Friday, November 4, 2022

TCM Musical Matinee

Tomorrow Turner Classic Movies debuts a new series, TCM Musical Matinee. Each week a different musical will air on the program. TCM Musical Matinee is hosted by regular Turner Classic Movies host Dave Karger. It airs every Saturday at 11:00 AM Central/12:00 Noon Eastern.

Here is the schedule for TCM Musical Matinee for this month, November 2022. All times are Central.

Saturday, November 5 2022: An American in Paris (1951)
Saturday, November 12 2022: 42nd Street (1933)
Saturday, November 19 2022: Annie (1982)
November 26 2022: I'll See You in My Dreams (1952)

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

"I Love You Too Much" from The Book of Life (2014)

Today is the last day of Día de Muertos and I would rather observe the holiday than make a full-fledged blog post. For that reason I will leave you with a song from a movie that focuses on the Day of the Dead. The Book of Life is a 2014 computer animated film that begins and ends on Día  de Muertos. It centres on a wager made between La Muerte, the ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, as to which of two boys (Manolo and Joaquin) will marry Maria Posada. Among the songs on the soundtrack is the love song "I Love You Too Much,' sang by Diego Luna as Manolo to Maria.  It was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla and Paul Williams. It is easily my favourite song on the soundtrack.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Happy Halloween 2022

Here at A Shroud of Thoughts we realize that many might appreciate some cheesecake with their Halloween candy. Without further ado, here are this year's Halloween pinups.

First up, Barbara Bates is posing with a black cat and a jack o' lantern.

Next up, Eleanor Todd must be planning to take flight on her broom.

Model and popular pinup girl dressed up as a cat.

Silent star Esther Ralston and a very large jack o' lantern.

Gale Robbins is flirting with a scarecrow.

And last but not least, it wouldn't be Halloween without Ann Miller!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The 80th Anniversary of I Married a Witch (1942)

The 1940s saw a cycle of supernatural comedies that lasted throughout much of the decade. Among the movies that kicked off this cycle was I Married a Witch (1942). The film was a success when it was first released and has remained popular to this day. I Married a Witch was released on October 30 1942, a most fitting date given its subject matter.

I Married a Witch
centred on Wallace Wooley (Fredric March), a man running for the office of governor of his state. He is descended from Jonathan Wooley (also Fredric March), a puritan who accused Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her father Daniel (Cecil Kellway), who were burned at the stake as a result. Jennifer cursed the Wooley men to always marry the wrong women. After their deaths Jennifer and Daniel's spirits were trapped in a tree. When the tree is struck by lightning in the present day, the two are freed. Jennifer and Daniel then conspire to torment Jonathan Wooley's descendent Wallace Wooley, eventually creating a human body for Jennifer for her to do so. Of course, this being a supernatural comedy, everything does not go according to plan and Jennifer falls in love with Wallace.

I Married a Witch was based on The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith and Norman H. Mason. Thorne Smith may be best known as the author of Topper, and also wrote several other novels as well, including The Night of the Gods and Turnabout. The Passionate Witch was unfinished at the time of Thorne Smith's death, and was completed by Norman H. Matson.

It would be French director  René  Clair who would bring The Passionate Witch to the big screen. He had just made his first American film, The Flame of New Orleans (1941) for Universal. Unfortunately, it did not do well at the box office and Universal did not offer him the chance to make another movie. Fortunately,  René Clair's agent Myron Selznick sent him a copy of The Passionate Witch. Mr. Clair thought the book had possibilities as a movie. He met with his friend Preston Sturges, who was then a success at Paramount. At the time Paramount Pictures was looking for projects for Veronica Lake. Preston Sturges was able to convince the studio that The Passionate Witch would make the perfect movie for her.

The working title of the film was He Married a Witch, which would eventually be changed to its current title, I Married a Witch. Initially Joel McCrea was going to play the male lead, but he backed out of the project because he did not want to work with Veronica Lake again. He apparently did not enjoy working with her on Sullivan's Travels (1941).

Eventually Fredric March was cast in the male lead role of Wallace Wooley. Unfortunately for Fredric March, he would not enjoy working with Veronica Lake very much either. Before he had even met Miss Lake, Fredric March had reportedly said that she was a "a brainless little blonde sexpot, void of any acting ability." This got back to Veronica Lake, who was quite naturally not very happy about it. She in turn called Fredric March, "a pompous poseur." The two did not get along while shooting the film at all, and Miss Lake often did things simply to torment Mr. March. In one instance, when Fredric March had to carry her, she placed a forty pound weight under her dress.

I Married a Witch would run afoul of the Production Code Administration (PCA). It was in January 1942 that the PCA sent Paramount a letter telling them that its screenplay was "flatly in violation of the code." Among these violations of the code were "suggestions of nudity," "sex suggestiveness in Jennifer's attitude in forcing herself upon Wally," and "the overemphasis on liquor and drinking." After Paramount made changes the PCA would send the studio another letter in which they admitted there had been improvements, but continued to demand that the screenwriters remove any "plays on nudity," gambling, and "undue exposure of the female body." The Production Code Administration's complaints would delay shooting until April 17 1942, when they finally gave Paramount their approval.

I Married a Witch was released to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times wrote, "The strange and beautiful illusion that Veronica Lake is completely unreal is being quite charmingly nourished in René Clair's new film, I Married a Witch."  The Chicago Tribune's critic wrote of the film, "I Married a Witch is bizarre but beguiling. Under Rene Clair's delicately preposterous direction it unreels a story of modern witchcraft, the like of which has not been seen on any screen" I Married a Witch also did very well at the box office, breaking records in theatres across the United States.

I Married a Witch not only proved popular, but eventually it would also prove to be influential. As mentioned earlier, it was among the movies that sparked a cycle of supernatural comedies that would last for the most of the decade of the Forties. Both I Married a Witch (1942) and Bell, Book and Candle (1958) served as inspiration for the classic television show Bewitched.

If I Married a Witch proved to be popular, it is because it is a true classic. It is a tribute to the acting talent of both Veronica Lake and Fredric March that their characters have such chemistry. While the film ran afoul of the Production Code, it does manages to get across a good deal of sexuality that most movies of the time would not. It is not only filled with a good deal of witty dialogue, but a number of clever sight gags as well. If I Married a Witch remains popular to this day, it is because it is a truly great film, and one very fitting for Halloween season.