Tag Archives: melvyn douglas

Looking Backward: Two-Faced Woman (1941)

14 Aug

I should start by saying that the previously-mentioned reviews are fair. Two-Faced Woman is a middling movie at best, and it’s mostly because of Garbo, who plays two roles (sort of) and is miscast in both of them.


It’s also from the latter end of screwball, when for whatever reason a meanness crept into the proceedings. The couple (Garbo & Melvyn Douglas) seems grouchy all the time and the charm of the leads can’t make that go away. (I have similar feelings about Hitchcock’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith.)

I think the key to screwball may have something to do with surrounding likeable people with obstreperous nutjobs or immersing them in unusual situations (or, ideally, both)  instead of making their own relationships and personalities the problem. Also, surrounded by nutjobs of the proper magnitude, our beloved leads can have more flaws of their own without becoming hateful. (cf. Theodora Goes Wild and Nothing Sacred.)

But what do I know?

Looking Forward: Two-Faced Woman (1941)

24 Jul

Garbo Two Faced Woman 3

Somehow I’ve never seen Two-Faced Woman (airing on TCM Thursday, July 25 at 9:30 a.m. as part of a daylong block of “twin” movies), despite its Garbo and Melvyn Douglas pedigree. It always gets such lukewarm reviews when compared with the incomparable Ninotchka that it hardly seems fair.

See you here sometime after it airs (assuming I survive this blasted production of The Pirates of Penzance that has so eaten into my viewing schedule…).

Looking Backward: And So They Were Married (1936)

4 Jul

and-so-they-were-married-1Moral lessons learned from And So They Were Married:

not enough parents use brandy and violence as child-rearing tactics these days;

children are, at their core, rotten, vicious and selfish;

women are capricious and vindictive;

men are capricious and vindictive;

Donald Meek cannot be trusted with anything;

there was a time not so long ago when going on vacation with your child meant leaving them pretty much anywhere in a crowded version of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel;

the sweet young bride Rick stuck his neck out for enough to at least hand her a roulette-based nest egg started out with a mean streak and must’ve been through a lot to become so self-sacrificing when at ten she wouldn’t even share cake;

the police, individually and collectively, are utter buffoons capable of being tricked by third-graders;

in the days before cell phones no one could ever be reached anywhere ever.

If this were a one-hundred-forty character affair the hashtag would be followed by the unspaced and depunctuated phrase “I Love Screwball!”

Looking Forward: And So They Were Married (1936)

3 Jul

and-so-they-were-married-7I missed And So They Were Married on the listings somehow, but it’s on TCM tonight (July 3) at 11:15 p.m. An Elliott Nugent screwball starring Melvyn Douglas and Mary Astor. Which begs the question, “Why am I seeing this for the first time?”

See you here sometime after it airs.

The Americanization of Emily (1964) and my wife’s thing for Melvyn Douglas

4 Jun

I admit I’m pretty thrilled that within the entertaining and nostalgic but a trifle jingoistic historical document that is TCM around the Memorial Day/D-Day corridor sits The Americanization of Emily, on June 6 at 11:30 a.m.

americanizationI don’t do synopses, but this is a comedy of the shiny dark anti-war satire variety. The Paddy Chayefsky screenplay gets a little chatty at times, but, as previously noted, it’s a Paddy Chayefsky screenplay, so it’s some of the best chat ever chatted. It also, for an intellectual anti-war satire, has a lot of charm and heart and humanity (which is how Chayefsky even managed to get by with as much as he did creatively over the years, I suspect). Whether or not boy gets girl is technically just a coat hanger for the ideas, but it’s never treated as such.

A lot of the credit for that goes to director Arthur Hiller and co-stars James Garner and Julie Andrews. They’re why you’ll watch (that and a love of the tone and origins of M*A*S*H), and you should. But then you have the bonus of a terrific broken, addled and confused performance by Melvyn Douglas.

douglas-smokes-37My wife has a thing for Melvyn Douglas. Usually she expresses it more when we’re watching, say, Theodora Goes Wild or Third Finger, Left Hand or Ninotchka than when we’re watching Being There or this. Regardless, I take a moment here to note that this falls under the heading of

Approved Old Movie Crush

…by which I mean: no husband can compete with a Gene Kelly or a Cary Grant or a god forbid Gregory Peck. One can strongly admire their artistry but be a little glad they’re dead for this reason. Even in their latter days, they daunt. Douglas is still an appealing and attractive guy, still a romantic lead in his youth, but aged more comfortably into Character Man in a way that doesn’t, you know, make a husband grumble retroactively through his wife’s excessive enjoyment of She Married Her Boss or Annie Oakley. We’ll put him on the William Powell shelf in this regard. I’m pretty sure they also share a moustache hall of fame shelf.

(Full Disclosure: I have been known on occasion to refer to her – my wife, not Annie Oakley – as She Who Must Be Obeyed, but this is based more in Rumpole of the Bailey than Helen Gahagan. Still. Clearly the universe has an order.)

And while we’re objectifying talented people instead of talking about their abilities: gentlemen, if harassed by cries of “Julie Andrews? Mary Poppins?” I recommend this film as an explanatory measure.

andrews emily

I mean, come on.