Talkie of the Week: Seminole

USA 1953, 87 minutes, color, Universal Pictures. Director: Budd Boetticher, Written by Charles K. Peck Jr., Cast: Rock Hudson, Barbara Hale, Anthony Quinn, Richard Carlson, Hugh O’Brian, Russell Johnson, Lee Marvin, Ralph Moody, Fay Roope, James Best, John Dahaim.

Plot summary: When Lt. Caldwell returns to his Florida home to serve at Fort King, he is faced with a strict commander who endangers the peaceful co-existence with the Seminole Indians.

Review: Set in 1835, Seminole tells the story of Lt. Caldwell who is accused of murder of a sentry at Fort King near the Everglades where the Seminole Indians lived in peace with the white settlers until Major Degan took command. Played by Rock Hudson, Caldwell is an honest soldier who grew up in the area and thus knows the Everglades as more than just hostile land. Familiar with the territory, he is a helpful asset to Fort King, but it is his love for Revere Muldoon (Barbara Hale) that actually made him return to his childhood home. Originally a peaceful tribe in the region, the Seminole Indians are now fighting the soldiers at Fort King, first and foremost by their leader Osceola (Anthony Quinn). Seeking a way to negotiate with Osceola, Lt. Caldwell finds his plans thwarted by Major Degan (Richard Carlson) whose misguided ambition poses a threat not only to the settlers and Seminoles, but also to his own men. With the help of Revere, Caldwell tries to avoid a conflict before it gets out of hand, only to find himself charged with murder at the end of a gory battle in the midst of the swampy Everglades.

Blessed with a convincing cast, Seminole was primarily shot in the Everglades National Park in Florida, a place that added to the sweltry atmosphere of this unusual Western. Led by Rock Hudson as handsome and righteous Lt. Caldwell, the actors did a wonderful job breathing life into characters whose destiny is connected and tied to the swamps, especially Osceola’s. Anthony Quinn, always strong as a “noble savage”, shined particularly in the presence of Barbara Hale whose Revere Muldoon is a heroine on her own merit, alluring and strong.

Available on DVD, the film is the perfect treat for anyone who enjoys an ensemble of good actors whose leading stars created a sizzling chemistry on screen. The story itself is suspenseful and dramatic, turning this classic into a perfect gem, especially for those of us who prefer some romance over a blanket to keep ourselves warm in this cold October season.

Seminole trailer

McMillan & Wife

TV classics: McMillan & Wife

USA 1971-77, six seasons, 40 episodes, approximately 90-120 minutes each, NBC, color. Cast: Rock Hudson, Susan Saint James, John Schuck, Nancy Walker, Martha Raye et al.

Plot summary: Police commissioner Stewart McMillan and his young wife Sally solve murders they didn’t plan to stumble into.

Review: Originally an NBC Mystery Movie, McMillan & Wife premiered on September 17, 1971 as a so-called wheel series, sharing its time slot with Columbo and McCloud. Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, the show presented a married couple of sleuths and thus continued a tradition Hollywood had started with Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man movies in the 1930s and 40s. Entertaining and lighthearted, the series benefited from the charm and charisma of its two main leads, as well as their supporting stars Nancy Walker and John Schuck. Nominated for several Emmys and Golden Globes, the ladies of show left a lasting impression on their audience, critics and peers, while Rock Hudson created a character who was every bit as handsome and congenial as his most successful silver screen alter egos.

Scheduled for release as a complete boxset on December 4, 2012, McMillan & Wife is a treat for anyone who grew up loving mysteries that were light rather than gruesome. Blessed with popular guest stars of its time, including Tom Bosley, Linda Evans, Barbara Feldon, Roddy McDowall, Donna Mills, Stefanie Powers and David Soul, the show continues to be diverting and funny – a good example of a decade that shaped a new generation of mystery dramas, as well as a new dynamic between men and women which led to other successful shows such as Hart to Hart or Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

All That Heaven Allows

Talkie of the Week: All That Heaven Allows

USA 1955, 89 minutes, color, Universal Pictures. Director: Douglas Sirk, Written by Peg Fenwick, Based on a story by Edna L. Lee and Harry Lee. Cast: Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey, Gloria Talbott, William Reynolds, Charles Drake, Hayden Rorke, Jacqueline de Wit, Leigh Snowden, Donald Curtis, Alex Gerry, Nestor Paiva, Forrest Lewis, Merry Anders.

Plot summary: Cary is a widowed mother of two grown children. Ron is a young gardener who shows her a life outside of her perfectly conformed life. When they fall in love they are soon confronted with scrutiny and judgment from a society that doesn’t like people to be different.

Review: Originally set up as a reunion movie for Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson after their great success with Magnificent Obsession in 1954, All That Heaven Allows used their chemistry and fame to build up an equally romantic story about two people who are falling in love despite their differences in age and status. Confronted with harsh criticism and rejection from family and friends, Cary Scott (Wyman) and Ron Kirby (Hudson) are forced to realize the impact society has on them and their decisions, turning their lives into misery after trying to adapt to what’s expected of them.

Created as a melodrama, the film may now seem to offer criticism on the restrictions and rules of the 1950s. Douglas Sirk, often overlooked by film critics of his time for making uninteresting, trivial movies, managed to turn a richly dramatic story into a feast for the eye. Artistically referred to in Todd Hayne’s Far From Heaven in 2002, All That Heaven Allows is one of those classics that may surprise you once you get around to savoring them. Although leaning towards the sentimental, the film is touching and entertaining, the kind of film Hollywood has unlearned to make these days.

Blessed with two talented and attractive leads, the film has been available in reruns, on VHS and DVD for many years. Added to the National Film Registry in 1995, All That Heaven Allows will be preserved for generations to come to offer a glimpse into the aesthetics, style and culture of a time people seem to either glorify or condemn.

All That Heaven Allows trailer.

Magnificent Obsession

Talkie of the Week: Magnificent Obsession

USA 1954, 104 minutes, color, Universal International Pictures. Director: Douglas Sirk, Written by Robert Blees and Wells Root, Based on the book by Lloyd C. Douglas. Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Barbara Rush, Agnes  Moorehead, Otto Kruger

Plot summary: When Bob Merrick learns that he survived an unnecessary accident that indirectly took the life of celebrated humanitarian Dr. Phillips, the millionaire decides to change his life and follow the doctor’s example of taking care of others and their struggles. Rejected by Dr. Phillips’ family for his attempt to help them in times of hardship, Bob ultimately manages to prove his sincerity and falls in love with Helen, the late doctor’s widow, despite her initial rejection.

Review: Based on the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, Magnificent Obsessions had already been adapted for the silver screen in 1935 when Douglas Sirk decided to pick up the story for his technicolor remake. Originally starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor, Sirk’s version from 1954 presented Jane Wyman and and a practically unknown Rock Hudson in the leading roles. Commercially successful in theaters, the film received mixed reaction from critics for the emotional story and the director’s choice of material. While Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson conquered the screen with a chemistry that resulted in another collaboration of the two stars in Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows one year later, reviews often stressed the sappy quality of the motion picture, a fact that didn’t stop the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences to nominate Jane Wyman for an Academy Award for her performance.

Recorded for radio several times before Magnificent Obsession re-entered with stars such as Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert and Myrna Loy, the story itself grew into a classic story about loss, love, grace and altruism. Rock Hudson’s first significant movie role brought him well-deserved recognition and kicked off a career as one of Hollywood’s most charming leading men. It was the fourth Oscar nomination Jane Wyman received for her portrayal of Helen Phillips, an honor Grace Kelly in The Country Girl ended up winning that year.

Magnificent Obsession is a film that works the emotional scale of its audience by merging drama with romance in a way that is now a lost art. Be prepared to stock up your supply of tissues before you watch it, the score and moving performances will make you sob if your heart beats for this kind of gem.

Available on DVD. Magnificent Obsession trailer


I’m a big fan of biographies, especially autobiographies – the kind that explores the essence of a person’s life (personal as well as professional) with a deep sense of self-reflection, irony and/or playful nostalgia.

Today, I am going to recommend some of my personal favorites, in alphabetical order because I couldn’t possibly decide which one I like best for they are all so intricately different in content and style (not that that should be surprising, after all, each book describes very diverse and unique personalities and their genuine careers and lives).

  • Allyson, June – “June Allyson”, 1983
  • Andrews, Julie – “Home – A Memoir of my Early Years”, 2008
  • Bacall, Lauren – By Myself and Then Some”, 2005
  • Ball, Lucille – “Love, Lucy”, 1996
  • Burnett, Carol – “One More Time: A Memoir”, 2003
  • Burnett, Carol – “This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection”, 2010
  • Davis, Bette – “The Lonely Life: An Autobiography”, 1962
  • Davis, Bette – “This’n That”, 1987
  • Hepburn, Katherine – “The Making of the African Queen OR How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Houston and Almost Lost My Mind”, 1987
  • Hepburn, Katherine – “Me: Stories of My Life”, 1991
  • Loy, Myrna – “Being & Becoming”, 1988
  • MacLaine, Shirley – “Dance While You Can”, 1991
  • McClanahan, Rue – “My First Five Husbands… And the Ones That Got Away”, 2007
  • O’Hara, Maureen – “‘Tis Herself: An Autobiography”, 2005
  • Palmer, Lilli – “Change Lobsters and Dance”, 1974
  • Powers, Stefanie – “One From the Hart”, 2010
  • Redgrave, Vanessa – “An Autobiography”, 1991
  • Taylor, Elizabeth – “Elizabeth Taylor”, 1964
  • White, Betty – “In Person”, 1987
  • White, Betty – “Here We Go Again”, 1995

I do realize that I failed to list autobiographies by men, but most of my favorites never wrote about their lives: Raymond Burr, Bill Williams, Robert Young, Spencer Tracey, Larry Parks or Cary Grant. Thus my negligence and probable ignorance. I do have Robert J. Wagner’s book “Pieces of My Heart: A Life” from 2008 and Rock Hudson’s “His Story” from 2007 on my reading list though – if that placates those of you who wonder if I, as a woman, may be a little biased towards female life stories and voices.

Hollywood’s Hunky Men

In the about section of this blog I promised Friday to be miscellaneous day. Hollywood fun facts and what not. Well, since time is scarce this week and rushing by all too easily, I decided to have a Hollywood fun question day.

So this is what happened: upon re-watching Perry Mason, I began to wonder about something, and my most recent TV classics post on Family Affair only added to that. I mean, I may be the only one who wonders about the question I’m about to ask, and only for the most innocent of reasons of course, but seriously: where did all the hunky men go?!

You know who I’m talking about: Raymond Burr, Bill Hopper, Brian Keith, Curd Juergens, Rock Hudson… That type of guy. Broad shoulders, tall, gentlemanly and handsome in a handy way. Totally serving the cliches of their time, on screen that is – rough charm but teddy bear qualities. I know!

But where is that mixture?! Where did it go?!

Did it really vanish because the times have changed?! And if it did, how come that in spite of these “old school” characteristics, I can’t even think of a current actor who is remotely built that way?!

Well, maybe it’s like the myth of the curvy, practical yet glamorous lady – a bygone image Hollywood has discarded and replaced with a skinny replica to serve the supposed demands of our time. Not that this would be a recent development, I mean Twiggy and Jane Fonda are appreciated silver-agers these days.

But here’s why I began wondering about this in the first place: I have so much fun watching those classic movies and shows with people who aged all right, who were adults and looked like them. Who did not fit themselves in ridiculously short miniskirts and dieted non-stop to pass as forty although they had well reached fifty-five. It’s all of that, with women and men, and mind you, I am aware of the beauty tricks and the pressures Hollywood has put on its stars early on. The nipping and tucking. But maybe it just feels more genuine to see people age on screen, to see men looking good without brushing their hair incessantly or women working out as if they wanted to make the Olympics team.

Fashion has changed, standards and likes – so I guess my hunky men just aren’t in vogue in our times. So I’ll stick to my classics in-between enjoying some of what this millennium has to offer. After all, old school escapism still works its wonders and may be revived eventually.