The Painted Desert – 1931 With Clark Gable

Here’s an old movie, a 1931 low-budget Black and White, about an unclaimed baby and some old western miners. Clark Gable’s early work can be read more about here.

The Painted Desert

DVD cover for the film
Directed by Howard Higgin
Produced by E. B. Derr
Written by Tom Buckingham
Starring William Boyd
Clark Gable
Music by Francis Gromon
Cinematography Edward Snyder
Editing by Clarence Kolster
Distributed by Pathé Exchange
Release date(s) March 7, 1931
Country United States
Language English

The Painted Desert (1931) is a film released by RKO Radio Pictures which marks the debut of Clark Gable in a talkie. Gable’s performance as Rance Brett, an unshaven former criminal who does not feel sorry about the crimes he has committed, made him an important supporting actor overnight as the result of an avalanche of unexpected fan mail and opened the door for him to become “The King of Hollywood” during the 1930s. Another actor with an extraordinarily powerful voice, Robert Mitchum, also started out playing a bearded villain in a William Boyd Western film twelve years later and drew a similarly huge quantity of fan mail.

Posted in Film Noir, Monday Movie, Movies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday Showtime: Shirley Booth & Burt Lancaster in ‘Come Back, Little Sheba

It’s barely dawn. Doc Delaney’s brutality enters the room before he does. Lola is roused from her sleep on the sofa, still wearing the printed dress that she’d cheerfully worn the night before, when her husband disappeared and left her to put on her little dinner party alone. When Lola hears Doc enter, she is startled awake, and goes to him. He sneers at her, filled with disgust –

DOC: Where’s the paper. I wanna see the morning paper.

LOLA: We don’t get any morning paper, Doc. You know that –

DOC:  Then I suppose I’m drunk or something. Is that what you’re tryin’ to say?

LOLA: Oh, no, Doc. 

DOC: (demanding) Then get me the morning paper.

~     ~     ~     ~

Lola asks Doc where he’s been, and why did he miss the special dinner she made for Marie and her fiance – but Doc goes on a rampage about the young girl –

DOC: I suppose you peeked in the keyhole and applauded it. Like you did with Marie and Turk.

LOLA:  Aw, Daddy, don’t say things like that. He’s a nice boy, Daddy. They’re going to be married

DOC: (reminiscing) – probably has to marry her – jus’ ’cause she’s pretty an’ he got amorous one day. Just like I had to marry YOU! (lurching towards her) You and Marie are a couple of sluts. Whadda’ya good for? You can’t even get up in the morning and cook my breakfast.

Doc paces the room, leering at the scented light bulbs in the parlor, the flowers on the dining table. Then snatches up a small china plate –

DOC (continued):  The china…gold rimmed china my mother gave us. My mother didn’t buy these dishes for sluts to eat off!

Doc violently yanks at the table cover, throwing the dishes and flowers across the floor. He turns his rage back at Lola.

DOC (cont’d):  Now get me a drink.

LOLA: No, Daddy, No Daddy please don’t – Doc, you know what it does to you –

DOC:  (belligerently mimicking Lola) ‘You know what it does to me’ – Makes me wanna come home and look at you! YOU!

Doc pours himself a stiff shot from the new bottle he hid in the cupboard to replace the one he just drank down –

DOC (cont’d) I’m gonna have another. And another and another – GET AWAY FROM THAT PHONE!

LOLA (into phone) Ed, hurry! He’s drinking again –

DOC: Tell the whole world I’m drunk! Scream your head off you fat slut!

LOLA (screams into phone): Ed! He’s got a knife!

DOC: Go ‘head, holler! Holler so the neighbors will think I’m beatin’ ya!

Doc raises the knife to plunge into Lola, but loses his grip on it. It scuttles across the floor. He grabs her neck and begins choking her –

~     ~     ~          

This is the role for which Shirley Booth won the 1952 Academy Award. Also starring Burt Lancaster as the recovering alcoholic ‘Doc’ Delaney, a tormented man, and a cold-hearted husband, who had dropped out of medical school earlier in life, to marry Lola (Booth) when she became pregnant. The baby died, we learn, which also resulted in Lola becoming unable to have any further children. This led to Doc’s increased drinking and misery. Bouts of anger and violence eventually lead to Alcoholics Anonymous for him, and the past year of sobriety. But there is still one bottle of liquor stashed away in the kitchen cupboard, for company…

The past is seemingly thrown in his face when Marie, a young college girl, moves into their home, renting a spare room. She begins seeing Turk, a conceited, muscular blonde-haired athlete and track star – even though she  has become engaged to Bruce, who is working out-of-town.  Doc, who barely listens to his own lonely wife, becomes obsessed with the college girls infidelity to her fiancé. He fears she will become pregnant, and be forced to marry the wrong guy – just as he seems to think he married the wrong woman…

Late one night, when he sees Turk come in through the girls bedroom window (to unlock the front door for her) he again is enraged. By the next evening, when her fiance’ is expected to be coming for dinner, his anger his hit such a pitched fever of rage, that he goes to find his bottle of liquor, hides it in his coat and leaves the house. He spends the night away, drinking until dawn. Drunk and violent, he returns home, and attempts to strangle his wife. But she has already placed a call to his AA sponsors. This brutish tirade lands him in the sanitarium wing of the hospital…

And the title of the film, Come Back, Little Sheba…refers to the excruciatingly lonely Lola’s lost little dog (okay, that was seven l’s in a row – count ’em – and that’s enough alliteration for one movie review) , whom she is still hoping to find, and whom she dreams about and calls out to from her porch at night…

But I’ve already told you enough. 

SO pop yourself up a big bowl of popcorn, sprinkle it with a little hot sauce (it’s much better than it sounds!) and see the film that earned our Shirley that Oscar 😀

Posted in Movies, Saturday Showtime, Vintage Mid-Century | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monday Movie: Shirley Booth as Hazel

This is not a movie, but a group of 4 TV shows from the Hazel series, starring Shirley Booth. It’s “Hazel Week”, after all 😉

Hazel TV Show#101 – Luncheon with the Governor

Hazel TV Show# 87 – The Fashion Show

Hazel TV Show #85 – Scheherezade and Her Frying Pan, Part I

Hazel TV Show # 86 – Scheherazade and Her Frying Pan, Part II

Hazel show# 114 – Just 86 Minutes till Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

SentiMental Sunday: 1940’s Progressive Education Program

Apparently, there was a national movement toward ‘Progressive Education’ in the 1940’s, geared towards educating students beyond the standard disciplines of reading, arithmetic, geography and writing. The ideal was to train young minds to be responsible, self-reliant, and to become equipped with the ability to live in the ‘World of the Future’. As the announcer says, the ‘stern’ education of the past was a test of memory, not understanding. And then we see little Johnny getting his a$$ beat with a stick, at frame 1:47.

Ah, yessss….the good old days 😀 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday Showtime: HOUDINI – starring Tony Curtis & Janet Leigh

As promised, here’s the 1953 movie we’ve been building up to all week – “Houdini” in vivid Technicolor majesty. Starring a young Tony Curtis as Houdini, and Janet Leigh as his love interest, the story begins in an 1800’s circus-like side-show. A group of proper teenaged school girls wearing prim uniforms are ushered past stages displaying various human curiosities, including a ‘wild man’ from Africa (also Curtis, in costume). Houdini is instantly attracted to the young girl who chides the ringmaster for whipping the wild man through the cage bars, attempting to stop him from mistreating the poor man.

After only a few meetings, the couple marries, and moves in with Houdini’s mother, to whom he was deeply attached.  The film progresses through his jobs in vaudeville, a lock factory, and a successful European tour, where Houdini escapes from a prison cell in Scotland Yard. An especially harrowing scene finds him being lowered in a chained box down into frozen lake waters, when the chain breaks 😦 The box, with Houdini in it, sinks to the bottom of the lake. When he escapes underwater, he cannot find the hole cut into the ice, and nearly dies.  Some liberties were taken with the real Houdini’s biographical story, but it’s Hollywood, after all – let the show go on 😀

For you Vintage Gawkers, you’ll love the stylized sets, full of velvet curtains, ornate wallpapers, globed gas lamps, old-fashioned posters and corsetted women in extravagant gowns with wide, matching hats. Indeed, the attention to detail in every scene is rapturously mind boggling.  

The first of 10 parts of the movie appears below – to continue watching, simply click the upper left corner screen at the end of each video. They are all in order. Do yourself a favor and expand the movie to full-screen mode, by clicking the icon at the lower right corner of each video panel.

And now, drummmm~rrrrrooool, Please!  SO – slip into your favorite flannel pajamas, microwave a big fat bag of buttered popcorn, pour yourself a Gin Rickey and settle in for a colorful and entertaining film 😀

Posted in Biography, Entertainers, Movies, Saturday Showtime | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Wednesday Biography: Houdini

Harry Houdini was born March 24, 1874, in Hungary…

The rest you can learn here, in this biography.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SentiMental Sunday: It’s Houdini Week!

Tonight’s SentiMental moment is dedicated to Harry Houdini. The Master Escape Artist was made famous with his straight-jacket escapes, and was best known for his death-defying feats, including being chained inside of a weighted coffin and dumped into the river. His later interests in the occult, and séances, are mistakenly remembered as additional publicity stunts by him, but which were actually attempts on his part to disprove the popular mediums, frauds and spiritualists of his day.   

Houdini, born in Hungary in 1874, was an ambitious, highly driven athlete, and maintained his excellent muscular condition through ardent exercise routines, and by swearing off smoking or drinking. He was also a publicity hound; if he hadn’t been, no doubt we wouldn’t still be talking about him today, almost 90 years after his death, in 1926, at age 52. He made movies during the silent era, such was the height his star had risen to by the turn of the century. 

Here is a brief video of his famous straight-jacket-escape routine:

In this next video, he speaks about his infamous ‘Chinese Water Torture Cell’ (pictured, left), along with words from his wife about his failure to give her a sign after his death, though she had waited ten long years for something, some secret message from him. You can see from the photographs what an enigmatic character he was, with his glaring, wild eyes, even as his short, stout muscular physique is wrapped in straight jackets or confined with padlocks and chains

He’ll be featured here all week: on our Monday Movie, in the 1920 silent film “The Master Mystery”, on Wednesday Biography, and again with our Saturday Showtime movie, starring Tony Curtis. It has been recently announced that Hugh Jackman will be portraying Houdini in an upcoming Broadway Production (article links follow)

Curious for still more? Here is the link to the final séance, in 1939 (broadcast in 1959) of his wife and mediums trying to make contact with Houdini on the other side…

Posted in Biography, History, SentiMental Sundays | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments