Small Town Girl, 1936, Is Playing on TCM on October 21 (USA)

Small Town Girl, 1936, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Monday, October 21 at 8:45 a.m. Closed captioned.

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Robert Taylor and Janet Gaynor

For most of her career Janet Gaynor did nothing but play small town girls, the best known being Esther Blodgett. But I’ve seen her in films like State Fair and Three Loves Has Nancy and it’s the same part, the girl from the tiny hamlet who conquers the big city and the men in it. With a title like this, there was only one casting possibility.

Janet’s a girl who’s thoroughly stuck in a rut in her New England hamlet and yearns for a little adventure. She finds it in the person of Robert Taylor, a young doctor who comes from a wealthy Boston family. After a night’s carousing Gaynor and Taylor are married, to the chagrin of his fiancée, Binnie Barnes and her boyfriend James Stewart.

Remember this is Boston so Taylor’s father Lewis Stone prevails on Taylor to give the marriage a few months trial. Of course this is where the balance of the story comes in. In many ways this plot seems like a harbinger of The Way We Were.

Taylor’s career was now in full swing as Small Town Girl was the next film after his breakout performance in Magnificent Obsession. Remember in that film he was a playboy who became a doctor. Here’s he’s a doctor who doubles as a playboy. Never mind though, feminine hearts all over the English speaking world were fluttering over MGM’s latest heartthrob. My mother who was a juvenile at this time told me that Taylor’s appeal back in these days was just about the same as Elvis’s.

James Stewart was at the beginning of his career as well as MGM had him in about seven features in 1936, mostly in support. Interesting though with worse career management, he could have gone on playing hick roles like Elmer the boyfriend. But it was also obvious there was a spark of stardom with him as well.

Gaynor would leave the screen a few years later, Taylor was at the beginning of his career. He’d have better acting roles in his future, but for now Small Town Girl is a great example of the screen heartthrob he was at the beginning of his stardom. Fans of both stars will like what they see in Small Town Girl. Review by bkoganbing from Buffalo, NewYork

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Taylor has Gaynor upside-down.

 

Some behind-the-scenes photos:

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Left to right: Robert Taylor and Janet Gaynor taking a break on the set; filming a scene; Taylor and Gaynor with singer Frances Langford.

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Ivanhoe, 1952, Is playing on October 19 (USA)

Ivanhoe, 1952 is playing on Turner Classic Movies on October 19 at 6 a.m. Not closed captioned.

Ivanhoe was one of the most successful films of the year and brought in over $10 million at the box office, about $89,823,018.87 in 2015.

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Robert Taylor and Liz Taylor in Ivanhoe.

Wonderful movie! This film is an exciting adventure-romance which never once loses its pace or feel. Robert Taylor brings depth to a potentially dull lead character. Jean Fontaine is great as his love, the Lady Rowenna. Elizabeth Taylor, though, steals the show with her stunning portrayal of Rebecca of York! This film has aged very well and shows first-hand to a young generation just why Elizabeth Taylor was such a star.

Although this film is an extremely enjoyable adventure, it also has the guts to tackle some complicated issues and resolve them in a very non-Hollywood fashion. As Ivanhoe feels his love for the beautiful Rebecca grow will he defy convention and pursue the lovely Jewish girl or remain with the safe charms of the blond, Anglo-Saxon Rowena?  The answer is intelligently handled and surprising. This film is one of the greatest examples of the classic adventure.  Review by David Arbury for the IMDB

Here are a few behind the scenes photos:

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor and Peter Ustinov; waiting; with unknown person.

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Left to right: with Joan Fontaine who played Rowena; with Ms. Fontaine and director Richard Thorpe.

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Left to right: with Elizabeth Taylor; with Liz and Emlyn Williams

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Left to right: with George Sanders and Liz Taylor; with Liz Taylor.

 

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Valley of the Kings, 1954, Is Playing on TCM on September 27 (USA)

Valley of the Kings, 1954, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, September 27 at 8 a.m. Not closed captioned.  This is another of my favorite Taylor pictures–he never looked sexier than he does here.  Mark Brandon, the ruggedly handsome archaeologist played by Robert Taylor is thought to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones.

RT5571This is one of my favorite Robert Taylor pictures. Eleanor Parker and he had wonderful chemistry and both of them looked their best in this exotic action-adventure film.  The following is my review for the IMDb.

This isn’t a serious or “meaningful” film. It is pure entertainment, beautifully photographed on location in Egypt. The stars, Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker, had great chemistry both off-screen and on. Taylor manages to be glamorous even when trapped in a sandstorm. The plot is relatively thin with Parker seeking to validate part of the Old Testament by finding the tomb of the Pharaoh who reigned in the time of the Biblical Joseph. She bats her eyelashes at Taylor who comes along happily. Then she introduces her husband, Carlos Thompson. There are horse and carriage chases, murders, the aforementioned sandstorm, a spectacular fight at Abu Simbel, a scorpion attack–all in ninety minutes. Given the slower pace of movies in the 1950s, there is also time for Taylor and Parker to discover each other more thoroughly (over some fermented goat). Egyptian belly dancer Samia Gamal shakes her stuff at the demure Parker. Highly enjoyable.

RT2304One of the best screen kisses–ever!

Some behind the scenes photos:

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From left: Robert Taylor horsing around with a donkey; looking insecure on a camel.

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From left: Robert Taylor with belly dancer Samia Gamal; with Kurt Kazsnar and Carlos Thompson; at the sphinx.

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From left: Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker at the Mena House Hotel; touring by carriage.

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From left: Mr. Taylor and Ms. Parker in Egypt.

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From left: Mr. Taylor and Ms. Parker, taking pictures; with director Robert Pirosh; saying hello to a camel.

Actress Eleanor Parker, on her kneels, helps Robert Taylor, dressed up as an archaeologist, to lace up a boot on the set of the movie 'Valley of the Kings'. Egypt, 1954. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Actress Eleanor Parker, on her knees, helps Robert Taylor, dressed up as an archaeologist, to lace up a boot on the set of the movie ‘Valley of the Kings’. Egypt, 1954. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Mr. Taylor injured his knee jumping off a camel and may have had difficulty lacing his boots.  They both look happy about it.

 

 

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High Wall, 1947 + Quo Vadis, 1950, are Playing on TCM on Sept. 10 (USA)

My two favorite Robert Taylor movies, High Wall, 1947 and Quo Vadis, 1950 are playing on our anniversary, September 10.  High Wall is at 9 a.m. and Quo Vadis is at 3:15 p.m.  Both films are closed captioned.  No other two films illustrate as clearly the range of Mr. Taylor’s talent.

I highly recommend High Wall.  Robert Taylor is playing totally against type as an injured war veteran who has a haematoma on his brain that is causing him to act irrationally.  This is so far from the glamorous Taylor we know and love and demonstrates his amazing range as an actor.

High Wall is a departure for Robert Taylor. In the 30’s he portrayed mostly handsome society boys. In 1941 he toughened up his image with Johnny Eager. This is an entirely different path. The lead character, Steven Kenet, has returned from a job flying freight in Asia after his service in WW II. He’s eager to see his wife and displeased to find out she has a job. Kenet is even more displeased when he discovers she is having an affair with her boss. To complicate matters, he has a brain injury and is suffering blackouts and other symptoms. Seeing his wife in her lover’s apartment triggers rage and violence. The wife is dead and Kenet is the only suspect. He confesses and is committed to a mental institution for psychiatric evaluation. The unique thing about the film to me is Taylor’s ability to play vulnerability. Kenet is neither a pretty boy nor a villain. He is a man in torment.

Taylor uses his shoulders beautifully to portray hopelessness. They droop in the scenes where the character is locked in solitary confinement. After his operation they are straight. The confusion on his face when he’s offered an opportunity to see his son at the hospital is masterful as he passes through a range of emotions moving from delight to doubt to anger to confusion. There is a remarkable sequence in which Kenet is dragged off after attacking a visitor. Taylor’s body positions change constantly–this is hardly the “wooden” acting for which he is so often condemned. Another great sequence is his walk up the stairs at the end to see his son. Kenet’s face radiates joy. The camera work is stylish and the chiaroscuro is masterful. This movie was apparently not well received in its time probably because it isn’t the “Robert Taylor” people expected and it is largely forgotten now. It deserves to be remembered. Review by me for the IMDb.

Some behind-the-scenes photos:

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Robert Taylor with co-stars Audrey Totter and  Bobby Hyatt.

The 1st century Roman Empire, the fire of Rome, early Christianity, martyrdom…this historical content was dealt with in many films before and after 1951. Yet, it is LeRoy’s Quo Vadis most viewers associate with the infamous period of Roman history, the reign of Nero (A.D. 54-68). Why? There are, I think, several reasons. One is, definitely, the source, a Noble Prize winner novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. The Polish writer, being an acknowledged historian, contained detailed historical facts and a vivid fictitious story in his novel. As a result, Quo Vadis is a universal masterpiece, absolutely worth reading for anyone. But, since the film, though an adaptation of the book, skips many events or even characters, we may treat Mervyn LeRoy’s Quo Vadis as a separate Hollywood production. In this respect, the movie is also well known as a gigantic spectacle with great cast, lavish sets, crowds of extras, which constitutes a magnificent journey to ancient Rome, the Rome which was on the verge of becoming “Neropolis”. Then, a viewer does not have to know the novel and will enjoy the film.

THE STORY: If we consider Quo Vadis? as an entertaining movie only (which is, of course, a limited view), then anyone more acquainted with cinema will find much in common with Cecil B DeMille’s great epic The Sign of the Cross (1932). Yet, comparison does not work that well concerning the perspective of Quo Vadis (1951). After deeper analysis of the films, a lot of differences occur. While DeMille’s film based on Wilson Barret’s play shows early Christianity in Rome, it foremost concentrates on the clash between the new religion and the Roman order being put in danger. LeRoy’s movie, since based on Henryk Sienkiewicz’s, focuses on the undeniable victory of Christianity. Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) at first finds a new faith meaningless. He has reasonable arguments from the Roman point of view (what about slaves, conquest, enemy treating, etc). Yet gradually, thanks to love for Lygia (Deborah Kerr) and the courageous faith of the martyrs, he shouts out with confidence “Christ, give him strength!” The story of Nero and “the imperial companions” is also much more developed. Yet, Nero (Peter Ustinov) is not only the one who heads for delicious debauchery but also wishes the crowd to have one throat that could be cut. He is an artist who burns Rome in order to create a song. He is a coward who blames the innocent for his own guilts. He is a cynic who collects tears in a weeping phial after the death of his “best friend” Petronius (Leo Genn). Finally, he is a lunatic who praises his “divine ego” and screams at his death seeing no future for Rome without him.

CAST: Anyone who has seen ancient epics must admit that most of them can boast great performances. Nevertheless, I believe that Quo Vadis is one of the top movies in this matter. Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr are a gorgeous couple portraying a Roman leader  and a Christian girl. Taylor naturally expresses a change of heart. Kerr appealingly portrays innocence, gentleness and true love. Leo Genn is excellent as Petronius, a man of art and elegance who is fed up with Nero’s “secondary songs and meaningless poems.” Peter Ustinov gives a fabulous performance as Nero combining all wicked features of his character. I also loved Patricia Laffan as lustful empress Poppaea with her two pet leopards. There is no milk bath of hers, she does not imitate Ms Colbert but Laffan’s Poppaea is foremost a woman of sin, a woman of lust, and a woman of revenge. The Christians, except for a number of extras, are portrayed by very authentic-looking actors: Abraham Sofaer as Paul and Finlay Currie as Peter…not more to say than that they look identical to the old paintings.

SPECTACLE: The movie is a visually stunning epic that can be compared in its magnificence to Ben Hur (1959) and even Gladiator (2000). There are numerous breathtaking moments: arena scenes, lions, bull fighting, triumph in the streets, and foremost the fire of Rome. We see the real horror within the walls of the burning city. A moment that is also worth consideration is Vinicius hurrying to Rome on a chariot being chased by two other men. When he comes nearer, we see the red sky… The authenticity is increased by a lovely landscape of Cinecitta Studios near Rome where the film was shot. For the sake of spectacle, I went once to see Quo Vadis on a big screen in cinema and felt as if I watched a new film made with modern techniques. It was a wonderful experience.

All in all, I think that Quo Vadis by Mervyn LeRoy is a movie that has stood a test of time. Although it is 55 years old, it is still admired in many places of the world. It’s one of these movies that are the treasures of my film gallery. Not only a colossal spectacle, not only great performances but a very profound historical content at which Henryk Sienkiewicz was best.

Quo Vadis Domine? Where are you going, Lord? These are the words that Peter asked Christ while leaving Rome. After the answer that Peter heard from his Lord, he turned back… in order to proclaim peace to the martyrs and to be crucified. Yet, where once stood decadent “Neropolis” now stands the Holy See where people yearly pilgrim to the tombs of the martyrs and where the blessing “Urbi et Orbi” is goes to all the corners of the world. Sienkiewicz writes about it in the touching final words of the novel. Yet, LeRoy changes it a bit in the film…

A small group of Christians who survived, including Lygia and Marcus, are on a journey. But after a short stop at the place where Peter met Christ, the journey seems to turn into a pilgrimage towards “the Way, the Truth and the Life”   Review by Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland for the IMDB

Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr and Mervyn LeRoy touring Rome:

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The Hollywood Crew Arriving in Rome: writer John Lee Mahin, producer Sam Zimbalist, director Mervyn LeRoy, Robert Taylor

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Overlooking the Roman Forum
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A Carriage Tour Arrives at the Colosseum


Bored before the photo; fascinated while being photographed.


Mr. Taylor doing his own photography

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Billy the Kid, 1941, Is Playing on TCM on August 13 (USA)

Billy the Kid, 1941, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, August 13 at 10:30 a.m.  Not closed captioned.

bk22Billy the Kid (1941) is an early example of the use of Technicolor. The film is visually outstanding. Cinematographers Leonard V. Skall and Leonard Smith received an Oscar nomination for their work on the film and should have won. From close-ups to panoramic views of Monument Valley, Kanab, Utah and other locations they used color, composition and especially light masterfully. Some scenes evoke the stillness of a Vermeer and others the chiaroscuro of Rembrandt. Near the end of the movie Billy is standing near the window of a tumbledown shack. The viewer is outside and can see his body fading into the shadows except for the upper part of his face, especially the intense blue eyes. There is a Caravaggio-like spotlight on the hand and gun the outlaw is pointing out the window.

Historically, there is little resemblance between the film and the actual life of Billy the Kid. The general details of his background is correct but the names have all been changed, perhaps to head off the complaints of purists. There is no Pat Garrett, but rather a Jim Sherman (Brian Donlevy), no William Tunstall but an Eric Keating (Ian Hunter). The filmmakers obviously wanted to tell a good story without regard to historical accuracy.

Robert Taylor was 30 when Billy the Kid was filmed. He’s too old for the part but not by as much as some have made out. To seem younger, Taylor plays Billy as uncouth, uneducated and probably illiterate. The outlaw is incapable of understanding the consequences of his actions. He’s always being bombarded by new ideas and new customs. There is a lighthearted scene where Billy is handed a teacup and saucer, objects obviously new to him. He picks the cup up as though it were a glass until he sees what Keating is doing. Billy holds the cup awkwardly by the handle until Keating turns away then he gulps the tea with his original hold.

This was Robert Taylor in his element. He was a superb rider and did all of his own riding in this film, even in the long shots. Taylor also had the western swagger down pat and seems very comfortable in his cowboy costumes. In private life, he often wore jeans, boots and a Stetson. In the first and last parts of the film, Billy dresses all in black. In the middle he wears a blue shirt to indicate his changed lifestyle. Robert Taylor practiced left-handed drawing and shooting for weeks before the film and used the skill again in the film Ride Vaquero in 1953.

Taylor and Donlevy are comfortable with one another, having worked together before in This Is My Affair in 1937. The easiness of their relationship makes Billy’s (temporary) transformation into an honest cowboy believable. Mary Howard has a small role as Eric Keating’s sister and makes the most of it. Ian Hunter is believable as rancher Keating.

The villains, especially Hickey (Gene Lockhart) are suitably nasty. Henry O’Neill, a leading character actor, throws himself with gusto into the role of a newspaper publisher whose press is constantly being sabotaged. Review by me for the imdb.

Here are a few behind the scenes photos:

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August 5 Is Robert Taylor’s Birthday

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Robert Taylor was born on August 5, 1911.  2019 is the 108th anniversary of his birth.  Mr. Taylor died on June 8, 1969 from lung cancer. Robert Taylor was one of the most talented and versatile actors of Hollywood’s Golden … Continue reading

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Three Robert Taylor Films Are Playing on TCM on August 8 (USA)

The three films are The Bribe, 1949, Ride, Vaquero! 1953 and Knights of the Round Table, 1953.  Ava Gardner co-stars in all three.

The Bribe, 1949, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, August 8 at 6:00 a.m. est.  Closed captioned.  The Bribe has a minimal story but great actors including Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton and Vincent Price.  The chemistry between Mr. Taylor and Ms. Gardner  is sizzling.  They became lovers during the production and had to go to his mother’s house to make love because they would have been recognized anywhere else.

Ava Gardner, Robert Taylor

“The Bribe” is one of the forties film noir entries, and I love it! Top stars of the era include Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price. It is a story of an honest cop, Rigby played with remarkable insight, by Robert Taylor, who falls in love with a suspect (Ava Gardner), and can’t make up his mind on if she is guilty or innocent. John Hodiak is the husband, who is a former fly boy turned crook. Charles Laughton is at his sinister best as the “pie shaped man” who is hired by Vincent Price to pay off Rigby. Laughton dogs Rigby, knowing that he is in love with Gardner, till he caves in and decides to take a bribe to save his love. As in many film noir, only Taylor’s last name is used, we never know Rigby’s first name, interesting. Taylor is very convincing as a man torn between love and honor. He is so conflicted, that you feel sorry for him, wishing that Ava would just run away with him before he turns crook himself. She drugs him and makes sure he can’t stop the crooks, but he recovers, and confronts her, not realizing the trouble she is in herself. In the end, love and honor conquer all. There is a spectacular fireworks ending, that is reminiscent of “Ride the Pink Horse.” All in all the love scenes are sincere, probably because Taylor and Gardner were having an affair at the time of filming, despite the fact that Taylor was very married to Barbara Stanwyck. Quintessential film noir. Review by mamalv for IMDB.

Some behind the scenes photos:


Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner rehearsing a beach scene.


Mr. Taylor and Ms. Gardner


Mr. Taylor and Ms. Gardner with director Robert Z. Leonard.

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor with Vincent Price; Charles Laughton; John Hodiak


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Ride, Vaquero! (1953) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, August 8 at 12 noon.  Closed captioned.

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Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor

By keeping quiet, speaking only when necessary Robert Taylor as Rio gives one of his best performances. All through the film you try to guess what he is thinking. He was adopted by the mother of Esqueda (Anthony Quinn) and Quinn loves and respects him. The real surprise is Howard Keel, who only used to do musicals, coming out so well as King Cameron, a man who is obstinate about building a cattle empire. Cameron is married to Cordelia (Ava Gardner) and as soon as she arrives in a river boat, and they go to their ranch, trouble starts because it has been burnt by Esqueda. Why did Esqueda do it? Because he knows that if he allows anybody to do well in business in that area, others will come and eventually he, who is a bandit will have to run away or be hanged. Quinn is great as Esqueda, just that makes the film worth seeing. Taylor, who was the second man to Quinn in the gang, eventually leaves him to help Keel, because deep down he knows his brother is becoming a crazy monster and unconsciously he is in love with Ava. But when she kisses him, he slaps her because he knows it is wrong. He is a torn man, with all those feelings and not knowing exactly what to do about it. Excellent film, not to be missed. IMDB review by tmwest from Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Some behind-the-scenes photos:

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Left to right: Robert Taylor, Dore Schary, J. Farrow, Howard Keel; Robert Taylor; J. Farrrow, Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner


Left to right: Mr. Taylor and Ms. Gardner

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor and Ms. Gardner; Howard Keel, Mr. Taylor, Ms. Gardner; 2 of Ms. Gardner’s costumes from the film.

Knights of the Round Table, 1952, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, August 8 at 4 p.m. est. Closed captioned.

The film was highly successful costing $2,616,000.00 and making a profit of $1,641,000.00 or $14,536,985.95 in today’s money.

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Mel Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Stanley Baker, Anne Crawford, Felix Aylmer, Robert Taylor and Maureen Swanson.

This is a fine example of ’50’s style epics. Big name cast, colorful costumes,flashy swordplay, beautiful damsels and wild inaccuracies. The great Robert Taylor, who starred in several historical movies, is the honorable Sir Lancelot, a far more noble and pure portrayal than was recorded in all the legends, Ava Gardner is the stunningly beautiful Queen Guinevere, the ever dependable Felix Aylmer is the mysterious Merlin, Mel Ferer is a somewhat subdued and less than charismatic King Arthur. See it for the spectacle, costumes, word-play filled dialog and over the top Stanley Baker as Sir Mordred. Lancelot’s joust with Niall Mac Ginnis is very well done. 8 stars for pure eye filling entertainment value. Review by Wayner50 (United States) for the IMDB.

Some behind the scenes photos:

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Left to right: phoning; photos; coffee; Mr. Taylor with Stanley Baker

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor in armor (which he hated).

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor with Mel Ferrer; Maureen Swanson; waiting for instructions.

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Left to right: Robert Taylor and his co-star and friend and sometime lover Ava Gardner.

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor with Richard Thorpe; taking a break; enjoying a ride on his huge horse.

 

 

 

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