Sidney Sheldon, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and the Lost Art of Dialogue

Opposites Attract: Myrna Loy and Cary Grant

The name Sidney Sheldon might be more memorable to some for the popcorn-ready murder mysteries that clogged The New York Times Bestseller lists in the 80s and 90s. He is, after all, the sixth best-selling author of all time. But for the first 50 years of his life, Sheldon was a screenwriter. (Which explains his subsequent success as an author– to quote Sunset Blvd., he “knew all the plots.”) After serving in WWII and a successful stab at Broadway, Sheldon came to MGM where his first big gig was 1947’s The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.

Originally entitled Suddenly It’s Spring, the title was changed on the young writer at the last minute. From Sheldon’s autobiography The Other Side of Me:

“I’m changing the name,” said David O. Selznick.

I was listening. “What are you going to call it?”

“The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.”

I looked at him a moment thinking he was joking. He was serious.

“David, no one is going to pay money to see a picture called The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.”

Fortunately it turned out I was wrong.

(By the way, The Other Side of Me, is a rollicking, riotous account of studio-era Hollywood, and a definite must in any film lover’s library.)

The film is a screwball comedy about a hilarious love triangle between an older sister (Myrna Loy), a younger sister (Shirley Temple) and a hapless handsome bachelor (Cary Grant). The shoot was not an easy one, owing to a rift between Cary Grant and director Irving Reis. Grant wanted Leo McCarey to direct the picture (understandably so, given McCarey’s history with Grant and his sterling reputation) and a state of constant tension prevailed on set between Grant and Reis. But the result was gold, and what’s more, it won Sheldon an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Little wonder why.

The script is whip-smart and charges like a runaway locomotive. Chock a block full of witty one-liners and searing side-jabs, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is a solid lesson in what has, sadly, become something of a lost art: dialogue.

The film’s most famous moment is probably a charming exchange in which Grant, who has been forced to pose as bobby-soxer Shirley Temple’s beau under the jurisdiction of Judge Myrna Loy and psychiatrist Ray Collins, takes on the persona of a gum-chewing, slang spewing high-schooler with his nonsensical teenage hyperbole:

Grant: “You remind me of a man.”

Temple: “What man?”

Grant: “The man with the power.”

Temple: “What power?”

Grant: “The power of Hoodoo.”

Temple: ” Who do?”

Grant: “You do.”

Temple: “Do what?

Grant: “Remind me of a man!”

(Immortally revisited by David Bowie in the 80s cult classic Labyrinth… something deserving of its own blog post altogether.)

It is an entirely ridiculous moment, yet altogether delightful, and is really quite a feather in Sidney Sheldon’s cap: not everyone has the terribly shrewd ability to so closely knit fluffy whimsy with striking wit.

But for me, the piece de resistance is the delirious 6 minute confrontation at the climax of the film: three separate story lines interweaving, deliciously savoring each others ridiculousness, furiously fast and relentlessly sharp. It’s a superbly layered stretch of dialogue that, for me, is really one of the most finely written comedic scenes ever.

Mynra Loy and Cary Grant attempt an innocent evening together to smooth their rocky relationship, only to be busted by Loy’s highly jealous little sister.

It is pure cinematic bliss… if you know how to listen.

The Jean Harlow Blogathon – Day 5

Day Five of the Jean Harlow Blogathon

Baby Jean (Colorized by CLAROSUREAUX)

Here we are already on Day 5 of the Jean Harlow Blogathon, and judging by today’s entries there’s no sign of slowing down! You guys are on fire!

Lots of goodies to choose from today, from a highly intelligent social essay to a gallery of glamorous stills, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone in today’s roundup.

***

A Shroud of Thoughts

Terry over at A Shroud of Thoughts gives Harlow a lot of love with “Happy 100th Birthday”, zeroing in particularly on her sense of humor:

She proved a formidable comedy talent in the Anita Loos comedy The Gril From Missouri (1934). A few years later in Wife vs. Secretary she proved a match even for Myrna Loy when it came to comedy. That her talent for comedy must have been inborn can be seen in her many, often funny quotes, some of them worthy of even Mae West.

(read more)

***

Platinum Page

Marathon Blogathon Blogger Lisa at The Platinum Page has posted Twinkle, Twinkle, Star of the month, her 5th entry for the Blogathon. It’s a nice rundown of TCM’s March schedule for Jean’s films and I especially like that she highlighted Robert Osborne’s lovely thoughts on Harlow:

Costars and friends such as Myrna Loy and Rosalind Russell certainly thought so. They were among those who, three decades after Harlow’s death, were so insulted by a salacious book about their long gone friend that each went on numerous television talk shows with fire in her eyes to repudiate the author’s words and defend Harlow’s reputation.

It takes an extraordinary person to inspire that kind of devotion.  It’s that lively lady we think you’ll thoroughly enjoy spending time with Tuesdays in March on TCM, beginning March 8.

(read more)

***

Clarosureaux

Kevin  at Clarosureaux has yet another batch of beautifully colorized images of Harlow that really is terrific eye candy—including the gorgeous photo of featured above.

***

Garbo Laughs

And speaking of eye candy, Caroline at Garbo Laughs has dedicated her Friday Glam Span to Harlow with a selection of simply decadent stills.

***

Comets Over Hollywood

Very happy to have Comet Over Hollywood joining us today. “Curtain Call” is a close look at Harlow’s final film, Saratoga:

Frankly, the plot is predictable and typical of a Clark Gable movie.  I personally think it was only saved by Jean Harlow’s comedic wit and beauty.  Jean Arthur would have been terrible in the role and Virginia Bruce would have been just as predictable. The film would have fallen flat.

But at the same time, I almost wish the film had been shelved, much like Marilyn Monroe’s unfinished movie “Something’s Got to Give” (Though the difference is “Saratoga” nearly done and Monroe’s movie just starting).  I’m not saying that I’m not thankful to see one last glimpse of Jean alive and well, but it’s heart breaking to watch.  You see her at the beginning of the movie very beautiful and very much alive.  It’s like watching someone on the street, knowing they are about to die, but they have no clue…

(read more)

***

Via Margutta 51

Clara’ delightful Red Headed Woman on Twitter concludes with Via Margutta’s fun (and funny) finish to the Lil/Bill love affair!

***

Sinamatic Salve-Ation

Ariel at Sinamatic Salve-Ation returns in top form with  “The Rich Dividends of Sin: Women and Hollywood in the ‘30s. Folks, this post is essential reading. An extremely well written essay on sex, censorship and how women like Harlow, Mae West and Ruth Chatterton challenged the system:

Pre-Code films have recently become a popular area of research, over the last few years. There have been several books and even some documentaries made about the existence of, and circumstances surrounding them. This “unearthing” of these documents is integral to our appreciation of the rest of film history, but most importantly the image of women in film history. In regards to his work on the subject, and his book, Mick LaSalle said that he believes that “the real audience for this subject is young women… Young women are amazed by these films because it reassures them that they’re not some kind of a modern-day anomaly.” It’s nice to have that reassurance.

(read more)

***

Shadowplay

Shadowplay is a cineaste playground and it rounds out today’s digest with “Punchy” — a spotlight of a Harlow rarity, Tod Browning’s Iron Man, and a Laurel and Hardy short, Bacon Grabbers. Shadowplay is a Pictorial favorite, with its content seamlessly skirting from austere to eccentric to classic and back again with almost dizzying dexterity. The film didn’t dazzle, but makes for a good read:

Browning did like his talk pretty ssslllooowwww (but his last movie, MIRACLES FOR SALE, is unexpectedly zippy), but here the sheer lack of interest in the situations seems to seep through everything and everyone.

But those furs are pretty impressive.
(read more)

***

The Jean Harlow Blogathon – Day 5

Day Five of the Jean Harlow Blogathon

Baby Jean (Colorized by CLAROSUREAUX)

Here we are already on Day 5 of the Jean Harlow Blogathon, and judging by today’s entries there’s no sign of slowing down! You guys are on fire!

Lots of goodies to choose from today, from a highly intelligent social essay to a gallery of glamorous stills, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone in today’s roundup.

***

A Shroud of Thoughts

Terry over at A Shroud of Thoughts gives Harlow a lot of love with “Happy 100th Birthday”, zeroing in particularly on her sense of humor:

She proved a formidable comedy talent in the Anita Loos comedy The Gril From Missouri (1934). A few years later in Wife vs. Secretary she proved a match even for Myrna Loy when it came to comedy. That her talent for comedy must have been inborn can be seen in her many, often funny quotes, some of them worthy of even Mae West.

(read more)

***

Platinum Page

Marathon Blogathon Blogger Lisa at The Platinum Page has posted Twinkle, Twinkle, Star of the month, her 5th entry for the Blogathon. It’s a nice rundown of TCM’s March schedule for Jean’s films and I especially like that she highlighted Robert Osborne’s lovely thoughts on Harlow:

Costars and friends such as Myrna Loy and Rosalind Russell certainly thought so. They were among those who, three decades after Harlow’s death, were so insulted by a salacious book about their long gone friend that each went on numerous television talk shows with fire in her eyes to repudiate the author’s words and defend Harlow’s reputation.

It takes an extraordinary person to inspire that kind of devotion.  It’s that lively lady we think you’ll thoroughly enjoy spending time with Tuesdays in March on TCM, beginning March 8.

(read more)

***

Clarosureaux

Kevin  at Clarosureaux has yet another batch of beautifully colorized images of Harlow that really is terrific eye candy—including the gorgeous photo of featured above.

***

Garbo Laughs

And speaking of eye candy, Caroline at Garbo Laughs has dedicated her Friday Glam Span to Harlow with a selection of simply decadent stills.

***

Comets Over Hollywood

Very happy to have Comet Over Hollywood joining us today. “Curtain Call” is a close look at Harlow’s final film, Saratoga:

Frankly, the plot is predictable and typical of a Clark Gable movie.  I personally think it was only saved by Jean Harlow’s comedic wit and beauty.  Jean Arthur would have been terrible in the role and Virginia Bruce would have been just as predictable. The film would have fallen flat.

But at the same time, I almost wish the film had been shelved, much like Marilyn Monroe’s unfinished movie “Something’s Got to Give” (Though the difference is “Saratoga” nearly done and Monroe’s movie just starting).  I’m not saying that I’m not thankful to see one last glimpse of Jean alive and well, but it’s heart breaking to watch.  You see her at the beginning of the movie very beautiful and very much alive.  It’s like watching someone on the street, knowing they are about to die, but they have no clue…

(read more)

***

Via Margutta 51

Clara’ delightful Red Headed Woman on Twitter concludes with Via Margutta’s fun (and funny) finish to the Lil/Bill love affair!

***

Sinamatic Salve-Ation

Ariel at Sinamatic Salve-Ation returns in top form with  “The Rich Dividends of Sin: Women and Hollywood in the ‘30s. Folks, this post is essential reading. An extremely well written essay on sex, censorship and how women like Harlow, Mae West and Ruth Chatterton challenged the system:

Pre-Code films have recently become a popular area of research, over the last few years. There have been several books and even some documentaries made about the existence of, and circumstances surrounding them. This “unearthing” of these documents is integral to our appreciation of the rest of film history, but most importantly the image of women in film history. In regards to his work on the subject, and his book, Mick LaSalle said that he believes that “the real audience for this subject is young women… Young women are amazed by these films because it reassures them that they’re not some kind of a modern-day anomaly.” It’s nice to have that reassurance.

(read more)

***

Shadowplay

Shadowplay is a cineaste playground and it rounds out today’s digest with “Punchy” — a spotlight of a Harlow rarity, Tod Browning’s Iron Man, and a Laurel and Hardy short, Bacon Grabbers. Shadowplay is a Pictorial favorite, with its content seamlessly skirting from austere to eccentric to classic and back again with almost dizzying dexterity. The film didn’t dazzle, but makes for a good read:

Browning did like his talk pretty ssslllooowwww (but his last movie, MIRACLES FOR SALE, is unexpectedly zippy), but here the sheer lack of interest in the situations seems to seep through everything and everyone.

But those furs are pretty impressive.
(read more)

***

Blog it for Baby: Day One of the Jean Harlow Blogathon

The Jean Harlow Blogathon Day One!

Today The Jean Harlow Blogathon kicks off and we are off to a roaring start! Thoughtful, imaginative and introspective—everyone is really putting out some beautiful work which just amps up the excitement of what’s in store for the rest of the week.

Thanks to all the participants who have jumped on board for this special week of activity! Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?

color by Victor Mascaro

Carole & Company:

Vincent from Carole & Co., who has been a major supporter of this Blogathon, has created an alternate universe in which real-life friends Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard have swapped careers. Let’s Switch” is a winsome short story that asks us to tap into our imagination and wonder how might they have fared in the other’s films:

Harlow, Lombard: Let’s switch!

For the centenary of Jean Harlow’s birth, I tried to find a way to commemorate it – especially since this will be part of a Harlow blogathon at “The Kitty Packard Pictorial,” a superb site on Harlow, classic Hollywood and popular culture (https://kittypackard.wordpress.com/).

An entry linking Carole Lombard and Harlow isn’t easy. Although they were good friends and were beloved by casts and crews throughout filmland, no picture of them together has ever been discovered – a holy grail among both fandoms. Carole’s first husband, William Powell, later had an intense, but ill-fated, romance with Harlow, and Lombard’s second husband, Clark Gable, was renowned for his steamy romantic films with Jean (although in real life, they were good friends, never lovers).

So, what’s a writer to do? Use imagination, that’s what. I’m going to create an alternate universe where Lombard stars in Harlow’s movies, and vice versa. How might these silver screen goddesses have fared in each other’s films?

(read more)

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Clarosureaux:

Kevin Scrantz runs a fascinating blog called Clarosureaux and specializes in colorizing and restoring vintage photography. He’s also a Jean Harlow enthusiast as you will find in his post Harlow Centenary:

March 3 will mark Jean Harlow’s 100th birthday, so pretty much my entire blog will be devoted to her for the next couple of weeks

As part of the celebration of her hundredth year, the Max Factor Museum in Hollywood will be hosting a new Harlow exhibit that contains such cool items as her Packard and a mural that once hung in Paul Bern‘s Benedict Canyon home depicting Harlow, Joan Crawford, and a host of other MGM stars as medieval courtiers.

(read more)

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Eve’s Reel Life

Oh that Lady Eve Sidwich! Her Eve’s Reel Life blog is a real treasure trove : an intelligent blend of thoughtful prose and painstaking research and she has really outdone herself with “Platinum Blonde and Beyond“. Here she takes a look at one of Harlow’s early features, Platinum Blonde, and within the contextual framework of Harlow’s early career she does a marvelous job of pinpointing what makes Platinum Blonde pivotal:

It was her trademark, her calling card and, in 1931, the name of a film in which she received third billing. Platinum Blonde had originally been intended as a vehicle for top-billed star Loretta Young but, by the time it was released, the film’s title had changed and changed again until it was an outright reference to pale-haired co-star Jean Harlow. It was not Harlow’s breakout picture, that had come with Hell’s Angels (1930), nor is it generally cited as one of her great classics, but Platinum Blonde was pivotal – it proclaimed her stardom.

In 1931, the 20-year-old starlet was still under an oppressive five-year contract with Howard Hughes, producer/director of Hell’s Angels. She had proven her appeal in the film, but Hughes had no projects in the works for her and most Hollywood insiders believed he was mismanaging her career. Harlow’s then-friend/future husband Paul Bern arranged for her loan to MGM for The Secret Six (1931) an underworld drama with Wallace Beery and not-yet-famous Clark Gable.

Immediately after, she was loaned out to Universal for an unsympathetic role in The Iron Man (1931), a boxing drama with Lew Ayres. While still on that project, she went back to MGM for retakes on The Secret Six and began work on her next film, this time on loan to Warner Brothers for the gangster classic The Public Enemy (1931), with James Cagney. Her fourth film in five months was for Fox, Goldie (1931), a comedy with Spencer Tracy. Of these films only The Public Enemy was an unqualified hit, and it was a blockbuster, but it was Cagney who became the overnight star…Harlow’s allure was noted, but her performance was widely panned.

***

The Hollywood Revue:

Angela with The Hollywood Revue is a super swell dame and, in honor of Jean’s centenary, she has published a great review of one of Jean Harlow’s best films, Wife vs. Secretary. It’s also in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the film’s release back on Febraury 28 1936:

Van Stanhope (Clark Gable) seems to have it all: he’s a very successful magazine publisher, he’s been very happily married to Linda (Myrna Loy) for three years, and he’s got Whitey (Jean Harlow), the best secretary he could ever want.  Most wives would be worried about their husbands having secretaries, who look like Whitey, but Linda trusts Van completely and she has every reason to.  At least she trusts him until all the suggestions from friends and family that Whitey must be one of those secretaries finally start to get to her.  But Linda isn’t the only one jealous of Van and Whitey’s working relationship.  Whitey’s boyfriend Dave (James Stewart) wants to marry her, but she loves her job and doesn’t want to quit to stay at home.

When Van decides to take on a new business venture, he has to keep it top secret from everyone, including Linda.  Whitey is the only person who knows what’s going on.  So when he says he’s been at a club all afternoon one day, Linda does a little investigating and finds out he wasn’t at the club all day, he was with Whitey.  Linda begins to fear that all those insinuations were right after all, she has no idea that he and Whitey were working together on the new business deal.  Things get even worse when at a company skating party, Linda thinks Van and Whitey look like a little too friendly and she asks Van to transfer Whitey to a new job.  Van refuses and Linda eventually decides she’s being ridiculous and Van promises to take her on vacation soon to make it up to her.

(read more)

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The Platinum Page:

Ah, the lovely Lisa Burks. If you’re a fan of Harlow’s you almost certainly have spent many an hour at her Platinum Page. It was the first such one on the Internet dedicated to Harlow and is still the place to go for anything and everything related to her. It is hardly surprising, then, that in her post Harlow 100 Week she has proposed a truly beautiful gesture in Jean’s honor:

This weekend I had my thinking cap on to come up with some article ideas, when my friend and fellow Harlow fan Reg Williams pinged me about his efforts to encourage fans to fill Jean’s room in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale with flowers.

If you’d like to participate, contact The Flower Shop at Forest Lawn to place your order. Please note, Forest Lawn’s $3 placement fee will apply.  The delivery location is Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Benediction, Private Family Mausoleum Room #34, Crypt B.

How will we know if the goal is met? Being a private room, special permission is needed to visit in person. The Platinum Page is on the case and will be working our contacts to bring you officially sanctioned updates, so stay tuned!

(read more)

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Keep the links coming, everyone!

Join in the celebration and email The Pictorial!

Colorized Vintage Photos by Claroscureaux

Right, so like most things in life, I am probably the last person in the blogosphere to know about this fella. Many thanks to Forget the Talkies for bringing it to my attention!

Claroscureaux colorizes vintage Hollywood photographs.

Normally the word “colorize” makes my skin crawl and I get a sudden urge  for sudden death. But Claroscureaux’s work is beautiful– if I might rhapsodize, I daresay his work is exquisite. Some are spine-tingling in their realism, some have an Earl Christy-ish painterly quality, but all are obvious works of tireless, tedious attention to detail.

He has a store online to fulfill all of your every day classic cinema needs– coffee mugs, et all– and the prints are priced very reasonably.

Here are some of my favorites:

Myrna Loy - © Claroscureaux

Myrna Loy - © Claroscureaux

Hedy Lamarr - © Claroscureaux

Hedy Lamarr - © Claroscureaux

Veronica Lake - © Claroscureaux (this is quite possibly my favorite photo of the year)

Veronica Lake - © Claroscureaux (this is quite possibly my favorite photo of the year)

Bette Davis - © Claroscureaux

Bette Davis - © Claroscureaux

Valentino - © Claroscureaux (smolder alert, ladies!)

Valentino - © Claroscureaux (smolder alert, ladies!)

Buster Keaton - © Claroscureaux

Buster Keaton - © Claroscureaux

Gloria Swanson - © Claroscureaux

Gloria Swanson - © Claroscureaux

Alice White - © Claroscureaux

Alice White - © Claroscureaux