Tag Archives: Larry Keating

The Mating Season (1951, Mitchell Leisen)

The Mating Season is an awkward social comedy of errors. I say awkward because to make the plot work, Gene Tierney has to act selfishly every time she’s supposed to be garnering sympathy. Thinking about it now, the film never even resolves her flirtations with the guy out to ruin her husband (and their marriage).

If Tierney’s unsuccessful navigating the film, leading man John Lund doesn’t do much better. His character remains sympathetic throughout (even taking the blame for Tierney’s shortcomings), but Lund can’t bring believability to it. It’s never believable he wouldn’t have punched out his gold digging mother-in-law (Miriam Hopkins, who creates an impressively evil character).

The whole plot of the thing reminds me a little of “Jerry,” the show in a show on “Seinfeld” with the court appointed butler. The writers of Mating Season clearly thought they were on to something, but they can’t pull it off. The plot requires supposedly likable characters to be far too disagreeable far too often.

However, there is a bright spot. Thelma Ritter. Ritter’s wondrous as Lund’s mother (who Tierney, being upper crust, mistakes for a cook). The film’s a disjointed pairing of Ritter’s compelling story and Lund and Tierney’s contrived one.

There are a couple nice supporting performances from Larry Keating and James Lorimer.

Leisen’s direction is uninspired. He seems to understand there’s only so much he can do with the script and relies heavily on a scantily clad Tierney.

It’s definitely worth seeing for Ritter, but it’s a disappointment.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Mitchell Leisen; screenplay by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch and Richard L. Breen, based on a play by Caeser Dunn; director of photography, Charles Lang; edited by Frank Bracht; music by Joseph J. Lilley; produced by Brackett; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Gene Tierney (Maggie Carleton), John Lund (Val McNulty), Miriam Hopkins (Fran Carleton), Thelma Ritter (Ellen McNulty), Jan Sterling (Betsy), Larry Keating (George C. Kalinger Sr.), James Lorimer (George C. Kalinger Jr.), Gladys Hurlbut (Mrs. Conger), Cora Witherspoon (Mrs. Williamson) and Malcolm Keen (Mr. Williamson).


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Above and Beyond (1952, Melvin Frank and Norman Panama)

Above and Beyond breaks one of my severest rules–don’t start with narration and then drop it. Above and Beyond starts with Eleanor Parker narrating the film, mostly because otherwise she wouldn’t be in it for the first hour. Once she is in the film full-time, the narration quickly disappears. I can’t remember the last time there was narration, but I don’t think it was past an hour and twenty minutes, which leaves about forty percent absent of narration. The film’s about the guy who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I’m not up enough on my World War II history (from the American perspective) to know where the film made allowances, but it creates a compelling enough reality of its own. In many ways, the character’s saddled with more immediate responsibility than anyone else ever had before, which creates the condition for its success even though it fails on certain narrative levels.

The audience knows what’s going on and understands what Robert Taylor (as the pilot and commander) is going through. Except Eleanor Parker, as his wife, doesn’t know and the story–for a good portion–is from her emotional perspective. The film takes place over two years, with only the last hour being told in scenic detail. The rest is summary, occasionally tied together with Parker’s narration, occasionally not. The film isn’t quite a biopic, because it’s Parker holding the first hour together. Though Robert Taylor gets a lot more screen-time (maybe ninety-five percent overall), Parker’s a constant. The scenes with the two of them together, therefore, have to be perfect. They have to establish them as a married couple, they have to establish them as characters worth caring about–and co-writers and co-directors Norman Panama and Melvin Frank pull off those scenes. Maybe five minutes in that first hour is dedicated to such scenes and Panama and Frank get the work done.

Parker’s an obviously choice as the film’s best performance because she gets to do so much–play wife, play fighting wife, play new mother, play friend–while Taylor only has two general moods: upset and more upset. But Taylor’s performance is the better one–not through any fault of Parker’s, but because Frank and Panama understand how to address the gravity of the situation. It’s through little moments with Taylor.

The film came out in 1952 and has either a complex morality about the actual bombing or an undecided one. It accepts most reasoning on the subject will end up being flippant, but the film’s not about the overall morality, but the character’s. Occasionally when you turn a big story–a too big story–into a movie, something gels and it holds. Above and Beyond is probably the best of that rather specific genre. Frank and Panama manage to maintain nice filmic sensibilities throughout–giving the audience something to laugh at, making the marriage compelling–while appreciating they can’t actually tell their story… because it’s too big.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama; written by Frank, Panama and Beirne Lay Jr.; director of photography, Ray June; edited by Cotton Warburton; music by Hugo Friedhofer; produced by Frank, Panama and Allan Fung; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Robert Taylor (Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr), Eleanor Parker (Lucey Tibbets), James Whitmore (Maj. Uanna), Larry Keating (Maj. Gen. Vernon C. Brent), Larry Gates (Capt. Parsons), Marilyn Erskine (Marge Bratton), Stephen Dunne (Maj. Harry Bratton), Robert Burton (Gen. Samuel E. Roberts), Hayden Rorke (Dr. Ramsey), Larry Dobkin (Dr. Van Dyke), Jack Raine (Dr. Fiske), Jonathan Cott (Dutch Van Kirk), Jeff Richards (Thomas Ferebee), Dick Simmons (Bob Lewis), John McKee (Wyatt Duzenbury), Patrick Conway (Radio Operator), Christie Olsen (Paul Tibbets Jr), William Lester (Driver), Barbara Ruick (Mary Malone) and Jim Backus (Gen. Curtis E. LeMay).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | ELEANOR PARKER, PART 2: TECHNICOLOR.

Three Secrets (1950, Robert Wise)

Three Secrets plays like a knock-off of A Letter to Three Wives, only without the writing. Secrets‘s problem is mostly with the writing. There are the three women–all of whom have secrets, except actually only two of them–played by Eleanor Parker, Patricia Neal, and Ruth Roman. The secret is each put a child up for adoption (on the same day) and now the child might be alone on top of a mountain, following a plane crash killing his adoptive parents. The kid’s turning six on the day of the present action, so there are three flashbacks to the women’s past–except only two of them tie together, which leaves the third–Ruth Roman’s–sticking out, just like her character sticks out. She’s particularly mistreated by the film, sort of disregarded, and if director Robert Wise had properly configured the film, she’d be even smaller (and maybe not played by Ruth Roman, who’s good, but deserves a better role). Properly, Three Secrets would juxtapose Eleanor Parker and Patricia Neal. Parker’s got a husband (not the baby’s father), a loving but overbearing mother, and she can’t have kids anymore (which the husband doesn’t know, so maybe that secret’s the third one, since Roman doesn’t have a secret). Neal’s a successful journalist whose career got in the way of her marriage. Had the film been about Neal becoming her own story and Parker’s conflicts with her mother and so on, Three Secrets might have been something better.

It wouldn’t have been great, however, since Wise doesn’t know what to do without a big budget. Three Secrets is visibly cheaper–lots of backdrops standing in for nature, lots of indoor shooting–and Wise doesn’t do anything interesting to make the film visually dynamic. He shoots it straight and unimaginatively. For film buffs, there is a sequence in Three Secrets Wise later did again in The Andromeda Strain. The film does show a pulse–when Parker’s family conflicts are off-screen–once some reporters show up. It’s a great newspaper or radio movie, but it’s not supposed to be about the journalists, it’s supposed to be about the three women. When they get together at the end, for maybe fifteen minutes, the scenes are good. Neal’s the central character and she’s good with both Parker and Roman, but she’s so level-headed throughout, the other two women have a couple nice moments the film should have expanded on. The most interesting part of the present action would have been the three women sitting around worried, but we only get a few minutes of it.

The acting from the three women is all good. Depending on the scene, Parker or Neal is better. The supporting cast is mostly in the flashbacks and of that cast, Ted de Corsia is good. In the present action, Edmon Ryan as a rival reporter and Katherine Warren as Parker’s mother are both excellent.

Three Secrets takes place over a nerve-racking thirty-two hours and it never gives the audience a single moment of dread. Everything is positively resolved for everyone, which is fine enough, but it happens immediately. There isn’t even the pretense of anyone thinking or considering their life-changing decisions. The film needed to be written as a play, just to get the pacing right, then filmed. As it stands, it has some good acting and some strange directorial choices.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Wise; written by Martin Rackin and Gina Kaus; director of photography, Sidney Hickox; edited by Thomas Reilly; music by David Buttolph; produced by Milton Sperling; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Eleanor Parker (Susan Adele Connors Chase), Patricia Neal (Phyllis Horn), Ruth Roman (Ann Lawrence), Frank Lovejoy (Bob Duffy), Leif Erickson (Bill Chase), Ted de Corsia (Del Prince), Edmon Ryan (Hardin), Larry Keating (Mark Harrison), Katherine Warren (Mrs. Connors) and Arthur Franz (Paul Radin).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | ELEANOR PARKER, PART 1: DREAM FACTORY.