The Approaching New Year

With the new year fast approaching, I’ve decided to have a look at 2012 because I may love vintage but I rather look ahead than back. So what’s cooking?!

On January 17th, America’s sweetheart Betty White is going to complete another decade. She’ll be turning  ninety. I know she just recently said that’s not an accomplishment but that it just happened, bless her for  counting her blessings like that. But still. Ninety is quite a milestone. And with her popularity, filmography  and attitude she definitely outshines an entire studio full of performers less than half her age.


On April 18th then, my personal Tinseltown darling, RKO’s 1940s starlet and Perry Mason‘s renowned girl Friday, Barbara Hale, will join Ms. White, my N Hollywood grandma and their club of Fabulous at Ninety. Although long retired, well-deserved and (apparently) happily so, Ms. Hale is still fondly remembered by Della Street fans and classic cinéastes from around the globe. More and more of her work has been published on DVD or online in recent years and I sincerely hope that 2012 will reveal more of her bubbly warmth for us all to enjoy.

Then several films and TV shows will celebrate their anniversaries. Here are some examples:

  • Ironside (1967-75, NBC)
  • The Lucy Show (1962-68, CBS)
  • My Little Margie (1952-55, CBS & NBC)
  • Perry Mason TV show (1957-66, CBS)
  • A Likely Story (1947, RKO, directed by H.C. Potter, starring Barbara Hale and Bill Williams)
  • The First Time (1952, Columbia, directed by Frank Tashlin, starring Robert Cummings and Barbara Hale)
  • Ivanhoe (1952, MGM, directed by Richard Thorpe, starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor)
  • The Miracle Worker (1962, United Artists, directed by Arthur Penn, starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke)
  • Pat & Mike (1952, MGM, directed by George Cukor, starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952, MGM, directed by Stanley Donen, starring Gene Kelley and Debbie Reynolds)
  • That Touch of Mink (1962, Universal, directed by Delbert Mann, starring Cary Grant and Doris Day)
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, Warner Bros., directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Bette Davis & Joan Crawford)

Of course there are many many more, e.g. Bambi (1942), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Mrs. Miniver (1942) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Also other TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show (1967-78) or The Flying Nun (1967-70).

The legendary Barbara Stanwyck had her screen debut as a fan dancer in Broadway Nights eighty-five years ago. She would’ve turned one-hundred and five on July 16th, Raymond Burr ninety-five on May 21st.

I could continue this list ad infinitum. But I rather wish you a smooth start into the new year and hope you’re looking forward to all the vintage treats that will be revisited and adored on this blog in the up-coming leap year.

Bless y’all!

The First Time

Talkie of the Week: The First Time

USA 1952, 89 minutes, black & white, Columbia Pictures. Director: Frank Tashlin, Written by: Hugo Butler. Cast: Barbara Hale, Robert Cummings, Bill Goodwin, Jeff Donnell, Carl Benton Reid, Mona Barrie, Kathleen Comegys, Paul Harvey, Cora Witherspoon

Plot summary: Joe and Betsy Bennet are expecting their first child and are soon confronted with all the (un)pleasantries of being first time parents.

Review: My theory is that most things in life have not changed over the past few decades, at least not as drastically as today’s insolent perception often suggests. Have a look at this comedy from 1952 for instance: The First Time depicts a year in the lives of Joe and Betsy Bennet, happy newly-wed parents-to-be until they bring home a gurgling, laughing and blaring baby boy called Tim. With his arrival, all their trouble starts: bills, overbearing nurses, household inadequacies and a grandmother who doesn’t want to be identified as such.

In order to pay the pile of bills, Joe gives up on architecture and starts working for the company his father’s been selling washing machines for for years. Completely unqualified for the job, Joe soon brings his frustration home to his equally frustrated wife. Betsy, a hearty young mother, soon reaches her limits as her son grows older and thus his demands. She cannot cope with the household that seems to explode around her, especially when her husband’s own washing machine conks out and she has to wash the diapers by hand again or call the costly diaper service instead. She feels left alone and exhausted by the end of a long day of running errands and trying to look after her family’s needs. At the same time, Joe cannot cope with his own inadequacies at work and the miserable product he has to sell with a fake smile. When the situation finally erupts, husband and wife have their first big argument over a life they both don’t want to live that way: not with cold cuts, a fridge full of milk for the baby, warm beer and a dreadful job that eats away their marital sanity.

Barbara Hale and Robert Cummings deliver a brilliant performance throughout the entire film, but the fireworks of their seething argument and their desperate attempt to whisper their way through it to not wake baby Tim top notch and as sparkly as it can get. A natural comedian, Robert Cummings pulls off his lines and stunts with expert precision, overdoing his act the way comedians are expected to. Barbara Hale is his hilariously refreshing wife Betsy who gives a multifaceted portrayal of a woman who has to adapt to being a young wife with a baby. She is funny in her very own way, bubbly, beautiful and quick on her feet – a real joy to watch, especially when she acts with “her” baby.

The on-screen chemistry between Robert Cummings and Barbara Hale supports the well-knitted script and papers over the few dramatic cracks. The First Time is a comedy and thus lives on screwball moments and odd circumstances. Witty dialogue and an overall fantastic cast of actors are great additional ingredients. The film, although from 1952 some of you may say, is a must for young parents and those who are planning to have a baby anytime soon. It is wonderfully chaotic, entertaining and blunt: the supposed easiness of marriage with a child, the joys and traps, and all the unpleasant (or pleasant?) first months of growing up as parents. The film is packed with exhilarating situations and emotional struggles, always going deeper than the airiness of the genre may suggest. It would be a shame if this film was forgotten because in my humble opinion it is a real gem, even if you’re not (yet) a parent yourself.

Available on DVD-R. The First Time: Betsy proves a point