You Don’t Know Which Way to Turn, There’s No Place to Hide, Nowhere to run…: The Blue Gardenia (1953)

“By now you must be frightened out of your wits. You don’t know which way to turn, there’s no place to hide, nowhere to run… except to me. So take my advice, Blue Gardenia. Go to the nearest phone booth and invest a dime on the rest of your life.”

So I watched this movie years ago on TCM. I remember loving it and trying to find it again to watch, but every time they played it again they never showed it at a time I could watch it.

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The other day I was shelving at the library and found it, I immediately had to check it out and watch it again to see if it is as good as I remember.

The film starts off with a jaunty tune as we follow reporter Casey Mayo (Richard Conte) as he heads to a phone company for a story. There he runs into Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr), artist and player.

Ugh

Yes, Harry is always coming by and using the phone operators as “models”, starting with sketching, then taking them out to a fancy dinner and plying them with drinks, later taking them home.

Harry has his eye on Crystal Carpenter (Ann Sothern), but she’s not buying it. She let him draw her but refuses anything else as she is dating her ex-husband.

Harry turns to Crystal’s roommate, Norah Larkin (Anne Baxter), but she has eyes only for her long-term boyfriend who is a soldier in the Korean War.

That night Crystal, Norah, and their other roommate Sally Ellis, continue their plans for the night. Crystal is going out with her ex-husband, Sally is getting the newest Mickey Mallet novel and going to read it.

For Norah, she has something very special planned. It’s her birthday and she has a letter from her boyfriend. She can’t have him here for the celebration she really wants-so she does the next best thing. She bought a new dress, made a roast, and bought champagne to go with it.

Yay!

After her roommates leave, Nora gets everything ready and then opens the letter.

Dear Norah, You’ve probably learned by now that I’m not so hot as a letter writer. I remember when we were kids in Bakersfield and I worked vacations in San Joaquin Valley. You used to bawl me out for not writing. Well, I guess I’ve gotten worse. But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you… a lot. And also thinking about someone else, Norah. A nurse I met in Tokyo when I took a load of Commie shrapnel with me. Angela, that’s her name, supplied the strength and the courage and everything else to pull me through. I didn’t want it to happen but… there’s nothing a guy can do about the real McCoy, and that’s what this is. We’re in love. And when I get out we’re going to be married. That’s the story, Norah. And, I guess there’s nothing else to say except I hope you’ll understand. With affection, always… and best wishes for your future. “Best wishes for your future”. Yours very sincerely. Yours very… truly.

Oh MY GOSH…seriously????? This is the real McCoy? So all those times you said I love you it was a lie!!!???  What a major jerk!!! And ON HER BIRTHDAY!!!!

Norah is upset and doesn’t know what to do. The phone rings and she answers it. It is Harry calling to ask Crystal out. Norah tries to tell him that she’s not Crystal, but he doesn’t listen to her. Norah decides to take Harry up on his offer and goes down to The Blue Gardenia restaurant. There Harry is waiting with Polynesian Pearl Diverswhich has like three different kinds of rum in it and Harry asks for extra rum.

Casey Mayo sees Harry there and they say a quick hello as Casey goes on the prowl for his own dame.

Harry is surprised to see Nora, but in his mind one beautiful girl is just as good as another. Norah enjoys the drinking as she wants to forget the beginning of the night ever happened. Harry supplies lots and lots of drinks and Norah keeps on drinking. She is extremely wasted.

Its just what Harry wants, and he asks her to come to his place for a party with friends.

Yes his friends rum, rohypnol, and rape.

They get to his place and he shows her his pictures. It actually reminds me of Blackmail. While there Norah is starting to nod off, Harry puts on the song The Blue Gardenia and gives her coffee. Coffee that tastes odd to Norah.

Harry starts to put the moves on Norah as she starts to question where the friends are. When he goes on her she attacks him, pulls away, breaks the mirror, and…fade to black.

The next morning all the girls are up and early, except Norah. She has a headache and a hangover. The girls think she went out drinking as they both read her letter. Norah can’t remember anything.

The police start investigating Harry’s death. The maid has already started cleaning up before she fund the body and washed two sets of dishes-no dice on DNA. All they have to go on is black suede heels size 5. And that she was a beautiful blonde-Harry’s type.

Casey directs the police to the phone company, knowing that where Harry found his ladies. He heads to the newspaper office, hit with the fantastic idea of calling her “The Blue Gardenia” after the song and the restaurant.

They question girl after girl, Norah becoming more and more upset with each one, more afraid as bits of the previous night come back to her piece by piece.

She can remember being there and if she was there that night she must have murdered him. Se continues to grow restless and snappish, having her friends and roommates questioning her.

Then Casey gets told he will have to be sent elsewhere to report on something, but he wants to see the Blue Gardenia play out. He gets the idea from a joke of a coworker to write a letter and see if she will speak to him.

A Letter to an Unknown Murderess. Dear Blue Gardenia, Any day now, any hour… any minute, the police are going to catch up with you… But, all they want is a quick confession… I want to help you. When I say “I”, that means my newspaper and me. To us you’re a story… a big story! If we get it first we will go all out for you. You can trust me. And, I promise not to print a line without your permission. By now you must be frightened out of your wits. You don’t know which way to turn, there’s no place to hide, nowhere to run… except to me. So take my advice, Blue Gardenia. Go to the nearest phone booth and invest a dime on the rest of your life. Dial Madison 60025. And ask for, yours very earnestly, Casey Mayo.

Norah decides to answer. But will she end up in prison? Could a nice girl who has never done wrong have to spend a lifetime paying for a mistake?

Didn’t realize that the film was so close to Blackmail. It had similarities with the painting scene and walking at night in the fog, regretful.

A great movie, just as good as I remember and well worth watching.

To start Horrorfest VII from the beginning, go to It’s the End of the World: The Birds (1963)

For the previous post, go to What Happened to Ally Palmer?: The Good Student (2006)

For more film-noir, go to Go Ahead and Shoot…As Far As Killing Me, Well, I Don’t Think You’re That Good a Shot: Possessed (1947)

For more Anne Baxter, go to Oh, Moses, Moses: Happy 60th Anniversary to The Ten Commandments

For more on Ann Southern, go to Which Husband Ran Off With Addie Ross?: A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

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Feast Your Eyes On My Accursed Ugliness: The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Feast your eyes! Glut your soul on my accursed ugliness

I love this movie so much that words fail to express how I feel. This movie was the one that not only was my gateway into horror films, but also caused a life-long love affair with classic cinema.

It all started one day at the library. I was about six years old and complaining to my mother that I couldn’t find any books to read. Nothing just felt right. You know what I mean, when a book synopsis just connects to you, and you know you need to take it home to read?

So my mother eager to get home, pulls a book off the shelf and suggests that I read it. Instead of paying attention to whatever novel she had in her hand, I saw the one behind it. It was The Phantom of the Opera; a slender, abriged, children’s version.

It became my new favorite book and I would check it out all the time, completely annoying my mother.

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Later on I read the original, whole  version; which I also love. It is written so well, if you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend it.

I just connected with this poor man. He was bullied and betrayed because he was disfigured. No one paid attention to his genius in building and composing. He was living a life alone in isolation. I wanted to go underground with him.

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I would have gone off with him and loved him unlike Christine Daaé, she’s a total jerk and loser.

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Anyways, not long after I was flipping the channels and stopped on TCM. I love TCM (Turner Classic Movies) with a passion. I wish I could watch it 24/7 as they show the most amazing films ever.

Anyways, so that day they were doing a biography on Lon Chaney, and mentioned that he played the Phantom. I was now sucked in and had to watch. The film was the biopic Man of a Thousand FacesLon Chaney quickly became my favorite actor as I just fell in love with what a genius he was. He used to wait outside the movie studio, using his make-up to change his apperance to better fit roles. His most famous one being of course, the Phantom.

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Afterwards, they held a marathon of his films, but I stopped watching as they didn’t show the one I wanted to see. I now had to watch the 1925 film! I did more research and found out that it is one of the first films to use color, only being able to for the Masque of Red Death scene. It was supposesed to be one of the most dramatic scenes in the film.

I now absolutely HAD to see that film. I went and rented it, hoping that it would be as good as it sounded. It was better than that! The film was not only horrtastic, but simply, and honestly amazing! It also stayed very close to the book, making only a few changes, and doing a much better job than some other versions (the 1943 one, so bad 😦 ).

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Now I know that silent film isn’t for everyone, but I suggest that you check it out.

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So we start off the film with someone lurking in the catacombs of the opera house. We don’t know who he is or what he is after. Then we switch to the opera house, and the creme de la creme of the elite milling about. Everyone is settling down as the show is about to start.

We see the ballerinas on stage dancing away.

Reminds me of Degas

Meanwhile in an office upstairs, the opera house is being turned over to new owners. Owners who know nothing of what lurks in the belly of the building.

For there lies the Phantom and a friend. A Persian man that had traveled with him since the Phantom has been abroad, but no one knows more than that.

So the new opera owners have gained a lot of problems with their purchase. Besides having to pay the phantom money, give him box 5, and a few other amenities; he is also demanding that they replace Carlotta with Christine, the girl he has been coaching. Needless to say, this is very upsetting for Carlotta.

I refuse to be treated in such a manner

In fact the Phantom has threatened Carlotta if she does not stay away. Carlotta is most unhappy; and leaves declaring she will not sing that night.

Instead Christine Daaé sings beautifully. She is also noticed by the stupid Vicomte de Chagny. I really dislike Raoul, Team Phantom all the way!

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In the book Raoul struck me as a real annoying guy. Like one who is always trying to do different things; but only does them halfheartedly, always expecting someone to bail them out of a jam. Then again I could be biased.

Anyways Stupid Raoul notices Christine and tries to get with her. But she is not as receptive, in fact telling him kindly to get lost as she has her career to think about.

Stupid Raoul goes to leave, but actually, is secretly waiting outside her door to spy on her.

Now for anyone out there; if you tell a person you want a relationship to end and they don’t listen and spy on you, you need to call the police and get rid of them. I can’t believe him. Raoul just went from stupid to stalker. I mean who listens outside their ex’s door like that? Who does that?

How rude

So Carlotta decides to sing anyway, even though she has been warned that bad things will happen. The Phantom makes sure that she will never want to sing again.

“Erik: Behold! She is singing to bring down the chandelier!”

So Christine goes to her room and Raoul being the creep he is  follows her. Erik, the Phantom, calls to her and tells her to go through her mirror; which is really a trapdoor. The Phantom built the Opera House, so built himself a home underneath the Opera House along with tons of secret passage ways and hideouts.

The Phantom takes her to his subterranean home, across a hidden lake.

Christine is amazed and kind of freaked out being there with him. All she can focus on is the fact that he is wearing a mask. Erik starts telling Christine his life story, and the sadness it has brought him. She ends up fainting, and he carries her to his guest room; beautiful and full of things she will love. It has a whole wall of shoes!

The next day everyone is in an uproar as Christine is missing! She wakes up to hearing the organ being played by the Phantom. He has been working on an opera for a long time.

Erik: Since I first saw your face, this music has been singing to me  of you and of –love triumphant!”

While he is romantically sharing his feelings, Christine is determined to rip off his mask.

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Lon Chaney is truly amazing! I mean look at him! He is so awesome looking! So creepy! He is such a genius, devising his own make-up. The Phantom’s makeup was designed to resemble a skull. Lon Chaney attached a strip of fish skin (a thin, translucent material) to his nostrils with spirit gum, pulled it back until he got the tilt he wanted, then attached the other end of the fish skin under his bald cap. For some shots, a wire-and-rubber device was used, and it cut into Chaney’s nose and caused a good deal of bleeding. Cheeks were built up using a combination of cotton and collodion. Ears were glued back and the rest was greasepaint shaded in the proper areas of the face. The sight was said to have caused some patrons at the premiere to faint.

Christine is completely shocked at his apperance. Mary Philbin, the actress who played Christine, reaction to the unmasked Phantom was real – she had no idea what he would look like until that exact moment.

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So the Phantom is upset, but Christine has to stay with him. He is not about to let her go. Now I know that is not appropriate behavior, but I feel so bad for him. She loved him until she saw his face, Now he has nobody. 😦

Then they have the most amazing scene ever! This was one of the first films to have color! They do this huge masquerade scene in color and he comes as the Red Death! It is too fantastic for words. I cannot describe it, you will have to watch it. His entrance, his outfit, etc.

Erik: Beneath your dancing feet are the tombs of tortured men! Thus does The Red Death rebuke your merriment!

Christine escapes from the Phantom and sneaks off with Raoul. They make plans to run away together, but little do they know that the Phantom has overheard everything.

Christine prepares to do her last performance, and as she is doing so, the Phantom comes and spirits her away. His only friend, a Persian courtier who has been with him through everything, goes to Raoul to lead him to Christine.

They go through the secret passage, but end up accidentally in the Phantom’s torture chamber.

The Phantom gives Christine two choices; she can choose to hit this ceramic scorpion,which means that she has chosen to marry the Phantom and be his forever, or the grasshopper which means death to Raoul and the opera house. The grasshopper if pressed will light a fuse of the gunpowder that is packed throughout the opera house and interconnected. Everything will blow! The scorpion is connected to a switch that will pump water into the bottom of the opera house and soak all the gunpowder and keep the opera house from blowing up.

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She chooses the scorpion, but as the water starts to come up and drown Raoul. Christine asks the Phantom to save his life, that she will do anything for him if he does. He pulls Raoul out and then takes off with Christine, as the Parisians are hunting him down.

Grab your torches and sharpen your pitchforks!

The villagers follow in pursuit. As they are running, Christine throws herself out of the carriage. The Phantom goes to her, but the villagers are too close and he takes off. Raoul goes to Christine, and the Phantom is “killed” by the people.

I’ve never been a fan of that idea, you can’t kill the phantom, he’s unbeatable!

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I love him! Is that sad and pathetic?

That’s the post for today. More to come! 4 days ’till Halloween!

Here’s poster I made for my cover page on facebook in honor or Halloween. Hope ya love it.

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To start Horrorfest from the beginning, go to I Don’t Belong in the World

For the previous post, go to They’re Coming to Get You Barbara 

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For more on The Phantom of the Opera, go to My Favorite Movie Lines

For more on classic horror films, go to I Want Friend Like Me

For more films based on books, go to Quite a Horror Story

For more films that spanned countless remakes, go to I Bid You Welcome

For more of my favorite quotes, go to I’m No Warrior, I’m an Assistant Pig-Keeper