Friday, November 29, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
During the making of Big Time, the studio promised Mae Clarke that great things were going to happen to her. Mae and Barbara met for lunch. Mae talked about 'Big Time'. John Ford was in it as himself, a Hollywood director. During the lunch, Mae felt an inexplicable tension from Barbara, that she couldn’t reach her. Mae sat there “with the dearest friend I’ve ever had,” she said. “There was a constraint between us as though we were strangers.” In New York, Mae and Barbara had been inseparable; they’d shared the same bed, eaten together, worked together. Mae couldn’t understand what was wrong. She felt that if she could “just bridge those silences everything would be all right.” There was nothing else to talk about, so Mae talked about the plans the studio had for her. “The picture didn’t mean half as much to me as getting close to Barbara again. But she didn’t understand. “Barbara thought I was getting 'high-hat'. And all I could think of was that Barbara didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I’m a link that binds her to the past. In New York we were harum scarum kids, madcaps, who did crazy things.” -"A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940" (2013) by Victoria Wilson
She’d become Capra’s favorite actress and he directed her in three more Columbia dramas. 'The Miracle Woman' (1931) was an initially daring but failed attempt at telling the story of a fraudulent preacher, based on the notorious Aimee Semple McPherson. Barbara delivered a strong performance but the cop-out script sank it. 'Forbidden' (’32) was nothing more than mawkish soap opera worthy of neither of them. 'The Bitter Tea of General Yen' (’32) was a truly strange tale with Barbara as the captive and lover of a Chinese warlord, but casting Swedish Nils Asther as General Yen was pure racial cowardice. None approached 'Ladies of Leisure' in quality or box office success. Barbara always considered William Wellman, Frank Capra and Billy Wilder her favorite directors.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Robert Taylor specifically asked to play the cold-blooded hood in the title role, since he was very impressed by the script, based on a short story by James Edward Grant and John Lee Mahin’s screenplay. Van Heflin plays Johnny’s only real friend, an alcoholic writer who spouts philosophical ramblings, comparing Lisbeth with Cyrano de Bergerac’s Roxane. Although Van Heflin won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his poignant performance as Jeff Hartnett, a tormented drunkard who has established a suspiciously intimate bond with Johnny, Robert Taylor’s biographer Charles Tranberg contends ‘this is Taylor’s picture.’
On December 8, 1941 United States declared war upon Japan in response to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. 'Johnny Eager' was released in theatres on 9 December 1941. As Charles Tranberg remarks in his biography, Robert Taylor made a contribution to the war effort by donating his monoplane, which was given to the Los Angeles Sheriffs Air Squadron in 1942. The war accelerated the longstanding trend in social stigma of illicit romances, they were nonetheless validated on-screen.
Article first published as Movie Review: ‘Johnny Eager’: Robert Taylor’s Filmic Redemption on Blogcritics