Party Girl, 1958, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, February 12 at 6 p.m. est.
Nicolas Ray uses color in this movie like some directors use dialogue. It is spectacular to look at with reds and blacks predominate all through the film. It is old-fashioned in it’s appeal to the film noir lover. This is the last film Robert Taylor did for MGM, and it is a great performance. The character of Tommy Farrell is, if you excuse the pun, tailor made for Taylor. Again he is the man with a secret past, as he has been in other film noir classics such as the High Wall, and Rogue Cop, two of his better roles. He is a mob attorney who is drawn to the “fastest way,” which in this case is working for Rico Angelo (Lee J Cobb). Cobb is always wonderful to watch and his role here is one of overstated ignorance, and brutal power. Tommy walks with a limp due to a childhood accident, and hates women because of his ex-wife’s repulsion of his crookedness. She destroyed his masculinity, by denying him access to both her bed and her love. He meets Vicki, played well by Cyd Charisse, at a party given by Angelo, takes her home to find her room mate dead in a bloody tub scene. He is drawn to her, but chases her away telling her “a girl deserves what she can get,” after Vicki wants him to return money given to her by John Ireland at the party.
She follows him to court and watches as he uses his limp to get sympathy from the jury, freeing murderer Ireland. His unique approach also includes the use of an old simple watch that he tells the jury was given to him by his father while he was in the hospital as a boy. It is the secret to his success with the jury. She tells him if that is what he wants “pity” then he has hers. He snarls at her telling her to get out. Afterwards he goes to the club where she is a dancer, every night finally taking her home, and telling her about his past with the wife. They fall in love and that is the beginning of the end for Farrell. She wants him to quit, he can’t. He does go to Europe to have his hip fixed and they vacation, until Rico summons him back to Chicago. There is finds that Rico has a job for him, defending a young gangster who Farrell refers to as a “dog with the rabies.” He tries to leave only to find that Rico will disfigure Vickie if he doesn’t go along. Reluctantly he agrees and in the pursuit there is a massive machine gunning down of the young gangster and his associates.
Farrell escapes unharmed, and goes to Vicki, telling her they must run. She refuses, and the cops take them both to jail. In the end he rats on Rico to save Vicki, he thinks, until he is taken to a broken down meeting hall, where Rico presents Vicki to him, wrapped in bandages. They unveil her still perfect face, but also a bottle of acid, which Rico tells Tommy he will use if he doesn’t take back the testimony. The cops were tipped where to find Rico, and they attack the hall with a hail of bullets causing Rico to tip the acid on his own face, falling to his death through a plate glass window. Vicki and Farrell leave, meeting the District Attorney on the way, with Farrel giving his watch to Kent Smith, “as a remembrance.”
The wonderful thing about this performance by Taylor is that his looks only add to the sadness of the character, his blue eyes showing the conflict within this man. Still magnificent to look at we feel for his plight with the crooked body, not be able to love again until Charisse loves him as is. Taylor is just great here, a mature, restrained Tommy Farrell, in love at last but conflicted about his job, and how he gets his money. A must see film noir. Revew by Mamalv, United States for the IMDB.
Some behind-the-scenes photos:
The cameraman catches Robert Taylor during some “away from the camera moments” on the set of “Party Girl.” The film, which stars Taylor, Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb, is a Euterpe production produced by Joe Pasternak for MGM release. Nicholas Ray directed. (original caption); Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse.
Johnny Eager, 1942, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Monday, February 8 at 9:30 a.m. This is one of Mr. Taylor’s best. Don’t miss it.
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Cast: Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, Edward Arnold, Van Heflin, Robert Sterling, Patricia Dane, Glenda Farrell, Barry Nelson. Slick MGM melodrama with convoluted plot about sociology student (and daughter of D.A. Arnold) Turner falling in love with unscrupulous racketeer Taylor. Heflin won Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Taylor’s alcoholic friend.(TCM)
Having only been familiar with Robert Taylor’s body of forgettable [humpf!] work from the thirties (The Broadway Melodies, Camille, etc), seeing him in the title role of Johnny Eager was stunning. Tom Hanks’s 180 degree turn from silly comedies to Philadelphia might be a modern day equivalent. Taylor steps into a role that would seem tailor made for Bogart, Cagney or Robinson, and does an arguably better job than any of them could have. Yes, Lana Turner is present, and yes, Van Heflin won a supporting Oscar, but Taylor owns this film.
Johnny Eager is one of the best films of the 40s, as well as one of the all time greats. (Taken from a review by Justin Behnke on the IMDB).
From a movie magazine ca. 1946. The magazine seems to have been wet at some time. By FREDDA DUDLEY
ROBERT TAYLOR, erstwhile Naval Lieutenant, became a civilian at 2 p.m. one November day. At 2: 30 of the same afternoon (the thirty minutes elapsed time represents the period necessary to drive from the separation center to the Taylor home in Beverly Hills), Bob was out of blues and into the loudest pair of tweeds he owned. Then he was out of the tweeds and into gray flannels. Then out of flannels and into dinner clothes. Out of dinner clothes into a brown business suit. Nearly three years had elapsed since he had worn the garments and packed them carefully away in mothballs. Now, to his intense satisfaction, he discovered he had not gained or lost weight, and neither had any of the always hungry neighborhood moths.
When Bob entered service, they decided to sell their rambling property on Beverly Drive; it was so commodius that Barbara felt that she would rattle around, even after reviewing the space-using activities of her son Dion and her Uncle Buck. That property disposed of, Barbara bought a three bedroom house in another section of Beverly Hills. Bob’s clothing had been stored in a huge cedar-lined wardrobe, so Barbara had that moved into her dressing room.
When Bob came home, the family was slightly crowded. You know, wherever anyone stepped he put a foot through a tennis racket, or into a whirligig or golf clubs, or kicked someone’s shoes the length of the house.
We’ll have to start building at once,” said the Taylors, blissful in their Ignorance of the construction situation. For several years they had drawn pictures on the backs of envelopes, cut clippings from home journals, and had behaved in general like two people who are going to build the Connecticut Farm House to end Connecticut Farm Houses. Or to be annexed, long distance, to Darien.
Happily they collected their notes, their frayed envelopes, their magazine tear-sheets, and descended upon an architect and builder. This gentleman was overjoyed. He studied their plans and found that the Taylor ideas were sensible, simple, and without chi-chi. No marble fireplaces or hand-carved balustrades complicated matters. “This will cost you only about fifteen dollars per square foot to build,” he announced.
That swooshing sound you hear now is the Taylors leaving the room. In flight they have also dropped all plans for building, at least in the immediate future.
Since Bob was discharged in November and his picture, You Were There, wasn’t to roll until February, he had almost three months in which to get civilian life adjusted to him. He decided, first of all, that he needed exercise.
Now, to digress a bit, Bob’s job in the Navy was hazardous at times. He was teaching cadets to fly, a responsibility likely to bring gray hair ten years prematurely and to instigate ulcers even worse than those of Dick Tracy’s client, Diet Smith.
Not only does a flight instructor stand to win a one-way ticket to eternity through the auspices of a nervous student, he runs constant risk of falling victim—and the word “falling” is used advisedly—to his own preoccupation with aircraft technique. Bob had his quota of near-misses, but his favorite escape has to do with the execution of a split-S, an aerial acrobatic which is part of the cadet’s training in evasive maneuvers. It consists of a half-snap roll and a half loop. Ask anybody in the Air Corps to explain this if it baffles you (it did the enemy).
Luckily, Bob’s student believed in doing a thing promptly. He gained the necessary altitude, flopped over, swooped out of his loop fast. Lt. Taylor, having bumped around during the early part of the maneuver, glanced down to find that his seat belt was not fastened. If the pilot had followed the technique of some students and remained upside down for a few seconds longer, one instructor would have, taken an awful ribbing that night for unintentionally hitting the silk.
But it didn’t happen, which is the important fact, and after that Bob triple-checked his seat belt before undertaking acrobatic maneuvers. Having come through several such experiences without a scratch, Bob—the reconverted civilian—met Fate when he trotted out on a tennis court one morning. Donald Woods, Warner actor, was also looking for a singles opponent, so they squared away across the net. Bob executed half a dozen forehand shots, then put everything he had into a backhand smash and tipped over several important vertebrae.
He would have yipped with pain if he hadn’t been so mad, and he would have boiled with wrath if the whole thing hadn’t struck him as being utterly ridiculous. He went through a course of osteopaths, chiropractors, steam baths, lamps, massage, and gen- tie exercise. Then, early one morning, he returned to the tennis court.
He didn’t win, but he didn’t dislocate anything, either. He didn’t win the following morning, or for weeks. The word went around, according to Bob, that Mr. Taylor was practically anyone’s pigeon. He had more partners than he knew how to dodge. But one morning, he found a returned service man on the courts, and won in love sets. That restored his confidence, and his gloating opponents began to settle down in conntemplation of getting licked—which they did. Bob also got out his golf clubs and limbered them up a bit, but his disappointment was great even when he shot an 88. “That just isn’t good enough around here,” he opined.
Having scanned the muscle situation, Bob felt the usual out-of-uni- form urge to go shopping. Knowledge of what’ Bob bought will bring an understanding grin to any man who has spent over two years in Navy gear: he selected four of the loudest, plaidest, most exclamatory sport shirts he could find. Currently he is wearing one of them every moment he’s away from the studio.
Somewhat later in the year Bob wants to make another purchase: something a little more ambitious than shirts. He wants to buy a small plane, a four-passenger job, with which he can hop to Ensenada for hunting trips. Before he started his picture, Bob and a friend made two trips via station wagon to Ensenada for the local hunting. They packed in so much provision and equipment that, according to Bob, “I didn’t think we were going to be able to drag over the border.”
When Bob gets his plane, this heavy provisioning won’t be necessary because Ensenada is only about forty- five flying miles from San Diego, where supplies can be obtained. Of course, in order to get his wife to accompany him on these jaunts Bob is going to have to do the “snow job” of his career. In civilian parlance, this means he’s going to have to use all his forensic zeal to convince Barbara of the convenience of such hops, because she’s not enthusiastic about flying.
Bob’s leather flight jacket will come in handy on these jaunts. The jacket is, with one additional item, the only tangible thing he brought out of service. He purchased it from the Navy. The other memento from Bob’s NAF days is as sentimental a reminder as a man of Bob’s mocking realism would allow himself. Seems that when he went into service he was loaded down with good-luck trophies. On his dog-tag chain he wore a St. Christopher and a MiracuIous Medal; his currency clip included a St. Christopher, his identification bracelet was supposed to have been witched with luck, someone had given him a lucky penny, someone else had contributed a rabbit’s foot, another well-wisher had supplied a four-leaf clover in appropriate frame. “I’m so loaded down that sometimes I don’t see how the plane can stagger off the ground,” he told Barbara when she visited him at the base.
Some of the boys in the parachute loft, watching Bob morning after morning racing out to the flight line while stuffng emblems, talismen, charms, and mementoes into the many pockets of his flying clothes, decided that it was time assembly took place. They made a neat, compact suede carrying case for Bob. It accommodated all the essential (and obviously powerful) amulets, and it allowed Bob about five spare minutes over coffee each morning. A boon. (He’s still carrying it.)
Not that he’s going to need any special witchcraft for his first postservice picture. Remember the Bob Taylor characterization in Johnny Eager? Well, this new movie gives Bob an equally meaty role, though not so sinister. As a suave attorney who marries Katharine Hepburn (she comes into his life as a dowdy, frightened drab and is given the Pygmalion treatment), Bob is entrusted with an exciting part. Not until the final se- quence will the audience know whether Bob is a villain or hero.
The instant You Were There is finished, Bob starts another picture. Reason: to finish it by August. Barbara is to have her vacation during September, October and November. And for those three months, the Taylors have great plans.
If possible, they will fly to South America. Since neither likes nightclubs, they’ll visit the large cities only to see points of tourist interest. Then Bob wants to visit some of the vast ranches. One of the best riders in Hollywood, he’d like to ride with the gauchos, to live for three months as ordinary South American citizens live. He and Barbara are learning their Buenos Noches and Hasta Mananas.
Meanwhile, Barbara is gathering atmosphere by reading novels about the South American scene. Bob and Barbara have a system: she reads the books, reports the plot and delineates the characters in detail to Bob. Currently she has been taking a brief vacation from the Latin scene in order to read Written On The Wind. Each evening, Bob has been getting a chapter by chapter report. “It’s almost as exciting as Dick Tracy,” is the way he endorses the system.
So you may make a note of the fact that Bob is pretty well shaken down into civilian life again. His arm no longer twitches when he sees three or four gold stripes on an approaching sleeve, and he can sleep until eleven on Sunday mornings without awakening just before six in expectation of reveille.
Further, you may make a note to the effect that, with two new pictures, plans for plane ownership, and plans for a trip to South America, Bob Taylor is beaming upon the civilian world.
High Wall, 1947, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, January 22 at 3 p.m. est. I highly recommend this film. 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.
Camille, 1936, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, January 19 at 6:00 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.