4 Living Legends Part 2

day-midnightlaceHere is another entry in our ongoing series of Classic Hollywood Stars who are still with us.

Michele Morgan (1920-)

A French beauty and leading lady for numerous decades known for integral roles in films in her native France and across the globe. Her filmography includes Michel Carne’s revered classic with Jean Gabin Port of Shadows as well as Carol Reed’s adroit drama Fallen Idol.

Nanette Fabray (1920-)

Fabray had her roots in vaudeville and musical theater and I know her best for her memorably fun role in the Stanley Donen musical Band Wagon alongside Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, and of course, Oscar Levant. In the 1950s she was also paired with Sid Caesar on his eponymous “Caesar’s Hour.”

Rhonda Fleming (1923-)

If Maureen O’Hara was Classic Hollywood’s favorite fiery redhead, Rhonda Fleming deserves to be thrown into the conversation as well, lending herself to many intriguing film-noir including classics like Out of the Past and lesser-known gems like The Spiral Staircase,  Cry Danger, and While the City Sleeps. The true “Queen of Technicolor” is still up for debate.

Doris Day (1924-)

Undoubtedly the biggest star on this list, Doris Day was quite the extraordinary performer as a singer, actress, and comedienne. Her string of romcoms with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall were memorable including Pillow Talk. However, she also paired with the likes of James Garner and Cary Grant in Move Over Darling and That Touch of Mink respectively. If there was a big-name leading man in Hollywood there’s a good bet that Day sparred with them. She also showed off her dramatic chops in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, a film that boasted her signature song, “Que Sera, Sera.”

Pillow Talk (1959)

Pillowtalk_posterIt’s the original Rock Hudson Doris Day Rom-Com, with the seemingly perpetual split screen, to match the party line that constantly weaves its way through the story. It’s technicolor, it has an infectious title track, and it’s absurd wackiness somehow adds up to a boy-gets-girl happy ending.

The imposing and dashing Hudson plays songwriter and major playboy Brad Allen, before masquerading as tenderhearted Texan Rex Stetson. But how does he get there? What causes him to play such a ludicrous part? It comes in the form of Jan Morrow, our peppy platinum-haired interior decorator who has had just about enough of her party-line partner, the estimable Mr. Allen.

Her often swanked housekeeper Alma (Thelma Ritter) doesn’t mind eavesdropping and swooning along with all the other impressionable women he romances over the telephone. Jan, on the other, thinks it’s sickening behavior for a man. She would never allow herself to be taken in by such a cad.

Of course, there’s more to the story since one of Jan’s clients, the neurotic millionaire Johnathan Forbes (Tony Randall), is madly in love with her. There’s another wrinkle though, that’s far more important. He knows Allen from his college days. When Brad gets his first view of Jan, she’s an absolute knockout and he wants to win her over, but she hates his guts, at least over the phone. Enter a sweetly sincere Texan and she is swept off her feet surreptitiously.

Brad manages the charade for some time, but for the comedy to work, it must all come crumbling down. In this case, as expected, Ms. Morrow and Mr. Forbes figure things out at almost the same precise moment. It looks like Brad is sunk for good. There’s no hope for such a louse. But then again, if Pillow Talk ended there, it’s audience would be left muttering despairingly and crying inconsolably. The exclamation point comes when Hudson pulls his bride-to-be out of her bed and forcibly carries her through the streets of New York. It sets the stage for some quips perfectly at home in a quaint bedroom comedy plucked out of the 1950s.

Day and Hudson were stupendously popular with the populous and this film would begin their string of pictures together. Although they never reached the excellence, or more aptly, the above-averageness of Pillow Talk, they have remained relatively popular even to this day. Ms. Day was always a fan favorite and rightly so with her impeccably powerful voice, raucous comedic performances, and self-assured charm. And she’s still with us bless her heart! It will undoubtedly be antiquated and overly saccharine to many, but if you have a soft spot for either  Rock or Doris, then enjoy it without reservations. It’s a rather entertaining guilty pleasure.

3.5/5 Stars

Brad: Look, I don’t know what’s bothering you, but don’t take your bedroom problems out on me.

Jan: I have no bedroom problems. There’s nothing in my bedroom that bothers me.

Brad: Oh-h-h-h. That’s too bad.

Move Over, Darling (1963)

Move_Over_Darling_-_PosterMove Over, Darling is a remake of My Favorite Wife (1940) and the unfinished Something’s Got to Give (1962). Thus, a Marilyn Monroe & Dean Martin vehicle ultimately turned into a Doris Day romantic comedy with James Garner and Polly Bergen. The dynamic feels so different and yet it ends up fitting nicely into the Doris Day canon. James Garner is always a fun actor and he plays an enjoyable role opposite Day.

The third time is still the charm with a plot involving a wife who is thought to be dead and returns after 5 years on a deserted island. Meanwhile her husband has moved on finally with a new wife who he has just recently married. One husband, two wives. That’s frowned upon in American society so he must figure out how to navigate these choppy marital waters. There are plenty of laughs in this screwball type plot line even if it is worn thin by this point.

The cast is full of great character players including Thelma Ritter, a very funny Edgar Buchannan, Don Knotts, John Astin and Chuck Connors. In this regard it is fun to compare and contrast the roles from the previous renditions such as Don Knotts versus Wally Cox as the shoe salesman, and so on.

It’s not a great film but certainly an enjoyable one full of marital mishaps and screwy situations. Not much more you can ask for so move over, darling and enjoy the show! Here’s to Doris Day who is still with us, James Garner who recently left us and a whole host of others.

3.5/5 Stars

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – Alfred Hitchcock

Starring James Stewart and Doris Day with director Alfred Hitchcock, the film follows the couple as they travel to Morocco with their son. Through a series of strange circumstances, Stewart finds himself learning a deadly secret from a dying man he just met the previous night. Soon his son is kidnapped and Stewart along with Day find themselves traveling to England in pursuit. Frantically, they try following leads and by the time they come up with one, the culprits are already gone before the police arrive. Their search finds them at the Royal Albert Hall foiling a plot and then they go to the embassy. Desperately, they keep up the search for their boy and it finally pays off, maybe. With the wonderful direction of Hitchcock and the song Que Sera, Sera, this film is quite good.

4/5 Stars