Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Turner Classic Movies Celebrates Arlene Dahl: Summer Under The Stars August 28th, 2014

Today, August 28th, 2014, TCM is presenting 24 hours of Arlene Dahl films beginning at 6AM. I believe, as
Watch The Birdie with Ann Miller and Red Skelton
I know anyone who has ever seen on Arlene Dahl technicolor will agree, this woman was born for technicolor. I am a huge fan of Arlene's. We are also practically neighbors. I'm here to tell you that technicolor lustre is just as intact today as when we first saw her light up the silver screen.
Turner Classic Movies debuted on April 14, 1994 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with Ted Turner launching the channel at a ceremony in New York City's Times Square district.The date was chosen for its significance as "the exact centennial anniversary of the first public movie showing in New York City."
The first movie broadcast on TCM was the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, the same film that served as the debut broadcast of its sister channel TNT six years earlier in October 1988.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony in Times Square, host Robert Osborne was joined by Arlene Dahl, Jane Powell, and Van Johnson.
When I received the notice yesterday that TCM was honoring Arlene on Thursday, I requested an interview with Arlene Dahl. Arlene has led a life off stage just as exciting as her on screen roles.
I hope that some day, she will write her own memoirs. I have written about Arlene in the past.
However, today, I ONLY want to focus on Arlene and the movies, especially those that will be shown on TCM on Thursday. Grab some popcorn and sit back and enjoy a look back on an illustrious film career. Thank you TCM! Thank you, Arlene!

Arlene thinks that Robert Osborne must have had a lot to do with this retrospective on Thursday.

She laughed when I asked if she had any input in the selection of films with an emphatic "No!". As a matter of fact, two of her favorite films are not going to be shown, which are Woman's World which she did at Fox and Slightly Scarlet that she did at RKO (which is part of The TCM library).

Growing up in Minneapolis, Arlene's cousin, Sylvia, used to take her to the movies. She doesn't remember going that often with her mother except to see a Joan Crawford, her mom's favorite, film once or twice.
Her father was a dealer and executive with the Ford Motor Company. He didn't go to movies. Later on in Arlene's career, she got to know Joan Crawford ("not so happily, but it turned out OK").
The trajectory into film came mainly because of her move from Minneapolis to Chicago.
From Chicago, she went to New York with the buyer of lingerie apparel at Marshall Field where she was working briefly as a model. This friend that Arlene traveled to New York with wanted Arlene to take her place in two years to become the buyer for lingerie apparel for Marshall Field. One day Arlene's friend gave her a lunch break off because she had other things to attend to. Arlene picked up Variety and saw that try outs were being held for a musical called Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston.
She went on a whim and got the part! That's how it started. On opening night,  Jack Warner and his casting agent, Solly Biano, were in the audience. They came backstage and offered to send Arlene to Hollywood to make a screen test.
The rest is history! I asked Arlene if it was a difficult transition going into film. Once again, she laughed and said she didn't even know where the camera was!
She had to learn from the bottom up where to stand and what to do. She had a very good teacher by the name of Dennis Morgan, who was the leading man in Arlene's first film, My Wild Irish Rose.
Most sources list Arlene's first film as Life with Father.
She was announced for it but never appeared in it. She was then announced for My Wild Irish Rose playing the "Rose".
Arlene has many favorites from the films she has appeared in. Journey to the Center of The Earth and Woman's World and Three Little Words (in which she had her first musical number that Fred Astaire saw to it that she got) are three of her
with Edith Head, Here Come the Girls 1953
favorites.
She thought that since My Wild Irish Rose was a musical that she would get to sing in that.Jack Warner first saw her in a musical where she sang and danced. As a matter of fact, the choreographer was Balanchine. That was his first musical. Unfortunately, Arlene didn't get a chance to sing in My Wild Irish Rose. It was all Dennis Morgan's voice you heard. He sang to Arlene with these great glamorous close-ups of her.   

The one that got away that Arlene wishes she had done was Cyrano (de Bergerac). She was supposed to do it with Jose Ferrer. She had fittings for costumes and wigs and everything else. It was a done deal she thought. So did Columbia. So did Joe (Jose). However, there was a clause in the contract that LB Mayer had to sign. He refused to sign because it was a television clause. The movie would have been shown on television. At that time, in the fifties, TV was a big conflict with the studios.
Mayer wouldn't sign and that clause had to be signed. Within three days, she was replaced. This took place on a Thursday with film production to commence on Monday in technicolor with Arlene in the leading lady role.The actress who was under contract who could fit into Arlen's costumes was Mala Powers. She was very good but the film took another direction.
It was made in black and white instead of color.

Louis B. Mayer was like a grandfather to Arlene. He was very much in favor of her doing larger roles and being filmed in technicolor.
When the studio system started falling apart in the early fifties, it was a gradual transition.When Mayer left MGM in 1951, Arlene was put in black and white films by new studio head, Dore Schary. Arlene was not happy with many of the films. She had made Three Little Words which was a breakthrough film for Arlene. She had gotten to sing and dance for the first time, courtesy of Mr. Astaire. Next picture she did with Red Skelton and it was black and white. Then she did a film with Van Johnson "which was very nice". Then two more which "were terrible. They were B movies." She then asked her agent to get her out of that contract. He did and Arlene signed with Paramount.
Ann Miller, Arlene, and Elizabeth Taylor
She did four films with them with more money than she ever thought possible in her life.
As a matter of fact, she bought her first house with a paycheck from Paramount.
I asked Arlene to name what she thinks is the worst thing to happen to the entertainment industry. She believes the worst change is "reality" TV, exceptions being Dancing With the Stars and the talent competitions. She believes it is terrible what has happened to Hollywood. Good script writers are out of work and a lot of good actors, who won't do "realty" TV, are also out of work.
I think Robert Osborne is one of the greatest gifts we have in the entertainment world. Arlene met Robert through friend, Michael Feinstein. They were at a party and they became fast close friends.  As mentioned earlier, Arlene was there the first day of TCM. Both she and Jane Powell are proud of that achievement.
Now, I would like to talk about some of the films being shown on Thursday. I've also asked Arlene to weigh in on those with the first thing that pops into her head. Arlene's thoughts are all italicized. The films are listed in EST.
The day will kick off at 6AM with a comedy that Arlene made in 1948 called The Bride Goes Wild. D: Norman Taurog. Van Johnson, June Allyson, Butch Jenkins, Hume Cronyn, Una Merkel, Arlene Dahl, Richard Derr. Silly, predictable farce in which irresponsible children's book author Johnson pretends to be Jenkins' widowed father in order to keep illustrator Allyson from exposing his shenanigans.
That was my first picture for Metro. We didn't know if it would come about or not, although my agent suggested that I go there for wardrobe fittings on a Thursday because the film was supposed to start on Tuesday morning. I was still under contract to Warner Brothers. They hadn't not picked up my option yet. Only Jack Warner could pick it up. He was in Monte Carlo losing his shirt gambling. My agent thought that if Jack doesn't come back by Monday by 5PM, we will have you on set on Tuesday morning on the set with June Allyson and Van Johnson. I played the other woman. Jack Warner didn't come back until late on Tuesday which was now too late to pick up my option. I was already, by this time, filming!  

Watch The Birdie (1951) will be shown at 8AM. D: Jack Donohue. Red Skelton, Arlene Dahl, Ann Miller, Leon Ames, Pamela Britton, Richard Rober. Average Skelton comedy features him as photographer, silly father, and grandfather. Rest of cast is also good with routine material, reworking of Buster Keaton's THE CAMERAMAN.
It was the second or third film I did with Red Skelton which was always fun. It was another black and white film and not an A picture. 

No Questions Asked (also 1951) will be shown at 9:15AM. : Harold F. Kress. Barry Sullivan, Arlene Dahl, Jean Hagen, George Murphy, William Reynolds, Mari Blanchard. Snappy little film of insurance company lawyer Sullivan seeking easy road to success via crime rackets.
 One of the worst movies I've ever been in. It was in black and white. It was like a B picture and Arlene tried to get out of her MGM contract because of this.

She Played with Fire (Crime Drama made in 1957) will be shown at 10:45AM.  D: Sidney Gilliat. Jack Hawkins, Arlene Dahl, Dennis Price, Violet Farebrother, Ian Hunter, Christopher Lee. OK drama of Hawkins, insurance investigator, becoming involved with Dahl, an arsonist.
This was the second film I did in London. Jack Hawkins was the number one actor in London at the time and I gave him his first screen kiss. It was front page news of the Daily Mail. I enjoyed working in London very much and made a lot of friends there.  

My Wild Irish Rose (1947) will be shown at 12:30PM
D: David Butler. Dennis Morgan, Andrea King, Arlene Dahl, Alan Hale, George Tobias. Irish songs galore support limp biography of songwriter Chauncey Olcott.
This was my first film, so, of course, I was happy to do it. I thought I would get a song or two, but Dennis got all the songs. However, since I was chosen to play the "Rose", the fact that I was red headed and looking Irish helped to get me the role. I had heard that contract player Ann Sheridan was also considered. She had turned it down. I had no idea that I was next in line. Producer Jerry Wald and Director Curtis Bernhart wanted me signed and wanted something big to happen for me so they convinced Jack Warner to introduce me in this role. I had a big crush on Dennis Morgan. He taught me everything. He taught me where to stand, where to sit, how to act to his left ear, that he wiggled which made me laugh. It went swimmingly but I didn't know whether I would be a star or have to go back to New York which I was hoping for. I never dreamed of having a screen career. I always wanted to be on the stage.  

The Black Book (1949) will be shown at 2:30PM.
D: Anthony Mann. Robert Cummings, Arlene Dahl, Richard Hart, Richard Basehart, Arnold Moss, Beulah Bondi. Vivid costume drama set during French Revolution, with valuable diary eluding both sides of battle. Moss is particularly good as the elegantly, eloquently evil Foucher. Stunningly photographed by John Alton; every shot is a painting!
Walter Wanger borrowed me from Metro after seeing me in a few films I had done. He was the one who gave me my signature beauty mark which really became my signature. He had contests across the country looking for someone who had the same lips and beauty mark as I. Whoever won would be wined and dined in Hollywood. I enjoyed working with Robert Cummings and famed Argentinian cinematographer. I never looked better in my life. We became great friends. 

A Southern Yankee (comedy1948) will be shown at 4:15PM. D: Edward Sedgwick. Red Skelton, Brian Donlevy, Arlene Dahl, George Coulouris, Lloyd Gough, John Ireland, Charles Dingle, Joyce Compton. Hilarious Skelton comedy set during Civil War with Red a bumbling Yankee spy down South. Reminiscent of silent comedies, since Buster Keaton devised many of the film's gags.
I loved making this film. It was my first film with Red Skelton who never stuck to the script at all. It was all very spontaneous with him. I followed all that he did. I was the last actress under contract to make a test with him. Ava Gardner (a true southerner from North Carolina) and Janet Leigh had already tested. The character was supposed to be a southern girl. Arlene had a southern roommate so she picked up the language and the accent very quickly. She was greeted by director, Edward Sedgwick, who asked how she felt about this role: Ah just cain't wait to get in thea and act with Red Skelton. Ah just think he is the best thing possible! 
He had a southern gal here! He said, "Where are you from, honey?" I said, "I am from South Minneapolis!"   


Journey To The Center of The Earth (1959) will be shown at 8PM.

 D: Henry Levin. James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker, Thayer David, Alan Napier. Entertaining, old-fashioned fantasy-adventure, from Jules Verne's story of daring expedition headed by Mason; long in telling, with silly digressions, but generally fun. Remade for TV in 1999, and as WHERE TIME BEGAN. Best enjoyed in CinemaScope.
One of my favorite films but I almost died making this. When we were filming in the "center of the Earth", a large twenty ton water 'blooper' fell and was forced into my face instead of my back and I went back to my childhood. I almost died at five in Minneapolis when I almost drowned. I woke up in the hospital with both Pat Boone and James Mason holding my hands happy that I was still alive. So was I.  

Wicked as They Come (1957) will be shown at 10:30PM.  D: KenArlene Dahl, Phil Carey, Herbert Marshall, David Kossoff. Dahl cavorts nicely in this minor story of a girl from the poor part of town involved with the wrong people.
Hughes.
One of the best acting jobs I ever had but I had to go to London to do it. 

Three Little Words (my favorite! 1950) will be shown at 12:15AM.
D: Richard Thorpe. Fred Astaire, Vera- Ellen, Red Skelton, Arlene Dahl, Keenan Wynn, Gloria De Haven, Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter. Standard MGM musical about famous songwriters Kalmar and Ruby and their climb to fame; bouncy cast, fine tunes, including Who's Sorry Now?, Thinking of You, title song. Debbie plays Helen Kane, but the real Helen dubbed I Wanna Be Loved by You.
One of my favorites! I enjoyed working with all the people in it. Of course, Fred Astaire was the one who went to Mayer and asked if I could have a musical number after hearing me sing one night after dinner when we were all around the piano singing. He got it into his head that I should sing in a film. Since he was going to be playing one of the leads, he brought in his choreographer Hermes Pan to look after me and design the dance numbers. It was one of my favorite movies and a very loving experience.

The Outriders (1950) will be shown at 2:15AM.
D: Roy Rowland. Joel McCrea, Arlene Dahl, Barry Sullivan, Claude Jarman, Jr., Ramon Novarro, James Whitmore. Standard account of Reb soldiers trying to capture gold shipment for Confederate cause. 
This was the first western that I went on location with. I went there with my cousin. Joel McCrea was my leading man and I had a big crush on him. I think he liked me a little bit, too. Nothing came of that, however. We certainly had great chemistry in our scenes together. 

Kisses For My President (A Comedy from 1964) will be shown at 4AM wrapping up the day. It was a forerunner to what's happening in 2016 when Hilary becomes our first woman President. I expected that we'd have a woman President by now. Perhaps we have a chance coming up. This film was made after I'd left Warner Brothers after MCM and Paramount. My agent continued to get film work for me after I left MGM. Going back to Warner Brothers brought back some wonderful memories of my first film there. I knew Polly Bergen. She was, of course, the first woman President in this film.Fred MacMurray, I had never known before, although I had met him socially when he was married to June Haver. He was such fun to work with. I took this film because I was thinking, at the time, about bringing out my own fragrance line.I was the president of my own fragrance line in the film. I loved the scenes I had with Fred. This was a very happy experience for me.

with Robert Taylor in Ambush
One film that, unfortunately, won't be shown on Thursday is one in which she had one of her handsomest leading men and the object of a childhood crush, Robert Taylor. The film is Ambush. It was Arlene's first western. Although she didn't go on location, she had a true MOVIE STAR as a leading man. He was fabulous, absolutely fabulous to work with. In high school, I collected some of his photographs. I sent to MGM for a signed autograph of him. I didn't know how to tell him this. As his leading lady, how do I tell him that I was just a few years from graduating from high school that I was a soppy student who sent for his autograph. The day before the last scene we had to shoot, I got up enough courage to tell him this. He was so sweet about it and so endearing. The next day in my dressing room, I had two dozen beautiful tea roses, which is my favorite flower. He had found out that was my favorite flower, along with an 8x10 framed Tiffany silver picture framed and signed by him to Arlene along with a gift. She opened the gift to find a card that read, 'Garbo gave me this on my first film with her to wish me luck and I give it to you for the same reason.' It was an ivory carved Buddha which could fit in my hand. I still have it.       

Arlene tells me that she rarely watches her films unless it is a favorite film of hers. She always sees what she could have done better. On Thursday, she MIGHT take the time to watch some of her favorites. Otherwise, no. 

Arlene is not one to rest on her laurels. She has been working for sometime on the Broadway Walk of Stars Foundation to honor the legends that have made Broadway what it is today. Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, and Bob Hope are three names that come to mind. The goal is the same concept as the Hollywood and Palm Springs Walks of Fame. It looks as if our current Mayor will help Arlene get this done. Arlene has a board of directors and is looking forward to working with the Mayor to get this galaxy of stars a reality. There is a perfect place for this, between 42nd and 46th Streets. There are pedestrian walkways that are ugly now. They don't say anything or do anything.
A galaxy of stars will bring more tourists to see their favorite stars just like Arlene's first star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. People go their to see these stars. I'm hoping the same thing happens in New York. We should have had this several years ago. In the meantime, I, as well, as the rest of us are lucky to have such a bright star in our midst!

Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,


Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!

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Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Check out This Site Celebrating Arlene Dahl's Body of Film Work




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1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this terrific article, Mr Skipper, about the gorgeous Arlene. It's so insightful,intelligent and loving, and Arlene's evaluation of her films is really enlightening.
    It's a shame TCM is not showing 'Slightly Scarlet', in which she gave one of her best performances, teamed with the equally gorgeous Rhonda Fleming.
    Perhaps one day you'd consider similar profiles of three other beautiful redheads from Hollywood's Golden Age : Rhonda, the versatile and underrated Columbia actress/singer Janet Blair, and my supreme favourite, the sublime Deborah Kerr, whose rich cinematic legacy is, quite simply, magnificent.
    Again, thank you for your tribute to the undervalued Arlene.

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