Gloria Grahame, Fallen Domestic Goddess

Gloria Grahame, as earlier posters in this week’s series have noted, ruled over the dark world of film noir as a femme fatale. Big budget movies do not seem to have been her natural milieu, though she appeared in her share, and worked with distinctive directors from Frank Capra, Edward Dmytryk, Elia Kazan, Fritz Lang, Fred Zinnemann, Robert Wise, to Cecil B. DeMille and, of course, Nicholas Ray in memorable films with large and small budgets. “A” pictures were never her natural milieu, but her presence in two big-time productions at MGM under the choreographed direction of Vincente Minnelli marked both the height and the beginning of her decline as a figure in that period’s glossiest melodramas.

Gloria Grahame is rarely remembered as an archetypal fifties woman: the wife and mother, supportive of her man. Playing these roles in two films in her particular, engagingly off kilter manner, she worked the clichés to the hilt, under Vincente Minnelli at his best and his worst.

Domestic dramas, concerned with house, home and children were rarely in her ken on screen. At best, she was usually relegated to roles as a pretty piece of life’s flotsam and jetsom–not someone a man would think of as a wife and mother. In her private life, she may also have flirted with danger on and off screen, but excelled at characterizations of a highly aware sex kitten who leaves a mark on those who came too close. Relegated to smaller, supporting parts much of the time, Grahame often took those small parts she was given, polishing the roles as bruised tomatoes with a sardonic edge and vulnerability to a point where they became individuals more than types. She imbued her loose, often unfaithful characters with a sense of mystery, hints of pain and and–for its time–an outlandish sexuality that suggested the discontentment beneath the surface of feminine domesticity presented by Hollywood in the postwar period.

Many observers tend to think that her work in In a Lonely Place and The Big Heat were roles that deserved Oscar nods, but when industry recognition finally came her way for her role as Best Supporting Actress, it was not for these uniquely unruly characters, but for her role as a superficially conventional woman gone awry in director Vincente Minnelli‘s big hit for MGM,  The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). The Metro film must have felt like a triumph for the actress,who had languished for a time as an under-utilized contract player at that studio in the 1940s. Under the direction of VincenteMinnelli in two films produced by John Houseman in the 1950s she lent her own subversive presence to two portrayals of married women whose value as characters only seems noteworthy in retrospect.

When the director Vincente Minnelli and his producer John Houseman began working with screenwriter Charles Schnee on the script from a magazine story called “Tribute to a Bad Man”, they incorporated much of what they had observed about the duplicity and commitment of Hollywood’s denizens to their craft. In his circumspect memoir, I Remember it Well, Minnelli recalled that in Hollywood he saw that there “were dark undercurrents to be sure…”the talk of the dehumanizing of the stars and the prostituting of the writers’ talents. But never had I met such animated robots or such willing whores.” Minnelli saw the film as “a harsh and cynical story. All that one hated and loved about Hollywood was distilled in the screenplay . . . the ambition, the opportunism, and the power . . . The philosophy of ‘get me a talented son-of-a-bitch.’ But it also told of triumphs against great odds, and the respect people in the industry had for other talents…”

No one in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) demonstrates much respect or affection for a secondary character played by Grahame. Her role as Rosemary Bartlow, whose presence serves to distract her husband from the creative work offered by Hollywood, is barely on screen for ten minutes. Yet, her Southern belle, played with humor and a touch of sexy pathos, helped to make the episodic film more than a series of inside jokes about the grotesque machinations of Hollywood in the studio era. Made at a time when cinematic elegies such as Sunset Boulevard (1950), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), and A Star is Born (1954) were memorializing a fading creative period, Minnelli‘s take on his industry differs from those other films in a matter of degree. No one reveled in quite the same way in the studio setting, and lavished such care on the presentation of his characters as the director did in this film.

Ostensibly the story of Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas, in one of his best roles as a fascinating heel), the episodic movie uses the David O. Selznick-like character as the axis at the center of the three main stories told in the course of the film. From Barry Sullivan‘s Fred Amiel, a director who helped Shields succeed, to Georgia Larisson, (Lana Turner) a Diana Barrymore-like figure, living in the shadow of her legendary father, to James Lee Bartlow, (Dick Powell) the Virginia-based writer whose Southern belle wife, Rosemary (Gloria Grahame) becomes collateral damage when the couple move to tinseltown, we explore the tangled relations of the producer with each of the characters in flashback. The film, with slices of despair and deceit, and the utilization of flashbacks and voice-over narration, adapted film noir elements into a glossy valentine dedicated to Minnelli‘s “willing whore”–Hollywood.

Grahame as a lady-like figure arriving in Hollywood in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)I’ve enjoyed the movie numerous times for various reasons, but always relished the approximately ten minutes of screen time devoted to the hyper-feminine, preposterous character played by Grahame. We meet faculty wife Rosemary Bartlow, (Grahame) when her husband, (Dick Powell) a professor of Medieval History, is courted by Hollywood after his book, a steamy historical page turner about Virginia, The Proud Land (a novel described as “liberally peppered with sex”), proves to be popular, and attracts the attention of Hollywood.

Bartlow’s character, partly based on William Faulkner, provides us with our primary view of Gloria Grahame‘s role. We see the restless and delightfully scatter-brained Rosemary as she delivers a talk on the anthropological (meaning sexual practices) on the island of Saint Daniels to a symposium of faculty wives, following a visit by the Bartlows there the summer before. We see this wife and these ladies in the home that she shares with her husband “James Lee” from his point of view, which is condescending and yet indulgent toward her. We know from his comments that he sees his wife with affection and only a small grain of annoyance.

His mock impatience emerges when a symposium guest (Madge Blake) interrupts Bartlow’s desultory work on his second book in order to ask him for an inscription on her copy of the best seller and her inquiry about the possibility of “losing him to Hollywood.” The banquet of Hollywood, spread before the eager eyes of Gloria Grahame's character in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)Writing something that causes the bovine woman to blush, and causes Grahame to exclaim to her husband, “You have a very naughty mind, I’m happy to say.” Within the confines of the production code, Minnelli and his actors convey the idea that the Bartlow’s clearly have a lively and hectic sex life. Grahame‘s characterization, deliberately overplaying the Southern accent, never completely wrests the film away from the focus of the story, but her character is both restless and dissatisfied with the status quo. On top of this, she is constantly, and transparently trying to manipulate her husband into breaking out of his academic world, all the while, asking in a breathy voice, “…it doesn’t matter because someday I just know we’ll get to travel and see all those wonderful places. So don’t you ever feel one bit sorry you didn’t say yes, James Lee.” You know this guy is doomed, but you’re not prepared to see her fate.

Powell‘s character is soon conned into an “all expenses paid” trip to Hollywood by both Shields and Rosemary–especially after he realizes that a brief trip to Hollywood would mean so much to his wife. Dissolving to the Beverly Hills Hotel, we see the bewitched Rosemary and the skeptical James Lee taking up residence in the adjoining bungalow where Georgia Lorrison (the Lana Turner character) is also residing. “That night” Powell‘s voice-over narrates, “Rosemary wrote thirty-two postcards. The next morning, I mailed them and we went to the studio.” It is here that the seduction of both husband and wife in the Hollywood life shifts into high gear. Rosemary, who seems so innocently sexy, is, doomed once it becomes clear that she is likely to remain a preeminent distraction for her husband.

Shields and his production assistant (Paul Stewart) take the couple on a tour of the back lot, where a sumptuous table, just as it was pictured in Bartlow’s novel of the Old South, “happens” to be set up with extravagant amounts of crystal, silver, china and lace. Though Grahame proclaims to Shields that the tour “was wonderful fun” and that she likes “being a successful author’s wife”, she claims to know that the secret to her “success” as an author’s wife comes from the understanding that “his work comes first.” The viewer knows better, as Shields’ character observes, “No wonder it took him seven years to write a book.”

Rosemary is no ordinary hick newly arrived in wonderland. You can see in her expressive eyes the avid desire she has for the entire “Hollywood experience”, even if she claims, in one amusing bit of dialogue, that her “research” will merely be background for her promised Symposium paper on Hollywood for the ladies back home. Rosemary’s interruptions of her husband’s labors form a brief montage, culminating in a scene after a party when Rosemary’s coy behavior with another man at a Hollywood party has led to a fight back in their hotel room. The dialogue between the couple seems to bring out some of the issues beneath the playful surface, though, the scene evolves into another seductive episode between the pair. After being chided by her pouting husband for her flirtatious behavior, the child-like Rosemary, defies her husband-paternalistic superior by charging him to “…take a good look at yourself in that mirror. You’ve changed since you come to Hollywood, and I don’t mind telling ya, it’s no change for the better.” She hesitates and concludes the argument, disarming him with the acknowledgment inherent in the question “Have I changed too? I guess I am getting a little too big for my britches.” As Bartlow replies “They’re pretty britches” and Rosemary once again announces that “James Lee, you have a very naughty mind, I’m happy to say.”, the viewer might conclude that the couple have reconciled without solving any of the issues of power in their relationship.
Shields finally succeeds in detaining Bartlow longer than expected in Hollywood,  (bringing his portable typewriter and comfortable rocker to the studio), and allowing Rosemary more time for her explorations of the glittering life before her, the producer soon arranges to have the wife squired by “Gaucho” Ribera (Gilbert Roland, essentially playing a version of himself), while Shields and Bartlow retreat to the remote Lake Arrowhead cabin. There, the producer finally begins to get his money’s worth from his writer, while teaching him the basics of screenwriting, away from the distractions of the demanding Rosemary. Interestingly, it is the tragic, unforeseen outcome of this interlude, after which the film loses much of its spark, once Gloria Grahame and Gilbert Roland are no longer on hand to bring a note of mischief to the proceedings. As Bartlow muses wistfully while at the Lake with Shields, “I missed her interruptions. Even when she’s a bother, she does it in a gay, naive, Southern belle kind of a way that tickles me.”

Despite the brevity of her role, there is something unknowable about Gloria Grahame in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). Her yearnings and hopes are never spelled out for us fully, but her inevitable infidelity and flightiness become more poignant once she is unexpectedly removed from the story line. As one character mentions to another, when speaking of a lost love, “[y]ou may grow out of it, but you don’t get over it.”

Though Minnelli paints the portrait of a louse in The Bad and the Beautiful, it is a louse with purpose and talent, delivered in a remarkably entertaining package with a tightly constructed script by Schnee and others. By the time Minnelli made another feature with producer John Houseman, and used Gloria Grahame again in The Cobweb (1955), things had changed, despite Grahame’s brief moment of triumph winning the Oscar (which many feel should have gone to Jean Hagen for Singin’ in the Rain).

The Cobweb (1955), which featured a darker haired Grahame in the ensemble castFour years later, Minnelli and Houseman tapped Grahame again for another discontented housewife, though she also has two children in this new role. This time, the legend, “The trouble began” scrolls across the wide screen color-drenched frame at the beginning of The Cobweb, when John Kerr, playing an artistic young inmate at a posh mental institution, (based on the Menninger and Austen Riggs clinics where novelist and screenwriter William Gibson worked with his psychoanalyst wife), gets a ride from Gloria Grahame, who is a highly neurotic wife of the young, hotshot shrink at the clinic, played by Richard Widmark (in one of Widmark’s humanitarian roles). When Kerr, identifying himself for Grahame as one of the nut jobs running loose, explains that “You can’t tell the patients from the doctors,” Gloria bitterly replies that “…I can. The patients get better.”

Sometimes described as a prescient satire on society’s increasingly shaky definition of sanity and madness, The Cobweb has a remarkable ensemble cast, reminiscent of MGM’s glory days, when a Grand Hotel casting call might result in highly profitable entertainment. Amid a crowd of talented players with too little to do, including Lauren Bacall as a fragile widow who teaches art therapy, Oscar Levant as a patient, Paul Stewart and Fay Wray in roles that are far too small for their talent, there is the once suave Charles Boyer.  Boyer‘s casting as the head shrink seems to have stemmed from a dimly remembered viewing of the once innovative Private Worlds (1935-La Cava), but here he plays a man undergoing a mid-life crisis in full view of his professional contemporaries, drinking, whoring and disintegrating on cue–while making a forward pass at Gloria Grahame–whose reaction is to exclaim haughtily that the suggestion is “too sordid.” In John Houseman‘s memoir, Front & Center 1942/1955, he asserted that the maladroit choice of Boyer set the tone for entire project, which, Houseman pointed out, had a screenplay that “never entirely satisfied” the director, (nor the producer), despite the novelist and playwright Gibson‘s input. Kerr‘s casting as the misunderstood youth, which Houseman had hoped might go to James Dean was never realized either, thanks in large part to the behind the scenes machinations of agents and front offices at MGM and Warner’s, where Dean was under contract .

Lillian Gish, in a rare foray into villainess territory, has a field day as a tightly wound efficiency expert whose need for control extends to determining what and how much should be spent on a set of drapes for the library. In fact, the drapes, believe it or not, are central to the plot and apparently a metaphor for the tangled human condition. Gloria, this time around, has a less clearly defined character, and seems to careen from sluttish nympho to needy, neglected housewife, with no help from the script, which gives the audience little to go on when forming an opinion of her confused character.

Grahame in the opening sequence with John Kerr in The Cobweb (1955)To begin with, her only reason for being appears to be to chide Widmark for his lack of attention to her needs. Grahame‘s character appears largely oblivious to the needs of her children, whose neglect by both parents is most effectively conveyed by the performance of Tommy Rettig, as an alarmingly docile and understanding boy calmly observing the adults unraveling around him. Understandably, since Widmark only seems to be concerned about his patients, Gloria Grahame, who, it is hinted, is a “nymphomaniac or something” winds up begging her husband for “…one ounce of the attention you give [your patients] day and night!” While Widmark‘s therapy with Kerr and his respect for the art therapy practiced by the appealing widow Bacall has led to assigning Kerr the empowering task of designing the library’s new drapes, Gloria Grahame‘s character is given a series of fairly incomprehensible scenes. Most puzzling is the long, at cross purposes scene that she has on the telephone with cheapskate comptroller Lillian Gish, in which Gloria decides to assert her control over her husband’s careening private and professional life by ordering some expensive designer curtains, despite her husband’s admonitions to stay out of the clinic’s affairs. The melodramatic denouement of the film, centered around the operatic disappearance of Kerr after his drapes are removed, remains highly suspect, with tacked on “happy ending” in which Widmark and Grahame claim to have hammered out their problems in “the course of one conversation”!

Gloria Grahame's out of control character emoting in The Cobweb (1955)All this might fall into the category of “bad movies I love” were it not for the waste of talent on display, which is particularly painful to see in Gloria Grahame‘s performance. Her humor and intelligence, which had always rescued her more clichéd characters from tedium and elevated their humanity, is only on display briefly in that opening sequence with Kerr. The rest of the film, the actress seems strangely out of focus. As Houseman mentioned in his memoir, the role of “the disenchanted wife, the cause of most of the trouble” seemed tailor-made for Grahame. However, given the script problems, and the ill-defined characters that resulted, it did not help when Grahame arrived on “our first day of shooting” with a surprise:”in her latest spasm of surgical masochism she had had a stitch taken in her upper lip. This gave her the ‘sexy, bee-stung look’ she wanted; it also impeded her speech and gave her an unpleasantly frozen expression. It was removed at the close of the picture.” While Houseman and Minnelli would go on to make the smash Lust For Life (1956) and the fitfully enjoyable Two Weeks in Another Town (1962) later, this film would be their last with Gloria Grahame. Their collaboration with her proved to be a validation of her talent in “official” Hollywood, thanks in part to the power of MGM, the financial success of Grahame’s work for a time in Hollywood, and her innate talent. It would be one of her last forays into any form of a conventional career.

Sources:
Houseman, JohnFront & Center, 1942/1955, Simon & Schuster, 1980.
Minnelli, Vincente, Arce, Hector, I Remember It Well, Angus and Robertson, 1975.
Naremore, James, The Films of Vincente Minnelli, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

This is the sixth in a week-long series of blog posts from The Movie Morlocks dedicated to Gloria Grahame.  Stay tuned to Turner Classic Movies for our upcoming retrospective of her films on August 13th and to this site for essays on her film and TV work, her estimable impact and influence.

20 Responses Gloria Grahame, Fallen Domestic Goddess
Posted By Andrew : August 12, 2009 9:42 pm

Excellent spotlight by all the Morlocks on Gloria Grahame, whose knowing, cunning yet childish manner made her numerous appearances in films of the 1940s and 1950s stand outs. I was really unaware that she had worked at MGM before and have thought of her as a film noir babe in the RKO mold before this article. Thanks for bringing her movies with Minnelli to light for me. This has been an excellent blogathon from all the Morlocks.

Is there any chance that this focus on one person could occur more often?

Posted By Andrew : August 12, 2009 9:42 pm

Excellent spotlight by all the Morlocks on Gloria Grahame, whose knowing, cunning yet childish manner made her numerous appearances in films of the 1940s and 1950s stand outs. I was really unaware that she had worked at MGM before and have thought of her as a film noir babe in the RKO mold before this article. Thanks for bringing her movies with Minnelli to light for me. This has been an excellent blogathon from all the Morlocks.

Is there any chance that this focus on one person could occur more often?

Posted By Al Lowe : August 13, 2009 6:55 am

The list of Academy Award nominations for 1952 holds some surprises.

For example, look at the category of film editing. Four of the five nominees had done work on the big pictures of that year: High Noon (winner of the editing award), The Greatest Show on Earth, Come Back Little Sheba and Moulin Rouge.
The fifth nominee was William Austin for Flat Top.

What!!!???

Monogram Pictures released Flat Top, starring Sterling Hayden and Richard Carlson and this studio famous for low budget productions did not get too many nominations. (Although the original story for Dillinger, a sleeper hit, was nominated in 1945.)
William Austin also edited The Queen of Outer Space, Bomba and the Jungle Girl and Sex Kittens Go to College.
I never saw Flat Top.
In his reference book listing movies Leonard Malin said Flat Top integrates a story about WWII training for fighter pilots with news footage. Heck, maybe it even deserved its nomination although the choice seems odd. If you’re an “old movie” buff you probably did a double take similar to what Leon Errol used to do when you read what I wrote.

In a round-about way I’m trying to suggest that the competition for best supporting actress in 1952 seemed equally peculiar.
Gloria Grahame won the award. She was up against: Thelma Ritter in With a Song in My Heart, Colette Marchand in Moulin Rouge, Jean Hagen in Singing in the Rain and Terry Moore in Come Back Little Sheba.

Terry Moore!!!???

Movie buffs, you can be excused for doing your Leon Errol thing again. When Julia Roberts won her Oscar for Erin Brockovich she said the TV producers ought to let her talk because she was never going to be up on that stage again. If Moore had won she could have given the same speech.
The only serious competition Gloria had was Jean Hagen in the classic Singing in the Rain.
Thelma would get a lot of nominations but no award, sad to say; and this wasn’t the year she should have got it. I would have given it to her the next year for Pickup on South Street over Donna Reed for From Here to Eternity.
John Huston had deservedly won kudos for Key Largo, Treasure of the Sierra Madre and African Queen. His career was like a roller coaster ride and it was starting its descent with Moulin Rouge; Colette never had a shot.
You could argue that Jean Hagen should have received it instead of Gloria. But MGM was making so many great musicals at that time that Singing in the Rain was not recognized for its magnificence until some years later.
So, Gloria got it. She was “hot” at the time and appeared in some of the most popular pictures of the day.
I like Bad and the Beautiful and Gloria (who, of course, WAS Bad and Beautiful). But there seems to be a sexist message. Male characters could cheat in the movies and it was okay, if not very nice. If women characters cheated, they got killed. It seems like Gloria is being punished for enjoying sex and saying that she does.

Back to the 1952 awards. Gary Cooper, Shirley Booth and Anthony Quinn deserved their acting Oscars. Bad and the Beautiful won for black and white art direction; it was up against Rashomon, among other nominees.
Gloria should have been beaming with happiness. Instead, apparently, she was gazing into the mirror and wondering how to improve her appearance.

Posted By Al Lowe : August 13, 2009 6:55 am

The list of Academy Award nominations for 1952 holds some surprises.

For example, look at the category of film editing. Four of the five nominees had done work on the big pictures of that year: High Noon (winner of the editing award), The Greatest Show on Earth, Come Back Little Sheba and Moulin Rouge.
The fifth nominee was William Austin for Flat Top.

What!!!???

Monogram Pictures released Flat Top, starring Sterling Hayden and Richard Carlson and this studio famous for low budget productions did not get too many nominations. (Although the original story for Dillinger, a sleeper hit, was nominated in 1945.)
William Austin also edited The Queen of Outer Space, Bomba and the Jungle Girl and Sex Kittens Go to College.
I never saw Flat Top.
In his reference book listing movies Leonard Malin said Flat Top integrates a story about WWII training for fighter pilots with news footage. Heck, maybe it even deserved its nomination although the choice seems odd. If you’re an “old movie” buff you probably did a double take similar to what Leon Errol used to do when you read what I wrote.

In a round-about way I’m trying to suggest that the competition for best supporting actress in 1952 seemed equally peculiar.
Gloria Grahame won the award. She was up against: Thelma Ritter in With a Song in My Heart, Colette Marchand in Moulin Rouge, Jean Hagen in Singing in the Rain and Terry Moore in Come Back Little Sheba.

Terry Moore!!!???

Movie buffs, you can be excused for doing your Leon Errol thing again. When Julia Roberts won her Oscar for Erin Brockovich she said the TV producers ought to let her talk because she was never going to be up on that stage again. If Moore had won she could have given the same speech.
The only serious competition Gloria had was Jean Hagen in the classic Singing in the Rain.
Thelma would get a lot of nominations but no award, sad to say; and this wasn’t the year she should have got it. I would have given it to her the next year for Pickup on South Street over Donna Reed for From Here to Eternity.
John Huston had deservedly won kudos for Key Largo, Treasure of the Sierra Madre and African Queen. His career was like a roller coaster ride and it was starting its descent with Moulin Rouge; Colette never had a shot.
You could argue that Jean Hagen should have received it instead of Gloria. But MGM was making so many great musicals at that time that Singing in the Rain was not recognized for its magnificence until some years later.
So, Gloria got it. She was “hot” at the time and appeared in some of the most popular pictures of the day.
I like Bad and the Beautiful and Gloria (who, of course, WAS Bad and Beautiful). But there seems to be a sexist message. Male characters could cheat in the movies and it was okay, if not very nice. If women characters cheated, they got killed. It seems like Gloria is being punished for enjoying sex and saying that she does.

Back to the 1952 awards. Gary Cooper, Shirley Booth and Anthony Quinn deserved their acting Oscars. Bad and the Beautiful won for black and white art direction; it was up against Rashomon, among other nominees.
Gloria should have been beaming with happiness. Instead, apparently, she was gazing into the mirror and wondering how to improve her appearance.

Posted By gloria grahame | sodini video : August 13, 2009 7:19 pm

[...] Place and The Big Heat. …Twenty Four Frames – http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/|||Gloria Grahame, Fallen Domestic GoddessGloria Grahame, as earlier posters in this week’s series have noted, ruled over the dark world of [...]

Posted By gloria grahame | sodini video : August 13, 2009 7:19 pm

[...] Place and The Big Heat. …Twenty Four Frames – http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/|||Gloria Grahame, Fallen Domestic GoddessGloria Grahame, as earlier posters in this week’s series have noted, ruled over the dark world of [...]

Posted By medusamorlock : August 13, 2009 10:39 pm

Lovely piece! I just watched “The Bad and the Beautiful” and you are so right — the film loses something after the departure of the Grahame/Roland pair.

The top photo of Grahame and her Oscar is beautiful — she looks so fresh and unaffected.

Really enjoyed this!

Posted By medusamorlock : August 13, 2009 10:39 pm

Lovely piece! I just watched “The Bad and the Beautiful” and you are so right — the film loses something after the departure of the Grahame/Roland pair.

The top photo of Grahame and her Oscar is beautiful — she looks so fresh and unaffected.

Really enjoyed this!

Posted By Jenni : August 14, 2009 10:59 am

I’ve seen The Bad and the Beautiful, Singing in the Rain, and I think that Jean Hagen should have gotten the Oscar. I saw her a couple of years ago as the wife in one of the Flubber movies, co-starring with Fred MacMurray, and her character was pretty straight-forward; calm, loving wife and mom. I was floored that this actress was the same one who did such a wonderful job in SITR as the dim-witted, yet calculating silent-film star with the career ending grating, high-pitched voice! Hagen was marvelous in the role! As much as I like Gloria Graham’s work, I think Hagen should have gotten the award. Perhaps a short post about Jean Hagen is due?

Posted By Jenni : August 14, 2009 10:59 am

I’ve seen The Bad and the Beautiful, Singing in the Rain, and I think that Jean Hagen should have gotten the Oscar. I saw her a couple of years ago as the wife in one of the Flubber movies, co-starring with Fred MacMurray, and her character was pretty straight-forward; calm, loving wife and mom. I was floored that this actress was the same one who did such a wonderful job in SITR as the dim-witted, yet calculating silent-film star with the career ending grating, high-pitched voice! Hagen was marvelous in the role! As much as I like Gloria Graham’s work, I think Hagen should have gotten the award. Perhaps a short post about Jean Hagen is due?

Posted By moirafinnie : August 14, 2009 12:13 pm

Hi Jenni,
I completely agree about Jean Hagen‘s wonderful talent, and find her an intelligent and often exceptionally funny and effective presence in all her film roles–even those in which she, as Ms. Hagen once put it “played a stooge to Lana Turner”–a couple of which were assigned her during her MGM contract days after displeasing the studio somehow. Though some of the circumstances of her life were quite difficult, I suspect that her approximately 16 movies and tv appearances might make her a good candidate for a blog (and for a featured lineup of her films on TCM). Thanks for offering this suggestion.

Hi Medusa,
I also like the focus shifting ever so slightly from the movers and shakers of the Hollywood scene by our glimpses of the frustrations and drive of a “non-talent” played with verve by Gloria Grahame–who just happens to be married to someone “important”. Her scenes remind me a bit of the singular characters who enliven the show biz periphery of Stage Mother (1933) (Alice Brady), The Hard Way (1943) (Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, et al), and The Big Knife (1955) (Ida Lupino, et al), as well.

I honestly find each of the brief appearances of Gaucho Ribera (Gilbert Roland) in The Bad and the Beautiful to be the highlights of the movie for me.
Whats wrong with me??! Don’t answer that–I know.

Hi Al,
While I agree that Jean Hagen was wonderful in Singin’ in the Rain, and deserved the award for that performance, I believe that the compensatory nature of that year’s Best Actress award reflected a choice by Academy voters who were also influenced by MGM’s then still extant, if unofficial block voting, (which got behind the commercially successful dramatic vehicle from the studio, not the comedy and chose GG because of her previous, un-awarded work as well as her commercial prominence in the industry at that time). Besides, comedy is so easy, right? Anyone can do that, can’t they?…or so it seems at Oscar time!

Btw, I don’t think that Grahame, as an actress, could really avoid “looking in the mirror”. The obsession with her appearance, and continued efforts to surgically alter her allure was acknowledged by all who knew and liked her to have been a bane of Gloria Grahame‘s existence. I suspect that may have been one of the reasons her often relatively powerless characters may distrust themselves and seem so utterly poignant and overwhelmed by their circumstances–which, to be honest, are still reflected in our present day society’s obsession with appearances. I just hope that as she grew older, and eventually turned to the stage for some challenging roles, she found more satisfaction and less need for external amendments of her looks.
Appreciatively,
Moira

Posted By moirafinnie : August 14, 2009 12:13 pm

Hi Jenni,
I completely agree about Jean Hagen‘s wonderful talent, and find her an intelligent and often exceptionally funny and effective presence in all her film roles–even those in which she, as Ms. Hagen once put it “played a stooge to Lana Turner”–a couple of which were assigned her during her MGM contract days after displeasing the studio somehow. Though some of the circumstances of her life were quite difficult, I suspect that her approximately 16 movies and tv appearances might make her a good candidate for a blog (and for a featured lineup of her films on TCM). Thanks for offering this suggestion.

Hi Medusa,
I also like the focus shifting ever so slightly from the movers and shakers of the Hollywood scene by our glimpses of the frustrations and drive of a “non-talent” played with verve by Gloria Grahame–who just happens to be married to someone “important”. Her scenes remind me a bit of the singular characters who enliven the show biz periphery of Stage Mother (1933) (Alice Brady), The Hard Way (1943) (Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, et al), and The Big Knife (1955) (Ida Lupino, et al), as well.

I honestly find each of the brief appearances of Gaucho Ribera (Gilbert Roland) in The Bad and the Beautiful to be the highlights of the movie for me.
Whats wrong with me??! Don’t answer that–I know.

Hi Al,
While I agree that Jean Hagen was wonderful in Singin’ in the Rain, and deserved the award for that performance, I believe that the compensatory nature of that year’s Best Actress award reflected a choice by Academy voters who were also influenced by MGM’s then still extant, if unofficial block voting, (which got behind the commercially successful dramatic vehicle from the studio, not the comedy and chose GG because of her previous, un-awarded work as well as her commercial prominence in the industry at that time). Besides, comedy is so easy, right? Anyone can do that, can’t they?…or so it seems at Oscar time!

Btw, I don’t think that Grahame, as an actress, could really avoid “looking in the mirror”. The obsession with her appearance, and continued efforts to surgically alter her allure was acknowledged by all who knew and liked her to have been a bane of Gloria Grahame‘s existence. I suspect that may have been one of the reasons her often relatively powerless characters may distrust themselves and seem so utterly poignant and overwhelmed by their circumstances–which, to be honest, are still reflected in our present day society’s obsession with appearances. I just hope that as she grew older, and eventually turned to the stage for some challenging roles, she found more satisfaction and less need for external amendments of her looks.
Appreciatively,
Moira

Posted By PIX : August 15, 2009 9:05 pm

Years ago I read or heard this story: The awarding of Oscars for 1952 were the first to be televised (in March 1953, I believe). The famous clip of Shirley Booth stumbling on the stairs on her way to the stage to accept her Best Actress award is from this telecast. When Gloria Grahame was announced as Best Supporting Actress — so this story goes — someone in the audience clearly said/yelled, “Bitch!,” at her. Whether it was heard by the home audience or not, I do not know. And, as that is the only Oscar telecast I did not see (and I was too young to know what that word meant), I cannot verify this. (Does the Academy have DVDs/tapes of all its televised shows? Are they available for viewing?) Have no idea who said it, IF it was said, or exactly why. Certainly there may have been many who felt she should not have won; one additional reason to explain her win is that she was also in what turned out to be the “best film” — also greatly disputed — “The Greatest Show on Earth” in which she was wonderful as ‘Angel.’ Voters seeing her in both “The Bad and the Beautiful” AND “The Greatest Show on Earth” at Academy screenings may have been influenced by seeing her playing well two very different characters – ‘Angel’ being the more usual Gloria and ‘Rosemary’ being quite another Gloria. To me, “The Bad and the Beautiful” as a Best Film nominee makes better sense — its TCM site says it remains the only non-Best Film nominee to win 5 Oscars; still true? — than the eventual winner, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” fascinating in its own way and colorful but….

Posted By PIX : August 15, 2009 9:05 pm

Years ago I read or heard this story: The awarding of Oscars for 1952 were the first to be televised (in March 1953, I believe). The famous clip of Shirley Booth stumbling on the stairs on her way to the stage to accept her Best Actress award is from this telecast. When Gloria Grahame was announced as Best Supporting Actress — so this story goes — someone in the audience clearly said/yelled, “Bitch!,” at her. Whether it was heard by the home audience or not, I do not know. And, as that is the only Oscar telecast I did not see (and I was too young to know what that word meant), I cannot verify this. (Does the Academy have DVDs/tapes of all its televised shows? Are they available for viewing?) Have no idea who said it, IF it was said, or exactly why. Certainly there may have been many who felt she should not have won; one additional reason to explain her win is that she was also in what turned out to be the “best film” — also greatly disputed — “The Greatest Show on Earth” in which she was wonderful as ‘Angel.’ Voters seeing her in both “The Bad and the Beautiful” AND “The Greatest Show on Earth” at Academy screenings may have been influenced by seeing her playing well two very different characters – ‘Angel’ being the more usual Gloria and ‘Rosemary’ being quite another Gloria. To me, “The Bad and the Beautiful” as a Best Film nominee makes better sense — its TCM site says it remains the only non-Best Film nominee to win 5 Oscars; still true? — than the eventual winner, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” fascinating in its own way and colorful but….

Posted By NatchuraLee : August 16, 2009 6:38 pm

I can’t comment on “The Bad and the Beautiful”. But you simply have to watch Nicholas Ray’s “In a Lonely Place” to see Gloria give a performance that is exotic, contemporary and seductive. This film was ahead of its time and the Bogart/Grahame synergy on the screen is proof that she was an astounding performer.
This is not to take away from “The Big Heat” but Gloria is given less to do there and gets to play a rather stereotypical moll. Her sexuality is vibrant and she does what she can with a limited role but to watch her in “A Lonely Place” is to see a brilliant actor in a role that matches her talent.

Posted By NatchuraLee : August 16, 2009 6:38 pm

I can’t comment on “The Bad and the Beautiful”. But you simply have to watch Nicholas Ray’s “In a Lonely Place” to see Gloria give a performance that is exotic, contemporary and seductive. This film was ahead of its time and the Bogart/Grahame synergy on the screen is proof that she was an astounding performer.
This is not to take away from “The Big Heat” but Gloria is given less to do there and gets to play a rather stereotypical moll. Her sexuality is vibrant and she does what she can with a limited role but to watch her in “A Lonely Place” is to see a brilliant actor in a role that matches her talent.

Posted By moirafinnie : August 17, 2009 1:01 am

Hi Natchura Lee,
I’ve seen In a Lonely Place about 6 times over the years and it one of my favorite Bogart films and Grahame really shone in her role as the skittish beauty who is loved and almost destroyed by her relationship with the troubled screenwriter. I didn’t mention it much in the above posting since my colleague, RHSmith did such a great job writing about it here earlier in our Gloria Grahame blogathon. You might want to see his blog piece here.

Posted By moirafinnie : August 17, 2009 1:01 am

Hi Natchura Lee,
I’ve seen In a Lonely Place about 6 times over the years and it one of my favorite Bogart films and Grahame really shone in her role as the skittish beauty who is loved and almost destroyed by her relationship with the troubled screenwriter. I didn’t mention it much in the above posting since my colleague, RHSmith did such a great job writing about it here earlier in our Gloria Grahame blogathon. You might want to see his blog piece here.

Posted By The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) | Old Old Films : July 2, 2011 1:01 am

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