“I like joy; I want to be joyous; I want to have fun on the set; I want to wear beautiful clothes and look pretty. I want to smile and I want to make people laugh. And that’s all I want. I like it. I like being happy. I want to make others happy.”
– Doris Day –
The story of me and Doris Day is one that I shall always cherish. What I can mainly say is that, from the moment I first heard about her, she only brought me goods in my life. Doris Day is, to me, a synonym of “success” and “optimism”.
Today, the retired actress celebrates her 95th birthday. We were long confused on her birthday date, but it has just been confirmed that the actress was born in 1922 (and not in 1924 like she and most people thought). And we’re glad she’s taking it with humour! And, I have to honour to be born the same day as her (but several years later)! What a luck! Marlon Brando, Jan Sterling, Alec Baldwin and Leslie Howard are also among my birthday twins. My friend Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood is, this weekend, hosting The Doris Day Blogathon in honour of this fabulous actress and singer. I obviously considered necessary to pay her a tribute, explain to you how she became one of my idols.
Before going further, I want to thanks Michaela for hosting this amazing blogathon! You can read the other entries here.
The first time I heard of Doris Day, it was via one of her songs. There was this radio program called “Tout un Cinema”, which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. Only film musics were played in this show, so, it obviously was a real treat for cinephiles like me. I remember I was on the road with my cousins and their parents. I had spent a few days with them at their cottage in the country and we were coming back to Montreal. We decided to listen to the program and the animator, Rémy Girard (one of Quebec’s greatest actors) introduced it with a Doris Day’s song: “Oh Me, Oh My!” from the musical Tea for Two. This song is a cute, simple and joyful one. Maybe not the deepest thing Doris ever sang, but it remains a sympathetic one.
And “Oh Me, Oh My” became my first Doris Day’s inspiration. But we’ll come back to that later.
If I heard my first Doris Day’s song in the summer (or was it autumn?), it’s during the following winter vacations that I saw my first Doris Day’s film. This one was The Man Who Knew Too Much, which was part of an Alfred Hitchcock’s DVD Box set I had received for my previous birthday. I knew that Doris was better known for her romantic comedies and her musicals, so this suspense was an unusual one. Well, Doris Day proved to be a brilliant actress. The Man Who Knew Too Much reveals her capacity to play drama and, introduces her most well-known song: Que Sera Sera (unfortunately, too many people don’t know that this song was first written for an Alfred Hitchcock’s film). This scene where she [spoiler alert] learns that her son has been kidnapped always breaks my heart. 😦 Anyway, as I’ve probably mentioned it before, this film became my favourite Hitchcock’s film, my mother’s too (well, I think. Anyway, she loves Que Sera Sera) and it encouraged my sister to see more films by the master. This is, of course, not only due to Doris Day’s convincing performance and lovely singing voice, but also to the excellent suspense, and Day’s brilliant co-star, the one and only James Stewart.
But let’s come back to “Oh Me, Oh My!” I’ve previously told you that this song inspired me. How? Well, after these winter vacations, I had a class in CEGEP to develop our creativity. For our final project, we had a very vague theme imposed to us and we had to use it for a personal creation. It could be anything we wanted. At the time, the song was always stuck in my head, so I used it to write a play! This one was a one-act comedy entitled “Oh Me!” and was the story of a girl who decides to learn the song for a “Sing Doris Day contest”. However, she decides to learn it word by word, so the process isn’t going very fast (and the irony is that it is a pretty easy song). I was surprised to see that people loved the play and I succeed with a pretty good note (don’t remember the exact result, but it was over 90%). This is one of the factors that encouraged me to study screen writing!
I also had to see more Doris Day films and listen to her music. So, I didn’t make long to buy some of her CDs and films. In cinema, her presence never failed to illuminate the screen. Her films are the feel-good movies by excellence (my favourite example being Romance on the High Seas). She was a true star and she was rarely overshadowed by other actors or actresses. She could play comedy and drama both in excellent ways. The chemistry she had with other actors is one that inspires nothing else than true friendship (we can think of Rock Hudson)! Her dynamism and joie de vivre never fail to make me smile and say: “I want more Doris Day!” And, even if the film isn’t excellent (Please, Don’t Eat the Daisies), there would be at least one positive element about it, and that’s Doris! It’s too bad that Mrs. Day is in this category of the too underrated actresses like Marilyn Monroe. Yes, she received an Oscar nomination, but I think her acting skills deserved much more credit than they received. I read this interesting article about Doris in a Photoplay magazine where she is quoted saying: “I want all my pictures to be entertainment and I’ll never talk about art or doing anything “different” and “serious”. I hope my pictures can make people forget their troubles and start dreaming wonderfully.” We can’t think indeed of a better form of entertainment than bright Technicolour musicals. However, when Doris Day said that, she was quite at the beginning of her career and we know that she did play in more serious pictures and proved to be excellent in all forms of entertainment. Whatever if she wants it or not, she’ll always be a highly celebrated ARTIST.
Doris Day the Singer is the one I discovered first. I’ve listened to some of her songs very often and now can easily sing them! Her voice is a lovely one and matches her personality perfectly. I remember, one day, I was dining with my father and we were listening to one of my Doris Day’s CDs and when “Love Me or Leave Me” started playing, my father exclaimed “That is Doris Day? My God! It’s so great!” Well, not exactly in these words, but something like this. And I’m fortunate to have her as one of my very favourite singers, because my parents also like to listen to her during supper 😉 (Madonna and Debbie Harry are less suitable for a quiet family supper). It’s the kind of music that you can enjoy while doing various activities. Doris Day’s life objective is to make us smile and make our lives better. We feel that she transmits all her love to us via her songs (and her films). As I often said, Doris Day’s music is the best cure when one has the blues. If I have a down, I can always get over it with a song like “It’s a Great Feeling” or “There’s a Bluebird on your Windowsill”!
What I also admire about Doris Day is her courage. We know that, despite being a very cheerful person, she didn’t always have it easy. As I read in the Photoplay article, her rise to stardom was a difficult one, and her four weddings were unfortunately far from being perfect. But, Doris managed to always give us a smile and see the brighter sides of life. She’s a true inspiration.
Last time Doris Day gave me success was this semester. I was doing a team oral presentation about American female stars of the 50s and I talked about Doris Day. We got an A! How awesome! I tell you, she is my lucky charm!
Before living you, it’s top list time!
First, here are my 5 most favourite films (I would have like to do a top 10, but, unfortunately, I’ve just seen 9 of her films. I know, I know, I need to see more! I think I’m more familiar with Doris-the-Singer!)
An honourable mention to Love Me or Leave Me, in which she gives a marvellous dramatic performance and sings some of her best songs!
And now, here are my heum.. 25 most favourite Doris Day’s songs. Sorry, but I can’t limit myself to a smaller number. I love too many of them! The top is not in a particular order, because I find it more difficult to rank songs than films! But #1 IS my #1!
#1 Favourite: Sugarbush (What an excellent song to cheer you up! “Sugarbush I love you so!” 🙂 )
If I Were a Bell
Lullaby of Broadway
It’s a Great Feeling
There’s a Bluebird on Your Windowsill
A Guy is a Guy
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love Baby
Oh Me! Oh My!
Tea for Two
On Moonlight Bay
By the Light of the Silvery Moon
Love Me or Leave Me
Shaking the Blues Away
Que Sera Sera
I’m in Love
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps
Doris Day will never stop to make my life better. She will always be remembered for her brilliant acting/singing career, but also for her appreciated involvement in animal rights. Today, she lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea and she is the most lovely 95 years old lady of California!
Today, we’re celebrating something important: the legendary Sidney Poitier is 90, and he’s still with us! For the occasion, I’m hosting the 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon. Click here to read all the marvellous entries.
The first Sidney Poitier’s film I saw was In the Heat of the Night. I remember renting it at this video store that, unfortunately, doesn’t exist anymore and, like most 1967 films, truly enjoyed it. As two of the participants indicated it in their article, it’s a shame Sidney wasn’t Oscar nominated for his role. I honestly believe it’s one of his best performances. It’s full of strength, determination and charisma. You know, that kind of performance that shows us what great acting is. Anyway, just for that “They call me Mister Tibbs!” moment alone he should have been nominated.
But, luckily, Sidney won the Oscar in 1964 for his brilliant performance in Lilies of the Fields (1963). A most deserved Oscar as, I believe, it’s his best performance (well, for the films I’ve seen so far). Just like his the film itself, is portraying of Homer Smith is touching and honest. He doesn’t fail to make us smile, and share out his anger toward Mother Maria! The most amazing thing about this Oscar win is that Sidney was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar (the first actress was Hattie McDaniel for her performance in Gone With the Wind (1939) as Mammy). And it was about time! Just take a look at this speech. Golden moments like this one don’t happen often at the Academy Awards.
He’s so happy 🙂 ❤ Anyway, that moment just makes me smile so much! On another note: Anne Bancroft is gorgeous.
So far, I’ve seen 10 Sidney Poitier’s films (I know, I have many more to see) and I never was disappointed. Well, the only one that I might have liked a little less is Something of Value. I don’t know, it was a bit too dramatic. But never Sidney Poitier failed to impress me. As I told it, he kills it with that determination, the clarity of his speech, his presence, his wisdom… And that laugh! My, I love it. It just warms your heart, don’t you think?
Sidney was a man of many talents. Not only he could act, but he could also:
And even sing! (Warning: for those who haven’t seen it, this is the final scene of Lilies of the Fields! )
Ok, where is that musical starring Poitier now? Is there one? Because if yes, you have to let me know asap. And if no, well… too bad.
Sidney Poitier was not only the first African-American actor to receive an Oscar, but he also was one of the first one to be cast in leading, various and serious roles (other than a servant or a singer in a club, like it was often the case in classic films). And he rocked it and proved that not just white actors were able to play all kinds of roles. (And, between you and me, he’s better than some of them… hahaha). Sidney has always shown the greatest example of anti-racism through his films. In The Defiant Ones, he proves that an African-American and a caucasian can become friends. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, he proves that love between two persons of different ethnic groups is possible. In In the Heat of the Night, he proves that black men deserve to be respected as much as white men are, etc. Well, it’s more the film itself that proves all this, but let’s say he’s the proud representative of anti-racism movies. He’s a legend and everybody should be proud of him for what he brought to the divine art of cinema.
There is much more I would like to know about Sidney Poitier. I’m familiar with his work as an actor, but, I’d like to know more about his life (other than what I can read on Internet…). So, biographies’ recommendations are quite welcome here!
In 1992 Sidney Poitier received his AFI Life Achievement Award. His friend Harry Belafonte (who will also celebrate his 90th birthday quite soon – March 1) payed a tribute to him by singing Amen. We can see Sidney he’s thrilled and it’s personally one of my most favourite YouTube videos ever!
Faithful to my habits, I’d now like to present you my top 10 Sidney Poitier’s film! Honestly, it’s a hard job because, as I’ve said, I really love all his movies. But, let’s give it a try:
1- A Patch of Blue (this one is my favourite for sure)
2- To Sir, with Love
3- Blackboard Jungle
4- Lilies of the Fields
5- The Defiant Ones
6- Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
7- No Way Out
8- In the Heat of the Night
9- Edge of the City
10- Something of Value
Well, that gives you a rough idea.
Happy 90 birthday Sidney Poitier! You are one of a kind!
Paul Dupuis is not a name that rings a bell to many people of my generation. However, if I talk about him with my grandparents or older people, they’ll remember him as this handsome man with a very deep voice who was “great in Les Belles Histories des Pays d’en Haut“. He was one of those French-Canadian actors that had its notoriety, but is unfortunately a bit forgotten nowadays. On my side, if I hadn’t seen Madness of the Heart, I would probably have not come across him. When I watched this British film for the first time, this handsome young man, who was cast as Margaret Lockwood’s love interest, picked my curiosity. So, I checked what was his name: Paul Dupuis. Hum, that’s sounded French! It was even better, he was Quebecois (or French-Canadian if you prefer). Last year, in my class of Quebecois cinema, I decided to do my final essay on films of the 40’s and the 50’s, but, to tell you the truth, that was mainly an excuse to see more Paul Dupuis’ films. 😉 I don’t regret it, because I saw some interesting stuff, movies that, just like Paul, are not remembered very well today.
I’m really not an expert on Paul Dupuis and I’ve seen only three of his films. But I’ve chosen to write about him because I think he deserves more recognition. And if, like me, you like to discover new actors, well, there you go. I, however, have a sort of obsession with him and sometimes I can spend hours looking for articles and videos about him on the web. Quite a stimulating activity. It’s mostly through this research that I discovered myself a real fascination for the man. Paul Dupuis was one of a kind, and he was much more than a “simple” movie star.
With the help of all my readings, I created this mini biography that I hope you’ll find complete and informative.
Who Was Paul Dupuis?
Birthday and college years
Paul Dupuis was born in Montreal on August 11, 1916. He was the son of Carmel Girouard and Pierre-Louis Dupuis, a juvenile court judge. From 1933 to 1934 he did classical studies at Collège de l’Assomption. Paul Dupuis’ love for acting started when he attended Collège St. Laurent and was part of the amateur theatre group “Les Compagnons de St. Laurent” (or simply “Les Compagnons”) create by Father Legault, to whom he owned his love for the theatre. In an article from La Voix de Shawinigan, Gabriel Langlais describes Paul Dupuis as “father Legault’s spiritual son”. Later, after Paul became an established movie and onstage actor, he eventually became assistant director, actor, professor, and director at Les Compagnons, at the request of Father Legault. His passage at Les Compagnons is well remembered for his successful performance in Shakespeare’s Henry IV as the leading role, in 1951.
It’s important to know that, despite his talent for acting, it was a bit by accident that he became an actor. Yes, he spent glorious times performing with Les Compagnons, but Paul first worked (briefly) as a newspaper cartoonist. He also worked as an announcer and director at Radio-Canada and joined CBC in 1937 and was sent, not long after, in London, as a War Correspondent. Meanwhile, he married Jacqueline-Thérèse Godin (daughter of Joseph-Eugène Godin et Hortense Mongenais) at St. Léon de Westmount church in 1939. They had two children, Pierre-Louis and Marie. In 1945, Paul, who then was a journalist, not an actor yet, made an important war reportage entitled Mort du Soldat Bourdage au Front in which he talked about the death of Private Bourdage and made a glorious portrait of him. However, the soldier was not really dead! His trace was lost after an explosion and he was declared dead, but a bit too early. Fortunately, this allowed Bourdages to see Dupuis’s wonderful tribute to him.
The raise of an actor
Paul Dupuis’s first on-screen role (or should I say “appearance) was in Yellow Canary, a 1943’s British spy movie. He, however, was uncredited. Paul Dupuis first important role was in 1945’s Johnny Frenchman, a film about a Breton Fisherman directed by Charles Frend and also starring Patricia Roc, Paul Walls and Françoise Rosay. It’s a screen-test arranged by his friend Gerry Wilmott (who also worked at Radio-Canada) who led him to obtain an important role in the film. Paul then became a revelation, both in Europe and in his native country, Canada, where the film was first screened at Imperial Theatre in Montreal in Spring 1946. Johnny Frenchman was praised for its quality. An article from Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin said about it that it had “a realism impossible to duplicate in Hollywood-made product.” The same journalist wrote that he and his co-star Patricia Roc were “natural and appealing as the British-French romantic pair.” Journalist Marc Thibeault also described him as a future big star of British Cinema in his article “Johnny Frenchman”, avec Paul Dupuis, une agréable surprise. Due to his success in the film, Paul Dupuis signed a long time contract with J. Arthur Rank in the 40’s.
From 1945 to 1951, he shot about 15 films in England, including The White Unicorn, Passport to Pimlico, Madness of the Heart, The Reluctant Widow and Sleeping Car to Trieste. For many of these roles, only goods were said about Paul Dupuis:
For their performance in the comedy-thriller Sleeping Car to Trieste, Paul Dupuis and his co-stars Derrick de Marney and Jean Kent were said to be “prominent in the action” in a Showmen’s Trade Review article of April 1949. Another article from the same magazine qualified his performance in Passport to Pimlico (June 1949) of “convincing”. Moreover, a July 1949’s article praised Paul Dupuis’ performance in Madness of the Heart (his second film alongside Margaret Lockwood, the first one being The White Unicorn) and said about it:”Paul Dupuis proves his ability with a sincere, clear-cut characterization as the French husband.” The film has its faults, but, like many Margaret Lockwood’s films from the 40’s, it was a commercial success. There is no doubt on the convincing performances of the actors: Paul the French gentleman, Margaret Lockwood, his blind wife, and Kathleen Byron as the mean and jealous woman. The film was directed by Charles Bennett, most well-remembered for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock as a screenwriter (Blackmail, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps, Sabotage, Secret Agent, Young & Innocent, Foreign Correspondent and Saboteur).
Paul’s career in Europe was not only spent in England, but also in France where he starred in L’Inconnue de Montréal, Les Pépés font la loi,Passion de femmes, etc.
Despite his success in Europe in the 40’s and 50’s, and his international reputation, Paul’s heart really belonged to Canada, and I believe the importance of his career, his unique persona was really created in his native country. In a June 1951’s article for Photo Journal, Paul Dupuis was quoted saying ” Il faut quitter le Canada pour l’apprécier. Je n’ai jamais été un immigré. Les années passées loin de mon pays on été pour moi des années d’exil, malgré le succès qu’on s’est plu à me reconnaître en Europe.” ( You have to quit Canada to appreciate it. I never was an immigrant. The years spent far from my country were for me years of exile, despite the success I had in Europe.). This was his answer to the question ” Why are you coming back?” (to Canada). Interestingly enough, after the shooting of Madness of the Heart, Paul had a desire to go back to Canada with a Norwegian Cargo (as the road was more adventurous), but he had to cancel as the boat reservations were already all booked and he was requested to star in the film The Romantic Age (Edmond T. Gréville, 1949)
Paul’s first film made in Quebec was La Forteresse, a 1946’s film directed by Fédor Ozep in which he plays the role of an author-compositor suspected of murder. His co-stars were Nicole Germain, Jacques Auger et Henri Letondal. The exteriors of the film were shot in Quebec City and Montmorency Falls. That’s the second Paul Dupuis’ film I saw and he didn’t fail to impress me.
In Canada, Paul was also seen in Étienne Brûlé, Gibier de Potence, Ti-Coq, or Les Belles Histoires des Pays d’en Haut at the television. Actually, if you mentioned Paul Dupuis to a Quebecois, it’s more likely Ti Coq and Les Belles Histoires that will ring a bell. These are the productions he is most well-remembered for here. He grabbed the attention of writer Claude-Henri Grignon, author of Un homme et son péché and that’s how he obtained the role of Arthur Buies in the radio version of the novel as well as the television adaptation (entitled Les Belles Histoires des Pays d’en Haut). I have to be honest, I never saw Paul in Les Belles histories, but I’ve heard only goods about it. Paul Dupuis himself liked the character and found him to be appealing. As for Ti-Coq, this cinematographic adaptation of Gratien Gélinas’ play (also director by Gélinas and also starring Gélinas in the leading role), his role is a small, but appreciable and convincing. What I like about it is that he inspires wisdom.
The theatre man
” Actually, I would like to appear in the theatre, but I would have to be sure that the play and the part are just right for me, otherwise I think such an experiment would do me harm than good.” (Paul Dupuis, interviewed by Anthony Firth for Picturegoer, 1949)
We all remember that Paul’s interest in acting started while he was an actor for Les Companions de St-Laurent. His onstage career, however, didn’t stop there. While he was in England, he played in West-End London’s theatres, but, once again, his artistic heart truly belonged to Canada. There, we saw him on stage in Ten Little Indians in 1953 (presented by the Canadian Players), Henri IV (as I mentioned it earlier), or again in Claudel-Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher in the role of Brother Dominic. The play was staged by Jan Doat ( stage director at l’opéra de Paris) and bandmaster Wilfrid Pelletier. The premiere took place at the Palais du Commerce in July 1952 and opened the Festival 1953. Paul was chosen by la Société des Festivals de Montréal to star in the play, alongside Claude Nollier.
Radio and television
In the 60’s, Paul Dupuis forged an important radio and television career in Canada, putting his cinematic career a bit aside. On the television, he was the animator of Voix de Femmes, a feminine magazine where Mme Françoise Gaudet-Smet was revealing to women the secret of a good housekeeper and where Thérèse Casgrain was defending women’s legal rights. He was also seen in the cinematographic television show : Billet de faveur. He often made important reportages for Radio-Canada, both on radio and television. I remember my uncle mentioning a coffee commercial with Paul Dupuis. I tried to find more information about it, but without success.
Apart from being recognized for his acting talent, his charm and his beauty, it seems that Paul Dupuis also had a magical speaking voice, which could surely assure him a successful radio career. Journalist Fernand Côté, said of Paul Dupuis that he was excellent to read texts and to give them all their “flavour and texture” and that he had a “convincing voice tone”. His voice was also said to be “amused, malicious and tragic”. On the radio, Paul Dupuis played the role of Julien Bédard in Jeunesse Doré, was the narrator of Une demie heure aver… directed by Madeleine Gérôme, reader for the special program of l’Organisation des mesures d’urgence, narrator for the show about the arctic Au Pays du Long Sommeil by André Morin (although I’m not sure if this was a television or a radio show…), animator for Billet de Faveur, etc.
Despite his success on the radio and television in the 60’s, Paul Dupuis mysteriously put and end to his career in 1970. In 1976, he was found dead at the Nymark hotel in St-Sauveur, where he lived. He was only 60. He was buried at the Côte-des-Neiges Cemetery. Now, I’m a bit confused by the subject since, an article from The Montreal Gazette says that he died of natural causes, while Claude Jasmin, writer and once Paul Dupuis’s neighbour, implicitly mentions a suicide in his blogging article ” Mort à St-Sauveur”. The writer mentions Paul’s difficult character (which led him on the “blacklist”), alcoholic problems and his career downfall (which could indeed eventually lead to a suicide). Is it all true? Just like the man, I think this will remain a mystery and for the moment the sources on the subject are a bit limited. However, Paul Dupuis was much more than that, and he will always be remembered for the goods he brought to journalism, cinema, radio and television.
Yes, because Paul Dupuis was much more than a simple actor, he was a real personality, one of a kind. Interestingly enough, when he was criticized about his look, his answer on the subject was a bit similar to Ingrid Bergman’s one: while being interviewed by Anthony Firth for Picturegoer in 1949, he said to the journalist “At the beginning of my career, I have been told that my nose is not right to which I only answer: so what? I do not consider myself a glamour boy of the screen, and if my nose can stop me from becoming a good actor then I might as well look for another profession.” Well, take me like I am or don’t take me at all! That’s the spirit. Paul loved his acting profession and it was much more about talent than physical look for him. However, don’t get me wrong, he was often known as “the handsome Paul Dupuis”.
Paul had a unique personality. Known as a very private man, he inspired both fear and respect, was a man of fine tastes, an independent, he was very polite, etc. Paul didn’t like to talk about himself, but he loved talking about his passions and interest. He appreciated music and his tastes were various: while he enjoyed Gregorian chants or Mozart, he also found a real revelation in blues and rock and roll, especially with Elvis Presley’s music. Paul also loved to read, especially authors of the 18e century. He loved nature, car rides (for him, to drive from St-Sauveur to Montreal and vice versa every day was not a problem), animals (especially horses and dogs), etc. His other hobbies were squash, singing, but what he liked to most was painting, as it is written in Anthony Firth’s article. Paul also was an eccentric of his own kind. For example, as it is revealed by Fernand Côté, if he has to go to the Place des Arts (an important concert hall in Montreal) after a day of horse riding, he would go wearing horse riding’s outfit! Fernando Côté also said of Paul Dupuis that, despite some of his life challenges, he chose meditation and reflection instead of wickedness and aggressively. Paul was a wise and thoughtful man.
As you can see, it is quite surprising that Paul Dupuis is a bit forgotten today, despite his success while he was alive. If I’ve seen only three of his films: Madness of the Heart, La Forteresse, and Ti-Coq, it’s really by reading all these articles about him that I became a fan. I mean, he was such a brilliant man!
I recently bought on eBay this autograph!
And also this old magazine with Paul on the front page.
I hope I succeed to give you an accurate life portrait of this magnificent French-Canadian man. It required a lot of research, which I had, fortunately, mostly done before I even
consider writing this article. If you wish to watch his films, why don’t you do like me and start with Madness of the Heart? 😉
When I think about the fact that William Holden is now my second favourite actor (after James Stewart), it makes me realize how a person’s tastes can change. We’re celebrating today what would have been his 98th anniversary and, for the occasion, I’m hosting my first William Holden Blogathon, aka The Golden Boy Blogathon. For my contribution, I’m going to explain how he became a favourite of mine, and why.
First time I saw William Holden on screen, it was in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina released in 1954. That was a good thing to start with as Holden was a Billy Wilder’s favourite, having starred in four of his films (Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Sabrina and Fedora). Only, I decided to watch this film for Audrey Hepburn. As I wasn’t looking for him, I didn’t really pay attention to his acting (not to admit that I didn’t really care for him at the time and not to mention that his role in this film is not my favourite). Anyway, I then saw some other films with him: The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957) and The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Mark Robson, 1954). But, once again, I was paying attention to some other actors and not to him. Poor Bill! How I was cruel to him!
Title: BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE ¥ Pers: HOLDEN, WILLIAM ¥ Year: 1957 ¥ Dir: LEAN, DAVID ¥ Ref: BRI016DR ¥ Credit: [ COLUMBIA / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]
But, one day, I borrowed Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950) at my school library. I can still see myself looking at the dvd cover to see the names of the actors who were starring in this film. When I saw Holden’s name, I said to myself “Him again! I think I should pay more attention to him this time.” Of course, I had too as he is the main actor in this film…
I didn’t regret because Sunset Boulevard is the film that made him a favourite of mine. Immediately after I saw this film, I put him on my favourite actor’s list. I still think his performance in this film is one of his best. It’s so… honest! He was nominated for an Oscar, but lost it to José Ferrer for his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac.
Of course, he wasn’t very high on my favourite actors’ list, but he was here, so that’s the most important. Anyway, as I enjoyed him in Sunset Boulevard it made me want to watch more of his films. If you remember, last year, I even did a William Holden’s marathon and watched 15 of his films, plus Sunset Boulevard again and that hilarious I Love Lucy’s episode! And I watched three more for the blogathon. So, with a total of 25 films viewed, he his the actor from whom I have seen the most films.
After I did my marathon, I put him on the 5th place in my favourite actor’s list. But the more I was thinking about him, the more I was fond of him and couldn’t resist putting him in the second position. Seriously, he is really fantastic (and quite handsome too, we have to admit it)!
So, when I think that, now, he is my second favourite actor of all times and I used to “not care” about him, I really laugh at myself.
Actually, there are several reasons why he is a favourite of mine. One of the first is his versatility as an actor. To me, he will always be one of the most verstatile actors to have ever grace the screen. Of course, it’s by seeing many of his films that I realized that. He could play a tough guy (The Wild Bunch), a sensible one (Our Town), both in the same film (Golden Boy). He could be romantic (Dear Ruth) or not really (Sabrina). He could be serious (The Devil’s Brigade, Sunset Boulevard) or funny (The Remarkable Andrew), and even more. And he excelled at transmitting to us all this myriade of emotions.
He was even good at playing himself! Look at him in this I Love Lucy‘s episode: William Holden playing William Holden in an humorous way is one of the best things that ever happened to classic television.
Of course, something about William Holden that makes me completely gaga is his irresistible smile. *Sight*… He’s such a cutie pie when he smiles. I wish he was my neighbour you know. And he had the perfect ability to not only smiles with his mouth, but also with his eyes. Those beautiful blue eyes. Of course, physical appearance is not the most important thing about an actor, talent is, but I HAVE to say it: I have a big crush on him!! I love men with dark hair and blue eyes (and an irresistible smile). So Holden is pretty much the perfect model.
Except his acting talent and his beauty, I have to say Bill began to have a very important place in my heart when I saw him in one of his very early films: Golden Boy. Thanks to his co-star Barbara Stanwyck, to whom William Holden will always be her “Golden Boy”, who recognize her talent, he was able to be accepted in the world of movie stars. We don’t remember him much for this film, but it played an important role in his career. Not to mention that it was his first credited film. As he is my age in this film (21), I can sort of identity to him (and also because he plays violin and I used to play the violin). Talking about violin, there this scene which is for me one of the most touching of Bill’s career. Bill as Joe Bonaparte is back home and discovers the violin his father (Lee J. Cobb) had bought to him for his birthday. He is marvelled by this musical treasure and can’t resist playing. When he plays, there’s so much softness, so much tenderness in him. Then his family and a neighbour come to listen to him. His father has tears in his eyes when he sees him doing what he loves. We wished this beautiful and emotional scene would last forever! With his Bambi eyes, all we want is to take care of this golden boy.
I read, in one of the articles for the blogathon, that William Holden often played very independent characters. I pretty much agree. We feel he knows what he wants and will find a way to do it. Yes, he can succumb to the temptation like in Sunset Boulevard or Golden Boy, but he knows how to say no, no matter what the consequences are. Our Golden Boy certainly knew how to transmit an unique and strong personality to each one of his characters.
He, of course, started his career very young (in his early 20s) and ended it in his early 60s when he passed away. If Barbara Stanwyck, THE Barbara Stanwyck, believed in him, it’s because he indeed had something to give to us. He grew up and the screen grew with him. He took an important and significant maturity, but that never shadowed his earlier performances that sculptured his talent. Holden was one of the actors who knew perfectly how to travel in time. When the cinema modernized itself, he modernized himself with him. He’s one of these timeless actors, you know.
I told you previously that I didn’t know that much about William Holden’s personal life. That’s true. I haven’t read a biography about him and concentrated more on his films. The stuff I know about his personal life mostly is what everybody already knows: his relations with Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, his wedding to Brenda Marshall and, unfortunately, his tragic death due to reasons that I don’t want to talk about today as I’m here to honour him. Because that’s the thing: I think today William Holden would have liked to be remembered for the good he gave to this world and the history of cinema. Oh, Golden Holden was so devoted to his profession! I read about it very recently in an article from April 1956’s Photoplay written by his personal secretary. She explains how much he did for his job, too much, and how stimulating it was to work for him. He was also very independent in real life and didn’t need a servant to bring him his coffee. He wasn’t lazy, that’s for sure!
William Holden’s talent was recognized by the Academy in 1954 when they gave him a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953). Being rushed for a time’s matter, his acceptance speech is known has one of the shortest of film history, being limited to “Thanks you! Thank you!” I honestly hate the Academy for having put such pressure on him. Maybe he had important things to say! We don’t win an Oscar every night. Poor Bill, he seemed so shy. Fortunately, he seemed to have a good sense of humour. The following year, when he was presenting the Best Actress Oscar, he made a joke by saying to the public “As I was going to say last year… [Bob Hope comes whispering in his hear. He looks at his watch]…Well, time is running short again” (!) This night, he gave the Oscar to Grace Kelly, who were her co-star in The Country Girl (George Seaton, 1954). Oh! His smile when he read her name! We know he was happy for her!
Stalag 17 was William Holden’s only Oscar. He also was nominated for his performances in Sunset Boulevard and Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976). This last one proving that, 25 years after his first nomination, he hadn’t lost is talent.
I don’t know where our Golden Boy is now, but he surely is in each heart of those who love and loved him: his family, his friends, his girlfriends and even his fans. He is not with us anymore, but he would probably have been thrilled to know that people still find a way to honour him. Giving him the right remembrance was very important to me, that’s why I created the Golden Boy Blogathon. I invite you to read all the marvellous entries by clicking on the following link:
Frank Sinatra, who was one of the most acclaimed crooner of music history, would have been 100 on December 12, 2015. The man wasn’t only a great singer, but also a swell actor. One of his most acclaimed performances was the one in From Here to Eternity for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. From Here to Eternity is one of those films that, before I saw it for the first time, thought I would like it, but finally loved it. It’s now among my very favourite films. It has so many qualities and one of them is the actor performances. Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed and Deborah Kerr all give memorable performances and, without the shadow of a doubt, Frank greatly deserved his award.
I’m happy to write about his performance in this film, because I’m participating to the Sinatra Centennial Blogathon hosted by Movie Classics and The Vintage Cameo. The event takes place from December 10 to December 13, 2015. All the participating blogs are celebrating Sinatra’s 100th birthday each in their own way. I could have been more original and talk about one of his less known work, but, somehow, I had to write about From Here to Eternity. You see, it’s because of this film and this performance that he became a favourite of mine.
From Here to Eternity was based on the successful novel by James Jones. It was directed by Fred Zinneman (High Noon, The Men, The Nun’s Story, A Man for all Seasons) and released in 1953. It was a success by being one of the most successful films of the decade at the box office. It also won no less than 8 Academy Awards: Best Picture (Buddy Adler), Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Screenplay (Daniel Taradash), Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Best Cinematography Black and White (Burnett Guffey), best film editing (William A. Lyon) and Best Sound Recording (John P. Livadary). It also was nominated for Best Actor (twice: Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster), Best Actress (Deborah Kerr), Best Costume Design (black and white: Jean Louis) and Best Score (George Duning and Morris Stoloff).
The story takes place at Schofield Barrack on Oahnu, a Hawaiian island. We are at the beginning of the war in 1941. Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt had just been transferred to this barrack. Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) had heard that he is a boxing champion and wants him in his regimental team, but Prewitt refuses. He had decided to quit boxing having been responsible of a tragic accident. However, Holmes is not ready to give up, but Prewitt is a hard head. On its arrival, Prewitt finds his friend Private Angelio Maggio (Frank Sinatra) who will always be there to support him against Holmes’ pressure. He then meets his superior First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster). Warden doesn’t seem to appreciate Prewitt at first, but he learns to, and a seems to somehow admire Prewitt’s stubbornness. One night, Prewire and Maggio are out in a club, Prew (as they call him) meets Alma “Lorene” Burke (Donna Reed) and falls in love with her. On his side, Warden his having and affair with Captain Holmes’s wife, Karen (Deborah Kerr). They are both in love with each others, but this isn’t an easy relation.
In his first appearance in the film as Maggio, Frank Sinatra is introduced to us as the “nice guy”. We can’t really see if he’s giving a good performance after only a few lines, but we can guess he would be the “character we want to be friend with”. And that’s what exactly who Maggio is. He is a real pal to Prew, but also to us because. We can easily say he is, in a way, the character we appreciate the most from the beginning until the end. But unfortunately, Maggio is also the guy who gets easily into trouble. As a matter of fact, they all do, especially him and Prew. That’s probably why they get along so well.
Before starring in this film, Franks Sinatra was most well-known for his roles in comedies or musicals. Thanks to Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift’s help, he improved his dramatic acting abilities during the shooting of this film. Franks Sinatra was very grateful to them and remained a long time friend with Burt Lancaster. This shooting was also a certain test for him, considering what he was going through in his personal life. His marriage with Ava Gardner was indeed at its end. I always thought that it was quite a tour de force for an actor or an actress to give a brilliant acting performance when things aren’t going very happily his/her life. That makes me think of my article I wrote about Laurence Olivier’s performance in Spartacus for the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Blogathon. When he shot this film, his relation with Vivien Leigh was coming at his end, and it was not an easy moment for him and Vivien, considering Vivien’s mental illness. But, he worked hard and gave an unforgettable performance.
But let’s get back to Frank Sinatra. In only one movie, from the beginning until the end, he manages to prove us that he was indeed able to be a versatile actor, going in the comic emotions and then the more dramatic ones. We can easily say that he is the funniest one in the film and gives to Maggio a great sense of humour and comedy. He knew how to express his comic lines in the right tone, with the right emotions and gestures to make us laugh. This is not a comedy, but laughs never hurt. Actually, Frank Sinatra’s performance makes this film alive. Not that it wouldn’t be a good film without him, but it would be different, something would be missing you see.
As much as he knew how to play the nice guy, Frank Sinatra was also able to prove us that he could get angry sometimes. This is more obvious in this scene in the bar where he gets involved in a violent argument with Staff Sergeant “Fatso” Judson (Ernest Borgnine). This is how he would start to get involved into trouble. Frank Sinatra is quite convincing in this scene. We believe in his anger.
During his last appearance in the film [SPOILER ALERTE], Frank Sinatra plays his dramatic card. This is indeed one of the saddest scenes of From Here to Eternity: having previously deserted his post, Maggio is sent to the barrack jail. Unfortunately for him, Fatso is in charge of it. In his last scene, Maggio has just escaped from the jail, but has been beaten to death by Fatso. Prew arrives at the same time. Maggio dies in his arms. Those moments in cinema when a friend dies in another friend’s arms are always heartbreaking (I’m suddenly thinking of Forrest Gump). Why? Because it seems unfair to loose a friend in such a cruel way. Of course, this works only if both actors are credible. Frank and Montgomery are. This scene is very short, very simple. Frank Sinatra doesn’t over act. We almost feel he is really dying. That’s the end of Maggio and, just like Prew, we feel terribly lonely by his absence. [END OF SPOILER]
If you look at this clip where Frank Sinatra wins his Oscar, the crowd seems really enthusiast about it. Even Mercedes McCambridge, who was presenting the award, jumps of joy when she names him! He deserved it.
Frank Sinatra doesn’t sing in From Here to Eternity. As a matter of fact, the musical side of this film is embodied by Montgomery Clift’s character who plays trumpet. He doesn’t sing, but he acts. And his acting is as much good as his singing, and that means a lot.
I remember, I was first introduced to Franks Sinatra as a singer when I was a child, because my parents were (and still are) always listening to his album “My Way”. And then, I think I first saw him in Guys and Dolls. However, it’s really by watching From Here to Eternity that I started having a biggest interest in him, both as a singer and an actor. Now I’m always happy when my parents are listening to this “My Way” album! Frank Sinatra really was one of a kind.
A big thanks to our host blogs Movie Classics and The Vintage Cameo for having such a great blogathon idea. Of course, I invite you to read the other lovely entries. Just click here: