Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Debut of Cheers!

Coach (Nicholas Colasanto): I'm working on a novel. Going on six years now. I think I might finish it tonight.

Diane (Shelley Long): You're writing a novel?

Coach: No, reading it.

The great thing about Cheers! was that, although it was ostensibly about a bar, it was really about the people in the bar. The place where everybody knows your name.

When it finished its 11–year run, viewers felt as if they knew the folks on the show — their strengths, their weaknesses, their personality quirks — so well that sometimes I think any one of them could have starred in a spinoff and been successful.

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was the character who was spun off and had an 11–year run of his own, which is kind of ironic since he wasn't in the Cheers! cast when the show premiered on this day in 1982. In the first episode, "Give Me a Ring Sometime," the emphasis was on the barmaid who would be viewers' introduction to Frasier's woeful love life — Diane Chambers (Shelley Long).

She wasn't a barmaid at the time. She came in to the bar with her fiancé. They planned to go to Barbados, where they would be married, but Diane's fiancé wanted to get the ring from his ex–wife, so he left Diane at Cheers! with a promise to return.

By the end of the episode, though, it was clear that he was not going to return, that he had probably reconciled with his ex–wife. Forlorn Diane was offered the job of a barmaid.

Her conversation with her first customers kind of set the tone for the series:

"Welcome to Cheers," she told the middle–aged couple. "My name is Diane. I will be serving you. Why don't you sit down right over here? You know, I should tell you, parenthetically, that you are the first people that I have ever served. In fact, if anyone had told me a week ago that I would be doing this, I would have thought them insane. When Sam over there offered me the job, I laughed in his face. But then it occurred to me, here I am, I'm a student — not just in an academic sense but a student of life. And where better than here to study life in all its many facets? People meet in bars, they part, they rejoice, they suffer, they come here to be with their own kind. What can I get you?"

To which the man replied, reading from a phrase book in broken English, "Where is police? We have lost our luggage."

The episode was also a setup for the other people in the bar, especially the proprietor, Sam (Ted Danson), who had been a major–league baseball player until his struggle with alcohol ended that chapter in his life.

Many of the characters who went on to be regulars on the show were there — waitress Carla (Rhea Perlman) and patrons Norm (George Wendt) and Cliff (John Ratzenberger).

"Coach" (Nicholas Colasanto), the bartender, was there, too, but he died of a heart attack a few years later, and the character was written out of the series. Woody (Woody Harrelson) was brought on as Coach's replacement.

And that is probably what prevented the episode from being regarded as one of the best of the series. The first episode essentially introduced the viewers to the characters in the series, and that took most of the time.

So the first episode couldn't be too in depth. There simply wasn't enough time, you see.

It served its purpose, though. It got the audience hooked and set the stage for the show's 11–year run. And that provided plenty of time to explore various personalities and themes.

Good thing for all of us, too.

A Horse Is a Horse

The sibling rivalry between Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) made for some of the best episodes of the Frasier series, and the episode that first aired 20 years ago tonight ("The Gift Horse") was one of the very best.

Their father, Martin (John Mahoney), was observing his 65th birthday. Frasier and Niles were known to have battled to outdo each other in the birthday gift department for years, but this was a milestone birthday so the competition was particularly intense.

Initially they had agreed to limit their spending, but that agreement quickly fell through, and the brothers escalated the stakes rapidly.

Frasier thought he had finally won when he agreed to buy a big–screen TV for his father. He hated the idea, had been resisting it for years but finally agreed to do it just to see Niles "twisting and writhing in agony."

But then he observed that Niles wasn't twisting and writhing. Niles, it turned out, had topped him by acquiring the horse Martin had ridden when he was on mounted patrol.

Niles had tracked down Martin's old police horse and had found out that he was a week away from being put out to pasture. So he bought the horse and set him up in a stable where Martin could visit him whenever he wished.

Yes, it did appear that Niles had won the sibling competition — until his father, who was initially excited by the gift, turned morose. Niles began to doubt the wisdom of buying the horse, not realizing that his father was a bit stunned by the realization that both he and his horse had grown older.

And he was feeling a little sorry for himself, but he insisted that it was the best gift he had ever received.

For reasons that weren't entirely clear, Niles shared the credit with Frasier, who in turn insisted that it had been mostly his brother's idea.

It was a nice commentary on aging, but I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the ending. It struck me as anticlimactic, and I expected better from the writers for Frasier.

Monday, September 25, 2017

An Important History Lesson

When I was in junior high, I was assigned to do a book report on Cornelius Ryan's "The Longest Day."

Looking back, I would have to say that the book was probably a bit beyond my years. I mean, I love history — I have always loved history — and I love a good story, but the book was a bit technical for me, at least at that time in my life.

I didn't know who most of the people in the book were. I guess I hadn't studied World War II or D–Day too much at that point, had no idea, really, of their significance in American history.

And in my mind, too, I suppose, that was my parents' war — but they had been children when it was fought. It was probably more my grandparents' war. Either way, I probably saw it as their history, not mine.

Perhaps that is how it is for everyone. Major events that have gone before belong to someone else. The current ones belong to whoever is coming of age, and generations to come will have their own. It depends on whose time it is, and even though it is technically true that a time belongs to all who live through it, it truly belongs to those who are coming of age, whose impressions are still being formed. For the most part the rest of us share ownership of that time.

But not always.

Remember Sally Field in "Forrest Gump" and what she told her son as she was dying?

"It's my time," she said. "It's just my time."

People tend to be more in tune to what happens in their times — and less so about what happens in other people's times.

But I guess I am slipping away from the point — which is that "The Longest Day" was a good history lesson, whether in print or on the big screen.

"The Longest Day" had an all–star cast — so many stars I can't name 'em all.

In that sense it reminded me of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" the definitive dramatization of Pearl Harbor.

There were actors everyone should be able to recognize — Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Sean Connery and John Wayne, for example — and others whose faces are familiar but you've really got to be past a certain age (or of a certain time, to return to my earlier theme) to know their names — I suppose Eddie Albert, Peter Lawford and Robert Mitchum fall in that category.

It also reminded me of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" in the sense that it was faithful to the facts of the story, which were dramatic enough.

It was filmed in black and white in a documentary style at a cost of $10 million. For nearly 30 years it was the most expensive black–and–white film ever made — until "Schindler's List."

The movie brought to life the story in a way the book couldn't do for me when I was 14.

I don't know how much of that story young people are taught in school today, but the parts I found the most compelling were the accounts of the tricks the Allies used in the battle with the Germans.

Like dropping mannequins with parachutes to deceive the Nazis into thinking an expected invasion was happening in an unanticipated area.

Or using an attractive young female bicyclist as a diversion to slip a wagonload of resistance operatives past Nazi soldiers.

The last time I watched it I couldn't help thinking that the invasion of Normandy as presented in "The Longest Day" was probably the most realistic depiction of modern warfare committed to film until "Saving Private Ryan."

"The Longest Day" received five Academy Award nominations and took home two Oscars — for Black–and–White Cinematography and Visual Effects.

Telling a Story

The Grandson (Fred Savage): Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.

Grandpa (Peter Falk): As you wish.

My mother loved "The Princess Bride," which premiered on this day in 1987.

That is what I most remember about the movie.

Mom saw it at a theater. I didn't see it with her. For years after that, she kept urging me to rent the video tape, but I never did. Finally, she gave me a copy of the video tape for Christmas — just a few months before she died in a flash flood.

At the time of her death, I still hadn't watched the tape. I still had it, but I hadn't watched it. So one night I decided I was going to do it for Mom.

I thought the movie was cute, and I could see why Mom liked it, why so many people liked it. Critics liked it, and it was a modest success at the box office, too.

I would have liked to talk with Mom about it. That was what we did almost every time we saw a movie together. Our discussions were brief sometimes, extensive other times, but they were almost always the best part of the movie watching experience for me.

I miss many things about my mother, but that exchange of thoughts and ideas may be what I miss the most. I have no doubt that our conversation about "The Princess Bride" would have been one of our best.

Reading Roger Ebert's review was almost as good. Not quite, but almost.

"'The Princess Bride' reveals itself as a sly parody of sword and sorcery movies, a film that somehow manages to exist on two levels at once," Ebert wrote. "While younger viewers will sit spellbound at the thrilling events on the screen, adults, I think, will be laughing a lot."

I wanted to know which parts Mom found funny — and why. I think I know the answer, but I never truly will.

Ebert elaborated on that point, and I couldn't disagree.

"In its own peculiar way, 'The Princess Bride' resembles 'This Is Spinal Tap,' an earlier film by the same director, Rob Reiner," he wrote. "Both films are funny not only because they contain comedy, but because Reiner does justice to the underlying form of his story. 'Spinal Tap' looked and felt like a rock documentary — and then it was funny. 'The Princess Bride' looks and feels like 'Legend' or any of those other quasi–heroic epic fantasies — and then it goes for the laughs."

Without going into too much detail, the movie was the telling of a story by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his bedridden grandson (Fred Savage) — and if Mom could be here, I have no doubt she would say that I shouldn't spoil too much for anyone who hasn't seen it.

I don't think it would spoil too much, though, if I told you that, in the context of the story, it was established that the phrase "As you wish" really means "I love you."

When I discovered that, I understood the meaning of the note Mom had attached to that Christmas gift. "I think you'll like this," Mom wrote. "As you wish."

I remember being puzzled by that at the time, and I asked Mom about it. But all she did was smile. She knew what it meant, and she knew I would understand only if I watched the movie.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Born to Be Wild

Ted (Josh Radnor): I like your tats.

Amy (Mandy Moore): Thanks. You can play with them if you want. Hundred percent real.

Ted: No, your tats. Your toos. Your tattoos.

Amy: Oh. [laughs] Thanks.

As How I Met Your Mother began its third season 10 years ago tonight, it had established certain catch phrases and character quirks in the minds of the viewers — which is, of course, critical to the long–term success of a TV series, especially a sitcom.

It was a clear indication of how comfortable the writers were with that kind of recognition factor that they titled the third–season debut "Wait For It," which regular viewers would instantly recognize as Barney's (Neil Patrick Harris) signature punctuation of multisyllabic words — i.e., "It's going to be legen — wait for it — dary."

The episode that aired on this night in 2007 picked up where the episode that wrapped up the second season left off — so the title was appropriate in that sense, too. The audience, after all, had had to wait since May.

When last we heard from them, Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Ted (Josh Radnor) had split up. As the new season began, we learned that Robin had taken a trip to Argentina to regroup after the breakup, and Ted had embarked on his typical post–relationship routine, which involved growing a beard and painting his apartment.

According to the unwritten rules of relationships (at least according to How I Met Your Mother), relationships are defined by who wins, and the only way for both parties to win is for the relationship to be a long–term one.

Otherwise someone has to win the breakup — to be the first to move on and find someone new.

(This concept of winning probably has more in common with Charlie Sheen's than Donald Trump's — although it preceded both.)

And, initially, it appeared that Robin was winning. She returned from Argentina with a handsome new boyfriend in tow (Enrique Iglesias) — and, after introducing him to the gang, she wanted to make sure that Ted was "OK with this."

The guys had a lot of fun mispronouncing his name — but Ted found himself obsessing over Gael's fondness for windsurfing and making love "sometimes at the same time." Being able to do both things at once would certainly make Robin the winner.

So Ted and Barney went out in search of a 12 to replace Robin (who, Barney conceded, was a 10) — and, it turned out, Ted found one with no help from Barney. In fact, Barney was against the idea of Ted spending time with this girl (Mandy Moore) — while he was almost exclusively motivated to be the one responsible for finding a girl for Ted, it turned out he was right about her, even if it was for the wrong reasons.

At one point Ted casually expressed his admiration for this girl's tattoos; after she told him that he would look good with "some ink," and Barney objected, Ted decided to do precisely that.

But, in his inebriated condition, Ted blacked out at the tattoo parlor and remembered nothing more when he awoke in his own bed several hours later.

While all this had been going on, Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel) had a double date with Robin and Gael. Marshall told Lily they had to stand firm and not like Gael because Ted was their best friend. But Lily, who already had something of a crush on Gael, buckled, falling to his South American charm, his romantic music and his sensual massages.

Then Marshall developed something of a bro crush himself — and even admitted to Ted later that things got "weird."

But no matter how weird things had been, they really couldn't top something.

Ted had gotten a tattoo, even though he had no memory of it. Apparently, after he blacked out, Amy had the tattoo artist put a butterfly tattoo on Ted's lower back.

Barney called it a "tramp stamp."

At the end, Ted and Robin had a confrontation over their breakup, which cleared the air and established that no one had won the breakup.

I thought the ending was a little weak, lacking in the kind of punch that such an episode probably deserved, but it was entertaining enough.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Mystery of a Mind

I have long admired Joanne Woodward, and I remember the first time I saw "Sybil," the supposedly true story of a woman with more than a dozen personalities. Woodward played the psychiatrist who treated the woman in that made–for–TV movie.

At the time, I did not know Woodward had been in a similar movie some 20 years earlier in which she played the patient so "Sybil" was a role reversal for her. The movie in which Woodward was the patient was called "The Three Faces of Eve," and it premiered on this day in 1957.

There were many similarities between the stories. Given the subject matter, I suppose that was unavoidable.

By comparison Woodward had it easier in 1957 than Sally Field did 20 years later. Granted Woodward only had to portray three different personalities while Field had to do some 16, but I couldn't help feeling, when I saw "The Three Faces of Eve" that Field must have picked Woodward's brain or watched "The Three Faces of Eve" — or both — before she started work on "Sybil."

I saw "Sybil" first. When I saw "The Three Faces of Eve," much of what I saw Woodward do was what I had seen Field do.

But Woodward did it first — and won an Oscar for Best Actress in the process. So, arguably, one could say Woodward did it better — although Field did win an Emmy.

Lee J. Cobb played the role that Woodward eventually played in "Sybil." He was the doctor who treated her, who diagnosed her condition.

Although it was not her real name, the patient was known as Eve White, a timid and reserved individual who suffered from excruciating headaches and occasional blackouts. Her behavior became so erratic that her husband (David Wayne) brought her in for treatment. While speaking with Cobb, a second personality emerged, one whose personality was the opposite of Eve White's — so she was given the name of Eve Black.

Eve Black knew all there was to know about Eve White, but Eve White was oblivious to Eve Black's existence.

After Eve White had been sent to a hospital for observation and released, Eve Black attempted to kill Eve White's daughter, and her husband decided he had had enough. He left his wife and took their daughter to live with relatives.

That, too, was similar to "Sybil." Brad Davis played Field's long–suffering boyfriend who started out being supportive but apparently concluded that he, too, could not live with that.

Cobb believed Eve White and Eve Black were incomplete personalities, that they had to be united to form a complete personality, and that was the conclusion that Woodward's character reached in "Sybil."

And it would be hard to imagine anyone who was more different from Eve White than Eve Black. Eve Black was constantly going out on the town, drinking, carousing in night clubs.

But while Eve Black seemingly knew everything about Eve White, there were gaps in her knowledge. A third character could resolve things, and it turned out this comparatively stable character was named Jane.

Jane knew how the personalities had split. It went back to when Eve was a little girl. Her grandmother had died when she was 6, and it was a family custom for everyone to kiss the deceased person at the viewing. This was supposed to make it easier for them to let go.

When Eve's mother (played by Nancy Kulp years before she was Miss Hathaway on the Beverly Hillbillies) took her in to kiss her dead grandmother, it so traumatized the child that the personality split occurred.

If you have never seen the movie before but when you do you think the voice of the narrator is familiar, you're probably right. The narrator was Alistair Cooke, a journalist and broadcaster by trade who achieved his greatest popularity in America as the host of television's Masterpiece Theater for more than 20 years.

Did He or Didn't He?

When the season premiere of Frasier aired on this night in 1997, I have to admit to feeling a bit odd.

You see, when the season ended a few months earlier, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) had been on the receiving end of some phone messages that had been intended for someone else. They were from a woman who sounded like a perfect match for Frasier so when one of her messages provided details about when she would be arriving at the Seattle airport, Frasier decided — on a whim — to go to the airport and offer her a ride to her destination rather than let her sit there and wait for a ride that would never come.

Only about eight months earlier, I did kind of the same thing. I hadn't been the unintended recipient of phone messages; in fact, I had become acquainted with a young lady online and she told me she was going to be getting a connecting flight at the Dallas–Fort Worth airport. I agreed to meet her there — and we passed a pleasant hour together as we waited for her next flight. There had been no expectations or commitments made — in fact, we haven't been in touch for many, many years — but I could relate to the thrill Frasier felt in doing something impulsive.

It turned out she wasn't perfect for him after all. Primarily she was married, but she did seem to be his type. And he admitted to her that he had liked the sense of adventure he felt when he drove to the airport.

Even after he saw her off, Frasier was still on that adventure buzz and decided to tag along when he met a beautiful woman bound for Acapulco.

That is where the season–opener that aired 20 years ago tonight — "Frasier's Imaginary Friend" — comes in.

Frasier had a few misfires on the plane. The woman he had followed was creeped out when she found out why he was there and quickly switched seats; then Frasier thought he had found a substitute only to realize she, like the one he had met at the airport, was married.

Both were quite attractive — but not as beautiful as the third woman to cross his path. (As inept as Frasier was at relationships, I always admired his ability to at least get things started with beautiful women.) She turned out to be a supermodel (played by Sela Ward), and Frasier managed to strike up a real relationship with her that appeared to be more than a temporary one.

Ward's character was modeling to pay for her education at the University of Washington, where she was studying zoology, but she was also in a relationship with a professional football player. She was in the process of breaking up with him, but she asked Frasier to say nothing about it. Given the work they did, they were in the public eye, and Ward's character preferred to keep the situation private "for now." Frasier agreed to say nothing.

But that promise created problems for Frasier.

Back in Seattle, his family and friends presumed that he had struck out on his excursion to Mexico, and Frasier desperately wanted them to know the truth — that he was in a relationship with a supermodel who was studying zoology and had been dating a professional football player but was leaving him to pursue a relationship with Frasier.

What was so hard to believe about that?

Anyway, when Frasier learned that she had been invited to participate in some zoological work in the Galapagos Islands for a couple of months, Frasier realized it would be difficult for him to persuade his family that she wasn't a fantasy.

So after they made love and Ward was sleeping, Frasier tried to take a selfie of himself in bed with her, but the camera malfunctioned, and Ward woke up and discovered what was going on. She stormed out of the apartment.

No sooner had she left than Niles (David Hyde Pierce), their father (John Mahoney) and Daphne (Jane Leeves) arrived, and Frasier tried to tell them that his supermodel girlfriend had just been there. They still didn't believe him.

But then she returned, chewed him out and left. Frasier's family stood there silently with their mouths hanging open.

It was all the proof Frasier needed that his trip to Mexico had been successful.

I thought it was a funny episode, but the ending was bit too forced, all for the sake of the punch line:

"What do you think of me now?"

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Negotiating the Curves of Life and Baseball

I've been a sports fan all my life, and I enjoy good sports movies, but "Trouble With the Cueve," which premiered on this day in 2012, wasn't really a sports movie, even though it had baseball as its backdrop.

I tend to enjoy Clint Eastwood movies, but I will be the first to acknowledge that sometimes you can see things coming in a Clint Eastwood movie long before they get there. Such moments are always there in Eastwood movies, but what keeps them from being trite is the fact that they are always poignant in their presentations. They never seem cliched even if at times they are predictable.

Case in point: Eastwood movies have ways of repeatedly reminding the audience of the title in obvious and not–so–obvious ways. It isn't always easy to tell them apart, either. In "Trouble With the Curve," Eastwood played Gus, an aging baseball scout whose eyesight was failing him. Early in his scouting career, "curve" probably referred only to a type of pitch, but all sorts of new images became associated with it as his character aged.

There were curves that his life and his work kept throwing at him. Of course, everyone is susceptible to that — but I got the sense from watching the movie that Gus had been more fortunate than most. Not so in his later years. At one point in the movie Eastwood was driving his car and was in a collision with another car on a curving road.

Then there were his problems with his daughter. In that instance, I suppose, curve could be physical as well as psychological.

Of course, the curve that held the movie together was the one that a hot prospect couldn't hit. Gus couldn't see it, but he could hear it. It was easy not to like the prospect; he was the kind of narcissistic athlete that, unfortunately, is seen more and more frequently these days. The audience's first glance at him told you everything you needed to know — after demanding peanuts from a ballpark vendor he derisively called "Peanut Boy," the prospect clearly believed he needn't compensate the vendor for the nosh.

"Peanut Boy" got even with the prospect later — in a scene that was reminiscent of the one in "The Natural" when Robert Redford's character blew three straight pitches past a blowhard slugger. In "Trouble With the Curve," it clearly confirmed that Eastwood's character had been right in his assessment.

To say any more would deprive you of the pleasure of experiencing that cinematic moment. It was a gem even if you saw it coming — and, frankly, I didn't.

Eastwood movies seldom pull a fast one on the viewer. There's an honesty in Eastwood movies. They never start out as one thing and then shift gears improbably halfway through. What you see is what you get.

Eastwood movies tell good stories well — something that hasn't been in style in Hollywood for awhile, which may be what appeals to a writer like myself. "Trouble With the Curve" was no exception to the Eastwood rule.

As I say, sports was the backdrop of the story, but it wasn't what the story was about — unlike, say, for example, "Million Dollar Baby." Actually, I thought it had more in common with "Gran Torino." Perhaps that is because Eastwood has entered a different phase in his life and career. He is playing older men and chronicling what life is like for older men in today's world. Sometimes they are retired. And sometimes they are, like Gus in "Trouble With the Curve," being pushed toward retirement to make room for the new.

It was never said directly, but I suspected that Gus remembered a time when older people were treated with respect, and their experience was valued — and he lamented the absence of that in the modern world, where computers get the respect and people get the leftovers, if there are any.

Gus knew he wasn't perfect. He was seen at the grave of his long–dead wife, confessing his shortcomings and telling her how much better she had been at some things than he was — especially communicating with their daughter.

Gus' daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) was all too aware of his imperfections. The two were estranged, apparently had been for years. She harbored resentments, as most of us do, about her childhood (and adulthood, too) and her all–too–frequently absent father.

In spite of themselves, they shared many similarities. They were driven to succeed in their careers, above and beyond anything else — although, as it turned out Mickey, an attorney who was in line for a partnership at the Atlanta law firm where she worked, was more driven by her father's career than her own.

She was with her father at the request of his longtime friend and current employer, played John Goodman, who was concerned about Eastwood more as a friend but also as an employee who could still do his job. In the process she met a former pitcher (Justin Timberlake) who had been recruited by her father — but then blew his arm out and was angling for a broadcasting gig via talent scouting.

Remember when I said that you can sometimes see things coming from a ways off in an Eastwood movie? Well, this relationship was one of those things.

But that was OK, too.

It wasn't the best Clint Eastwood movie I have ever seen, but "Trouble With the Curve" was worth the time it took to watch it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On the Road Again

One of my colleagues at work is a member of the Millennial generation.

She is also a big fan of Audrey Hepburn, who died before my co–worker was born. I learned of her fondness for Hepburn last year when she told me how she dressed like Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" for a costume party given by the youth group at her church.

I asked a perfectly reasonable question: Did anyone know who she was pretending to be?

Her answer surprised me: Yes!

In fact, she said, just about everyone knew who she was.

I have always admired Hepburn, too, and I think one of the primary reasons for her appeal is that it wasn't really possible to pigeonhole her. She was an extraordinarily versatile actress who could do many things well. Even so she never seemed like the sort of star who would appeal to the Millennials.

At least that was my take on it. I stand corrected.

One of the best examples of her versatility was the British movie that made its debut on this day in 1967 — "Two for the Road" — which starred another versatile thespian, Albert Finney. They made an appealing on–screen couple.

Just one problem. That seemingly picture–perfect marriage was imploding.

As Roger Ebert observed in his review of the movie, "Love is ever so much more satisfactory in the movies where every other kiss is framed by a sunset, and people are always running toward each other in slow motion, their arms outstretched, while in the background the tide comes in, or goes out, or keeps busy, anyway."

Just about every married couple I know would tell you that isn't what marriage is really like.

That is what courtship is like. That's what going together (or whatever they call it these days) is like.

But when you say "I do," you're saying "I do" to a whole lot of stuff that is not mentioned directly in your vows — like the fact that you will have to work on keeping that spark of romance alive more often and in more ways than you think.

Some marriages can overcome that. Some can't.

That was the subtext of the story, and it was far from certain which way this couple would go. They had their two–seater transported to Northwestern France, and they took off on a road trip to the southeastern corner of the country. Finney played a successful architect, and they planned to participate in a celebration of the completion of a client's project.

The road through France was one they had traveled before, and the current road trip gave them the opportunity to reflect on events in their lives and examine where life had taken them since they met.

It was an intriguing story–telling technique, but the memories weren't always pleasant. There were moments of infidelity on both sides.

If you happen to catch this one on TV, look for Jacqueline Bisset in one of her early roles.

And listen for the title song, "Two for the Road," which was written by Henry Mancini. It wasn't nominated for an Oscar, unlike many of his other songs, but Mancini said it was his personal favorite.

In fact, the movie was all but ignored by the Oscars, receiving only one nomination, even though Ebert was adamant that "Two for the Road" was one of the best movies of 1967.

I thought it was a well–told story, balancing comedy and drama in that poignant way that real life does. To some viewers, the end may seem to be an unrealistic compromise in which the two remain together in spite of all that has passed before.

And there may be something to that.

But director Stanley Donen treated it differently than your typical Hollywood happy ending. He had Hepburn and Finney cross the French border into Italy, something they had never done before.

They symbolically turned the page and began a new chapter, traveling into unexplored territory.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Movie Myth of the Benevolent Birdman

"You best go find out who you are. Come on. Now what's wrong with you, you old buzzard? Come on. Don't be afraid. Out there you can kick up the dust. You can dance to fiddle music. Watch the alfalfa bloom. If you like, you can see gold teeth. Taste sweet whisky and red–eyed gravy. The air breathes easy, nights move faster, and you tell time by the clock. Now you don't wanna be a jailbird all your life, do ya? You're a highballin' sparrow. So you fly high, old cock. Go out there and bite the stars — for me. Find yourself a fat mama and make a family. You hear? Beat it."

Robert Stroud (Burt Lancaster)

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know of my love of history — and how I feel about the standards for movies that attempt to re–create historic events or tell the life stories of noteworthy people.

But the 55th anniversary of the premiere of director John Frankenheimer's "Birdman of Alcatraz" is an appropriate time to revisit that.

Simply put, I believe that a movie that proposes to tell the story of an actual event or life should be faithful to the facts. Well, most of the facts. I can overlook minor details.

"Birdman of Alcatraz" took some liberties with the truth. For openers, the title implies that Robert Stroud, the convict about whom the movie was made, kept birds at Alcatraz. In fact, he kept his birds at Leavenworth. When he was transferred to Alcatraz, he wasn't allowed to keep pets.

But I suppose you could get around that by saying that Stroud had already established himself as the Birdman before he went to Alcatraz so the title was a reference to his past, not his present, activity.

OK, I guess I can let that one slide.

The thing I find it harder to overlook, though, is the apparently considerable liberty the filmmakers took with Stroud himself. The movie did portray him as a bitter individual given to violent outbursts, but the clear implication was that he mellowed as he aged.

Former inmates have said the portrayal was inaccurate, that Stroud was not the amiable fellow of the movie but a "vicious killer" and troublemaker — and, indeed, the movie was candid about the events that led to his incarceration — but Burt Lancaster's Stroud could be a sympathetic character whereas the real one apparently was not.

Having said that, though, "Birdman of Alcatraz" had its inspiring moments — and a remarkable cast — in spite of its inaccuracies. Besides, the makers of "Birdman of Alcatraz" freely acknowledged, as did the makers of "A Beautiful Mind," that it was not a literal presentation of a life story, merely based on it.

If the movie did take liberties with the truth, though, it didn't gloss over the fact that Stroud was a hothead in his youth.

But Stroud also became an authority on sparrow diseases — all because he found some injured sparrows in the prison yard one day and began raising them.

So, to borrow a Huckleberry Finn observation from Mark Twain's classic novel, the makers of the movie "told the truth — mainly."

The movie received four Oscar nominations and lost all four.

Lancaster was nominated for Best Actor. He was nominated four times in his career — and even won once — but lost this time to Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Thelma Ritter was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Stroud's overbearing mother. She lost as well — to Anne Bancroft's magnificent performance in "The Miracle Worker," but I thought the role of Elizabeth Stroud was every bit as demanding as the role of Anne Sullivan.

Telly Savalas was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He lost to Ed Begley in "Sweet Bird of Youth." I'm not sure if Savalas' character was real. Perhaps it was a combination of several inmates who interacted with Stroud in some way — although Stroud spent almost his entire incarceration period in solitary confinement so he couldn't have interacted with other inmates much. Besides he would have been as likely to get into a fight with a fellow inmate as to make friends with him.

The fourth nomination was for cinematography, and "Birdman" lost that one to "The Longest Day."

Karl Malden received no nomination — although I have long believed he deserved one as Stroud's first warden. Maybe it is because his character was entirely fictional whereas most, if not all, of the other primary characters were real, but aspects of their lives were fictionalized.

Was "Birdman of Alcatraz" Lancaster's best? That is really hard to say. He was always good. Some people will cite "From Here to Eternity." Others will say "Elmer Gantry" or "Atlantic City." I would say "Judgment at Nuremberg" or "Seven Days in May." But that's me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Not Much of a Plot, but 'Across the Universe' Made You Feel Good

"Here is a bold, beautiful, visually enchanting musical where we walk into the theater humming the songs."

Roger Ebert

I've been a Beatles fan as long as I can remember.

So I have to ask myself something: How did I possibly miss the premiere of "Across the Universe" on this day in 2007?

OK, today is actually the 10th anniversary of its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. It started showing in the United States about a month later.

All the same, though, I do not remember hearing anything about it at the time — and that really is a shame.

And difficult for me to comprehend because "Across the Universe" actually is my favorite Beatles song. You'd think the movie's title would have left an impression on me.

Now, I have mentioned before that I am not a fan of movie musicals — but this is Beatles music. It isn't the Beatles singing — I have heard that it is quite costly to obtain the rights to use actual Beatles recordings in movies, which is why 2001's "I Am Sam" used cover versions of Beatles songs — and it may be why "Across the Universe" used covers, too, although it seems to me that it really worked better for the movie's plot — such as it was — to have the characters sing the songs.

I liked it better in "Across the Universe," though. "I Am Sam" was shot in sync with the original Beatles songs so even though the versions that were used were covers, they couldn't stray far from the pace of the originals. In "Across the Universe," there were no such constraints, and the musicians had more freedom in their interpretations.

Consequently, if you were a Beatles fan, you would recognize variations, both subtle and not so subtle, in the songs.

(One example that stood out for me was the rendition of "With a Little Help From My Friends," which was like a cross between the original version and Joe Cocker's — with a generous helping of the musicians' own spins. The music was very enjoyable — and occasionally surprising.

(Speaking of Cocker, he actually was in "Across the Universe," but he didn't sing "With a Little Help From My Friends." He sang "Come Together.")

I wasn't wowed by the story — it was dialogue loosely connected by the songs, and the names of the characters — Jude, Lucy, Max, Sadie, Prudence, Jojo, etc. — came directly from song titles or lyrics that Beatles fans were sure to recognize.

The power of "Across the Universe" was the merging of roughly three dozen Beatles songs with strong images — like the part where "Let It Be" was incorporated into juxtaposing scenes of two groups of mourners, one white and one black, burying young people. The black casualty came during a protest; the white casualty was the result of warfare.

It produced a stark contrast, to be sure.

Any Beatles imagery — direct or implied — evoked by the group's brilliant lyrics was brought to the screen.

Dana Fuchs, as Sexy Sadie, added a Janis Joplin touch to the story with her Pearl–like performances.

Evan Rachel Wood was the female lead as Lucy. She only recently turned 30 and almost certainly has many film roles ahead of her, but Wood, who performed Beatles songs admirably, has said the role of Lucy is her favorite. That isn't surprising, given that she has said that the music of the Beatles has played a significant role in her life.

I have been working as a journalism professor for several years now, and it never ceases to amaze me when I hear that people — who I know could not have been born yet when the Beatles broke up — say that the Beatles' music influenced them when they were growing up. Nearly all the Beatles songs ever recorded had been on record store shelves for years when those folks were born. The Beatles, of course, continued to record as solo performers, but they were not a contemporary band for recent generations.

Wood is one of those people. The fact that she and so many others are inspired today by the music of the Beatles gives me hope.

And despite the absence of much of a plausible plot, "Across the Universe" was a pleasurable experience.

By the way it did receive an Academy Award nomination — for costume design. It lost.

While I didn't think it deserved nominations for much of anything else, I can't help but wish there was some way to recognize the imagery in the movie. At times it could be quite impressive.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Sins of the Father

"No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget."

Sy (Robin Williams)

Most people probably remember Robin Williams for his many comic and semi–comic roles. Nothing wrong with that. He was a gifted man in that department.

But what is often overlooked is the fact that Williams could do other things, too, as he proved in "One Hour Photo," which premiered on this day in 2002. It just might have been Williams' finest performance — even though it wasn't nominated for an Oscar.

You have heard, I presume, of an actor playing against type? Well, Williams' performance in "One Hour Photo" was the definition of playing against type. Most people, as I say, remember Williams as a zany character who sometimes played dramatic roles — but he never, as far as I can recall, ever played a character like Sy, an introverted film processor at a one–hour photo lab in a shopping mall. Sy was one of those faceless and nameless people who surround us daily, and most live their lives without drawing attention to themselves or causing others harm.

(I know. Robin Williams? Introverted?)

Sy was somewhat given to obsession. He was obsessed with his work and, through it, he became obsessed with a young family. He had been developing their photos for years and had been secretly copying their photos and decorating his apartment with them.

Truth be told, Sy was emotionally involved with everyone who brought in their film to be processed — but he was particularly obsessed with this family, primarily the mother (Connie Nielsen) and her son (Dylan Smith) since they were always the ones who dropped off the film and picked up the prints. The father (Michael Vartan) was only known to Sy through the photographs in the rolls of film he developed.

In his mind they were his family. I suppose a lot of people who live alone are like that. OK, they don't process film anymore, but fantasy utilizes whatever one's reality is and embellishes it. Sy's reality was the solitude of the dark room and his cramped apartment. That was his life ... such as it was.

In Sy's case, his work was his life. It wasn't so odd, really, that the two should merge. If only in his mind.

He didn't really have much of a life, anyway, so he projected his expectations of the perfect life and the perfect family on this young family with whom he was so obsessed. You don't need to be an expert to know that isn't healthy.

But Sy was seen as harmless enough so his ham–handed attempts to get closer to the young family were politely and discreetly brushed aside.

And I guess you don't need to be a trained psychologist to know that when someone is obsessed with someone else and a blemish arises, it can be a shattering experience. So it was with Sy and this young family.

The young husband was having an extramarital affair, and that didn't set well with Sy when he discovered it.

Now, Sy was clearly a disturbed individual, but I wondered when I first saw this movie whether someone like Sy would have done what he did if he had not been dismissed from his job by the store manager (Gary Cole).

Sy's habit of making prints for himself for which he had not paid caught up with him along with some other transgressions. Cole fired him — and that really was the catalyst for a string of events.

Sy tracked down the young husband and his mistress in a hotel and forced them, at knife point, to perform sex acts while he photographed them.

Later, when being interrogated, Sy's remarks strongly implied that he had been sexually abused by his father and perhaps ordered to perform sex acts as a child while being photographed by his father.

That scene has always made me think of Anthony Perkins in the final scene of "Psycho". The stories were different, but they were essentially indictments of what the fathers had done with their children were young.

The sins of the father.

It was a character — and a performance — worthy of Hitchcock.

It reminded me of when I was a young reporter covering the police and crime beats at my first newspaper job. Although the county in which I lived and worked was rather sparsely populated, it had about half a dozen murder trials while I was there — and I covered them all.

On one occasion I covered a murder trial in which the defendant was found guilty — but then, during the punishment phase of the trial, the defense presented evidence of something even the defendant knew nothing about — his mother had been mentally retarded and had been incapable of defending him when his father abused him.

Apparently the mother had been aware that something bad was happening, but the defendant did not understand that she could not come to his defense, and it had planted a seed of resentment within him that was manifested in many complicated ways when he became an adult — one of which was his brutal rape and murder of a young girl.

He was overcome with emotion after hearing testimony about his mother during his penalty phase, and the jury was moved to sentence him to life in prison instead of execution.

Sy didn't commit a violent act, but if his conversation with the detective at the end of the movie said nothing else, it bore witness to the lasting — and tragic — consequences of physical and emotional abuse.

Yes at Its Creative Peak

"To my mind, Yes may be the single most important of all the progressive rock bands."

Geddy Lee of Rush

I was a late arrival to the Yes party, I suppose.

The band's "Fragile" album had been in the music stores for a long time before I acquired a copy, but it was brand–new to me, and I was hooked by the other–worldly music I heard.

I may have been just discovering Yes, but that was far from the band's most current release. Among the Yes albums that were released after "Fragile" (but, again, before I got a copy of it) was "Close to the Edge," which hit music stores on this day in 1972 and marked a bit of a turning point — for the band and for me.

With my first purchase of a Yes album, I entered the world of progressive rock, where I would find the likes of Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Jethro Tull — and others. And, while I listen to other things, too, I've never left that world.

When I bought the "Fragile" album on cassette long after its successor, "Close to the Edge," was released, I had just persuaded my parents to let me have a portable cassette recorder, and "Fragile" was one of the first cassettes I bought. I can't remember now why I bought it. I hadn't heard any of the tracks — and it didn't take long for me to figure out why. In those days radio stations seldom gave much airplay to songs that were longer than about four or five minutes — and many of Yes' recordings were nearly twice as long — even longer on "Close to the Edge."

Needless to say Yes wasn't getting much air time. And if it wasn't played on the radio in those days, chances were good I hadn't heard it.

I must have heard about Yes from someone, but I can't think of who that might have been. I wish I knew because that person was responsible for introducing me to one of my favorite musical experiences, and I would like to express my sincere gratitude.

But the experiences of listening to "Fragile" and "Close to the Edge" were very different.

While many of the tracks on "Fragile" were lengthy, they weren't as long as the tracks on "Close to the Edge," which was like a Yes symphony in three tracks/movements.

For nearly 50 years, Yes has had a distinctive style, but it was never really the same after "Close to the Edge." That was the last album that included drummer Bill Bruford, who joined King Crimson. Bruford was as distinctive in his own way as The Who's Keith Moon; others could take his place after he left, but they could never duplicate his sound.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, Yes has never again reached the creative heights it reached with "Close to the Edge." After 45 years, it holds up where other Yes albums do not — and remains fresh and new even upon repeated listenings.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

About Faces

"You know, it's wonderful when guys like you lose out. Makes guys like me think maybe we got a chance in this world."

Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart)

I like all four of the movies that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together — each for a different reason.

And the reason I like "Dark Passage," which premiered on this day in 1947, is simple. It was the most creative of the four.

For about the first half of the movie, the audience never saw Bogart's face. A few times the viewers saw the figure of a man, but they could not see his face. They saw a photograph of a man in the newspaper who was supposed to be Bogart — but definitely was not Bogart. In fact it was a picture of character actor Frank Wilcox, who made a name for himself on TV.

Bogart played a man who had been convicted of killing his wife and escaped from prison. He got some assistance from Lauren Bacall, who, as it turned out, had been interested in his case and had attended his trial — although Bogart's character hadn't known that at the time.

AS I say, for the first hour of the movie, Bogart's face was not visible, which was a source of considerable anxiety for studio head Jack Warner. Bogart was Warner's most bankable star, but no one saw his face for more than an hour. Either things were seen from his perspective or his face was hidden by bandages after he got plastic surgery, which radically altered his appearance — as long as you believed that picture really was a pre–surgery photo of that character.

Once she helped Bogart remove the bandages, Bacall essentially disappeared from the story. She returned at the very end.

Bogart, meanwhile, had to fend off a blackmail attempt — in so doing, he learned the truth about who had killed his wife and his closest friend. It was Agnes Moorehead, Bogart's spurned lover who had testified against him in court.

Bogart's character wanted to record Madge confessing, and he had an advantage in that she didn't know who he was with his new face. He went to her home, posing as someone with a romantic interest in her acting on a recommendation from a mutual friend.

After he had gained her confidence and been allowed into Madge's home, he revealed his true identity to her. He told her that he had evidence proving her guilt, hoping to coerce her into making a confession, but she ended up falling from a window to her death, never having confessed.

"Dark Passage" was truly an exception to the theatrical rule. I'm not talking about how most of the first half of the movie was seen from Bogart's point of view. I'm talking about how that part was supported by first–person narration, not in the flashback kind of way that was used in movies like "Sunset Boulevard" but as a real–time kind of thing. Few pictures, then or now, could do something like that from start to finish — and, to be fair, "Dark Passage" stopped doing it after the viewers were allowed to see Bogart's face.

But it was effective when it was being used.

Across the Pacific ... or Whatever It Was

Rick Leland (Humphrey Bogart): I never saw anybody like you; you never have any clothes on.

Alberta Marlow (Mary Astor): Well if anyone heard you complaining about it they would put you in a psychopathic ward.

Did you ever hear of a novel that was written about 14 years before the catastrophic sinking of the Titanic that, in hindsight, seemed to foretell the disaster with eerie detail?

"Across the Pacific," which made its debut on this day in 1942, was kind of like that. Let me explain.

Originally "Across the Pacific" was intended to be about an attempt to thwart a Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was a work of fiction.

Then when the Japanese actually did bomb Pearl Harbor, the script was rewritten to make the location Panama instead. Now that wasn't as implausible as it might seem on the surface. Several years before the U.S. entered World War II, military exercises were focused on defending the Panama Canal, and those activities received considerable attention in the press.

But the first two–thirds of the movie emphasized the hot–and–cold romance between Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, fellow passengers aboard a Japanese ship.

And the script revision actually put all the action in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Never really got close to the Pacific.

I guess "Across the Pacific" was the original title — and, in spite of all the meticulous changes being made to the script, no one thought to change the title.

The script revision wasn't that meticulous, though. Director John Huston apparently had worked out an ending for the movie, but he was called up for military service, leaving it to his replacement, Vincent Sherman, to come up with an ending on his own.

Huston, by the way, thought Sherman's finish "lacked credibility," according to his 1980 autobiography "An Open Book." Maybe he should have shared his vision for the conclusion with Sherman before he shipped out.

At the very least he should have told Sherman how to resolve the predicament in which his filmmaking had left Bogart. If you watch the movie, I think you will agree that Bogart would have had to be Harry Houdini — or Indiana Jones — to get out of that one.

Yet somehow he did.

There were other problems with "Across the Pacific." For one, I have always had an issue with the casting of Astor as the female lead. Now, she was talented. I don't mean to imply that she wasn't. But I thought the role called for more of a beauty. Ingrid Bergman comes to mind. She combined great talent with great beauty.

Would that have invited comparison to Bogart and Bergman's classic "Casablanca"?

Perhaps in hindsight. But "Casablanca" wouldn't have been on the minds of audiences in September 1942 because it wasn't showing on U.S. movie screens until two months later.

The actual cast did invite comparisons to "The Maltese Falcon," especially with Sydney Greenstreet reunited with Bogart and Astor. Greenstreet played an even more villainous character than he played in "The Maltese Falcon."

He showed up in "Casablanca," too.

By the way, Bogart, Astor and Greenstreet reprised their roles in a radio version of the story that was aired a few months later.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

'The Prisoner of Zenda' Was Rousing Swashbuckler

"Fate doesn't always make the right men kings."

Fritz (David Niven)

Several versions of "The Prisoner of Zenda" have been made over the years, and most have been pretty faithful to Anthony Hope's adventure novel.

But the first version I ever saw was one that was made in 1979. It starred Peter Sellers — and if you know anything at all about Peter Sellers, you know that just about everything he ever did was funny. As a result, Hope's novel got a rather irreverent treatment.

If you were familiar with the story, it was funny in the parody style of Mel Brooks. But I wasn't familiar with the original story so I assumed that all the versions of "The Prisoner of Zenda" that had been made earlier were comedies, too.

Regretfully, that led me to ignore the earlier versions for a long time.

That was a big mistake. I have often wished that I had seen the version that premiered on this day in 1937 first. If I had, I would have appreciated the humor in the Sellers version in a way that I didn't back when I saw it. I haven't seen all the movie adaptations of Hope's novel, but that is the best that I have seen.

The best word for it is swashbuckler — quite a rousing one.

And I would have known — as I didn't for a long time — that it was really an adventure story and not the parody that the Sellers version was.

But my mother was a huge fan of Peter Sellers. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that. In fact, I am also a great admirer of Peter Sellers — I don't know how anyone could watch "Dr. Strangelove" or "Being There" and not be a Sellers admirer.

But he simply wouldn't have been the right person to play the lead in a movie that was faithful to the story as it was originally told.

Ronald Colman, on the other hand, was a pretty good choice.

Now, as a Sellers fan, I can understand why he was an obvious choice to play the role. It involved a doppelgänger — the main character was the identical distant cousin of the crown prince of a small country that was unnamed in the movie. Colman played both roles (as he did in "Dr. Strangelove," Sellers played three parts, but you'll have to watch the movie to find out about that third character).

Anyway, Colman's character was drafted to fill in for his cousin at the coronation because his cousin drank some wine that had been drugged by his half–brother (Raymond Massey) who was poised to seize power if his half–sibling did not show up for his coronation. The prince could not be roused, and his cousin agreed to fill in to keep the throne from falling into the wrong hands.

The rest of the movie was entertaining with adventure punctuated by a romance involving Madeleine Carroll as the prince's apparent arranged fiancee, who despite her status had always disliked him but now, having become acquainted with the pretender (but not knowing it was a different person), found the new Rudolf to be very appealing.

It made for a terrific combination of adventure and romance that was rewarded handsomely at the box office, which was hardly surprising. Its cast included the likes of David Niven, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Mary Astor.

And it received two Oscar nominations — for Original Music Score and Art Direction.

You know, in hindsight, I'm inclined to wonder if maybe Mom, who was a child when this version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" was in theaters, was drawn to see the Peter Sellers version more because she had seen the Ronald Colman movie and had fond memories of the swashbuckling classic than because of her fondness for Sellers.

Of course, I wouldn't rule out either possibility.

Friday, September 01, 2017

'Bobby-Soxer' Was Entertaining

"The Bachelor and the Bobby–Soxer," which made its debut 70 years ago today, was a silly story, but it had a strong cast that made it worth watching.

And, while it was silly, the story was interesting enough to keep audiences engaged — and the cast didn't hurt.

Cary Grant was one of the hottest stars in America (ranked #2 all time by the American Film Institute). The bobby–soxer was played by Shirley Temple, once the hottest star in the country (when she was a child) and ranked #18 among actresses by AFI. Myrna Loy didn't make AFI's list, but she found fame in the "Thin Man" movies in the years preceding "The Bachelor and the Bobby–Soxer."

All in all, a top–notch cast, and they produced an entertaining movie.

The first character the audience met was Loy, who played a judge at a time when female jurists must not have been too common. They can't be a lot more common today; the American Bar Association reported in 2014 that women made up slightly more than one–third of the American legal profession.

Loy may or may not have been seen as a trailblazer for women who aspired to careers in the law, but her portrayal may have been groundbreaking. I'm not aware of actresses who played judges in the movies before she did — although there may well have been some.

Anyway ...

Loy was presiding over a case in which Grant played a wrongfully accused defendant.

Grant's character was a bachelor artist who was charged with starting a brawl at a nightclub. When it became clear that the fight started between two women, both of whom wanted to be with Grant, Loy released Grant with a warning.

And Grant went on his merry way to deliver a lecture at a high school attended by Temple, who happened to be Loy's younger sister. As I observed earlier, Temple was the bobby–soxer of the story.

Now without going into too much detail — but for the benefit of any folks under 75 who are reading this — a bobby–soxer was a teenage girl — specifically one easily influenced by social trends or fads. Each generation has its own names for specific types of people, and bobby–soxer was the term used for impressionable teenage girls in the '40s.

Temple's character was susceptible to the messages — both real and imagined — from guest lecturers, and she fell in love with Grant, whom she (literally) saw as a knight in shining armor as he delivered his lecture on art.

Now that kind of puppy love has been around for a long time, and teenage girls, whatever your generation called them, always seem to be especially vulnerable to it.

Temple's character was a rather extreme case — even for a bobby–soxer. She manufactured a reason to be with Grant — as a model for one of his paintings. In a complex screwball comedy kind of way, Temple was discovered at Grant's apartment by Loy; Grant was arrested — and offered a deal. If he would pretend to date Temple and let the infatuation burn itself out, the charges would be dropped.

So he agreed.

But as the scenario played out, Grant and Loy began to fall for each other, much to the dismay of the assistant district attorney, who wanted Loy for himself. To get Grant out of the way, he agreed to drop all charges against Grant, thus freeing him of any further obligation to see Temple.

In the end, all the right people ended up with each other — as inevitably they must in a screwball comedy. Temple went back to her long–suffering high school boyfriend, and Grant and Loy were together as well.

Comedies, especially screwball comedies, are seldom rewarded with Oscar nominations, but "The Bachelor and the Bobby–Soxer" didn't just receive a nomination. It had an even rarer achievement when it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.