Lauren Bacall

Film on Friday

Mirror Has Two Faces.jpg

Barbra Streisand.  Babs.  One of the best-recognized voices in the world.  Considered unmatchable by her fans. She sings, she acts, she directs, and she produces.  All of that happens in today's film, The Mirror Has Two Faces. Streisand plays a matronly spinster university professor living with her mother (Lauren Bacall in an award-winning performance).  Then, she reads a classified ad written by another academic looking for a life partner. Things work out okay.  A platonic love develops, but Babs wants more, so she transforms overnight from ugly duckling into beautiful swan in the effort to seduce her husband.  Will it work?  Will it not?  We won't tell you.

The poster for this 1999 film is displayed here at the American Treasure Tour, but you will get no spoilers from the blog. The romantic comedy/drama was a modest success when it came out, inspiring some praise and some criticism for its lead performer.  Alongside Streisand and Bacall were other popular actors including Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, George Segal and Brenda Vaccaro.  The music in the film was written by Marvin Hamlisch. Come to the tour to see the poster, then snuggle up under your blanket with some bonbons to watch the movie.

Betty Grable - The Master

Betty Grable's famous pin-up

Betty Grable's famous pin-up

QUESTION:  In 1939, the 21 year-old Betty Grable married Jackie Coogan, whose professional acting career began when he was seven, in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. What tv sitcom character did Coogan claim as his own as an adult?
A)  The Skipper on Gilligan's Island
B)  Uncle Fester on The Addams Family
C)  Grandpa on The Munsters
D)  Buck Rogers on Buck Rogers
ANSWER BELOW

Where were we?  Oh right.  Yesterday's blog described Betty Grable's rise to becoming the number one box office draw in the United States at the dawn on World War Two. Betty was truly on top as American boys traveled overseas to fight for democracy. Wanting to take an easy-to-carry memento of home with them, many soldiers took pictures of their favorite actresses and pinned them in their bunks, hence the word pin-up. Rita Hayworth lost the title of number one pin-up girl to Betty halfway into the war, with her "million dollar legs," which were insured for that price by the studio for good measure. Meanwhile, her film career was at its peak. She enjoyed making formulaic, frothy boy-meets-girl dancing and singing spectaculars during the war, a distraction from the horrors going on in the world. The 1940's were a great time for Betty Grable, but all stars descend, and the fifties proved increasingly challenging for her. She found it extremely difficult to break out of the typecast she helped to create for herself, and her studio wasn't interested.

In 1953, Grable co-starred with Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire, which would prove to be her last high-profile film. Rumors of tension between Grable and Monroe circulated, but word on the set is the the two got along famously, Grable even going so far as telling Monroe to "Go get yours honey!  I've had mine!" She retired from film two years later, returned to the stage and performed in Las Vegas for a number of years.  She was only 56 years old when she died of lung cancer in 1973, but she will live on through her films and through her famous pin-up picture - regarded as one of the most influential images ever in a Time Magazine study.

ANSWER:  B)  Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.  He shaved his head for the audition, he wanted the roll so badly.

How to Marry a Millionaire

QUESTION:  How to Marry a Millionaire was the first film ever shot in the magic of CinemaScope, but it was not the first released.  What movie was completed after …Millionaire but released first?
A)  The Robe
B)  Shane
C)  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
D)  House of Wax
ANSWER BELOW

As we stay in the Music Room here at the American Treasure Tour blog, we would like to recognize a film not only honored with photographs hanging from the walls, but that was the second biggest money-making film of 1953: How to Marry a Millionaire. It had all the ingredients a movie needed for success:  Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe.  Oh sure, there are likely other ingredients that may have helped make the movie a success, but really. Bacall, Grable and Monroe?  What else matters?  The film is a comedy about gold digging, which is to say about beautiful women whose ambitions in life are to marry … um … millionaires. Schatze (played by Lauren Bacall) is the practical one, Loco (Grable) is the perky one, and Monroe is typecast again as the simplistic blonde who never puts on her glasses for fear of looking unappealing. Because of her nearsightedness, she finds herself accidentally flying to Kansas City when she was trying to get to Atlantic City.

The film, with its beautiful leading ladies in pursuit of the riches of William Powell's J.D. Hanley, Eben played by Rory Calhoun (who is, tragically, not wealthy), and Fred Clark's Waldo Brewster. We confess we're simplifying the story, but we don't want to spoil anything for you. The comedy proved to be a huge hit and 20th Century Fox's first foray into CinemaScope - a widescreen extraveganza developed to challenge the threat of television. Eight years later, it would become the first CinemaScope film to air on television. Of course, it was presented in pan-and-scan format, not the widescreen seen in the theater. Tune in tomorrow as we learn about the stars of the film...

ANSWER:  A)  The Robe, although all five films (including …Millionaire were released in 1953)

Humphrey Bogart Montage - March 26, 2014

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The last thing we at the American Treasure Tour want is for our visitors to miss anything.  Any. Thing.  And, with forty million objects on display (give or take over thirty-nine million), we recognize the challenge ahead of you. So we hope to provide advance knowledge before you take our tour - a chance to know where to look for cool stuff.  The image to your right looks a little crazy, and we know it is too small to do it justice, but it is actually really cool.  It is a montage of posters for movies that Humphrey Bogart starred in during his long career, all printed on mirrored glass.  When you enter the Toy Box, it is going to be directly to your left, hanging quietly on the wall next to two other pieces of mirror art (stay tuned for them!).

Bogart was born on Christmas Day, 1899 and led a rather quiet life until he joined the navy during World War I.  After that, his acting career started modestly, first on stage, then in small roles on film.  His breakthrough happened with 1936's The Petrified Forest, in which he played a ruthless gangster so successfully that it took five years before he was able to come into his own. He became the leading man in such films as High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon (both in 1941). Bogart featured in seventy-five films before his untimely death from cancer at the age of 57, and many of those movies are represented in the framed art in the Toy Box, so don't forget to check it out next time you're here!

Question:

Humphrey Bogart was married four times.  Who was not one of his wives?

a)  Helen Menken

b)  Mayo Methot

c)  Lauren Bacall

d)  Mary Martin

e)  Mary Philips

Answer Below

HISTORY TODAY:

A new word entered the English language today in 1812.  It was created in honor of the then-current Governor of Massachusetts and founding father Elbridge Gerry, after he approved a controversial law that allowed for the redistribution of voting districts in the Boston area.  His critics said that the shape of the "new" district looked like a salamander, hence the word gerrymander.  (Oddly, the governor's name is pronounced with a hard "G" sound, while the new word uses a soft "J" sound.  Don't try to understand the English language!)  Gerrymandering has been a popular method of ensuring votes for centuries now - guaranteeing a majority vote for the political party in power to secure a lead in the redistributed voting sector. It's kinda sorta legal, but some might not consider it especially honorable, so we doubt Gerry was too excited to be connected with this act. 

This was a bad day in 1911, New York City.  A truly bad day.  146 people died, including 123 women - many of them little more than teenagers.  They were employed at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory right off of Washington Square in Manhattan.  It was a sweatshop that paid little money for long hours of work to a mostly-immigrant staff who lived in nearby tenements.  Not long before, some of the self-same young women had been striking with other women in the attempt to improve their work conditions.  It worked for some of the protestors, but not for the Triangle staff, and they returned to work with  little hope for better conditions.  Then, the fire happened.  All it took was a spark, and the dry fabric burned quickly.  Then, it was discovered that emergency exits had been locked by the owners to prevent the workers from sneaking away early, and that the fire escapes were neglected and rotting.  It was, as we said, a very bad day.  

BIRTHDAYS:

The ATT blog is happy to recognize the birth of one of our lesser-known Founding Fathers:  William Blount.  Born on this day in 1749 in North Carolina, he represented his state as a paymaster during the American Revolution.  His ambitions lay west of the Appalachian Mountains, though, in what was then referred to as the Southwest Territory. He served as the territory's only governor prior to Tennessee's admission to the US as a state, and then he was elected to the Senate as one of its first representatives.  But Blount's ambitions got the better of him.  Land speculation found him in financial trouble and he tried to create a secret alliance with Great Britain to seize Spanish-controlled Louisiana Territory.  His scheme was uncovered in 1797, when he got into a different kind of trouble.  He faced impeachment in the Senate, but his death in 1800 saved him from a messy trial.  And you said history was boring!

Today must be Tennessee day, because we are going to celebrate another birthday connected to the state: that of Tennessee Williams!  Born in Mississippi (of course!) in 1911, Thomas Lanier Williams adopted his famous nickname because that's where his ancestors lived before they moved into Mississippi.  Williams' family had its troubles.  His father was a chronic alcoholic, his mother insisted on living beyond their means, and his favorite sister was treated for schizophrenia with a poorly-executed lobotomy.  It gave him a lot of fodder for his stories, though, and he wrote many, including the incredibly popular A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, and Suddenly, Last Summer. We have only scratched the surface of Williams' literary accomplishments, though, and recommend you delve deeper into his works on your own. We can't promise you will be smiling through it all, but we do expect you will be very impressed.

QUOTE:

We have to distrust each other.  It is our only defense against betrayal. - Tennessee Williams

Answer:  d)  Mary Martin.