Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVI, No, 32
October 24, 12010
My bridge games went a little better this week, probably because I played only on Tuesday (at the Methodist Church downtown) where I won first place (and a neat little flashlight, furnished by Howard Deck) and stayed at table one (of three) where you stay as long as you are winning. Once you lose, you go down to the lowest table. I even drew high every progression, which meant I got to stay in the same chair the whole time. I firmly believe in the importance of your position where you play party bridge. His is not nearly so important in duplicate bridge. Every North-South and East=West will play the same hands eventually.
And then, yesterday, when playing with Mary Jane Barrows (a fine player) we came in 3rd from last (don’t forget, that amounted to a great score for me).
Here’s a tip for anyone who enjoys The Waffle House Chain: Father Gorman insists on treating me to a late brunch there every Sunday after return to Mobile (and it is also one of the noisiest, dirtiest and least appealing (at least to me) of the many we have here in town. But since he always pays the tab. I try not to do too much squawking. Anyway, they now have a new (?) Apple-Cinnamon waffle that is more than just good, It is so rich, however, that we order one with two plates, and it is just the right amount. Another item you might want to try (in case you haven’t yet) is their grilled chicken salad, which has two large chicken breasts, grilled as you watch, and is surrounded by all sorts of green veggies. My biggest complaint is that their choices of salad dressings are limited to three or four, none of which I really love. I usually settle for the Thousand Island, which is not too bad.
“My cat does not talk as respectfully to me as I do to her.”
“Hot Tub Time Machine” (Paramount)
A few weeks ago, I admitted to a guilty secret: I had laughed so hard at a filthy and disgusting comedy called: ”The Hangover” that I recommended it for anyone with a strong enough stomach. I am probably one of the biggest haters of the current obsession with using certain offensive words at all: much less using them as virtually every part of speech. I criticize the screenwriters’ pathetic, limited vocabulary when they have to resort to using a single word ad nauseum.
However, I laughed longer, harder and more often at this piece of filth than I did at “The Hangover.” All I will write is that four men sit in their Jakuzzu, there is a glitch somewhere in the mechanism and they find themselves transported back in time to the 1980’s. What happens after that is not always funny, but enough of it is hysterically so, that again, I advise you to sit back, relax and have a lot of laughs at the quartets’ expense. The cast is very funny, but the only star I knew was John Cusak, who (as always) was great, (**)
A Single Man (Sony)
At the opposite end of the Emotional
Spectrum is this somber tale by
Christopher Isherwood, starring Colin
Firth, in a role vastly different from the
Art film I had seen him in; “Mama
Mia” Set in Las Angeles in 1962 at the
height of the Cuban missile of a British
college professor trying to come to terms
with his own life after the death of his
Tastefully written and beautifully acted, it brings to life the meaning of the importance of the seemingly smaller moments in life. (***)
Alfred Hitchcock and Remakes
When Alfred Hitchcock made his first American film, he already had an impressive list of movies to his credit. and his US debut could not have been more spectacular. It was David O. Selznk's Academy-Award-winning Rebecca, from Daphne duMaurier’s famous novel. It is interesting to note that, although this was not Joan Fontaine’s first film, it certainly made an overnight super star of her. Hitchcock had a definite affinity for beautiful blond heroines: Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Doris Day, Priscilla lane, just to name a few of them
He never remade any of his films,(with one notable exception), and in that film, managed to improve upon the original. Personally, I feel the biggest mistake a film-maker can make is trying to improve on a proven classic. such was the case with “Psycho”. One of Hitchcock’s very best studies in suspense and horror; the 1960 mega-hit spawned two sequels in Hitchcock’s lifetime (Psycho II, in 1983, and Psycho III, in 1986). Both of these disappointing sequels had the original Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) but Hitchcock had nothing to do with their productions. Richard Franklin directed the first sequel, and no less than “Norman” (Perkins) himself can be blamed for the disastrous third abomination.
As awful as the sequels were, they could hardly be said to hold a candle towards the remake of “Psycho” a few years ago. All I remember about it is that Vince Vaughan, an actor that I very much admired at this time, put his reputation on the line (as “Norman Bates”) and blew it.
In 1938, Hitchcock had one of his first big hits with The Lady Vanishes. A perfect blending of comedy and mystery, it was Hitchcock at his best. The film starred Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas and Dame Mae Whitty. This delightful gem became the victim of a fate similar to that of Psycho with the 1979 British remake with Elliot Gould, Cybil Shepherd and Angela Lansbury trying to turn it into a “screwball comedy”. How vividly do I remember my indignation at what these people had done to such a fine bit of cinema.
Back to Hitchcock and the only remake of any of his films (as far as I can ascertain) was of 1934’s The Man Who Knew Too Much The original starred Leslie Banks, Edna Best and Peter Lorre. In 1956, he decided to do an updated version of the story; this time with James Stewart and Doris Day (who had become a fairly decent dramatic actress by this time). Of course, with this cast, the film was an instant success but in comparing the two versions, Leonard Maltin gives the earlier one the edge. I remember seeing the 1934 version on television, and can remember only the difference in the clothing styles.
My least favorite Hitchcock films included some of his biggest hits: “Rope” was never as intriguing for me as it was supposed to be (with its continuity that got all the hype back then)* The stars, James Stewart, Farley Granger and John Dall (of “The Corn is Green”) retell the Leopold-Loeb story. See the much better “Compulsion”. With Orson Welles.Another over-rated film, in my opinion, was ‘Strangers on a Train”. Farley Granger (again: I never liked this actor for some reason that even I cannot understand) and one of my favorite actors from this period, Robert Walker, are the strangers of the title: Walker is a psychopath involved with Granger in “exchange” of murders. The film’s climax (for which the film was famous) was on a merry-go-round.
Hitchcock formed several disrinct little traditions in his many films: one of the most enduring (as well as endearing) was almost always appearing as an extra in practically all of his movies. Being able to “spot him” became a game that his fans always enjoyed. His preference for beautiful blonde leading ladies was well known. And, if possible, in order to make the films more memorable, he loved to film the climactic scene (as the Merry-Go-Round here). In 1942’s “Saboteur”, the Statue of Liberty becomes a featured player in the plot. “North by Northwest” will forever be remembered for its breathtaking climax on Mt. Rushmore (not to mention the scene with the airplane trying to “run down” Cary Grant). This was perhaps my favorite of the long list Hitchcock’s long and varied career.
His highly successful television series began with a “joke”: the charming theme song was the little known “Funeral March for a Marionette”. It was the perfect music to introduce the famous director each week, with his deep and lugubrious voice as he prepared us for yet another classic murder yarn.
The following information about “Stella Dallas” (reviewed in FF XVI, 31) was sent to me by Ed Kohler (who now resides in Jacksonville, FL) and always bails me out when I lose or cannot find information. Thanks, Ed!
Stella Dallas was an America radio soap opera that ran from 1937 to 1955. The title character was the beautiful daughter of an impoverished farmhand who had married above her station in life. She was played for the entire run of the series by Anne Elstner (1902–1982). Her husband Stephen Dallas was portrayed at various times by Leo McCabe, Arthur Hughes and Frederick Tazere. Initially, Joy Hathaway played Stella's daughter Laurel with Vivian Smolen later taking over the role. Laurel's husband was Dick Grosvenor (played by Carleton Young, Macdonald Carey, Spencer Bentley, George Lambert and Michael Fitzmaurice).
The series was created and produced by the husband and wife team of Frank and Anne Hummert, based on the 1923 novel Stella Dallas by Olive Higgins Prouty. The 15-minute drama began as a local show in New York City in late 1937, in the wake of the successful movie version starring Barbara Stanwyck, and it was picked up by the NBC radio network beginning June 6, 1938, running weekday afternoons.
The program's opening told the premise of the drama:
We give you now Stella Dallas, a continuation on the air of the true-to-life story of mother love and sacrifice, in which Stella Dallas saw her own beloved daughter marry into wealth and society and, realizing the differences in their tastes and worlds, went out of Laurel's life.
The radio play inspired the name of the home furnishing store Stella Dallas in Dallas, Texas.