Diary of a Lost Girl


Diary of a Lost Girl, the second of Georg Wilhelm Pabst's productive collaborations with Louise Brooks, is a potent and gorgeously stylized depiction of an innocent young woman's destruction at the hands of the not-so-innocent. Brooks plays Thymian, a beautiful and sheltered pharmacist's daughter whose dawning realization about the cruel ways of the world coincides with the loss of the security of her family. The opening of the film enacts a lurid symbolic struggle between innocence and sin, naïveté and knowledge. Brooks' Thymian, dressed all in white on the occasion of her confirmation, her eyes wide beneath the iconic ridge of her dark bangs, looks around her with a complete lack of guile, sweetly accepting presents from family and friends, glowing with courtesy and grace.

She seems entirely unaware of all the sexually charged glances being exchanged all around her: the exaggerated leer of her father's assistant Meinert (Fritz Rasp) who all but licks his lips and bulges his eyes like a cartoon wolf when he looks at her; her father's (Josef Rovensky) sexual liaisons with one maid after another; her aunt's (Vera Pawlowa) grim knowledge of these constant affairs; the knowing glances and raised eyebrows of the party guests when they see the new maid Meta (Franziska Kinz), who brazenly stares at her employer with an invitingly wicked smile that openly suggests that the cycle is going to start again. Everyone but Thymian seems to know exactly what's going on, but she is blissfully unaware of the sexual drama surrounding her.

In her pure white confirmation dress, a band of flowers wrapped around her head, she's a vision of innocence so pure and unstained that the mere realization that sin and sexual predation exist in her household produces a fainting spell, confining her to bed as though she's taken ill. She sees the corpse of her beloved maid — who'd committed suicide after being abandoned by Thymian's father — then runs up the stairs in a daze, sees her father with his arm already around the new maid, both of them staring at the camera in a frozen pose, a sly smile on the face of the new maid in contrast to the serene blankness of the dead girl downstairs, and in one fluid motion Thymian swoons to the floor, overcome by the taint of impurity infiltrating her home.


This is only the beginning of Thymian's suffering, as Meinert takes advantage of her vulnerability and rapes her. Pabst freezes the frame at the moment when the creepy druggist lowers Thymian's limp form into bed, and then immediately cuts to a baby carriage being taken out of Thymian's room, months later, carrying the fruit of that forceful union. Thymian's family casts her out, and she's sent to a reformatory, which she soon escapes with her friend Erika (Edith Meinhard), only to fall into a life of prostitution. The man she believes is going to save her, the disgraced and disinherited Count Osdorff (André Roanne), is actually a lazy and pathetic outcast who settles easily into a life of comfort at the brothel with Thymian and Erika. Pabst, though, doesn't portray the brothel as an entirely unpleasant life; the girls have fun and like each other, and Thymian certainly seems happier and better off there than she was under the care of the strict Christian moralists at the reformatory.

The reformatory is run by a stern mistress (Valeska Gert) whose usually stony face betrays an expression of ecstatic joy when whipping the girls through a frenzied gymnastics routine, and a bald-headed, looming movie monster giant (Andrews Engelmann) who first pops comically into the frame by standing up in front of a sign listing the many things that are "verboten" in this dismal place. This cartoonish giant delights in punishing the girls, grabbing them with a clawed hand at the scruff of their neck as though picking up a disobedient puppy, and his leering sadism is both creepy and hysterical — particularly when he runs a confiscated tube of lipstick across his own mouth, grinning impishly, then uses it to write a reminder to punish the girl he'd taken it from, a note signed with a heart to indicate his sadistic love of punishment.

Lesbian eroticism is another obvious subtext here, especially in the reformatory, where most of the girls have clipped, close-cropped boyish haircuts, and Erika introduces herself to Thymian by surreptitiously touching the new girl's leg with her foot and winking at her, echoing Meinert's leering winks. At bedtime, as Pabst pans down the line of girls getting ready for bed, two girls sit in the same bunk, giggling, and fall back into bed together. The scene where the matron tries to seize Thymian's diary is also loaded with suggestive intimacy, with the stern woman grabbing at Erika's bare legs, looking up at the two girls sitting in the top bunk, grasping at them with clawed hands. Later, when Thymian visits Erika at the brothel where she's staying, Pabst emphasizes the brothel's madame putting an intimate hand on the bare back of one of her girls — the gesture is repeated when the madame pushes Thymian together with a male client to dance — and then has Erika kneel before Thymian, taking off her shoes and undressing her, unbuttoning her demure reformatory blouse with its high collar to expose a V of flesh at her neck.


The film is steeped in this kind of sexual suggestiveness. Thymian's downfall has everything to do with sex and money, and sex and money come to be linked in very intimate ways for her. After her first night at the brothel, after she's spent the night with a man — swooning in his arms so that her limp form very much recalls her unconsciousness during Meinert's exploitation of her — the madame hands her an envelope of cash and makes it clear that it's from the man. Only then does the very naïve Thymian realize what's happened, and she recoils from the cash, which Pabst nevertheless emphasizes in a closeup. Much later, when her father dies and she receives an inheritance from Meinert for buying out the pharmacy, the camera glances from the pile of cash to Meinert's smug, cartoonishly grinning face, making it seem as though this too is a transaction, a belated payment for that long ago night when he'd taken her to bed.

It's not all grim tragedy here, though, and there's some limited comedy relief along the way. Among the humorous scenes is a very strange sequence where a goofy guy with a billy-goat beard (a possible anti-Semitic caricature) comes to see Thymian for "dance lessons," and she leads him in a bizarre calisthenic workout inspired by her reformatory exercise drills, while holding a drum protectively/suggestively over her crotch and beating it with a mallet in the way the reformatory mistress had done. The sexual symbolism is especially naked here, but those undercurrents are everywhere in this film.

The plot unravels a bit towards the end with a predictable tonal shift towards an optimistic, redemptive conclusion, seemingly foisted upon Pabst by censors eager to end on a positive note after all this barely coded sex. Even here, though, Pabst's emotional poetry shines through. The film is never less than beautiful, its style fluid and expressionist while also remaining grounded in social realism. And Brooks is just magnificent, with a beautiful and vibrant face that was perfectly suited to the silent cinema. When she smiles, the screen glows, and when she's suffering her eyes seem to contain unimaginable depths of feeling, often assisted by Pabst's very sympathetic photography of her, as in the stunning shot where she stares out a rain-streaked window, the raindrops on the glass standing in for her tears.

Posted in Cinema

Magnificent Obsession


Douglas Sirk was a master of the lurid Hollywood melodrama, transcending often outrageous and contrived material with the sheer force of the emotion and the visual rigor that he invested in these stories. In films like All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind, Sirk found profundity and great beauty in what would have been trash in the hands of others. In Magnificent Obsession, a forerunner to the Jane Wyman/Rock Hudson pairing of All That Heaven Allows, not even Sirk can truly transcend what must be one of the worst plots and the worst screenplays in Hollywood history, a ridiculous pile-up of contrivances and silly plot twists in the service of a saccharine Christian-themed drama. It's a clunky and deeply strange film, and its absurd narrative prevents it from ever really being great, though Sirk's mise en scène and keen eye for painting in Technicolor elevate it at least to the level of a campy, emotionally intense tearjerker.

The story concerns the redemption of the callow playboy Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson), who gets a wake-up call when his boating accident indirectly causes the death of a prominent, well-loved local doctor because an important piece of medical equipment was being used to treat Bob when the doctor had a heart attack. Bob falls in love with the doctor's widow Helen (Jane Wyman), but his clumsy attempts to pursue her — using a bastardized version of the philosophy of Christian charity practiced by her husband, and taught to Bob by the husband's friend Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger) — only results in further tragedy, when an accident leaves Helen blind. It's soapy in the extreme, particularly when Bob dedicates his life to medicine, becoming a doctor and using his wealth and his knowledge in an attempt to cure Helen's blindness even as he courts the blind woman (who apparently doesn't recognize his voice) under the laughable assumed name of Robby Robinson. Once one starts trying to pick apart the plot, it's difficult to stop, so it's best to just let it be, to try to overlook the unending cavalcade of absurdities and foolishness and sudden emotional reversals, to focus instead on the undeniably rapturous power of Sirk and cinematographer Russell Metty's images, which are as always some of the finest examples of Technicolor extravagance.

Sirk makes this insane plot come alive with the sensuous power of his images. Resonating with the theme of literal and metaphorical blindness, Sirk continually bathes the characters in alternating blocks of light and shadow, draping the film in darkness. Walking across a room, they step into the light for a moment and are then swallowed up again in darkness, the shadows falling across faces and erasing features into black silhouettes in the night. For all his obvious love of bright, pastel colors, Sirk seems equally at home in inky blackness, stretching shadows across the frame so that the characters are perpetually shuttling back and forth between seeing and unseeing, between flashes of light and dark pools in which nothing can be seen. When Helen visits Switzerland for a barrage of tests with some famed eye surgeons, her face is totally profiled in shadow until the doctor pans a small light across her face, highlighting each of her eyes in turn, creating a tiny circle of light, a pinprick reflected in her shining eye.


This approach reaches its apex with the scene where Bob takes Helen out for a romantic evening. The whole sequence is draped in these kinds of shadows, simultaneously creating a sumptuously romantic mood and suggesting a visual analogue for Helen's blindness, the darkness all around them shading their faces, hiding them from one another. As they dance together, they twirl and their faces are alternately shaded and lit up, passing in and out of the shadows with each turn. Sirk's aesthetic has a meticulousness that works against the raw, oversized emotions of his material. At one point, Helen, blind, picks her way across a darkened room, carefully feeling for obstacles and making her way slowly through the shadow-strewn room, until she comes to a balcony where her extended hand knocks a potted plant off the ledge. The camera follows the plant's fall down to the street below, where it shatters with a loud crack, triggering Helen's breakdown at precisely that instant, as though a starter's pistol had been fired.

In another scene, when Bob is about to perform the climactic surgery that will inevitably restore Helen's sight and redeem him from his careless and wasteful past, he hesitates until he looks up to the viewing gallery, where he sees Randolph, this film's kindly incarnation of God, looking down on them with a benevolent smile, the operating table and the doctors around it reflected in the glass around Randolph. He then steps away, satisfied that Bob will perform this task, and Sirk holds the shot of the now-empty viewing gallery, the operating room still reflected in it, visually communicating that God has done his work of inspiration, and the rest of the task must be left to the hands of man.

The film is rich in this kind of loaded visual symbolism. Sirk often transcends the frankly stupid plot with the sheer emotional power of his images, which crackle with vitality and feeling even when the twists and turns of the script barely make a bit of sense. But, even though Sirk often worked with such lousy material, and routinely transformed it into masterpieces, here, for whatever reason, he can't quite perform that miracle. The result is a film that's as visually beautiful as one would expect, and often seething with raw and over-the-top emotion, but never comes together on the multiple levels that characterize Sirk's best work.

Posted in Cinema

Under Capricorn


Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn is one of the director's more divisive films, but it certainly doesn't deserve its unflattering reputation. This lavish period melodrama, set in 1800s Australia, might be deliberately paced, but it's as emotionally, psychologically and formally complex as any of the director's best work. The core of the film is a twisted three-way relationship that develops between the wealthy ex-convict Sam (Joseph Cotten), his disturbed, alcoholic wife Hattie (Ingrid Bergman), and Charles (Michael Wilding), who had known Hattie as a boy in Ireland and claims to Sam that he can awaken Hattie from her self-destructive, near-insane mental state. Indeed, the charming Charles is able to shake Hattie out of her stasis and mental collapse, but he also preys on her, seducing her away from her husband even as he cures her. Sam watches this situation unfold, glowering and brooding, under the watchful eye of his maid Milly (Margaret Leighton), who obviously desires Sam and resents his wife. There's a dark history here that slowly, patiently unfurls, but the emphasis throughout is not really on narrative, past or present, but on the churning, potent emotions of the protagonists and the engulfing visual style that Hitchcock springs like a trap around the characters.

Hitchcock made this film immediately after the long-take formal experiment of Rope, and he applies a similar aesthetic here, albeit not quite as rigorously. This was Hitchcock's only collaboration with Powell/Pressburger cinematographer Jack Cardiff, whose sumptuous use of color and glossy, unreal aesthetic is a perfect complement to Hitchcock, and especially to the particular qualities of this lush period drama. Using the unbroken take style of Rope, Hitchcock and Cardiff hold shots for minutes at a time, the camera unmoored, drifting around the rooms of Sam's palatial home, its gentle movements subtly but definitively defining the relationships between the characters. Who's in the frame and who's not means everything in this film, particularly in terms of the central love triangle, as Charles' friendship with and seduction of Hattie increasingly pushes her own husband out of the picture, shunting him off to the side.

In the first scene where Charles and Hattie meet, she wanders, drunk and dazed, into one of her husband's dinner parties and sits down at the head of the table. Charles holds her chair for her and then sits next to her, leaving his own spot at the table. Once Charles sits down by Hattie's side, it's as though there's no longer anyone else at the table; Hitchcock maintains a two-shot of them as she reminiscences about the past, occasionally glancing across the table, presumably at her unseen husband, but Hitchcock doesn't cut away, doesn't show the reaction of the others to this immediate intimacy, doesn't show anyone else or have anyone else even talk again until Hattie stands up and the camera tracks to follow her, past the others at the table, as Charles walks her to the staircase leading back to her room.


Later, when Hattie dictates a letter to Charles' sister, Hitchcock again keeps the camera on the two of them, Sam forgotten outside the frame, until the camera begins tracking away from Charles and Hattie, past her husband's now abandoned place setting, through the empty room, finally finding Sam, walking away, his back to the camera, in the hallway, as the image fades to black. It's as though, when Charles and Hattie are together, everything else fades away, forgotten, the triangle becoming a two-shot, the room emptying off-camera. Hitchcock and Cardiff have a way of shooting the scenes between Hattie and Charles so that even if someone's standing right next to them, it feels like they're all alone.

In a subsequent scene, Milly, who'd been fired, returns while Charles and Hattie go out to the ball together, again leaving Sam behind. Hitchcock holds a very long and mostly static take as the maid chatters away, delivering her passive-aggressive patter about Hattie, her voice full of gossipy insinuation. The frame slowly constricts and expands as Sam wanders in and out of view, sometimes glowering in the background, sometimes strolling towards the camera, his face dark. All the while, Milly's barely disguised bile dominates the soundtrack, and she remains the visual center of the shot, but it's Sam's darkening expression and stalking walk that actually serve as the scene's viscerally felt focus even when he's peripheral or outside the frame altogether. Only at the very end of the scene, the end of the shot, does Sam finally step forward into the foreground of the frame, and Milly's voice fades away, his anger finally blotting out her words.

There's another fantastic long take when Hattie tells the story of her past with Sam. The camera maintains a medium distance as she paces around the room, and the camera glides with her, often with Charles' head in the foreground of the frame, placing the spectator in his position as he listens to her. She often resists facing him, though, showing the camera her profile more than her full face, which makes the sudden closeup, when she confesses to shooting her brother, all the more startling: the camera suddenly floats upwards and presses in at precisely the moment when she steps forward and leans into the shot, nearly facing the camera for her confessional moment. It's especially striking because immediately afterward she returns to avoiding this direct, forward-facing manner, turning her profile to the camera or turning away altogether, looking up, down, anywhere but straight-on.


This patient, elegant style pays off especially well in the final act, when all the long-bubbling resentments and conflicted emotions come to the surface in an eerie, dreamlike climax. Hattie, returning to her drunken hysteria after a series of dramatic twists and turns, sinks back into her isolation, terrified of the horrifying things she imagines seeing around her room. As Sam tucks Hattie in and comforts her, there's a long, rumbling roll of thunder that sounds like a blown-out speaker, and it continues to roar throughout the nightmarish scenes in which Hattie discovers a ghoulish shrunken head in her bed and collapses, with Hitchcock suggesting the passage of time afterwards with a gorgeous image of a rain-streaked window superimposed over the unconscious woman's face. This whole sequence is haunting and gorgeous, with every detail heightened: the single beaded tear glistening on Hattie's cheek, the tracking shot along the rough terrain of the pillowcase and bedsheets, the continued rolling of the thunder, the sinister tinkling of Milly's keys as she creeps around the room, the light glinting off the poisoned glass that's so resonant of other sinister drinks in Hitchcock's oeuvre.

It's a dream, a nightmare, and the subsequent scenes in which the plot begins reversing gears to move inexorably towards a happy resolution have the feeling of waking up from a dream, finally shaking off the narcotized slumber that afflicted these characters and kept them trapped in a recurring cycle of self-destruction and recrimination. Under Capricorn is a stylish and beautiful movie, its aesthetic seductive and hypnotic, with a psychological complexity that makes it enthralling throughout.

Posted in Cinema

“Queen of the Nile” – The Twilight Zone – 1964

“Queen of the Nile” is one of those “Ann Blyth Like You’ve Never Seen Her Before” roles, and though she really did play many of those kinds of parts with remarkable variety in her film career, this Twilight Zone season five episode stands out probably for two reasons.  First, because unlike so many of her other sultry or dastardly roles, apart from Mildred Pierce, this one has been repeated on television often over the years, and is available on DVD, so it is remembered well and familiar to many.  (Some of you have reminded me of this episode through the course of this series, so it certainly is well known.)  It hasn’t been in hibernation like Another Part of the Forest or Swell Guy. 

Second, because by the time this episode was broadcast on March 6, 1964, Ann was the mother of five children, whose last film had been made seven years previously, and by virtue of her absence from the screen, her settled family life, and her, well, virtue as it was dismissed in the press, had created an aura of squeaky-clean dullness about her reputation.  The sultry-but-sinister siren she plays here had to have been a kick for her, and quite a surprise by those who wrote her off as a goody-goody if they were not aware of her previous strong roles.

“Queen of the Nile” is our Halloween celebration, or Samhain, for you Celtic types.

Here Ann plays a Big Movie Star who welcomes a reporter into her home (furnished in a flamboyant combination of 1960s California modern and ancient Egyptian) for an interview.  She is sexy, flirtatious, and very grand in her manner and speech, the way the old stars learned to do when they had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to cover more humble beginnings.  This woman has obviously crafted herself into the Big Movie Star, but from what beginnings?  Though her mansion is light-filled and chic, and she is gracious and smiling, there is an unsettling air of Sunset Blvd. about the encounter between the actress and the reporter.

“Does 38 seem terribly old to you?”

Well, no, it does not, but I guess it depends which side of 38 you’re on.

Beneath her studied air of coyness, there is something of a tigress in her manner.  We don’t know if she’s going to seduce him or chew his face off, which intrigues the reporter, as does her stunning beauty.  He is dumbstruck by it, and starts to do the math.  If she was a movie star of 20 years ago, why does she not look matronly now?  Ann explains she was only a teenager when she started in films.  Okay.  Perhaps that makes sense.  (Especially when one considers that the actress playing this bombshell really was a teen star in the 1940s and really does look stunning in real life…and is 35.)

But according to his notes, she really debuted in the 1930s.  Hmm.  That would make her even older.  She dismisses this with a throaty laugh, chiding him for believing the habitual mistakes that turn up on old newspaper clippings.  He is utterly charmed by her, and though completely under her spell, it seems, when she kisses him, he nevertheless regains some of his objectivity when he leaves.  He goes back to doing the math.  And looking through the morgue.

Uh, that’s newspaper morgue.  Archives of old newspapers.  His editor buddy, played by one of my favorites, Frank Ferguson, digs through his file cabinets while Lee Philips regains his senses in a phone booth.

Ah, phone booths.  Curse you, cell phones, for stripping us of this last private refuge in a noisy urban world.

And Mr. Ferguson, completely without the aid of the IMDb website, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, discovers a possible link to the lady being in films as early as the 1920s.  Hmm.  That would make her even older.

Mr. Ferguson played bit parts in two of Ann’s movies, Free for All (1949), which we covered here, and Swell Guy (1949).  One of his best roles was as the doctor in the noir Caught (1949), discussed here.

Both he and Lee Philips did a lot of episodic TV over many decades.  Rounding out the cast is Celia Lovsky, who plays Ann Blyth’s mother.  A veteran of the stage in Vienna and Berlin, she had a few small roles in films, but like the gentlemen, did a lot of TV guest roles.

Madame Lovsky is a mysterious figure in this episode, only one of a number of offbeat circumstances that makes our Mr. Philips curious, once he has left the spell of the place and Ann Blyth’s knockout beauty and overpowering party girl personality.  Madame Lovsky eventually spills the beans about Ann’s beauty secrets, though Philips, still the ever-curious reporter, must learn for himself.  The ending is pretty creepy.  

A few favorite scenes: when Lee Philips waits alone in Ann’s living room and studies the enormous, and quite stunning, painting of her purportedly done in the 1940s.  I’d love to know if that painting exists somewhere.  Then he turns to see a row of portrait photos of Ann on the piano, which actually were her official head shots used for press photos, some of which would later adorn some of her theatre playbills.

The scene of Ann swimming in her movie star’s pool, and emerging like Venus from the sea, tended to by her maid (who must have her own inside scoop on her employer, but the writers, the director, and Ann all dismiss her).  Just as Ann seems goddess-like, she comes down to earth by having a fight with her mother.  Nothing like a family squabble to make things seem instantly normal.  Or, is that really her mother?

This episode is available on DVD here, and is also currently running on the Hulu website here where you can watch it online.

Did I mention the ending is really creepy?

Happy Halloween.

Come back next Thursday when we discuss Ann Blyth’s “third act” career as a singer who performed on television, town auditoriums, Las Vegas nightclubs, and New York’s famous Rainbow Room.

PASS THE WORD!!!!!   Looking for photos and shared memories of the recent TCM Cruise regarding Ann Blyth's talks.  This material will be used for my upcoming book on Ann Blyth's career. Please contact me at: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com.




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 THANK YOU....to the following folks whose aid in gathering material for this series has been invaluable:  EBH; Kevin Deany of Kevin's Movie Corner; Gerry Szymski of Westmont Movie Classics, Westmont, Illinois; and Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.  And thanks to all those who signed on as backers to my recent Kickstarter campaign.  The effort failed to raise the funding needed, but I'll always remember your kind support.

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TRIVIA QUESTION:  I've recently been contacted by someone who wants to know if the piano player in Dillinger (1945-see post here) is the boogie-woogie artist Albert Ammons. Please leave comment or drop me a line if you know.
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 HELP!!!!!!!!!!
Now that I've got your attention: I'm still on the lookout for a movie called Katie Did It (1951) for this year-long series on the career of Ann Blyth.  It seems to be a rare one.  Please contact me on this blog or at my email: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com if you know where I can lay my hands on this film.  Am willing to buy or trade, or wash windows in exchange.  Maybe not the windows part.  But you know what I mean.

Also, if anybody has any of Ann's TV appearances, there's a few I'm missing from The Dennis Day Show (TV), the DuPont Show with June Allyson, This is Your Life, Lux Video Theatre.  Also any video clips of her Oscar appearances.  Release the hounds.  And let me know, please. 


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A new collection of essays, some old, some new, from this blog titled Movies in Our Time: Hollywood Mimics and Mirrors the 20th Century is now out in eBook, and in paperback here.
I’ll provide a free copy, either paperback or eBook or both if you wish, to bloggers in exchange for an honest review.  Just email me at JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com with your preference of format, your email address, and an address to mail the paperback (if that’s your preference).  Thanks.

Posted in Old Movie Blog

“Murder On Ice” – Quincy, M.E. – 1983

“Murder on Ice” brings a veteran cast together in a snowbound lodge in this episode number 19, season eight of Quincy, M.E., fun for the familiar faces and the tightly written whodunit.  Star Jack Klugman as the intrepid medical examiner is on his honeymoon with his bride, played by Anita Gillette.  There’s nothing like a romantic getaway full of unexpected guests and a few murders to put the damper on romance.

Broadcast March 9, 1983, here Ann Blyth, 54 years old when she played the role of a court psychiatrist, is married to a judge.  They own the mountain lodge where the episode takes place.  The judge invited Quincy to use the vacation home for his honeymoon.  When Jack Klugman and bride arrive—via a horse-drawn sleigh driven by longtime stage and TV inebriate Foster Brooks, they do not expect Ann to be there, and she, trudging through the snow with her skis over her shoulder, did not expect them.  She shakes her head in knowing chagrin, as her husband the judge, a hail-fellow-well-met sort of guy, is always pulling surprises like this, inviting guests without telling her.  But it’s a big place and there’s plenty of room in this rustic hideaway with its wood paneled walls, rough beams, log railings, fireplaces everywhere and a wood box for kindling every three feet.  Very cozy in a do-it-yourself sort of way.

The three of them are, in turn, surprised by arrival of Lola Albright and Robert Alda, also invited by the judge.  I like Miss Albright’s line about Jack Klugman’s entrance on a sleigh, “I might have known it was you arriving like Dr. Zhivago.” 

Mr. Alda, 69 years old here, thought he was going to get to do some hunting, and Miss Albright, a lovely 57 years old here, thought the judge had set her up for a job interview.  Pretty soon, Dane Clark, 70 years old here, shows up, another surprised guest, thinking he was invited for a seminar.  I mention their ages because it’s so refreshing to see an older cast not playing “old,” but playing people dealing with careers, marriages, fun, sorrow, envy, lust, greed—which most TV and movie roles seem to feel are situations best left to younger people, as if people over 40 years old are utterly without dimension.

Lola Albright still twinkles with those big blue eyes and sly smile, a lot of Edie the sultry jazz singer from Peter Gunn ever charmingly present.  Ann’s reddish-brown fashionably curly perm complements the confident, professional woman she plays.  It’s amazing how drastic the change in hair and makeup from only the four years’ difference between this Quincy episode and the one we discussed last week here, shot in 1979, in which she appeared fey and matronly.  Everything’s fashion-forward in the new decade.  All the women and men are dressed in stylish sport clothes to cue us that the casual drapery of the 1970s has been booted out for an entirely new and vibrant makeover.  These folks are not playing retired has-beens; they’re the movers and shakers of their professions.

So far the story begins a little like the Agatha Christie ploy in And Then There Were None, where a group of strangers arrive at a remote location, all invited by the missing host.  The difference here is the characters are not strangers.  They have all met before as professional colleagues in the court system.  

And their host is not missing.  He’s dead.

The episode was filmed at Lake Tahoe, so we get some snowy scenery, and with the roads blocked (aided by a snow cannon that causes an avalanche) they are sufficiently isolated—and sufficiently trapped, leaving them at the mercy of a killer.  The judge, found buried in the avalanche, is soon suspected by Jack Klugman, who just can’t stop being a medical examiner even on his honeymoon, of being murdered by something else.  As his distressed bride exclaims when he wants to examine the corpse, “What is this, a busman’s holiday?”

Still puzzling over why the judge should have invited them all here for different purposes, it’s Lola Albright who figures out that they all have a particular connection with each other:  They are all united by their involvement with a specific criminal case.  In a high-stakes white-collar crime caper, they all helped in one way or another to put an embezzler in jail.  Lola Albright was the prosecuting attorney.  Robert Alda and Dane Clark were the investigating detectives.  Jack Klugman testified in court as a forensics expert, and the deceased judge tried the case and sentenced the bad guy to prison.

And the bad guy escaped from prison a year ago and has been on the run since.

Which explains the shadowy figure in a dark ski suit we see sneaking around.  He’s back for revenge.

But wait, there’s more going on here.  Ann Blyth and Lola Albright are decidedly cool with each other.  Ann’s late husband, the judge, was a notorious philanderer and had an affair with Lola.  Ann, not as much the grieving widow as the bone tired widow: “He certainly gave me enough reasons over the years to stop loving him.  I doubt that he ever loved me.”  She is stony and resigned.

Mr. Alda carries his hunting rifle to bed, and sits awake, flinching at every noise in the night.  There is some professional jealousy afoot.  He complains that his colleague Dane Clark is a hotshot who grandstanded for credit in the old case.  We will eventually learn that neither detective, nor even the judge, was squeaky clean when it came to the embezzlement investigation.  They each succumbed to bribes and a cover-up.  

We have our middle of the night everybody-running-around-in-their-jammies-and-bathrobes scene when the power goes out, and at one point Quincy’s bride boots him out of the bridal chamber so Ann Blyth can bunk with her instead, since it’s not safe in this lodge when another dead body is found.  There will be more gruesome discoveries before the episode ends, and they realize that, though the escaped convict, played by Raymond Mayo, finally makes his chilling appearance, he is not the only killer loose.  One of them is also a killer.

Is it Ann, the not-so-grieving widow?  Or Lola Albright, who was thrown over, many times, by the judge for other mistresses?  The rivalry of Dane Clark and Robert Alda, each with something to hide?  Or did the mute caretaker, played with gentle shyness by Henry Gibson have something to do with it?  He rides off in an exciting snowmobile chase with the escaped convict.

And then the judge’s overnight bag turns up with an interesting document inside for which one or more of them are willing to kill.

Just as we discussed in last week’s episode, I don’t normally give the ending away in a mystery, but I’m going to here again.  Muhwa-ha-ha-ha-ha. After the break of the next several lines, I’m going to talk about the ending.  If you don’t like spoilers, run away now.  Put your snowshoes on.  Hurry up.  C'mon, c'mon, c'mon.

...................................................................................................................

....................................................................................................................

Still here?  

Okay.  It’s Ann.

Which, once again, is probably why she took this gig.  “I get to kill again?  Sign me up!”

It’s those quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for.

She makes a formidable opponent for Jack Klugman because she is intelligent and fixed things up pretty cleverly, except for the misplaced grocery receipt, which was stupidly careless, either of her or the writers.  But Jack gathers the remaining suspects together and calmly unravels the plot.  Ann’s whimpering cry, burying her face in her hands is the picture of despair of a woman whose one attempt to get the better of her unfaithful husband, not just to murder him, but to top him for spite over stolen diamonds, has come crashing down around her.

Quincy, M.E. season eight is not out on DVD yet, but probably will be eventually.  Right now you can watch it on Netflix.  Sorry about no screen caps this time around.

Come back next Thursday when we celebrate Halloween with an eerie episode of The Twilight Zone from 1964, where Ann pulls out all the stops playing a flashy, mysterious woman who does not seem to age, no matter the fashions or the decade.

***************************
Times-News, (Henderson, N.C.) , February 28, 1983,  p. 12.
***************************

Bon Voyage to Ann Blyth and all the happy wanders currently on board in this year's TCM Classic Cruise.

Ann will be doing a couple hour-long conversation sessions, and will also be on hand for a screening of Mildred Pierce.


Have a look here for the rest of the schedule and events with the other celebrity guests.

I, sadly, am unable to attend this cruise, but if any reader is going,  I invite you (beg you) to share your experiences and/or photos relating to Miss Blyth on this blog as part of our year-long series on her career.  I'd really appreciate your perspective on the event, to be our eyes and ears.  Thanks.
****************************

 THANK YOU....to the following folks whose aid in gathering material for this series has been invaluable:  EBH; Kevin Deany of Kevin's Movie Corner; Gerry Szymski of Westmont Movie Classics, Westmont, Illinois; and Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.  And thanks to all those who signed on as backers to my recent Kickstarter campaign.  The effort failed to raise the funding needed, but I'll always remember your kind support.

***************************

TRIVIA QUESTION:  I've recently been contacted by someone who wants to know if the piano player in Dillinger (1945-see post here) is the boogie-woogie artist Albert Ammons. Please leave comment or drop me a line if you know.
****************************
 HELP!!!!!!!!!!
Now that I've got your attention: I'm still on the lookout for a movie called Katie Did It (1951) for this year-long series on the career of Ann Blyth.  It seems to be a rare one.  Please contact me on this blog or at my email: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com if you know where I can lay my hands on this film.  Am willing to buy or trade, or wash windows in exchange.  Maybe not the windows part.  But you know what I mean.

Also, if anybody has any of Ann's TV appearances, there's a few I'm missing from Switch, the Dennis Day Show (TV), the DuPont Show with June Allyson, This is Your Life, Lux Video Theatre.  Also any video clips of her Oscar appearances.  Release the hounds.  And let me know, please. 


***************************

A new collection of essays, some old, some new, from this blog titled Movies in Our Time: Hollywood Mimics and Mirrors the 20th Century is now out in eBook, and in paperback here.
I’ll provide a free copy, either paperback or eBook or both if you wish, to bloggers in exchange for an honest review.  Just email me at JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com with your preference of format, your email address, and an address to mail the paperback (if that’s your preference).  Thanks.
Posted in Old Movie Blog

“Murder On Ice” – Quincy, M.E. – 1983

“Murder on Ice” brings a veteran cast together in a snowbound lodge in this episode number 19, season eight of Quincy, M.E., fun for the familiar faces and the tightly written whodunit.  Star Jack Klugman as the intrepid medical examiner is on his honeymoon with his bride, played by Anita Gillette.  There’s nothing like a romantic getaway full of unexpected guests and a few murders to put the damper on romance.

Broadcast March 9, 1983, here Ann Blyth, 54 years old when she played the role of a court psychiatrist, is married to a judge.  They own the mountain lodge where the episode takes place.  The judge invited Quincy to use the vacation home for his honeymoon.  When Jack Klugman and bride arrive—via a horse-drawn sleigh driven by longtime stage and TV inebriate Foster Brooks, they do not expect Ann to be there, and she, trudging through the snow with her skis over her shoulder, did not expect them.  She shakes her head in knowing chagrin, as her husband the judge, a hail-fellow-well-met sort of guy, is always pulling surprises like this, inviting guests without telling her.  But it’s a big place and there’s plenty of room in this rustic hideaway with its wood paneled walls, rough beams, log railings, fireplaces everywhere and a wood box for kindling every three feet.  Very cozy in a do-it-yourself sort of way.

The three of them are, in turn, surprised by arrival of Lola Albright and Robert Alda, also invited by the judge.  I like Miss Albright’s line about Jack Klugman’s entrance on a sleigh, “I might have known it was you arriving like Dr. Zhivago.” 

Mr. Alda, 69 years old here, thought he was going to get to do some hunting, and Miss Albright, a lovely 57 years old here, thought the judge had set her up for a job interview.  Pretty soon, Dane Clark, 70 years old here, shows up, another surprised guest, thinking he was invited for a seminar.  I mention their ages because it’s so refreshing to see an older cast not playing “old,” but playing people dealing with careers, marriages, fun, sorrow, envy, lust, greed—which most TV and movie roles seem to feel are situations best left to younger people, as if people over 40 years old are utterly without dimension.

Lola Albright still twinkles with those big blue eyes and sly smile, a lot of Edie the sultry jazz singer from Peter Gunn ever charmingly present.  Ann’s reddish-brown fashionably curly perm complements the confident, professional woman she plays.  It’s amazing how drastic the change in hair and makeup from only the four years’ difference between this Quincy episode and the one we discussed last week here, shot in 1979, in which she appeared fey and matronly.  Everything’s fashion-forward in the new decade.  All the women and men are dressed in stylish sport clothes to cue us that the casual drapery of the 1970s has been booted out for an entirely new and vibrant makeover.  These folks are not playing retired has-beens; they’re the movers and shakers of their professions.

So far the story begins a little like the Agatha Christie ploy in And Then There Were None, where a group of strangers arrive at a remote location, all invited by the missing host.  The difference here is the characters are not strangers.  They have all met before as professional colleagues in the court system.  

And their host is not missing.  He’s dead.

The episode was filmed at Lake Tahoe, so we get some snowy scenery, and with the roads blocked (aided by a snow cannon that causes an avalanche) they are sufficiently isolated—and sufficiently trapped, leaving them at the mercy of a killer.  The judge, found buried in the avalanche, is soon suspected by Jack Klugman, who just can’t stop being a medical examiner even on his honeymoon, of being murdered by something else.  As his distressed bride exclaims when he wants to examine the corpse, “What is this, a busman’s holiday?”

Still puzzling over why the judge should have invited them all here for different purposes, it’s Lola Albright who figures out that they all have a particular connection with each other:  They are all united by their involvement with a specific criminal case.  In a high-stakes white-collar crime caper, they all helped in one way or another to put an embezzler in jail.  Lola Albright was the prosecuting attorney.  Robert Alda and Dane Clark were the investigating detectives.  Jack Klugman testified in court as a forensics expert, and the deceased judge tried the case and sentenced the bad guy to prison.

And the bad guy escaped from prison a year ago and has been on the run since.

Which explains the shadowy figure in a dark ski suit we see sneaking around.  He’s back for revenge.

But wait, there’s more going on here.  Ann Blyth and Lola Albright are decidedly cool with each other.  Ann’s late husband, the judge, was a notorious philanderer and had an affair with Lola.  Ann, not as much the grieving widow as the bone tired widow: “He certainly gave me enough reasons over the years to stop loving him.  I doubt that he ever loved me.”  She is stony and resigned.

Mr. Alda carries his hunting rifle to bed, and sits awake, flinching at every noise in the night.  There is some professional jealousy afoot.  He complains that his colleague Dane Clark is a hotshot who grandstanded for credit in the old case.  We will eventually learn that neither detective, nor even the judge, was squeaky clean when it came to the embezzlement investigation.  They each succumbed to bribes and a cover-up.  

We have our middle of the night everybody-running-around-in-their-jammies-and-bathrobes scene when the power goes out, and at one point Quincy’s bride boots him out of the bridal chamber so Ann Blyth can bunk with her instead, since it’s not safe in this lodge when another dead body is found.  There will be more gruesome discoveries before the episode ends, and they realize that, though the escaped convict, played by Raymond Mayo, finally makes his chilling appearance, he is not the only killer loose.  One of them is also a killer.

Is it Ann, the not-so-grieving widow?  Or Lola Albright, who was thrown over, many times, by the judge for other mistresses?  The rivalry of Dane Clark and Robert Alda, each with something to hide?  Or did the mute caretaker, played with gentle shyness by Henry Gibson have something to do with it?  He rides off in an exciting snowmobile chase with the escaped convict.

And then the judge’s overnight bag turns up with an interesting document inside for which one or more of them are willing to kill.

Just as we discussed in last week’s episode, I don’t normally give the ending away in a mystery, but I’m going to here again.  Muhwa-ha-ha-ha-ha. After the break of the next several lines, I’m going to talk about the ending.  If you don’t like spoilers, run away now.  Put your snowshoes on.  Hurry up.  C'mon, c'mon, c'mon.

...................................................................................................................

....................................................................................................................

Still here?  

Okay.  It’s Ann.

Which, once again, is probably why she took this gig.  “I get to kill again?  Sign me up!”

It’s those quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for.

She makes a formidable opponent for Jack Klugman because she is intelligent and fixed things up pretty cleverly, except for the misplaced grocery receipt, which was stupidly careless, either of her or the writers.  But Jack gathers the remaining suspects together and calmly unravels the plot.  Ann’s whimpering cry, burying her face in her hands is the picture of despair of a woman whose one attempt to get the better of her unfaithful husband, not just to murder him, but to top him for spite over stolen diamonds, has come crashing down around her.

Quincy, M.E. season eight is not out on DVD yet, but probably will be eventually.  Right now you can watch it on Netflix.  Sorry about no screen caps this time around.

Come back next Thursday when we celebrate Halloween with an eerie episode of The Twilight Zone from 1964, where Ann pulls out all the stops playing a flashy, mysterious woman who does not seem to age, no matter the fashions or the decade.

***************************
Times-News, (Henderson, N.C.) , February 28, 1983,  p. 12.
***************************

Bon Voyage to Ann Blyth and all the happy wanders currently on board in this year's TCM Classic Cruise.

Ann will be doing a couple hour-long conversation sessions, and will also be on hand for a screening of Mildred Pierce.


Have a look here for the rest of the schedule and events with the other celebrity guests.

I, sadly, am unable to attend this cruise, but if any reader is going,  I invite you (beg you) to share your experiences and/or photos relating to Miss Blyth on this blog as part of our year-long series on her career.  I'd really appreciate your perspective on the event, to be our eyes and ears.  Thanks.
****************************

 THANK YOU....to the following folks whose aid in gathering material for this series has been invaluable:  EBH; Kevin Deany of Kevin's Movie Corner; Gerry Szymski of Westmont Movie Classics, Westmont, Illinois; and Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.  And thanks to all those who signed on as backers to my recent Kickstarter campaign.  The effort failed to raise the funding needed, but I'll always remember your kind support.

***************************

TRIVIA QUESTION:  I've recently been contacted by someone who wants to know if the piano player in Dillinger (1945-see post here) is the boogie-woogie artist Albert Ammons. Please leave comment or drop me a line if you know.
****************************
 HELP!!!!!!!!!!
Now that I've got your attention: I'm still on the lookout for a movie called Katie Did It (1951) for this year-long series on the career of Ann Blyth.  It seems to be a rare one.  Please contact me on this blog or at my email: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com if you know where I can lay my hands on this film.  Am willing to buy or trade, or wash windows in exchange.  Maybe not the windows part.  But you know what I mean.

Also, if anybody has any of Ann's TV appearances, there's a few I'm missing from Switch, the Dennis Day Show (TV), the DuPont Show with June Allyson, This is Your Life, Lux Video Theatre.  Also any video clips of her Oscar appearances.  Release the hounds.  And let me know, please. 


***************************

A new collection of essays, some old, some new, from this blog titled Movies in Our Time: Hollywood Mimics and Mirrors the 20th Century is now out in eBook, and in paperback here.
I’ll provide a free copy, either paperback or eBook or both if you wish, to bloggers in exchange for an honest review.  Just email me at JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com with your preference of format, your email address, and an address to mail the paperback (if that’s your preference).  Thanks.
Posted in Old Movie Blog