Saturday, 30 April 2016

GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE (1955)





On a Tuesday evening after a long brawl with work and long overdue chores I decided to relax by popping in GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE starring the ever wooden Jennifer Jones.  I wasn’t expecting much but the premise of a strict and disciplinarian mature schoolteacher who succeeds in changing the lives of her students pricked up my ears.  I mean, how would it not?  It’s Jennifer Jones we’re talking here, the queen of over the top films such as DUEL IN THE SUN, RUBY GENTRY or INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE.   It’s a no brainer, really.  I was so prepared to smirk all the way through.   Well, as it turns out the joke was on me since GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE is a pretty involving little film.


 
Oh don't get me wrong, it’s still syrupy and dated and even cringe-worthy at times (I‘m talking mostly about Chuck Connors, here, whose turn as an ex-student slash policeman reaches almost the rank of sociopathic creepiness) but despite those facts I did find myself drawn into this story of ordinary folks and their many problems; especially those of our main character whose option to save the rep of her deceased but crook dad comes with a spinsterish price (all seen through flashbacks).  Her deteriorating health is also another matter, but thanks to the care of former student turned local doctor Robert Stack (TV’s THE UNTOUCHABLE) she is saved.  And to commemorate this turn of event, she gets a big dose of love—not from the man she pushed away (another flashback), though that would have been oversentimentally peachy keen, but from the entire town which just can’t see itself going on without their favorite but still prissy schoolteacher. Cue in a touched Jennifer Jones and you, the spectator, reaching for a box of Kleenex from all this melodrama. 
 

GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE is based on a novel by Frances Gray Patton and it also stars SISTER ACT Mary Wickes.  It is directed by Henry Koster who a few years before had been nominated for an Oscar for THE BISHOP’S WIFE starring the duo pairing of Cary Grant and Loretta Young.  He then had a successful streak with HARVEY (1950), MY COUSIN RACHEL (1952) and THE ROBE (1953).  This Jennifer Jones vehicle is fluffier than his usual fare but the end result is still quite attractive if you don’t mind its very traditional ways.  Remember, this is just a few years before the swinging ‘60s and the flower power trend.  Imagine how different it all would have been had it been in that era.  Anyway, pick up GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE.  Like me, you’ll get caught up in it despite its cotton candy sweetness.

 
 

Until next post—Martin
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

'THE WRONG KIND OF MONEY' BY STEPHEN BIRMINGHAM




Anybody who reads my blog knows by now that I enjoy well-made fluff.  Whether in films or in novels or in spectacular miniseries, nothing gets my tail wagging more than following the troubles of the rich. Mind you, the protagonists do not always have to be a wealthy bunch, but it always helps when they are.  For some strange reasons they always seem to be the most miserable.  Take the characters in THE WRONG KIND OF MONEY by Stephen Birmingham, for example.  Those rich bastards aren’t just troubled they are mother-effing loonies, which sure makes for a great read. A super great read if you want to know the truth. 

Indeed, Stephen Birmingham’s take of old money in the face of adultery and kidnapping has never been more fun. THE WRONG KIND OF MONEY focuses on what makes a self-made millionaire tick to the point of risking everything for a piece of the happiness pie.  In-between catchy narrative and strong characterization the author dissects the life of a lost soul who may or may not have had ties with the underworld. Moreover, the book’s ingenious structure makes the reading experience a step above. Birmingham's plume is so rich and witty that even the narration becomes part of the characters. Yes, THE WRONG KIND OF MONEY is—pun intended ahead—the right kind of a novel to seek your teeth into. You'll definitely find yourself enthralled with everything the man behind the title has to offer.

I have yet to invest more into this author’s work but based on this title alone I will be more than happy do so. It would be foolish of me to say that I already own most of his books but I do.  That’s the kind of a nut that I am. It’s called being a bookaholic.  Some prefer the term avid reader, but I take mine straight-up.  Always have and always will. Anyway, go on and indulge yourself with this novel.  Like me, you’ll end up being a very happy trooper. 



You can still catch THE WRONG KIND OF MONEY wherever digital books are sold.
 




Until next post—Martin

 
US hardcover

 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

'THE LONELY LADY' BY HAROLD ROBBINS





It’s about time that I start babbling about the king of sleaze Harold Robbins.  I spent my youth reading this guy.  And of all his trashy novels, I think THE LONELY LADY is by far my favorite.   I got around to it after catching the cheesy film adaptation starring the ever-lovable Pia Zadora.  If you have yet to see her in this, I urge you to do so.  It’s a freaking experience you’re likely never to forget.  I’m still hoping for the DVD edition.   And I wouldn’t mind feasting on some supplements as well.   But back to the book.    I cannot express enough how much joy this novel has brought me over the years, but especially when I got a hold of it around 1983.  It was during a low period in my life and I needed all the escape I could get, and in came this novel about a woman’s rise and fall in Hollywood and suffice to say I couldn’t get enough of it.   
 
If you're used to Robbins’ over-the-top romps you'll notice that THE LONELY LADY is the first time the author opts for a woman as a central character.  There are many guys in this as well, too many even, but they all have supporting roles.  Of course, the author has to make them act horrible toward Jerilee.  That’s the rule of his game.  And true to form she even ends up being one big hoe.  From stripping in seedy clubs to experiencing many Hollywood casting couches, Jerilee Randall is used, abused, and, alas, condemned to a life of suffering.   But the thing that makes her her is the way she is able to rise above.  She may be woman but boy does she roar.  And like many other Harold Robbins offerings, her sound is quite addictive; probably more so on account that she is a likable character despite her too aggressive manner, and probably also because the book reads like a fun B-grade vintage paperback of the late ‘60s. The plot goes back and forth in time, but the present time is the strongest. There you'll find the sleazy side of Hollywood where Jerilee throws herself in without a parachute.  

Like the film, THE LONELY LADY may not be appreciated by all.  It’s even hard to digest sometimes. But taken with a grain of salt, it is a fine example of addictive fiction.  Now, if only Robbins had followed this with more female-dominated characters, perhaps his star would have continued to shine instead of losing some luster as the years went by.  Oh, there have been other noteworthy titles following THE LONELY LADY such as GOODBYE JANETTE but the many male-dominated efforts that came in-between were mostly underwhelming, in my opinion.  I have yet to really get into his posthumous work. I did hear that they are quite stimulating, especially those written by Junius Podrog.  If they are anything like THE LONELY LADY, perhaps I should make a detour and invest my time in them. 

 
 

Until next post—Martin

 
US paperback tie-in