Monday Movie Rundown ~ Inherit the Wind #moviereview @meganslayer

Monday Movie Rundown Banner This week I thought I’d talk about an oldie but goodie movie I’ve seen a couple of times, but haven’t watched recently until this past weekend. Inherit the Wind is a must-see movie.

In the movie, which takes place in the early part of the twentieth century, a teacher was taken to task for teaching evolution in school. Now today this would seem ridiculous. We’ve all learned about evolution. We learn science. But all those years ago, the church was the thing and the only way children were taught until secondary school. Science was considered…questionable. Can you imagine questioning science? But arguing that creationism was real…it happened. This movie tells a version (it’s a thinly veiled version of the debates between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan and the teacher is based on a real person, John Thomas Scopes – hence the references in the marketing material about the Scopes Monkey trial) of the trial involving that teacher and those who wanted to bring him down.

Besides seeing actors I know from other situations – Col Potter from MASH is there, Darren from Bewitched, Mr Roeper from Three’s Company as well as Gene Kelly – there is the fantastic speech given by Spencer Tracy most of the way through the film, was very taxing on Tracy and done in one take. When you consider it was done in one take and all at one time…it boggled my mind.

Although the players in the movie aren’t real, they are based on real people. This movie is one to watch more than once and to discuss. Why? The moral of the story is when we fear something and don’t take the time to try to understand, we just might be hosing ourselves over.

Wednesday Book Review ~ Dorothy Dandridge by Donald Bogle

DOROTHYDorothy Dandridge — like Marilyn and Liz–was a dream goddess of the fifties. All audiences ever had to do was take one look at her — in a nightclub, on television, or in the movies — and they were hooked. She was unforgettable, Hollywood’s first full-fledged African American movie star.

This definitive biography — exhaustively researched — presents the panoramic dimensions of this extraordinary and ultimately tragic life. Talented from the start, Dorothy Dandridge began her career as a little girt in Cleveland in an act that her mother Ruby, an actress and comedienne, created for her and her sister Vivian. By the time she reached her teens, she was working in such Hollywood movies as Going Places with Louis Armstrong and A Day at the Races with the Marx Brothers. She also appeared at New York’s Cotton Club in a trio called The Dandridge Sisters, but soon went solo, determined to make a name for herself. She became one of the most dazzling and sensational nightclub performers around, all the white breaking down racial barriers by integrating some of America’s hottest venues.

But she wanted more. Movie stardom was her dream. And she got it. Dandridge broke through the glass ceiling of Tinseltown to win an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for her lead role in Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones. Other films such as Porgy and Bess, Island in the Sun, and Tamango would follow and the media would take notice. In an industry that was content to use Black women as comic mammy figures, Dorothy Dandridge emerged as a leading lady, a cultural icon, and a sizzling sex symbol.

She seemed to have everything: glamour, wealth, romance and success. But the reality was fraught with contradiction and illusion. She became a dramatic actress unable to secure dramatic roles. While she had many gifts to offer, Hollywood would not be the taker.

As her professional frustrations grew, so did her personal demons. After two unhappy marriages — her first to the great dancer Harold Nicholas — a string of unfulfilling, love affairs, and the haunting tragedy of her daughter Lynn, she found herself emotionally and financially — bankrupt. She ultimately lost all hope and was found dead from an overdose of antidepressant pills at the age of 42.

Drawing on extensive research and unique interviews with Dorothy Dandridge’s friends and associates, her directors and confidantes, film historian Donald Bogle captures the real-life drama of Dandridge’s turbulent life; but he does so much more.This biography documents the story of a troubled but strong family of women and vividly recreates Dandridge’s relationships with an array of personalities such as Otto Preminger, Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Peter Lawford, Ava Gardner, and many more. Always at the center though is Dorothy Dandridge, magnetic and compelling.

Donald Bogle — better than anyone else — goes beyond the surface of one woman’s seemingly charmed life to reveal the many textured layers of her strength and vulnerability, her joy and her pain, her trials and her triumphs.

I’ve heard the name Dorothy Dandridge many times. I’m from northern Ohio and she’s a cult figure there because she, like Halle Berry, made it big. But I didn’t know much about Dandridge. I’d seen pictures of her and knew she was a star, but who was this woman?

That’s where this book comes into play. I’d watched the documentary, Jazz, by Ken Burns and in the course of the episodes, Dandridge’s name was mentioned. I’m the kind of person that when I hear the name, I want to know more. But not just a simple internet search. I love my library and went there.

Bogle covers all of her life. There aren’t any glossed over portions and he’s candid about who this woman was. She wanted a happy life. She wanted to be happy and to have the love of her life. Bogle touches on her marriages, her struggle with her daughter–who was special needs before special needs was a thing–and her problems with drugs.

Dandridge is fascinating in her drive. She let very few things hold her back. When she wanted something, she went for it. Of course she dealt with racial discrimination, but the way she did, with grace and aplomb, was interesting. She held her head high when others might have cowered.

This isn’t a short read. It’s long and detailed, but it’s so fascinating. I didn’t breeze through it, but once I dove in, I had the book devoured in a matter of days. Check it out for yourself.

@MeganSlayer ‘s Wednesday Book Review ~ The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd by Michelle Morgan

Every so often, I’ll post about books I’ve read. Mostly these aren’t in my writing genre. Why? Everyone needs a break and to read for pleasure. This is one of those reviews. I’m a sucker for old Hollywood bios and this one was no different.

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A beloBLONDEved film comedienne who worked alongside the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and dozens of others, Thelma Todd was a rare Golden Age star who successfully crossed over from silent films to talkies. This authoritative new biography traces Todd’s life from a vivacious little girl who tried to assuage her parents’ grief over her brother’s death, to an aspiring teacher turned reluctant beauty queen, to an outspoken movie starlet and restaurateur.

Increasingly disenchanted with Hollywood, in 1934 Todd opened Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café, a hot spot that attracted fans, tourists, and celebrities. Despite success in film and business, privately the beautiful actress was having a difficult year–receiving disturbing threats from a stranger known as the Ace and having her home ransacked–when she was found dead in a garage near her café. An inquest concluded that her death, at age just twenty-nine, was accidental, but in a thorough new investigation that draws on interviews, photographs, documents, and extortion notes–much of these not previously available to the public–Michelle Morgan offers a compelling new theory, suggesting the sequence of events on the night of her death and arguing what many people have long suspected: that Thelma was murdered.

But by whom?

The suspects include Thelma’s movie-director lover, her would-be-gangster ex-husband, and the thugs who were pressuring her to install gaming tables in her popular café–including a new, never-before-named mobster. This fresh examination on the eightieth anniversary of the star’s death is sure to interest any fan of Thelma Todd, of Hollywood’s Golden Age, or of gripping real-life murder mysteries.

I’ve always loved the work of Thelma Todd. She’s a riot on screen and one of the gems Hollywood didn’t get to use nearly enough. When I saw this biography was available, I had to read it.

The author did her homework on Todd. I not only loved Todd more, I respected her as a person and businesswoman. Oh, sure. She had her moments, but who doesn’t?

The writing flowed well. Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. Nope. I had to know how it would end–okay, I knew…, but I wanted to see how the author put her spin on telling the tale.

My one quibble with the book was the author’s tendency to add speculation into the writing. No one knows exactly how Todd died. There are theories and she did suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, but how she got there…it seemed like the author spent more time wondering than finding more information. Still, it was a good read and I’m glad I did.