Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Vater Braucht Eine Frau ( 1952 ) aka Father Needs a Wife

Who wants to get a new housekeeper when you can have a new mother? 

Widower Hans Neumeister and his four children have just lost their most recent housekeeper who, like the other women before her, stormed out in aggravation over the children's playful antics. So Papa Neumeister is once again on the hunt for a housekeeper...but his children have other plans. They would rather have a permanent live-in housekeeper - a new mother! 

On behalf of their father, they place an ad in the marriage column of a local newspaper and within a day receive over 30 written responses from a variety of women, many of whom included a photograph of themselves. One photo, in particular, catches their eye, that of Susanne Meissner who happens to be standing in front of a chateau next to a Mercedes 300. The children do not realize that Susanne is not a well-to-do society woman, but simply a fashion model. However, once their father has a chance to meet her, her lack of high-society status becomes very unimportant. 

Vater Braucht Eine Frau is a charming film that combines all the elements of great family entertainment: humor, romance, and parallel plots that both children and adults could enjoy. The dialogue is timeless, the cinematography ideal, and the music ( by Franz Grothe ) is lovely....but what really makes the film work is the spot-on casting. Each of the principal actors is wonderful in their parts. 
This was the first film to feature the pairing of Ruth Leuwerik with Dieter Borsche and it established them as one of the most popular onscreen duos of the 1950s. They would go on to make five films together. 

Dieter Borsche brought warmth and a surprising comedic flair to the role of Hans. This unusual casting, at the time, echoed Walt Disney's unorthodox casting of Western hero Brian Keith as Hayley Mill's father in the family comedy The Parent Trap ( 1961 ). Who would have guessed that these men were so good at comedy? In one scene, Hans returns home to his apartment after a date with Susanne and, being on cloud nine, releases his joy by swinging on his children's indoor swing. Without a word, Dieter manages to express the elation of a widower who didn't believe he could ever fall in love again. 

Ruth Leuwerik is lovely as Susanne. Although she made one film before Vater Braucht Eine Frau, it was this comedy that launched her to stardom. Her role as Maria von Trapp in Die Trapp Familie and Die Trapp Familie in Amerika later established her as "The First Lady of German Cinema". Ruth had a way of projecting so much emotion with the slightest of gestures and she brings a hint of a maternal nature to Susanne which helps draw her to the children. 
Angelika Meissner leads the children's cast as Hans' eldest daughter Ulla. Like Ruth, Angelika had very expressive eyes and often conveyed more than what the script may have called for. She was excellent in parts like this. She later went on to play Dick in Die Mädels vom Immenhof ( 1955 ) one of the most popular family films of all-time ( in Germany ). Portraying the younger Neumeister boys are curly-haired brothers Urs and Migg Hess and little runny-nose Oliver Grimm. 

Also in the cast is Günther Lüders, a well-beloved German comedian, and Bruni Löbel as "Cuckoo".

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

A little car, a big park, and a man carrying colorful balloons ( boy, how I'd like one of those! ). You know you've seen this scene before...and do you see those two tiny figures in the backseat of the car? You know both of them, too. Now just write the title of the film below and you'll win a prize! Unfortunately, the prize isn't a jumbo-sized balloon. 


Congratulations to the Tactful Typist for correctly identifying this screenshot as being from Gidget Goes to Rome ( 1963 )! In this particular scene, Paulo ( Cesare Danova ) and Gidget ( Cindy Carol ) are just about to step out from this little Fiat to greet Aunt Albertina ( Jessie Royce Landis ). 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

From the Archives : Marlo Thomas Behind the Scenes

Marlo Thomas on the set during the filming of an episode of the series That Girl! ( 1966 ) which Marlo starred in for five seasons. This photo was an original studio issued publicity photo that was featured in a local newspaper in Los Angeles. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Naughty Marietta ( 1935 )

Jeanette MacDonald knew how to flaunt spunk like no other woman in her time and, incredibly, she reigned during an era of ultra-spunky women. Jeanette knew how to be feisty and flirty without losing any of her natural grace which made her ideal to play roles of princesses in the guise of commoners, a recurring theme in her films and one which began with Naughty Marietta (1935), the first picture to pair MacDonald with Nelson Eddy. 

Who would have predicted that an old 1910 Victor Herbert operetta starring two relatively unknown film personalities would become the smash hit of 1935? Ah, sweet mystery of showbiz! Producer Hunt Stromberg evidently recognized the wealth to be found in this gem of a pairing. MacDonald and Eddy were such an engaging duo that audiences immediately loved the unique quality of their onscreen comradery, their playful banter, scrumptious singing voices, and their fetching good looks. 

Naughty Marietta was hugely successful and established MacDonald and Eddy as the "Singing Sweethearts". Their first film together featured all of the special ingredients that would be included in each subsequent MacDonald/Eddy musical: adventure, romance, witty dialogue, humor, and beautiful music. 

"For 'tis love, and love alone, the world is seeking"
Jeanette MacDonald stars as Princess Marie of France, who is being pressured by her evil uncle (Douglas Dumbrille) to wed the foppish Don Carlos of Spain. To escape from this fate she swaps places with her maid, Marietta, and joins a shipload of casquette girls bound for America. Casquette girls were French women that were sent to the French colonies of Louisiana to be the wives of colonists. 

Just as they approach Louisiana the women are captured by a band of pirates and dragged to their lair in the swamps. It is the dashing Captain Warrington (Nelson Eddy), leader of a troop of mercenaries who comes to their rescue. Hoorah for Captain Warrington! He quickly recognizes the regal quality of Marietta's bearing but has no inkling that she is a princess in disguise. Instead, smitten with her charms, he begins to woo her and, within thirty minutes of film time she falls for his winsome does the audience. 

Naughty Marietta is pure entertainment from start to finish and justly deserved its Best Picture Oscar nomination that year. If the script seems to have that added sparkle it is because it was penned by the husband-and-wife team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, whose work included The Thin Man series and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. 

Victor Herbert's beautiful musical numbers included "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" (which became MacDonald's signature song), "Italian Street Song", "Chansonette", "Tramp Tramp Tramp" and the lovely "I'm Falling in Love with Someone". 
MacDonald and Eddy were not only talented singers but adroit comedians as well. The "'Neath the Southern Moon" sequence and the marionette number are particularly amusing. To add to the merriment, MGM assembled a top-notch supporting cast which included Frank Morgan as Governor d'Annard, Elsa Lanchester as the Governor's wife, Cecilia Parker as Marietta's friend Julie, and Akim Tamiroff as Rudolpho, the gypsy king. 

The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society is hosting The Singing Sweethearts Blogathon celebrating the dynamic twosome of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. They fittingly scheduled it for Valentine's Day. Be sure to check out the complete roster here for more reviews and articles about this lovely couple. Happy Valentine's Day! 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Student Prince ( 1939 )

This Valentine's Day, the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society is hosting The Singing Sweethearts Blogathon to celebrate one of the most delightful romantic couples to ever grace the silver screen - Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. I will be reviewing Naughty Marietta tomorrow but first, a look at one of the best musicals this twosome never made, MGM's adaptation of the operetta The Student Prince ( 1939 ).

Sigmund Romberg penned the score to this delightful operetta in 1924, musicalizing the 1902 Wilhelm Meyer-Förster play "Old Heidelberg". The story centers around the young Prince Karl Franz of Karlsberg, who is encouraged by his tutor, the kindly Doctor Engel, to attend the University of Heidelberg prior to capping the crown on his head. In this charming old German town, Prince Karl falls in love with Kathie, the barmaid at the local beerhall where all the students congregate after school. He wishes to marry Kathie but he is pledged to betroth Princess Margaret, and so his heart is divided between his personal desire and duty for his country.

This simple but engaging plot was interwoven with over 15 glorious Romberg songs, including "Drink, Drink, Drink!", "Golden Days", "Serenade", and "Deep in My Heart".
"The Student Prince" was an immediate success upon its Broadway debut in 1924, becoming the most popular musical of the 1920s, running even longer than "Show Boat". Hollywood brought it to the screen in 1927 as a silent film (!) starring Ramon Navarro and Norma Shearer and then remade it as a musical with Edmund Purdom and Ann Blyth in 1954, but between those years no screen version was made. I'd like to argue that Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was blind to not see the potential box-office success of casting two of their biggest drawing stars - Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy - in a musical version of this story. 

The Student Prince ( 1954 )

1939 would have been the ideal release year for this film since MacDonald and Eddy would have just completed The Girl of the Golden West and Sweethearts but had no major release planned for the "golden year". MacDonald would have been marvelous as Kathie, the sweet and saucy barmaid whom all the college-men adored, while Nelson Eddy had the perfect royal bearing to portray Prince Karl. When Karl first arrives in Heidelberg he is stiff and overly curt, but as he gets to know Kathie and the other students his supreme-air fades away and he becomes beloved by all....a part that Eddy could have easily pulled off. 

The musical numbers were well-suited to both MacDonald and Eddy's voices and the rousing "Drink, Drink, Drink!" ensemble number would have been splendid with Eddy leading the chorus. 

Henry Stephenson could have been cast as Karl's father, the King ( a role that Louis Calhern played in the 1954 version ), Frank Morgan could have been the gentle Professor, Reginald Owen could have played Lutz, Karl's valet, and Elissa Landi would have made a charming Princess Margaret with her aristocratic stature. Herman Bing could have also provided comedic relief as the studdering prime minister. 

The Student Prince would have been a film that did not conclude with Eddy and MacDonald joining hands and singing into the sunset, but at least, it would have a happier ending than the tear-inducing Maytime ( 1937 ). 

Alas, Louis B. Mayer had too much on his plate to consider the project and The Student Prince was not filmed until nearly 25 years later....a version which is very entertaining but lacks the sparkle that MacDonald and Eddy would have given to the characters and the film as a whole. 

Click here to read some fabulous reviews of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films from The Singing Sweethearts Blogathon being hosted by The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Wild North ( 1952 )

"There's no wilderness wide enough to hide a sin"

When a man is separated from civilization and must contend with the forces of Mother Nature way up in the wild, wild north woods of Canada, he may discover savage instincts laying deep within him begin to emerge in his efforts to survive. 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Wild North tells the tale of a man who is placed in such circumstances. Jules Vincent, portrayed by Stewart Granger, is a French Canadian fur-trader who comes into a riverside town in Northwest Canada twice a year to purchase supplies, trade his goods, and drink a few beers. On a recent visit to town, he befriends a curvacious Chippewa Indian woman ( Cyd Charisse ) who is working as a singer at the local bar. She would rather return to her tribe then receive the not-too-flattering attention of drunken traders. Gallantly, Jules offers to take her back to her people in his canoe before returning to his cabin in the remote village of McQuarrie. 

Joining them on the river excursion is Max Brody, another fur trader; but by the time they reach McQuarrie we find that Max is strangely missing from the canoe and Jules is now shielding his face from the local priest. Soon, the Northwest Mounted Police, in the form of Constable Pedley ( Wendell Corey ) is hot on the trail....a trail that leads straight into the heart of the wild north, where an avalanche, marauding wolf pack, and below freezing temperatures await them both. 

The Wild North is a brawny adventure film that deftly blends drama with action into a frosty macho milkshake. It is a tale straight out of "Man's Life" magazine - only it's better because it is filmed in glorious Ansco Color! The movie boasts some stunning location scenery with the mountainous landscapes of Wyoming and Idaho admirably filling in for Northwest Canada. Frank Fenton penned the story for the screen, basing his tale upon an incident that befell an NWMP officer named Albert Pedley in 1904. During a particularly harsh winter in Canada, Pedley bore months of loneliness, cruel weather, and "white madness" to bring his prisoner to justice. 

Andrew Morton, who had co-directed Granger in MGM's King Solomon's Mines two years earlier, does a great job at helming the action, not leaving any room in the film for boredom to brew. The wolf attack is particularly harrowing and brutally realistic. 

The character of Jules is a bit of an anomaly for Stewart Granger, who is often given the role of the white-armored hero. Jules' nature, like most humans, isn't clearly defined as good or evil. He is a kind-hearted man who leads the simple and lonely life of a backwoods trapper but in a situation where his life is in jeopardy, he is prepared to murder....and, as Ellen Creed so aptly put it in Ladies in Retirement ( 1941 ) "Once you sell your soul to the Devil, it is easy to kill again." The thought of murdering Pedley on the journey back to McQuarrie becomes very tempting to Jules, until he recognizes the beast within him beginning to emerge. 

The normally wooden-faced Wendell Corey does a first-rate job of portraying the Dudley-Doright-like Mountie. "Man against Man - and Man Against Nature" was the tagline for The Wild North but Corey and Granger each made their characters so likable that you want to see both survive in their fight against the cruel elements in the "Wild North". 

Cyd Charisse is lovely as the Indian girl who falls in love with Jules, and rounding out the rather small cast is Morgan Farley, Howard Petrie, Ray Teal, and J.M. Kerrigan. 

This post is our contribution to the annual O Canada Blogathon being hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Be sure to check out all the great entries profiling famous Canadians and films made in or about Canada.