Three Robert Taylor Movies Are Playing on TCM on February 6 (USA)

There are 3 very worthwhile Robert Taylor films playing on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, February 6.  They are: Above and Beyond, 1952, 11:00 a.m. est. Closed captioned; All the Brothers Were Valiant, 1953 at 1:15 p.m. est.; Three Comrades, 1938, at 6:15 p.m. est. Closed captioned.Above and Beyond is one of several roles for which Robert Taylor should have won an Oscar.  He was outstanding.

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Larry Keating and Robert Taylor

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Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker

Considering that  Above and Beyond was made during the height of the hysteria now known as McCarthyism, one would have expected a jingoistic flag-waver out of Hollywood. Instead, surprisingly, the screenplay as written allows the Paul Tibbets character (Robert Taylor) the opportunity to register a variety of emotions, in a most realistic and compelling performance.

This is ironic, seeing as the real Tibbets, decades after the event (the bombing of Hiroshima), is to this day unrepentant. Not to criticize his position in any way, because that was a different time and place, and it’s Tibbets’ view that he had a job to do, and the morality of it all, he has stated, is best debated by others.

But the film is all the more compelling because of the ambivalence written into the Tibbets character, and Taylor’s especially fine work. There are uniformly strong performances throughout the cast, notably those of Eleanor Parker (Lucy Tibbets), James Whitmore (the security officer) and Larry Keating (General Brent).

Another surprise: the team of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama (screenplay, direction) had been best known for their Bob Hope comedies, when under contract at Paramount. Their first dramatic effort was “Above and Beyond,” and they acquitted themselves admirably.

Final note: the musical score by Hugo Friedhofer is immensely satisfying: stirring in an emotional sense, with just a touch of, but not too much of, militaristic flavor.

Dore Schary, a Democrat, had succeeded fervent Republican Louis B. Mayer at MGM in 1951, and had encouraged the production of Above and Beyond. One wonders if (a) the film would have been made at all on Mayer’s watch, and (b) if it had, would it have been more of a cornball, John Wayne-type flag-waver. Thankfully, those questions are moot. “Above and Beyond” is a stirring, finely-crafted film. I would stress again the unusual nature of the protagonist’s ambivalence as portrayed in a film made during a very sensitive time in America’s history.  Review by Alan Rosenberg, Toronto, Canada for the imdb.

Note: I don’t agree with some of this reviewer’s comments but I thought the review is worth reading.  Judith

Some behind the scenes photos:


Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker signing autographs for fans.

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Left to right: hanging out on the set; lunchtime


More hanging out.

All the Brothers Were Valiant, 1953,   This film was very successful, bringing in $4,628,000.00 or $41,258,706.67 in today’s money.

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Robert Taylor and Ann Blyth.


This film has quite a good story by Ben Ames Williams, which was competently brought to the screen. Robert Taylor is the “good” brother and Stewart Granger the “bad” one. Ann Blyth is the woman who marries Taylor thinking Granger is dead. Three years later Granger and Taylor would star in The Last Hunt with a reversal of roles: Granger as the “good” guy and Taylor the “bad”. There are two aspects of this film which create a strong impression:1)the destructive relationship between the brothers, which started in childhood with Granger always taking for himself Taylor’s toys. Now Granger wants to take away Taylor’s ship and also his wife. 2)How Granger is able to seduce Ann Blyth by making her think her husband is a coward. Blyth is a bit too “angelical” for her role, when you see the ship you have the feeling you are seeing a miniature on MGM’s tank, but both Granger and Taylor are excellent. Great entertainment. Review for the IMDB by tmwest from S Paolo, Brazil.

Here are some behind the scenes photos:

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Left to right:  Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger; Mr. Granger and Mr. Taylor; Mr. Taylor, Lewis Stone, Director Richard Thorpe.

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Left to right:  Dore Schary and Robert Taylor; Mr. Taylor, Ann Blyth and a guest; Messrs. Granger and Taylor with Jean Simmons.

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Left to right: Joan Crawford and Robert Taylor; Richard Thorpe, Ms. Crawford, Ann Blyth, Mr. Taylor.  The original caption for the first photo: Joan Crawford, returning to MGM for the first time in a number of years to star in Torch Song, visited an old friend, Robert Taylor, on his set.

Three Comrades, 1938

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Margaret Sullavan, Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone and Robert Young.

New York Times Review (summary):  Based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, Three Comrades represented one of the few successful screenwriting efforts of  F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set  in Germany in the years just following World War I, the film stars Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone and Robert Young as three battle-weary, thoroughly disillusioned returning soldiers. The three friends pool their savings and open an auto-repair shop, and it is this that brings them in contact with wealthy motorist Lionel Atwill–and with Atwill’s lovely travelling companion Margaret Sullavan.  Taylor begins a romance with Sullavan, who soon joins the three comrades, making the group a jovial, fun-seeking foursome Though Sullavan suffers from tuberculosis (her shady past is only alluded to), she is encouraged by her male companions to fully enjoy what is left of her life. This becomes increasingly difficult when one of the comrades, Young, is killed during a political riot (it’s a Nazi riot, though not so-labelled by ever-careful MGM). In the end, the four comrades are only two in number, with nothing but memories to see them through the cataclysmic years to come. Despite its Hollywoodized bowdlerization of the Remarque original, Three Comrades remains a poignant, haunting experience. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Some promotional material:

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Camille, 1936, Is Playing on TCM on February 4 (USA)

Camille, 1936, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, February 4 at 1:45 p.m. est.  Closed Captioned. This is the love story of all love stories and shouldn’t be missed.

???? This film further proves that the assembly-line system of Hollywood studios back then should also be taken seriously in terms of artistry. Just because movies were produced run-of-the-mill doesn’t mean that they weren’t paid critical attention to by their makers. The usual impression on studio-era Hollywood is: take a formulaic narrative style, maybe adapt a stage play for the screen, blend in a handful of stars from the stable and the films rake in the profit at the box office. Not quite, that’s the easy perception. George Cukor, another of those versatile directors, made it apparent with Camille that filmmaking as an art may still flourish despite (and even within) certain parameters. Camille is beautiful, in so many respects. And it’s not just because of Greta Garbo.

Sure, the acting is amazing, the casting is perfect. Garbo is luminous, mysterious, cruel, and weak at the same time. Robert Taylor surrenders himself to be the heartbreakingly young and vulnerable Armand. Henry Daniell’s coldness and sadism is utterly human and familiar. The others are just plain wonderful. The writing contains so much wit and humor, devotion and pain – but it never overstates anything. The rapport and tensions between lovers, friends, and enemies are palpable and consistent. The actions flow so naturally, just like every scene, that checking for historical inconsistencies seem far beside the point.

There is so much that I love about Camille that it’s hard to enumerate them all, but with every little discovery comes the realization that this is “but” a studio production, so it makes the experience more exquisite. Camille is a gentle, poignant romantic movie that, like Garbo, takes its place delicately and self-effacingly in the history of American cinema, but makes itself indelible in the heart and mind of the lovelorn individual viewer. Review by tsarevna for the IMDb.

Some behind-the scenes photos from Camille.

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RT649019361936He also plays baseball-in costume on the set.

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Making Marguerite’s Dresses:

RT7386936: A dressmaker working on one of Greta Garbo's dresses for the MGM film 'Camille' which were designed by Adrian. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)circa 1936: Seamstresses working on a dress to


 

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Broadway Melody of 1936, 1935 Is Playing on TCM on Monday, February 3 (USA)

Broadway Melody of 1936, made in 1935, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Monday February 3 at 8:30 a.m.  est. Closed captioned.

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Robert Taylor, Eleanor Powell, Jack Benny, Una Merkel, June Knight, Buddy Ebsen, Vilma Ebsen

Broadway Melody of 1936 is a confection of a movie, meant to sweeten the lives of Depression weary Americans. It stars the unlikely triumvirate of Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell and Robert Taylor. The plot is flimsy, involving the parallel efforts of a columnist (Benny) trying to save his career, a Broadway producer (Taylor) trying to find a star for his new show and a dancer (Powell) trying to get her big break on Broadway.

All this is secondary to the wonderful songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed: “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin'”; “Broadway Rhythm”; “You Are My Lucky Star”; “On a Sunday Afternoon”;” Sing Before Breakfast.” The production numbers for each song range from clever to spectacular. “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin” is sung by Taylor and New York actress June Knight. The special effects are a delight, especially as they are done so long before CGI.

Powell proves, as always, that she is unmatched as a dancer—her energy, grace and strength are a marvel. She dances solo, with Buddy and Vilma Ebsen, with Nick Long, Jr. and with huge choruses.

Nor can the acting be faulted. Jack Benny is excellent as the gossip-obsessed wise-cracking and scheming columnist. Robert Taylor is remarkably poised and mature for his years (24) and even has a nice singing voice. The second banana roles are filled admirably by Sid Silvers and Una Merkel. If Powell and Knight are less impressive when their feet are still, it doesn’t matter—their dancing more than redeems them.

“Broadway Melody of 1936” was a high budget, high gloss, pull out all the stops, MGM production. No expense was spared for the costumes, sets, choreography or photography. The direction by Roy del Ruth is crisp and effective. We could use more films like this in our own difficult times. Review by me for the IMDB.

Robert Taylor and June Knight filmed a dance sequence for Broadway Melody of 1936 that did not appear in the final film.  These pictures are all that is left.

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Quo Vadis, 1951, Is Playing on TCM on February 1 (USA)

The epic Quo Vadis, 1951 is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday February 1 at 11:45 a.m. est.  Closed captioned.  If you haven’t seen this, you’ve missed something truly special.

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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House of the Seven Hawks, 1959, Is Playing on TCM on January 30 (USA)

Set your DVRs for this quirky and satisfying film. House of the Seven Hawks, 1959, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, January 30 at 4 a.m. (Actually January 31).  Not closed captioned.

The House of the Seven Hawks was a solid adventure story and it was well received by the New York Times. This is their review:

The House of the Seven Hawks (1959)
Mystery From Britain
December 17, 1959

by A. H. Weiler

ALTHOUGH producer David Rose and his skilled company obviously were not being imitative, they have flatteringly followed the format of the successful British mystery makers in fashioning “The House of Seven Hawks,” which landed yesterday at neighborhood theatres around town. For this suspense yarn filmed in England and in the Netherlands for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is a neat package of economical dialogue, a satisfyingly labyrinthine plot and carefully paced direction and underplaying that adds up to a modest but truly taut and absorbing diversion.

Perhaps Jo Eisinger’s script does not explain why Robert Taylor, an American, happens to be the skipper of a charter boat in England taking a clandestine trip to the continent with a clandestine passenger. But enough interesting red herrings follow this voyage to the Netherlands to please the more demanding of the whodunit fans. He finds his passenger dead before arrival. He is a man who had been carrying a cryptic map and a dispatch case full of currency, and, it evolves eventually, had a record as a Dutch detective searching for a million-dollar cache of loot taken as far back as the Nazi invasion.

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As a hapless fugitive who is a prime suspect of The Hague’s police and a gent sought by the dastards anxious to lay covetous hands on this king-sized boodle, Mr. Taylor naturally is involved with sinister citizens, a couple of mysterious but highly decorative dames and, of course, the police. To the credit of Richard Thorpe, the director, and his crew, the mystery, search and chase are given added color by advantageous use of the natural locales of The Hague.

Except for the climactic set-to, which is a standard shoot-’em-up affair, Mr. Thorpe and his troupe are oblique but adroit in their approach to their story. Although he is a somewhat lean, gaunt and subdued hero, Mr. Taylor looks and acts the part of a beleaguered but tough citizen who can figure and fight his way out of a bizarre mess.

The British add their professional acting aid to Mr. Taylor and the film’s cause. Count among them Donald Wolfit, as a wily Dutch police chief; Eric Pohlmann and David Kossoff, as, respectively, a threatening and a timid villain, and Philo Hauser, as a humorous two-timer who loves to be involved in double dealing “because,” as he says, grinning, “it’s my nature.” As the ladies of this whodunit. Linda Christian, who plays a conniver, and Nicole Maurey, as Mr. Taylor’s romantic vis-à-vis, are, as noted, decorative.

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It is still a mystery why the title was changed from “The House of Seven Flies” to “The House of Seven Hawks,” but it is eminently clear that this is an unpretentious but satisfying entertainment.
THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN HAWKS; screen play by Jo Elsinger; from the novel. “The House of the Seven Flies” by Victor Canning; directed by Richard Thorpe; produced by David E. Rose for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At neighborhood theatres. Running time: ninety-two minutes.
John Nordley . . . . . Robert Taylor
Constanta . . . . . Nicole Maurey
Elsa . . . . . Linda Christian
Hoff Commissar Van Der Stoor . . . . . Donald Wolfit
Wilheim Dekker . . . . . David Kossoff
Inspector Sluiter (Mr. Anselm) . . . . . Gerard Heinz
Captain Rohner . . . . . Eric Pohlmann
Charlie Ponz . . . . . Philo Hauser

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This is a review of House of the Seven Hawks I wrote for the IMDB.

Dutch Film Shoot

Robert Taylor and Richard Thorpe

House of the Seven Hawks was released in December 1959, when its star, Robert Taylor, was forty-eight years old. It is a mystery based on Victor Canning’s best selling book, House of the Seven Flies. The plot concerns John Nordley, an American ex-pat who lives in Britain and runs a charter boat. Captain Nordley is flung into a convoluted situation involving dead policemen, ex-Nazis, scheming women, creepy crooks and innocent daughters.

The New York Times called the movie “a satisfying labyrinthine plot and carefully placed direction and underplaying that adds up to a modest but truly taut and absorbing diversion.” The director is Richard Thorpe, who had worked with Taylor before in six other movies, including The Crowd Roars, Ivanhoe and Knights of the Round Table.

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Nicole Maurey and Robert Taylor

Despite being basically a suspense film House of the Seven Hawks has a considerable comic undertone. Robert Taylor plays Nordley as the only sane man in a nest of loonies. No one is what they are supposed to be, with people assuming false identities and numerous double-crosses.

Other than Taylor, the cast is European. Nicole Maurey plays the love interest. Linda Christian is a one of the double-crossers. Donald Wolfitt and Gerard Heinz are policemen. David Kossoff, Eric Pohlmann and Philo Hauser are villains. The story ends with a diving expedition to recover stolen treasure and a satisfying shoot-out.

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Nicole Maurey and Robert Taylor.

I’m not sure Robert Taylor took this movie terribly seriously. He wears the same costume throughout the film, including an Eisenhower jacket that he had made for himself. He does a little mugging, especially when Nordley is being asked to believe one fantastic lie after another. Far from being wooden, he displays considerable facial flexibility. Mr. Taylor does look as though he’s having fun.

MGM seems to be insisting that Mr. Taylor is much younger than his actual age. Nicole Maurey is too young for him. He is referred to in one scene as a young man. As in so many films the story gets him out of his clothes. The Taylor body is in good shape for a 48 year old, but it’s not the body he had twenty years earlier. Nonetheless this film provides good, undemanding and ultimately satisfying entertainment.

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Escape, 1940, Is Playing on TCM on January 22 (USA)

Escape, 1940, is playing on Wednesday, January 22 at 2:15 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies.  Not closed captioned.

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Robert Taylor and Norma Shearer in Escape, 1940.

This relatively unknown star vehicle is unusual for a number of different reasons. Although top billed, MGM Studio Queen, Norma Shearer’s role is substantially smaller than co-star Robert Taylor’s heroic turn as an American son desperately attempting to save his mother from a German Concentration camp. His mother is wonderfully played (and occasionally overplayed) by Nazimova, one of the great theatrical legends of the early 20th century. It’s an interesting footnote, that it was Irving Thalberg who helped cut short the meretricious Nazimova’s strange film career while his widow, Shearer, graciously allowed the former star to appear to great advantage in one of Shearer’s last screen appearances. Conrad Veidt plays Shearer’s Nazi lover and while he appears as icy and unyielding as he would two years later in “Casablanca”, his character is softened somewhat by his un-disclosed illness and by Shearer’s devotion to him. This film was one of the few made in Hollywood prior to the war which was openly critical of the Nazis (although they do hedge their bets by having a sympathetic German doctor, which gives the impression that more than a few intelligent German’s disagreed with the Nazis. Significantly, this character does appear in full Nazi drag towards the end of the picture). Robert Taylor is given a very tricky part to play as a man determined to save his mother against all odds. With his masculine demeanor and his controlled sensitivity he gives a performance of great passion and conviction. Norma Shearer, looking regally beautiful and every bit the Countess, manages to convey the situation of a woman who desperately wants to help Taylor and leave her adopted country, but realizes that she must stay out of duty to Veidt, in spite of her true feelings. Felix Bressart also appears as the Nazimova’s frightened but faithful servant, who helps Taylor escape. Bressart, who made a career of playing befuddled foreigners, is best known as one of the three Russian Communists in Ninotchka. Interesting casting was Bonita Granville, best known as the screen’s all-American girl detective, Nancy Drew, here playing the role of a pro-Nazi student at Miss Shearer’s finishing school (she would play a similar role in 1943’s wartime propaganda film, “Hitler’s Children”). The film was sumptuously mounted and stylishly directed by Mervyn Leroy the same year as he directed “Waterloo Bridge” also starring Taylor with Vivien Leigh. “Escape” is effective, at times shocking, but always vastly entertaining. Interesting footnote: Norma Shearer would turn down “Pride & Prejudice” and “Mrs. Miniver” both of which would turn Greer Garson into an MGM star much in the the same vein as Miss Shearer. Norma Shearer’s last film, “Her Cardboard Lover” would also be opposite Robert Taylor.  Review by brisky from Glendale, CA for the IMDB.

 

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Free 2020 Robert Taylor Calendar, “Portraits” Is Ready

The 2020 Robert Taylor Calendar is called “Portraits.”  The portraits range from the 1930s to the early 1960s.  They are downloadable for printing.  Access it from the home page in the black line at the top.  Comment here if you have any problems. Enjoy.

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