. Irving Thalberg since 1927. Joan Crawford, Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., was quoted as saying, “What chance have I got? She sleeps with the boss.”

Capra rehearsed Barbara with the rest of the actors and crew of 'Forbidden' in a walk-through to go over the moves so the camera could follow her. The rehearsals were sketchy; Barbara spoke her lines, but they were barely audible. Ed Bernds, the head of the sound crew on the picture, who’d worked with Capra on three other pictures, described his rehearsals with Barbara as done at “half speed.” Barbara said, “I just ask the cameraman, in great humility, to please make me look human. You know, just make me look human, that’s all.” In the early days of sound, three cameras were used to help in the difficult process of cutting sound track. By the time 'Forbidden' was in production, sound track was easy to cut. “Capra wanted to keep [the shot] just long enough to hold the two actors,” said Bernds.

“And we followed Barbara as it became a two-shot when she was close to Bellamy.” Capra liked to shoot a lot of angles; they gave him flexibility in cutting. “The scene where Barbara shoots Bellamy is dynamite acting at a high intensity, very high intensity,” Bernds said. “[Barbara’s] voice was tough on sound because at times when she screamed, the Western Electric sound system went into a state of theoretically dangerous overload.”

During another bout with Frank Fay, Barbara ran to Joan Crawford’s North Bristol Avenue house. Joan and Barbara had shared New York days together when each was a floor show dancer in clubs. Joan kept a framed hand-tinted small photograph of Ruby Stevens (Barbara's birth name) from those early days when the high-kicking Billie Cassin, Shubert chorine with bangs and frizzy hair in the too-tight over-the-hip dresses, danced the Charleston, said Louise Brooks, like 'a lady wrestler' was now living in Brentwood, in a seven-room house, originally styled with grilled Spanish doorways and arches remade in a Georgian formal style. The house had been expanded to ten rooms, not including servants’ quarters, with a theater that seated twenty-five for Joan’s workshops of one-act plays, which she performed with her husband, Franchot Tone.

People watching Taylor and Stanwyck found them to be quiet, absorbed, sufficiently unto themselves. Bob was free from Irene Hervey; Barbara from Frank Fay. “We amused each other,” said Barbara. “We danced well together. We were good friends, had a marvelous time.” Bob was direct, open, and honest with Barbara. He appreciated her in big ways and little, was loving to her. After Fay, Bob seemed so normal to Barbara. He made it clear to those around them that he had great admiration for her. Two days out at sea aboard the Berengaria, Bob shouted into the radio telephone to Barbara, “Do you love me?” “Yes, I love you,” she shouted back. She had rushed home from the Ray Millands’ to get Bob’s call. Barbara was planning on leaving town as soon as she could.

She finished work on 'Breakfast for Two,' and 'Stella Dallas' opened in Los Angeles the following Monday. That Wednesday she and Holly Barnes flew to Sun Valley for a long weekend. 'Stella Dallas' had the biggest opening on record, beating 'A Star Is Born.'-"A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True 1907-1940" (2013) by Victoria Wilson

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rhino Deck: Armadillo Decking (Publicity)

I experienced the coming together of a community after a natural disaster, all thanks to the products offered by Rhino Deck. My family and I live in a rural area in the South. A few years ago, our little town was hit by a devastating F4 tornado. Because no one in this area has any underground shelters, we are ill prepared to deal with tornados, which rarely strike our area.

My great-grandmother was one resident who lost a great deal during the tornado. We were very thankful that her house did not take a direct hit from the tornado. If it had, it would have leveled the house. However, her back deck was not so lucky.

Before the tornado, her deck wasn't in the best of conditions, but we could never convince her it needed repair. The tornado tore her deck to shreds with the help of the pecan tree that had sat nestled behind her house for generations. Once the tree was removed, it was clear that her deck could not be salvaged.

A whole group of us from the town got together to work on my great-grandmother’s deck. She was so thrilled and amazed at all the help that she was getting from people she had never met.

We purchased Armadillo by Rhino Deck with her insurance money. We could have waited for a contractor to reconstruct her deck. However, because of the unbelievable devastation around my town, contractors were simply too busy to get to her. After all, some people didn't even have a roof over their heads. Of course, they deserved the contractors’ attention first.

So our little team got to work to construct my great-grandmother’s deck ourselves. She selected a Rustic Red from the color choices offered by Rhino Deck. The deck products they offered are not made of wood; instead, they are made up of a composite material of wood fiber and HDPE plastic. Consequently, they require minimal upkeep, which is perfect for my great-grandmother.

Once we got the deck constructed,which was very easy to do, my great-grandmother was so proud. She called over all her neighbors to come have a look. Instead of stairs, we built a ramp for her, since she is using a walker full-time now. The whole neighborhood was impressed with her deck, and I could tell she was beyond proud of the results. She wasted no time setting up her new patio furniture on the deck, along with her two new rocking chairs. She also hung a few wind chimes from the rafters above the deck. I could tell that she was going to get years of enjoyment out of her new deck. Although it was not a good event that brought about the project, I am so glad we were able to come together as a community to help my great-grandmother.

Franchot Tone (Love Scenes) video

Franchot Tone (Love Scenes) with Maureen O'Sullivan in "Stage Mother", Joan Crawford in "Today We Live", "Dancing Lady", "Love on the Run", "Sadie McKee" and "The Gorgeous Hussy"; Loretta Young in "Midnight Mary", Bette Davis in "Dangerous", Jean Harlow in "The Girl from Missouri", "Bombshell" and "Suzy", Myrna Loy in "Man-Proof", Anne Baxter in "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer", Janet Blair in "I Love Trouble" and Jean Wallace in "Jigsaw".

Franchot Tone and Joan Crawford, publicity photo for "Dancing Lady" (1933) directed by Robert Z. Leonard.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Franchot Tone & Barbara Payton: Elegance and Madness, "Bride of the Gorilla", "The Girl"

Franchot Tone, publicity photo for "The Man on the Eiffel Tower" (1949). In 1929 Tone had become a member of the Theatre Guild, appearing in a series of shows including 'Red Dust', 'Hotel Universe', 'Green Grow the Lilacs', and 'Pagan Lady.'

In September 1950, it was reported that Barbara Payton was to make her Broadway debut in producer S.N. Behrman's play, 'Let Me Hear the Melody,' but the project was temporarily scrapped when the financing for it collapsed. (It was later produced in Philadelphia, without Barbara, in May 1951.) However, on September 12, Barbara did fly out to the east coast to co-star with Franchot Tone in a summer stock production of another S. N. Behrman play, 'The Second Man.' The Theater Guild had staged the original version of the play on Broadway in 1927.

Franchot Tone, publicity photo for CBS "Starlight Theatre" show, 1951

Produced at New York's Somerset Theater by Franchot's friend and Group Theatre associate, Jean Dalrymple, 'The Second Man' was a comedy about a social activist and novelist (Tone) who realizes that the second man in him is really an opportunist wise enough to turn to his wealthy mistress (Payton) for the luxuries his other lifestyle has denied him. Actress Margaret Lindsay (as Franchot's wife, Mrs. Kendall Frayne) and Broadway veteran Walter Brooke rounded out the four-character cast. The show's playbill described Barbara Payton as captivating in the role of Monica Grey, a part which was later played by newcomer Cloris Leachman when Franchot Tone reprised the production in June 1951.

'The Second Man' ran for one week as the Somerset Theater's final summerstock play of the season, and was the first of Barbara's two stage efforts (the 2nd being 'The Postman Always Rings Twice,' in 1953 with Tom Neal). Upon the show's completion, Franchot brought Barbara to the family homestead in Upstate New York, to meet his mother, Gertrude. (His father, Dr. Frank J. Tone, had died in 1944.) While it remains unclear what Gertrude Tone thought of Barbara following their introduction, Lisa Burks suggests it may have been somewhat of a strained meeting.

Following their brief visit to Niagara Falls, the pair returned to the west coast in late September, only to find more trouble awaiting Barbara in L.A. Despite her enviable alliance with such a respected member of the industry as Franchot Tone, Barbara’s growing connection to the Hollywood underworld was again apparent on October 29 when she was called before a Federal Grand Jury as a defense witness in the perjury trial of a suspected murderer and dope addict named Stanley Adams.

"Bride of the Gorilla" (1951) Stars: Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney Jr., Raymond Burr. Director & Writer: Curt Siodmak
The owner of a plantation in the jungle marries a beautiful woman. Shortly afterward, he is plagued by a strange voodoo curse which transforms him into a gorilla.

As Barbara prepared to leave on another promotional tour for "Bride of the Gorilla", word had begun filtering through the grapevine that Barbara Payton and Tom Neal were indeed seeing each other again. Through clenched teeth and white knuckles, Franchot saw his wife off on her publicity junket, perhaps knowing with his keen intellect, if not his captive heart, that she had resumed sleeping with the man who had nearly killed him. According to Ann Richards, Franchot had begged to Barbara not to cheat on him but she wouldn't hear of it.

While attending a movie memorabilia show at the New Yorker Hotel in NYC, a former Hollywood photographer who knew Barbara, shared a particularly disturbing tale. Ray goes on to describe the scene as a kind of mid-century modern version of the Norma Desmond estate in Sunset Blvd. (“a decrepit piece of Southern California Gothic,” as he put it) and remembers thinking that it was possible that Barbara wasn’t really house-sitting, but had taken occupancy of an abandoned piece of property. Set back off the road on the edge of a cliff, the house-on-stilts was trashed; the in-ground swimming pool, a rancid mix of rotting leaves and foul-smelling water.

The kid just couldn’t keep her legs closed, you know? In my opinion, Tom Neal was scum and he ruined that girl. He took her right down into the toilet with him. She was fine before she got involved with that bastard.” What seems lost to this man is that a part of Barbara had been tough and cunning long before Tom Neal had entered her life… as countless men, including Bob Hope and Franchot Tone, had all-too painfully discovered. -"Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye - The Barbara Payton Story" (2013) by John O'Dowd

Barbara remembered having said Franchot had given a disease in her soul. As if lost in a black smoke, she could hear herself telling Carlo Fiori: “Franchot talks about suicide and says he’ll kill me and kill himself. He sees me as his tormentor. He says I’m the evil half of his nature that he is fixing in me, and which I bring to the surface in him. He says only death could ease the pain of living with a tormentor. If you leave me, he says, I’ll die… If you stay, you’ll slowly kill me…” -Barbara Payton on Franchot Tone

On September 14, 1951, the front page of virtually every major newspaper in the United States carried the story of how B-picture actor Tom Neal had brutally beaten dapper leading man Franchot Tone’s face into a bloody pulp over the affections of sultry blonde actress Barbara Payton. The sordid narrative surrounding this ill-fated triangle would have “legs”. Only Franchot Tone’s career would survive the disgraceful events. 'B Movie' dramatizes the most notorious scandal to hit Hollywood during the first half of the 1950s. Underneath the stark headline 'Barbara’s Nude Sun Bath with Neal Told in Beating Case,' Judson O’Donnell gave an eyebrow-raising interview to Louella Parsons where he expounded: "I used to see Miss Payton in the patio. She was sunbathing nude, above the waist. And Tom Neal would be beside her. He was exercising with his big bar bells. He was nude, too, above the waist. But he wore trunks. I heard her say to him once, ‘Oh, Tom, you have such big muscles!’"

Zsa Zsa Gabor once said, “I like a mannish man, a man who knows how to talk to and treat a woman — not just a man with muscles.”

"The talent agent who brought June called it the Shark House. It was in Los Feliz and you could drive by a hundred times and miss it. But once you saw it, you couldn’t turn it away. There were no windows. The tiny lawn sloped up, feathered with ivy that looked red in the strange light. “Huston will be here,” the agent said. “Key Largo. The part’s perfect for you.” Two years ago, she’d married Guy, who ran sports book on the West Side for Mickey Cohen and liked to trot her up and down the Strip, his “actress wife.” Now, the talent agents saw different kind of possibilities in June, different ways to lay odds. They knew producers cast actresses for all kinds of reasons, including big vigs they needed to pay off, big secrets they needed to hide. “What does it matter?” her friend Gladys asked. “You married the honeypot. Just slip on your silver mink, prop your feet up, and listen to Dick Haymes all day.” Sometimes she considered it. But June held onto a few small things from when she first came to the City of Dreams. June had heard things. About the house’s owner: An elegant widow’s peak and a European way. A collector, an importer, a private dealer in things, objects. No one knew. She had seen him once at the Mermaid Room, where girls swam in tanks, their twitching smiles painted red, fingertips tapping on the glass. Eyes hidden behind a green-tinted pince-nez, he did not look up at the girls but seemed always to be whispering in the ear of his date.

June had heard he was a man acquainted with artists and intellectuals who made June feel, despite her 'I. Magnin' suits and cool voice, like a Woolworth’s counter girl who turned tricks every other Saturday night. “What’s the big deal? Another rich stiff with a taste for Tinseltown trim,” the agent said. Then June saw, under a darkening banana tree in the center court, two women, rubyhaired both, their bodies lit, swarming each other, their silvertoned faces notched against each other. They were famous, both of them, famous like no one ever would be again, June thought, and to see their bodies swirling into each other, their mouths slipping open, wetly, was unbearably exciting, even to June. Slowly, in the near-dark, she moved down the first long hallway. It was a honeycomb, the wetness on everything seeming to cling to its cold walls like nectar. Her arms quilling, she slid her mink back on, fingers clasped over the frog closure. It made her think of Guy and the things he was good for. He wasn’t very smart, or very nice, but he was crazy about her in the way men could be. Resting her hand against the wall, June felt it slide and there was a whole new passageway that, she realized, must be underneath the courtyard, because it had the same arcade of rooms. These rooms had no doors, only beaded curtains. The aura of lush jungle ruins, sweet and rotten. There was something in these rooms June knew and was sorry she knew. She felt suddenly like the rooms were inside of her.

June recognized this shivery platinum star who tinkled through a series of Paramount society pictures, her skin ice-white, satin creaming across her hips, jewels dripping stalactites from her ear lobes, her neck. She was always the Wealthy Wife, the Long-Throated Mistress, the Rich Divorcée on a tear, her voice warbling like a mouth full of cold marbles but her face, glorious.

Robert Taylor leaning over her, eyes lit with passion, mouth craning to reach her stemlike neck. The most beautiful woman the world had ever seen. The sound of the shimmying curtains drawing everyone’s eyes, the actress’s face untufting from the girl’s skirt and turning to face June. And the actress smiled, cooingly. 'Join us,' lulled the movie actress, mouth gleaming, wet. After a long time of walking in circles that seemed to knot tighter and tighter, she stopped and leaned against a wall. Listening to her stertorous breaths, she knew that she had reached some kind of droppingoff point. She had—one foot still hitched on the steps of that Greyhound—she wanted something, thought she’d do anything for that thing. Until now that the thing was here. And it surrounded her. But then she realized something was hiding behind the wall. Like a scurrying rat. The wall itself then moved, like a carapace clicking loose, and out came a young girl, long-limbed and sylphlike. A slipper of a girl in a pale-blue nightgown threaded with ribbon.

With furring braids and eyes winsome as Margaret O’Brien’s. Now, at nightclubs, at parties, coming out of powder rooms at private homes, June was the one who made the introductions, facilitated the transaction, occasionally procured the goods. The girls. “Do you think I could try your coat on sometime?” the girl asked her. They both looked down at June’s smoky gray pelts. June was remembering something. The girl in the story her father used to tell, the girl with no hands. And how a king heard what had happened to her and because she was so beautiful and pure, he fell in love and had silver hands made for her, and took her as his wife. As June watched her, something was happening inside. She was seeing a girl age seventeen, plaited hair and middy blouse, slipping off a bus at Sixth and Los Angeles Street a dozen years ago. June slipped the pearl-gray pelts around the young girl’s shoulders. “I didn’t think you’d really let me,” the girl said. The girl tried to stop under the heavy hanging red bell tree. “You can’t stop here,” June said. And she grabbed the girl’s hand tighter, which was cold as silver.In the courtyard, with all the stone faces turning, all the ivory heads lifted, tusks raised, June pulled the mink over the girl’s head. No longer lost, June guided the girl through the flaming center of the house, which she knew better than her own. Better than anyone. She didn’t let anyone see the girl." -"The Girl" by Megan Abbott, from "L.A. Noire Collection" (2011)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hollywood's Dangerous Dames, Barbara Payton: "Bad Blonde" (Full Movie)

The Film Forum series includes “Angel Face” (1952), in which Otto Preminger, a rationalistic master of hidden madness, stages a conflict between two feminine tropes, the evil stepmother and the predatory vixen, and a male one, the freelancer with a roving eye. A writer (Herbert Marshall) who was widowed during the London Blitz lives in California with his second wife (Barbara O’Neil), a wealthy woman who clashes with him and his viperish daughter, Diane (Jean Simmons). The sexually swaggering Frank (Robert Mitchum), an ambulance driver whose irrepressible lust is his point of vulnerability, is called to the house, where he falls under Diane’s spell and gets pulled into her plot to kill her stepmother. Preminger, who studied law, builds tragic results from the evenhanded workings of the judicial system. Source:

New York City's Film Forum is taking a comprehensive look at lovely but lethal beauties throughout film history with its series Femmes Noirs: Hollywood's Dangerous Dames. Although the programming includes films from the silent period (Pandora's Box) to the age of modern neo-noir (Body Heat), classic-era films noir dominate. The iconic roles of this series comprise wicked women portrayed by legendary actresses: Barbara Stanwyck's borderline psychotic Phyllis in Double Indemnity; Joan Bennett's singularly manipulative and slatternly Kitty in Scarlet Street; and Mary Astor as congenital liar Brigid O'Shaughnessy in John Huston's adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. There are also surprising against-type performances by movie stars: Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven, Jean Simmons in Angel Face, Marilyn Monroe in Niagara.

Joan Crawford plays the victim of devious women twice, in Mildred Pierce and Sudden Fear. The B-girls also get their due, with screenings of Gun Crazy and Detour, featuring two of the greatest female performances in noir, Peggy Cummins and Ann Savage respectively. See the Film Forum's website for details on the series, running Friday, July 18 through Thursday, August 7. Source:

As Wade Williams explains in a Filmfax magazine article from July 1988, “Media critics have labeled 'Detour' as everything from cynical, to surreal, to perverse, to absurdist, to paranoid and nihilistic.”
Based on a 1938 Martin Goldsmith novel, 'Detour' is recognized as a salient prototype in the film noir genre, beginning with Neal’s lead character — a downand- out antihero of the first order. As a hard-luck musician named Al Roberts, who, while traveling cross-country, becomes involved in an accidental murder, the actor expertly conveys the ordeal of an ill-fated loser who blindly follows a pre-destined path to an ominous outcome. In addition to the trouble-plagued Roberts character, the film features the most strident and venomous femme fatale in screen history, Vera (played in mordant style by B-movie actress Ann Savage). Detour arguably contains the definitive Tom Neal performance, and remains his best remembered film.

In her first starring role ("Trapped"), Barbara Payton looks gorgeous and performs well as a young woman whose ardent loyalty to her lover is matched only by her unmitigated greed. “Money… there’s just never enough of it,” she purrs in one scene, as she slowly massages Bridges’ shoulders. Not the typical film noir femme fatale, her character seems much more devoted than duplicitous. She is willing to go along with her boyfriend’s unlawful schemes so they can be together, with barely a thought to the possible consequences.

Acclaimed NYC stage director and writer David Drake, the star of one of off-Broadway’s longest-running one-person shows, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, recently saw Trapped for the first time and agrees with the positive reviews that Barbara received at the time of its release: “Without question, Barbara displays a lot of raw, able talent in the film. I found it very telling that her best scene work was with Lloyd Bridges (with whom, I understand, she was rumored to have had an affair). She really knows how to play the act of seduction, not the phony ‘Hollywood’ indicating that so often passed as seduction in Barbara’s era, but the real stuff. It is in the way she caresses Bridges’ hair and shoulders. Very real. Very true. She clearly understood the who, what, where, when and why’s of grasping and accepting and playing a character’s intentions and actions in a script. This was a smart girl with solid acting instincts."

In the years prior to his meeting Barbara, Tom Neal's name was linked to a bevy of Hollywood stars, starlets (and strippers), including Ava Gardner, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Lorraine Cugat (the wife of bandleader Xavier Cugat) and Dixie Dunbar. In the early 1940s he even flirted with American aristocracy for a time when he was engaged to Gay Parkes, a member of the wealthy DuPont family of industrialists.

In a brilliant stroke of reality-based typecasting, the plot of "Bad Blonde" (aka The Flanagan Boy) in 1953 found the real life femme fatale playing her cinematic counterpart — surely the film’s main point of interest today. When, in a guttural tone of voice, she berates her weakwilled boyfriend for initially backing down on their murder plans, Barbara seems to be drawing on a familiar emotional scenario. “Get lost,” she sneers, in a voice dripping with venom.

Barbara’s wonderfully subtle performance in 'Murder Is My Beat,' though unheralded at the time of the film’s release fifty years ago, is well-regarded today by a myriad of film critics. Even though her second-billed part is relatively small, Barbara’s character is the axis on which the plot’s crucial elements revolve and her underplaying of the role, whether intentional or not, proved effective in creating an interesting character whose guilt is questioned throughout much of the film. Authors Alain Silver and Robert Porfirio, two highly respected experts of film noir, applaud the careful nuance and skill in Barbara’s performance and write in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to The American Style, that “…Payton’s portrayal of Eden in a neutral manner permits the suggestion of instability beneath the surface calm of her character’s visage.” -"Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye - The Barbara Payton Story" (2013) by John O'Dowd

PLAN9CRUNCH: What contemporary star is most like Payton as an actress?

O'DOWD: I’m not sure I can answer that question as I am nearly completely unfamiliar with the work (and even the names) of most contemporary film actresses (especially those in their 20s and 30s). There is a film project on Barbara’s life (titled “Bad Blonde”) that is currently in development in Los Angeles, and I am trusting that the two producers who are shepherding the project (Ira Besserman and Barrett Stuart) know a lot more about today’s actresses than I do, because unfortunately, I know very little. I am not a big fan of the majority of today’s films, as they seem to concentrate more on special effects than on character-driven storylines (which is what I prefer). I am far more interested in, and have more knowledge of, the films and stars of Classic Hollywood. Source: