The Texas Blogathon: Days of Heaven (1978)

This post is part of the Texas Blogathon, hosted by Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In. Read the rest of the darn good posts HERE!

Days of Heaven was director Terrence Malick’s second film after the much-celebrated Badlands. A difficult shoot, a long editing process, and a simple tragic story told from the distancing point of view of a child, it was mostly well-received, though some critics complained it was too pretentious and arty.

Today, it is considered one of the best films of the 1970s and one of the top films of all time.

The story begins in 1916 and concerns Bill (Richard Gere) a young Chicago mill worker who kills his foreman after an argument. With his lover Abby (Brooke Adams) and younger sister Linda (Linda Manz) he jumps a train and heads west. Bill and Abby pretend they are siblings to prevent talk about their relationship. Arriving in the Texas panhandle, the trio finds work for a rich farmer (Sam Shepard).

The work is relentless and brutal. It soon becomes apparent that the farmer has his eyes on Abby. Overhearing a conversation between the farmer and his doctor, Bill concludes the farmer will die soon. He encourages Abby to marry him so they can live well after the farmer dies.

Of course, things do not go as planned. The farmer does not die quickly. Jealousy and the farmer’s suspicions about the true nature of Abby and Bill’s relationship compel Bill to leave for a time. When he returns, the festering feelings lead to tragedy.

The plot, as I said, is almost absurdly simple. There is very little dialogue, and most of that seems improvised. Reportedly, Malick threw away the script during filming and encouraged the actors to “find” the story.

This lead to the difficulties with editing. Malick eventually hit on adding a voice-over by Manz. Her unique voice and matter-of-fact delivery enhances the action of the film. Her commentary is anything but on-the-nose; instead, it’s oblique and contemplative, as if she’s remembering the events at a later date.

The film was not shot in Texas. Alberta, Canada stood in for the Texas panhandle. However, it certainly has the wide-open spaces feel of Texas. The farm spreads as far as the eye can see. The farmer’s Victorian mansion looks almost absurd stuck in the middle of it. The opulence is also a stark contrast to the way the farm workers live, outside regardless of the weather.

And they work. How they WORK. As Linda says in the voice-over, they work from sun-up to sundown with no breaks. It’s backbreaking work, too. They can be let go at the whim of the foreman at any time.

Some critics have complained that the love triangle is shown at such a distance it strangles the emotion of the story. But I find the distance is necessary. Bill uses Abby to gain a better life, but you can almost understand why. Without regulations and unions, workers were treated vilely during the early 20th Century. Watching Bill shovel coal into a huge furnace—probably having to do it for 12 straight hours—seems utterly inhumane. Children work side-by-side with adults near dangerous equipment. There’s never the slightest chance that all that hard work will elevate them to something better.

All of this to enrich one man (his foreman comments after the harvest is done that he will make well into the six figures from the one year—a fortune now, and even bigger one then). The farmer (who is never named) seems like a nice fellow and unfortunate at that, considering he is dying. But when he begins to suspect the truth about Abby and Bill, he turns into a possessive and violent man, who probably believes he’s entitled to deal with them in any way he sees fit because of his place in life.

The film is rightfully famous for its cinematography (by Nestor Almendros, who was beginning to lose his sight during the shoot). The film crew even complained about the complicated set-ups and shooting during the time of day as the sun is setting. The film production ran over so long that Almendros had to leave for a prior commitment. Haskel lWexler took over for him, but was only credited with “additional photography,” making it seem his contribution to the film was minor.

In spite of all the problems with the film’s production, it remains today one of the most breathtaking examples of the hyper-realistic films of the 1970s. Nestled in the overwhelming beauty of the landscape is poverty, brutality, betrayal, tragedy, and loss. As Linda comments, most of us are half angel and half devil. Days of Heaven makes the case more eloquently than most films.




The Adrienne Barbeau Blogathon: The Great Houdini (1976)

This post is part of the Adrienne Barbeau Blogathon, hosted by Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog. Read the rest of the posts in this event HERE!

Aside from her work on the television sitcom Maude, I’m not that familiar with Adrienne Barbeau’s work. However, I remembered she appeared in a TV movie of the week back in the 1970s about the magician Harry Houdini and decided to revisit it for the blogathon.

I saw it during its original broadcast, but didn’t recall that it’s actually a very good movie, especially considering how cleaned up most biopics were and still are. On top of that, it boasts a stellar supporting cast, including Ruth Gordon as Houdini’s mother, Bill Bixby as Reverend Arthur Ford, Peter Cushing as Arthur Conan Doyle, Maureen O’Sullivan as Conan Doyle’s wife, Nina Foch as Reverend Le Veyne, Vivian Vance as Minnie, the Houdinis’ nurse/companion, who also narrates the film. And of course, Adrienne Barbeau, as Houdini’s mistress Daisy White.

Paul Michael Glaser stars as Harry Houdini and Sally Struthers as his wife/partner Bess. The film is mainly concerned with their marriage and professional relationship, as well as Harry Houdini’s not very healthy relationship with his mother (Gordon). It also traces his fascination with the supernatural and his crusade to unmask most mediums as phonies and hucksters.

As I said, the film doesn’t clean up his life, and is very honest about his deep depression after his mother’s death, Bess’s alcoholism, and his affair with Daisy. Yes, it does fictionalize a few things: Bess never had a miscarriage after witnessing an almost failed escape stunt, nor did Houdini die after another escape mishap. Bess did not prove that Harry truly contacted her after death with a secret message only the two of them knew. But it’s understandable that these were added to increase the drama. And Minnie is a made-up person, though Vance gets some of the best lines in the movie.

(My favorite: while telling spiritualist Reverend Ford to leave Bess alone, she says “If you contact Robert E. Lee, tell him he lost.”)

Barbeau has only a few scenes, but they’re all good: at the beginning by Harry’s graveside (the story is told in flashback) she encounters Bess. Telling her she has to leave because she has a matinee, Bess counters with, “What’s his name?” (The dialogue is pretty good all around.)

She encounters Harry for the first time backstage and is clearly star struck. While Harry is depressed and separated from Bess, Daisy shows up to check on him (i.e. seduce him). But it’s not done in a cheap way. She confesses to many things (including having had an abortion) and tells him she loves watching him escape because it always gives her hope.

In another likely fiction, Daisy shows up the night Houdini receives the sucker punch to the belly that supposedly kills him (it really didn’t—he died from peritonitis because he ignored the signs of appendicitis). She assures Bess that he is no longer interested in her. Their argument about Daisy is what causes Harry’s distraction when the young man sucker punches him.

Doing research for this film, I found that many Houdini aficionados consider this the best film about his life. Impressive for a TV movie of the week from the 1970s, which have a reputation for being churned out on the cheap.

When it ended after this recent viewing I commented to my mom, “Gee, Adrienne didn’t have a lot of scenes.”

She said, “Yeah, but she was really good.”

The Duo Double Feature Blogathon: James Stewart & Kim Novak

This post is part of the Duo Double Feature Blogathon, hosted by The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Read the rest of the posts HERE!


James Stewart and Kim Novak made two movies back-to-back that were released in 1958: Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo, and the delightful romantic comedy, Bell, Book and Candle. These are two of my favorite films, due in no small part to the chemistry between Stewart and Novak.

The films couldn’t be more different from each other. Vertigo is a dark tale of obsessive love, while Bell, Book and Candle is a vibrant comedy about a man who literally falls under the spell of a witch. Yet both actors are perfect in their roles.

Novak was not originally slated to play the double roles of Madeleine/Judy in Vertigo. Vera Miles was cast but had to drop out due to pregnancy. Hitchcock made a deal with Columbia to have them lend out Novak if Stewart would agree to co-star with her in Bell, Book and Candle, which is why the two films were made so close together.

Vertigo is based on the French novel D’entre les morts (Among the Dead) by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Hitchcock originally wanted to adapt their novel Celle qui n’était plus (She Who Was No More), which became the film Les Diaboliques, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. There is a legend that Boileau and Nercejac deliberately wrote D’entre les morts specifically for Hitchcock, but that has since been debunked.

John “Scottie” Ferguson, a policeman who retires after he witnesses the death by falling of another officer, is tapped by an old friend to trail his wife. The husband claims he is only worried his wife is mentally ill and may take her own life. He is convinced that she has taken on the personality of her ancestress, a Spanish woman who had her child taken away from her during colonial times in old California.

Scottie reluctantly agrees but becomes fascinated by the beautiful Madeleine. He witnesses her jumping into San Francisco bay and rescues her. From there, they become romantically involved. Scottie has a mental breakdown when Madeleine throws herself off the tower of an old Spanish mission. After a stint in a mental institution, he runs into a girl named Judy who has a remarkable resemblance to Madeleine. Obsessively, he changes her look so that she resembles the dead Madeleine. Judy is resistant but eventually agrees because she loves him. It is revealed that the woman Scottie was following was not Madeleine at all, but Judy, who had been her husband’s lover and partner in crime. The person Scottie witnessed falling from the tower was the real Madeleine, who had been murdered by the pair.

Bell, Book and Candle is about a witch named Gillian Holroyd, who has romantic feelings for her neighbor Shep Henderson. When she finds out he’s going to marry a hated schoolmate of hers, she casts a spell on him so he falls in love with her. When he realizes what she is and what she did to him, he seeks out an antidote to the spell. He meets with her months later and realizes she has lost her powers because she genuinely loves him.

The two films are certainly very different but do share at least one major theme: obsessive love. Both protagonists (Scottie and Gillian) are nearly destroyed by their obsession. However, in Gillian’s case, she at least gets a happy outcome, though it’s sad she has lost her magical powers.

I wouldn’t call Novak a great actress, but she has a unique screen presence. Along with Grace Kelly, she epitomizes Hitchcock’s “cool blond” seductress. (Honestly, I have a hard time imagining Vera Miles playing Madeleine/Judy.) Novak’s remoteness serves her well in Vertigo and makes perfect sense for Gillian’s character in Bell, Book and Candle. In both films she brings out something in Stewart that is more complex than what he showed in his earlier roles—a darkness, including a darker sensuality. He always had great comic timing, but the scene where the spell is broken in Bell, Book and Candle totally cracks me up every time I see it.

Kim Novak tells a story that she met up with Stewart years after they made the movies and tried to talk him into doing another film with her. He declined, saying he was too old to play a romantic lead.

It’s a shame they only got to make the two movies. Too bad Novak wasn’t able to cast a spell on him to make him say yes.

Announcing the “It Takes a Thief” Blogathon!

Time for a new blogathon! I am inviting you to write about thievery in films.

The caper, the heist, kidnappings, great escapes, con artists, high-class jewel thieves, art forgers, hungry peasants stealing bread, in any genre–all will be accepted!

You many write about films from any era from any area of the world.

You may also write about television shows, either those featuring a thief as a main character (for instance, Remington Steele or White Collar) or individual episodes featuring thievery (the “Dead Freight” episode of Breaking Bad or “The Train Job” episode of Firefly).

This is a very expansive topic, so my only rule is no duplicates, unless it’s two versions of the same story (i.e. the two versions of The Lavender Hill Mob).

The blogathon will run Friday, November 17 – Sunday, November 19. You may post any day (or earlier, if you wish).

To claim your topic, please request your choice in the comments section below, or contact me on Twitter (@DebbieVee). Include the name and URL of your blog. Then grab one of the banners below, display it on your blog and link it back to this post.

Thanks for joining in!


Moon in Gemini: Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)

MovieMovieBlogBlog: Take the Money and Run (1969)

Cinematic Scribblings:  Le Départ (1967)

lifesdailylessonsblog: How to Steal a Million (1966)

Liz Durano: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Realweegiemidget Reviews: The Angels’ Share (2012)

Movies Silently: Alias Jimmy Valentine (1929)

The Stop Button: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

B Noir Detour: Comparison of The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Rififi (1955)

Once Upon a Screen: The Killing (1956)

Silver Screenings: To Catch a Thief (1955)

Outspoken and Freckled: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

Caftan Woman: You and Me (1938)

A Shroud of Thoughts: The Saint (1962 – 1969)

Destroy All Fanboys!: Topkapi (1964)

Cinematic Catharsis: White Heat (1949)

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Remember the Night (1940)

Critica Retro: Jewel Robbery (1932)

Peyton’s Classics: The Devil’s Brother (1933)

CineMaven’s Essays From the Couch: Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)

The Midnite Drive-In: The Maltese Falcon (1931) and Satan Met a Lady (1936); the three actors who played Mr. Freeze in the classic Batman TV series (1966 – 1968)

Wide Screen World: Road to Perdition (2o02)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Dreaming in the Balcony: Arsène Lupin (1932)

Thoughts All Sorts: Man on a Ledge (2012)

Film Noir Archive: Thief (1981)

Top 10 Film Lists: Criss Cross (1949)

The Story Enthusiast: Trouble in Paradise (1932)

It Came From the Man Cave!: JCVD (2008)

Sat In Your Lap: Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977)

Random Pictures: Payback (1999)

Sometimes They Go to Eleven: The Split (1968)

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: Grand Hotel (1932)

LA Explorer: Charade (1963)

Silver Screen Classics: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Totally Filmi: Sapthamashree Thaskaraha “Seven Good Thieves” (2014)

4 Star Films: The Big Steal (1949)




The It’s Just a Joke Blogathon: Soapdish (1991)

This post is part of the It’s Just a Joke: The Movie Parody Blogathon, hosted by Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog. Read the rest of the punchlines HERE!

The 1991 film Soapdish was made less than thirty years ago, but the state of the daytime soap opera could not have been any more different then than it is now.

Still popular with college students, not yet besieged by massive competition from cable, the internet, social media, and more sophisticated prime time soaps, it was the major networks’ cash cow.

Soaps had also morphed from romantic/family dramas to adventure stories that included globe-hopping (and on-location shoots) as well as wacky stuff such as mad scientists, space aliens. and witchcraft.

As the 90s progressed, all the aforementioned competition, not to mention the lengthy O.J. Simpson trial, resulted in the fortunes of daytime drama steadily cratering. Soap actors who were given multi-million dollar contracts were either let go or given massive wage cuts. Set budgets were slashed. Game and talk shows were cheaper and more profitable. Today, only four daytime soaps remain on the air.

But there was a period of time, from the late 1970s (the beginning of the General Hospital Luke & Laura craze) to the mid-90s when soaps crossed over into the mainstream as a cultural phenomenon.

Soapdish savages that phenomenon by parodying, not only soap operas themselves, but the backstage goings-on that sometimes seemed like a soap in and of itself.

Celeste Talbert (Sally Field) is the star of a soap opera called The Sun Also Sets, and, yes, a bit of a diva who needs constant reassurance from her fans during visits to the shopping mall. On the show since she was a teenager, she is finding her status tenuous because she is now middle-aged. Younger actresses, such as Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarity) and Ariel Maloney (Terri Hatcher) plot to bring her down so they can have their time as stars of the show.

Producer David Seton Barnes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is sexually obsessed with Montana and does her bidding when it comes to sabotaging Celeste. Rose Schwartz (Whoopi Goldberg), the show’s head writer, is Celeste’s best friend and tries to protect her from those who are out to get her.

One of Montana’s plots features bringing back to the show Jeffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline) who was Celeste’s boyfriend when they co-starred on the soap. A down-and-out actor forced to play dinner theater to senior citizens, he leaps at the chance to return to the show. Celeste’s niece Lori (Elisabeth Shue) talks her way into a part as an extra on the show. To Celeste’s horror, she realizes Jeffrey and Lori are attracted to each other.

Just like on a real soap opera, Celeste harbors many secret sorrows over the past relationship. It all literally explodes in front of the camera (and reporters from Entertainment Tonight) as Celeste confesses that Lori is really her daughter by Jeffrey.

This movie is totally over-the-top, but it works because it plays to what we expect from soap operas: tons of melodrama. All of this is played by a top-notch cast. Clearly, Celeste is based on actress Susan Lucci (though she wins way more awards than Lucci ever did). Robert Downey, Jr.’s comic timing is impeccable as a man torn between his sexual desire and toadying to the higher-ups out of fear that he will lose his job. Elisabeth Shue, still very young here, holds her own with the seasoned professionals. There are brief appearances by Carrie Fisher and Kathy Najimy as the casting director and head of wardrobe on the soap.

Gary Marshall is a scream as a network executive who is trying to get The Sun Also Sets better ratings than a game show.

“I would like to voice my strong concern about this show’s spiraling decline in ratings. David, ever since you took us to the Caribbean, it’s been Jamaica homeless people sucking soup, and a big wave outside that cost a hundred thousand dollars. That’s depressing and it’s expensive, two words I hate. You know the words I like? I like the word “peppy” and the word “cheap”. Peppy and cheap.”

Rose has a rant when told to bring back a character who had been decapitated 20 years before:

“How am I supposed to write for a guy who doesn’t have a head? He’s got no lips, no vocal cords!”

(As a soap viewer of long standing, I have no doubt that many head writers over the decades have had similar rants when told to bring back characters from the dead, even when it made absolutely no sense.)

Then there is Kevin Kline, who is always funny, but almost steals the whole thing during a live soap opera broadcast where he can’t read the teleprompter without his glasses.

Soapdish may feel like a throwback because of the way soaps have declined, but it’s still an enjoyable parody of the genre. Where else are you going to get dialogue like this:

“Sudden speech, the last sign of brain fever. She could blow at any moment!”


Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon – Final Wrap-Up!

Once again, I would like to thank all the bloggers who participated in the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon–so many great posts! Go HERE for a complete list of all the posts with links.

Here are two more posts that did not make it into the daily recaps:

Outspoken and Freckled asks if the workplace has really changed since the movie 9 to 5 came out.

Serendipitous Anachronisms advises those who want to get ahead to watch Working Girl.

That’s a wrap!

Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon: Day 3 Recap

It may be a day of rest for some, but we still have bloggers working hard on posts for the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon!

In Once Upon a Screen‘s second entry for the blogathon, she looks at Billy Wilder’s classic office drama, The Apartment.

Thoughts All Sorts peeks in on the BDSM relationship between boss and employee in Secretary.

Cinemaven’s Essays from the Couch tells us The Best of Everything for young women in the 1950s was limited to marriage, with a career meant as a stepping-stone.

Cinematic Catharsis overcomes the creepy crawlies to review Arachnophobia.

MovieRob‘s second contribution to the blogathon is another melding of the horror/workplace genres, Little Shop of Horrors.

Moon in Gemini finds the sisterhood shared by the midwives in Call the Midwife realistic and poignant.

Realweegiemidget assures us the kids are all right in Adventures in Babysitting.

dbmoviesblog reminds us not to mention the war in her review of the Britcom, Fawlty Towers.

Anybody Got a Match? writes about Libeled Lady, a screwball comedy set in the newspaper industry.

If you still have a post to contribute, no worries! I will do another update tomorrow.

I am always amazed at the quality of the contributions to these blogathons, and this one was no exception. Deepest thanks to all the contributors!



Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon: Day 2 Recap

Bloggers are working their buns off, contributing more great posts for the Workplace in Film & TV blogathon!

Movies Silently takes us behind the scenes of early movie-making with A Girl’s Folly.

Sat In Your Lap embraces the lack of plausibility of the pre-code melodrama Alias the Doctor and discovers it’s an obscure gem.

The Blonde Screwball reviews the Carole Lombard/Fred MacMurray screwball comedy about a manicurist, Hands Across the Table.

A Shroud of Thoughts praises WKRP in Cincinnati as both a great workplace and character-driven comedy series.

Critica Retro traces the career path of a railway mogul played by Spencer Tracy in The Power and the Glory.

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest tackles Charlie Chaplin’s hilarious masterpiece about the rise of technology, Modern Times.

Don’t forget to join us for Day 3 tomorrow!



Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon: Day 1 Recap

Everybody ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work?

Here are the first amazing posts for the Workplace in Film & TV blogathon:

Once Upon a Screen takes a look at Meryl Streep in the Workplace: Doubt, The Devil Wears Prada, and Silkwood.

MovieMovieBlogBlog makes you appreciate your own employment situation with his review of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Silver Screenings was made a bit uncomfortable by the boss/secretary dynamic in My Dear Secretary.

Cinematic Scribblings writes about The Organizer, whose idealism may both help and hurt factory workers fighting against exploitation.

Caftan Woman reveals the classic TV show Car 54, Where Are You? is much more than just a goofy comedy.

MovieRob reviews Compliance, a movie based on a true-life incident where a prank call to a fast-food restaurant went too far.

The Midnite Drive-In found real-life inspiration while watching the film Teachers.

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society examines the The Impatient Maiden, a pre-code film about a young medical intern.

The Stop Button was disappointed the film FM squanders its cast and story set at a popular radio station.

That’s it for today! Come back tomorrow for more workplace fun!

Reminder: the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon Starts Soon!

There’s still plenty of time to sign up for the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon! It begins Friday, August 18 and runs through Sunday, August 20.

If you wish to join in, leave a comment here or under the original post, or contact me on Twitter (my handle is @DebbieVee).

Looking forward to a very labor-intensive blogathon!

British Invaders Blogathon: A Touch of Class (1973)

This post is part of the 4th Annual British Invaders Blogathon, hosted by Terry at A Shroud of Thoughts. Read the rest of the jolly good posts in this event HERE!

When we think of British actress Glenda Jackson, the types of films she did that come to mind first are serious dramas, such as Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Women in Love. Or, we remember her superb performances as Queen Elizabeth I in the TV series Elizabeth R and Mary, Queen of Scots.

She received her first Academy Award for the drama Women in Love, but won her second Best Actress award for the romantic comedy A Touch of Class. The film is a superb showcase for her comedic talents.

Recently divorced Vickie Allessio (Jackson) meets married American Steven Blackburn (George Segal) by chance one day in the park. They meet again while hailing the same taxi and agree to share it. They meet for tea and then for lunch. Vickie is not interested in what Steven appears to be interested in, a “quickie” while his wife is out of town. However, she is open to a weekend in a sunny clime with Steven.

Instead, Steven proposes a week in Spain. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, including Steven meeting a friend (Paul Sorvino) at the airport, who wants to share his rental car. While Vickie looks on, Steven agrees to take a much worse and smaller car. Unschooled in driving a stick shift, Steven drives the sputtering car to their Costa del Sol hotel.

At the hotel, there are various mix-ups about their room, and they are forced to drag their luggage around. Finally settling in a room, their first attempt at making love ends up with Steven’s back going out. When that is resolved and they finally do the deed, Steven is crushed and infuriated by Vickie’s assertion that it wasn’t all that.

Stuck with each other, the tension builds until they end up having a knock-down, drag-out fight. They end up laughing at their own absurdity, and make love again. Apparently, this time it’s all that and they stay for the week. By the end of it they regret their time together is over.

At first determined to leave the affair in Spain, they find they can’t do that. They set up a lover’s nest in a remote area of London and meet whenever they can. There are various mishaps as Steven must try to hide his affair from his wife Gloria (Hildegard Neil). At one point he pretends he’s going out to walk the dog and must dash back to the apartment when he forgets it.

Over time, it becomes obvious to both Steven and Vickie that they are in love. Unwilling to break up Steven’s family, they part for good.

The storyline sounds sad, even bittersweet (there’s one point where Steven and Vickie sob uncontrollably while watching Brief Encounter), but this is mostly a frenzied comedy, with snappy dialogue and frantic mishaps.

Jackson plays a character that is obviously meant to echo the kind Katharine Hepburn played: smart, independent, acerbic, talented, with a dash of kookiness thrown in. She is a clothing designer, but one that steals from other designers to provide cheap knock-offs. Steven seems to care for his wife but sees nothing wrong with stepping out on her occasionally. In fact, Vickie does not seem very concerned with the feelings of Steven’s wife. (It was the early 1970s; I guess this was considered a modern attitude then.)

There is plenty of chemistry between Jackson and Segal—her dry, British wit and his frenetic American energy play off each other successfully most of the time. The role of Steven was originally offered to Cary Grant, who was retired from movies at the time. He eventually declined to come out of retirement. Though Segal did not win the Academy Award, he did take home the Golden Globe for the role.

Co-screenwriter/director Melvin Frank had not initially thought of Jackson for the role of Vickie until he saw her on a TV comedy sketch. Realizing she was also talented at comedy, he offered her the part.

After she won the Academy Award, Frank sent her a telegram: “Stick with us and we will get you another one.”

She never got another one (perhaps because she eventually retired from acting to enter politics), but certainly deserved it for this one.

The Dude, Walter, and the Question of Donny

This post is part of the My Favorite Movie Threesome Blogathon, hosted by Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog. Read the rest of the posts in this event HERE!

Years ago I heard comedian Jerry Seinfeld talk about friendship. He said (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here) that it often had more to do with proximity than anything else. In other words, Jerry on the show Seinfeld was friends with Kramer pretty much only because he lived across the hall.

The triumvirate of The Dude (née Jeffrey Lebowski), Walter, and Donny in The Big Lebowski seems like that sort of friendship. Bowling buddies who could not possibly be more unalike, they anchor the film (and, in my opinion, generate the most laughs).

The one thing that does seem to bind them (other than a love of bowling) is generation. They are three Baby Boomers. I will not be the first writer to point out that The Dude and Walter represent the extremes of Left and Right Boomer politics, with Donny in the middle, who is constantly shouted over and, even more often, totally disregarded. The Dude protested the Vietnam war, and Walter, a present-day neocon, fought in the war.

We don’t know what Donny did during the war.

“Shut the fuck up, Donny! You’re out of your element!” screams Walter.

The film opens at the beginning of Desert Storm in 1991, with the elder President Bush giving speeches in the background. The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is an aging L.A. hippie with no discernable line of work. His buddy Walter (John Goodman) runs (what else) a security business. We know almost nothing about Donny (Steve Buscemi) except that he’s a very good bowler, was once a surfer, and is always three to four beats behind every conversation between The Dude and Walter.

The Dude is attacked in his own home by two thugs who insist he give them the money his wife Bunny owes their boss. When they realize they have the wrong Jeffrey Lebowski, they leave, but not before one pees on his rug. Incensed, The Dude recounts the story to Walter and Donny at the bowling alley. Walter insists he not let it go, seek out the other Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston) and insist he replace the rug. (It really tied the room together.)

While the Big Lebowski treats him with utter contempt during their first meeting, he later hires The Dude to do the money drop when his wife Bunny (Tara Reid) is kidnapped.

Nearly every step of the way, The Dude makes the grievous error of including Walter (and sometimes Donny). When The Dude casually mentions he thinks Bunny Lebowski kidnapped herself, Walter seizes on that and gives the kidnappers a ringer instead of the actual suitcase of money. They leave the real suitcase of money in The Dude’s car to go bowling and later find that the car has been stolen from the parking lot. This sets off a long series of events as The Dude tries (not very hard) to find the money.

The Dude is probably Bridges’ (and the Coen Bros.) most iconic character to date. So burned out that he can hardly finish a sentence, he often parrots what other people say probably because his brain can’t think of anything original. Walter perhaps runs a close second to The Dude. He’s completely out of control, and he’s wrong about almost everything while confident he is always right. He stubbornly practices Judaism even though he only converted for his ex-wife. (It’s not 3,000 years of beautiful history, Walter, it’s over 5,000. But if I pointed that out to him, he’d probably pull a gun on me.) And almost everything, in his mind, is tied in some way to Vietnam. The Dude and Walter should be dire enemies, yet even though Walter frustrates The Dude to no end, he invariably forgives him.

Now we come to the question of Donny. For years, there was a theory floating around with some fans that Donny is actually a figment of Walter’s imagination, possibly a buddy who died in Nam, because he is the only one who interacts with him. This is not accurate—there are about two or three times that The Dude acknowledges Donny’s presence. (“Dude, your phone’s ringing.” “Thank you, Donny!”) Even so, it’s such a persistent belief the Coen Bros. themselves have refuted it in interviews.

I think in some ways Donny functions as a stand-in for the audience. The labyrinthian plot (inspired by Raymond Chandler detective novels that also made little sense) probably confounds the audience at times as much as it confounds Donny. The biggest laughs usually come when Walter is on his latest rampage and The Dude is begging him to stop, with Donny wrinkling his brow in the background, trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

The political subtext of the relationship the three men share seems more relevant today than ever. The Right and Left yelling at each other while the quiet middle fades away in the background.

While that’s pretty serious stuff, the interaction between the characters is still screamingly funny. I re-watched the film just before writing this (mostly to confirm which scenes Donny appears in) and still laughed just as hard at the antics of these three mismatched friends. They will probably always remain one of my favorite movie threesomes of all time.

Announcing the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon!

Time for a new blogathon! I am inviting you to write about the workplace in film and television.

Films and TV shows featuring workers in offices, factories, restaurants, institutions, you name it, I will accept it!

You can be creative about the meaning of “workplace.” For instance, if you want to write about Star Trek or Galaxy Quest as a workplace, have at it.

Any film or TV show, from any area of the world, any era is eligible.

My only rule is no duplicates. As usual, if two people want to write about two different versions of the same story (i.e. The Front Page/His Girl Friday or British version of The Office/American version of The Office) that is fine.

The blogathon will run Friday, August 18 – Sunday, August 20. You may post any day (or earlier, if you wish).

To claim your topic, please request your choice in the comments section below, or contact me on Twitter (@DebbieVee). Include the name and URL of your blog. Then grab one of the banners below, display it on your blog and link it back to this post.

Thanks so much for joining in!


Moon in Gemini: Call the Midwife (2012-)

The Stop Button: FM (1978)

MovieMovieBlogBlog: Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Cinematic Scribblings: The Organizer (1963)

Once Upon a Screen: The Apartment (1960)/Meryl Streep workplace triple feature

Silver Screenings: My Dear Secretary (1948)

CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch: The Best of Everything (1959)

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest: Modern Times (1936)

Movies Silently: A Girl’s Folly (1917)

Caftan Woman: Car 54, Where Are You? (1961 – 1963)

A Shroud of Thoughts: WKRP in Cincinnati (1978 – 1982)

Realweegiemidget: Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Serendipitous Anachronisms: Working Girl (1988)

The Midnite Drive-In: Teachers (1984)

Anybody Got a Match?: Libeled Lady (1936)

Critica Retro: The Power and the Glory (1933)

Cinematic Catharsis: Arachnophobia (1990)

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: The Impatient Maiden (1932)

The Blonde Screwball: Hands Across the Table (1935)

Outspoken and Freckled: 9 to 5 (1980)

dbmoviesblog: Fawlty Towers (1975 & 1979)

Movierob: Compliance (2012) & Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Sat in Your Lap: Alias the Doctor (1932)

Thoughts All Sorts: Secretary (2002)

Revisting My Thoughts on Disney Buying Lucasfilm

This week is my fifth blogversary! Yay! I thought it would be fun to dig into the archives for one of my most popular posts and see how time has treated it.

In November 2012, I posted about what I loved/what I hated about Disney buying Lucasfilm.

This post went viral on Stumbleupon. I believe it still holds the record for most hits of all of my blog posts. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one both excited and concerned about the change.

So how’d I do? Were my hopes/fears realized?

Let’s review:

Why I Love: More Star Wars films.

Yep, we got/are getting a bunch of those.

Why I Hate: More Star Wars films that may exist solely to squeeze every possible dime out of an existing franchise.

This turned out to not be a TOTALLY baseless fear. We are getting a Star Wars movie every year until…we stop getting a Star Wars movie every year, I guess.

The good news is the first two movies, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, are fantastic. The previews of The Last Jedi also look awesome. There is some doubt about the young Han Solo movie, especially since the directors suddenly quit (though it’s not too shabby that they were replaced with Ron Howard). So far, though, the movies have been made with lots of love.

Which brings me to:

Why I Love: There’s a whole generation of filmmakers who grew up on Star Wars who could revive the franchise creatively.

And…I was right! Not only the films, but the new novels, mostly written by Gen-Xers who were raised on Star Wars, have been stellar.

Why I Hate: There’s a whole generation of filmmakers who grew up on Star Wars who could finish it off once and for all.

Until we get a clunker, looks like this isn’t happening. I am a little concerned about Episode 9. Not feeling Colin Trevorrow as director. But he could always surprise.

Why I Love: Disney ownership has not negatively impacted the quality of Pixar and Marvel films.

Right again!

Why I Hate: This could turn out to be the exception to the rule.

It’s not—so far.

Why I Love: The possibility of the story continuing in a future time frame.

Yep, and it’s been terrific to have the new trilogy leap 30 years ahead.

Why I Hate: The possibility that they will do more prequels instead.

They are making prequels, but so far this hasn’t turned out to be a disaster, because Rogue One is a prequel and I totally loved it.

Why did it succeed, in my opinion? Because it told the story from the point of view of different characters, which is why many of the prequel Star Wars books are good, too.

Why I Love: Actors from the original films could appear in the new films.

As we all know now, they did! (Except for Billy Dee Williams, which is disappointing.)

Why I Hate: How old I’ll feel when I see the original actors in the new films.

Yeah. I felt pretty damn old seeing the original actors. You know what? It was also an exhilarating experience to see them older and both changed/not changed by time. They also did a great job melding the old and new characters together.

Why I Love: George Lucas won’t be directing the new films.

This turned out to be a very good thing.

Why I Hate: George Lucas is unlikely to have a significant creative role in making the new films.

Apparently, this also turned out to be a very good thing.

Why I Love: A revived Star Wars franchise could inspire a whole new generation.

This statement seems a bit silly to me now, since subsequent generations have always had Star Wars, with the old movies, games, TV shows, etc. My niece is a Millennial and a big fan. She once even schooled me on the difference between Jawas and Sand People. (Hey, I’m getting older, I forget details sometimes.)

Why I Hate: A whole new generation could reject it.

Nope, didn’t happen.

Why I Love: Darth Vader might appear on Once Upon a Time.

Why I Hate: Jar-Jar Binks might appear on Once Upon a Time.

Considering I quit watching Once Upon a Time a couple of years ago, I’m not entirely sure either has or has not made an appearance. Honestly, no big deal to me now either way.

Looks like most of my worries turned out to be baseless. Here’s hoping the franchise continues to thrive under the Disney banner.

This was a fun way to celebrate my blogversary! Thanks to all who have visited over the last five years. Looking forward to many more years of blogging!

Food & Magic & Desire: Like Water for Chocolate (1992)

This post is part of the 3rd Annual SEX! (Now That I Have Your Attention) Blogathon, hosted by Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog. Read the rest of the sensual posts HERE!

The 1992 Mexican film Like Water for Chocolate was based on the novel by the same name by Laura Esquivel. Her then-husband, Alfonso Arau, directed the film adaptation.

Set during the early 1900s in revolutionary Mexico, it recounts the tale of Tita (Lumi Cavazos), the youngest daughter of Dona Elena (Regina Torne). Even in the womb Tita shed many tears. So many, that when the afterbirth water dried, it left 40 lbs. of salt behind for the household to use in cooking.

This is, of course, the first inkling that this is a story of magic realism, a narrative where magic exists within a realistic world.

Soon after she is born, Tita’s father dies suddenly. Her mother declares that in keeping with family tradition Tita, being her youngest daughter, can never marry and must take care of her until she dies.

When she is 15, Tita meets Pedro (Marco Leonardi) who declares his love for her. Elena refuses to give permission for the marriage, offering her eldest daughter Rosaura (Yareli Arezmendi) in her stead. To Tita’s horror, Pedro agrees.

Tita is forced to make the food for the wedding. While mixing the batter for the cake, her tears fall into it. When the guests eat the cake, everyone is seized with a profound longing for their one true love. Everyone falls ill, including Elena, who cherishes a photograph of a mulatto man who is the true father of her middle daughter Gertrudis (Claudette Maille).

Pedro assures Tita that he only married Rosaura so he could stay close to her. When he presents her with roses, the thorns scratch her skin and draw blood. She makes a sauce with the rose petals that drives everyone mad with sexual desire, particularly Gertrudis, who strips naked and–quite literally–runs away with a revolutionary soldier.

When Pedro and Rosaura’s son Roberto is born, Rosaura is unable to nurse him. Pedro sees Tita’s bare breasts while she’s grinding corn. The passion between them causes them to fill with milk so she can feed the child. Elena, suspecting Pedro and Tita are not staying away from each other, sends Pedro, Rosaura and the baby away. Without Tita’s milk the child dies.

After a mental breakdown and a marriage proposal from a nice doctor (Mario Ivan Martinez), Tita is finally free of her domineering mother but still can’t get over her passion for Pedro. She is forced to choose between a secure, conventional life or one filled with passion that society refuses to recognize.

While the film does have some nudity and one sex scene (and another implied one) it’s truly through the light touches of magic that sensuality is conveyed. The magical elements are nearly all revealed through Tita’s cooking. Food is love and passion in this story. A plate of chilies is so lovingly rendered by Tita that everyone eating them is seized with passion, leading to guests at a wedding jumping into their cars for a quickie.

I have to say that although I love the way food and love and magic and sex are intertwined in the story, it doesn’t hide the fact that Pedro is a jerk who isn’t remotely worthy of Tita. (And, yeah, I must be getting curmudgeonly, because I wanted to scream at Tita to marry that nice doctor.)

But…people love who they love, and desire who they desire. Like the water referred to in the title (which is used to liquify chocolate) a bit of heat all it takes to make it boil over.