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Audrey at 90: The Salute to Audrey Hepburn Blogathon Has Arrived!

Happy Birthday, Audrey Hepburn!

This extraordinary woman was born 90 years ago today, and to celebrate, we’re launching Audrey at 90: The Salute to Audrey Hepburn Blogathon! A heartfelt thank-you to all the writers helping us explore so many aspects of her amazing life.

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hepburn-1And we’re so honored to welcome a very special guest —Audrey’s son, Luca Dotti, author of the New York Times bestsellers Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen and Audrey in Rome. “I’m touched and delighted that so many writers are celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday,” he told us. “I look forward to reading the variety of topics on her films and her life which are covered here.” Luca also wrote the moving and insightful foreword to Robert Matzen’s brand-new book, Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn in World War II, an incredible story beautifully told—which will leave you even more in awe of Audrey.

Three lucky participants will win a copy! On May 8, we’ll draw the names and notify the winners.

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I’ll be writing about this fascinating book, and the author will be sharing his thoughts on what it was like to spend so much time “with” Audrey, compared with his other stellar subjects, including James Stewart, Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn and Carole Lombard.

So without further ado, let’s get this party started! 

The event runs from May 4 to May 7, so be sure to check back often for the latest entries as we add live links. And if you’re participating, just grab one of the banners at the bottom and link back to the blogathon in your article.

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Here’s the list of topics:

Sister Celluloid: Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn in WWII
Robert Matzen: Spending time “with” Audrey as a subject, compared with other stars
Moon in Gemini: The Nun’s Story
Poppity Talks Classic Film: The Unforgiven
Diary of a Movie Maniac: Bloodline and Love Among Thieves
The Story Enthusiast: Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto
Caftan Woman: Charade
Realweegiemidget Reviews: Robin and Marian
Three Enchanting Ladies: Funny Face
The Stop Button: Secret People
Love Letters to Old Hollywood: Love in the Afternoon
The Midnite Drive-In: The Children’s Hour
MovieMovieBlogBlog: My Fair Lady
Popcorn and Flickers: How Audrey Met Givenchy
Stars and Letters: Cher’s Letter to Audrey
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: A Salute to Audrey
Thoughts All Sorts: Roman Holiday
The Pale Writer: Audrey’s early career and How to Steal a Million
Champagne for Lunch: The Nun’s Story and Robin and Marian
Critica Retro: Paris When It Sizzles
Cinematic Scribblings: Two for the Road

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Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur “Stoop” to Conquer in THE MORE THE MERRIER

In Sullivan’s Travels, Preston Sturges made a convincing case that comedy is often the best balm for tragedy. But for his friend and colleague George Stevens, the horrors of World War II left him with little capacity for comedy when he returned home from the front lines.

From 1943 to 1946, Stevens covered the war in Europe for the Army Signal Corps—and insisted on shooting the worst of it himself rather than delegating the more gruesome or dangerous jobs to the men in his unit. He captured the only Allied color footage of D-Day, and also filmed the liberation of Paris, the Elbe River meeting of U.S. and Soviet forces, and the nightmarish conditions at the Duben and Dachau concentration camps, which served as evidence at the Nuremberg trials. The Library of Congress deemed his work “an essential visual record” of the war.

Because he was fundamentally changed by the horrors he’d borne witness to, there’s a bright line between Stevens’ pre-war films and those he made when he came home, which were more somber and in some cases deeply personal. But his last comedy—and the last film he made before joining the Army—is one of the best anyone ever made: The More the Merrier.

Actually, the movie feels a little like Sturges, as he and Stevens shared a deep affection for the absurd, including characters who could spout total nonsense with absolute conviction, eventually wearing down all comers with their righteous refusal to cave in to anything as mundane as reality. 

In this case, the prime suspect is Benjamin Dingle (Charles Coburn), a retired millionaire who comes to the capitol to advise the government on the housing shortage—and immediately becomes its next victim. His hotel has no record of his reservation, so he takes to the streets in search of that rarest of all species, a Room for Rent.

After bluffing (okay, lying) his way past all the other hopefuls, Dingle presents himself to the highly resistant, somewhat starchy Constance Milligan (Jean Arthur) as the perfect tenant to share her flat. And the battle is on, though the winner is clear from the outset:

Connie: I’ve made up my mind to rent to nobody but a woman.
Dingle: So, let me ask you something. Would I ever want to wear your stockings?
Connie: No…
Dingle: Well, all right. Would I ever want to borrow your girdle, or your red and yellow dancing slippers?
Connie: Of course not!
Dingle: Well, any woman, no matter who, would insist upon borrowing that dress you got on right now. You know why? Because it’s so pretty.
Connie [softening]: I made it myself.
Dingle: And how would you like it if she spilled a cocktail all over it—at a party you couldn’t go with her to because she borrowed it to go to it—in?
Connie [totally caught up in the story now]: She might have something that I could wear…
Dingle: Not her.
Connie: Why not?
Dingle: Because she’s so dumpy-looking. Never has anything clean. That’s why she’s always borrowing your dresses.
Connie:  How do I know you’d be any better?
Dingle [whirling around and proudly patting his belly]: Well, look at me. I’m neat, like a pin. Ah, let me stay.
Connie [not yet realizing she’s completely defeated]: Well, look, I…
Dingle: I tell you what. We’ll try it out for a week. End of the week comes, if you’re not happy, we’ll flip a coin to see who moves out.

Almost immediately after she consents—on a trial basis, mind you—Dingle leases out half his room to Joe Carter (Joel McCrea), a foreign-service officer headed overseas—and headed to the altar with Connie, if Dingle has anything to say about it. Never mind that they haven’t even met yet. Or that Connie is engaged to an uber-respectable bureaucrat, Charles J. Pendergast (poor Richard Gaines, who, up against  McCrea, seems not only overmatched but like a totally different species).

Get any two fans of this film together and they’ll launch into a scene-by-scene lovefest: the part where Connie explains her insanely regimented morning routine and Dingle asks, “Do we do all this railroad time or Eastern war time?” The break-neck breakfast scene, where his enormous pants get sling-shot out the window by their suspenders. The part where Connie and Joe are frantically racing to escape before her fiancé calls—only to be held hostage by the whiny teen who lives downstairs, whom you want to strangle. The scene where Connie and Joe, in separate rooms, are rhumba-ing in perfect rhythm to What Is This Thing Called Love, before Connie even knows he’s moved in. (I’ve lived in apartments most of my life and have stumbled across lots of surprises. None of them was Joel McCrea shimmying in a bathrobe just down the hall.)

And then there’s one of the sweetest, sexiest, funniest love scenes ever—ranking right up there with the telephone scene in It’s A Wonderful Life for spectacularly failed attempts to thwart the inevitable:

The Stoop Scene.

Joe walks Connie home, and they park on the front steps before heading inside. Almost the second they sit down, his intentions are clear, as he gently nuzzles her neck, her bare shoulder, the top of her lacy sleeve… but Connie somehow manages to prattle on frantically about the sober Mr. Pendergast, stamp collecting, and the joys of budgeting as Joe keeps his mind fixed firmly on the mission at hand (or hands).

“Take my engagement ring,” Connie blurts. “Don’t you think it’s nice—not gaudy, I mean?”

“You bet,” Joe murmurs, seizing the chance to caress and kiss her sensibly clad fingers.

And long after any mortal woman would have surrendered, she stumbles onward: “You know, with those older men like Mr. Pendergast…  a girl gets to appreciate their more mature…” <Joe goes in for a full-on kiss> “…viewpoint.”

And that’s when she finally just gives up, grabs his face and kisses him back. But then, reaching back for that one last pesky shred of common sense, she pulls away. “I’d better go,” she says unconvincingly, as her knees buckle beneath her.

Oh my God. This is one of the most sizzling scenes ever filmed, and almost all of it happens above the collarbone.

Aside from being just plain fabulous, the stoop scene, as well as earlier ones of her sunning on a rooftop and dancing around the living room in a midriff top, show what a criminally underappreciated hottie Arthur was. In fact, before this film, she was feeling overlooked in general—turning down sub-par scripts at a rate that made Columbia boss Harry Cohn even crankier than he already was.

So she and her husband, producer Frank Ross, hired their friend Garson Kanin to whip up a vehicle for her. And Two’s a Crowd, co-written with Robert Russell and Ross, eventually morphed into The More the Merrier.

Stevens loved the script and, as usual, reveled in the chance to ruffle the suits in the Breen Office—skittering along the edges of Production Code propriety. The stoop scene, where you really should light a cigarette afterward, is Exhibit A. In another head-swimmingly tender scene, Joe and Connie, side by side in separate bedrooms, finally confess their love for each other—but somehow the wall between seems a bit, well, blurry. Meanwhile Dingle’s favorite word is “damn” (gasp!), but always in the context of quoting Admiral Farragut’s oath about torpedoes.

One of the Breen Office’s oddest demands was that bachelors McCrea and Coburn never be seen using the bathroom together. (No really.) Stevens found this homophobia so hilarious that during the nightclub scene, he made a point of putting several female couples on the dancefloor, which allowed him to poke fun at the wartime shortage of eligible males—another running theme in the film—and tweak the censors at the same time. (The band is also all-girl.)

As you might expect, this was a very merry film set, even though, astonishingly, McCrea felt miscast at first, telling anyone within earshot that Cary Grant could’ve carried it off better. (Ironically, poor Cary got saddled with the Dingle role in the highly missable remake, Walk Don’t Run.) He’d just belted it out of the park in two of the best screwballs ever —Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Story—but still didn’t feel comfortable in this trip to the plate.

Which is pretty much what made him perfect. Because the last person you want in a screwball comedy is someone who wants to make a screwball comedy. In his work with Sturges, McCrea was the relatively sane, benevolent linchpin for all the screwy goings-on around him, much as he is in The More the Merrier. And with a little help from a sensitive director and a generous leading lady, McCrea quickly loosened up and settled in on the set. To no one’s surprise but his own, he was perfect again.

Stevens, who called Arthur “one of the greatest comediennes the screen has ever seen,” had just seen her with Coburn in The Devil and Miss Jones—where she played the dreamer and he was the starchy one with all the answers. That they could flip roles so completely and still crackle with the same quirky chemistry is testament to what a great “screen couple” they were.

Arthur, Stevens, the screenwriters and the producers all snagged Oscar nods for The More The Merrier—but McCrea, who went his entire career without so much as a nomination, was overlooked as usual. Coburn went home with the Supporting Actor trophy, back in the days when the Academy occasionally  rewarded comedy. This was one of several films, including Together Again and Heaven Can Wait, where he impishly played the busybody who helps clueless couples get out of their own way, which became something of a mini-specialty for him.

On the opposite coast, the New York Film Critics tapped Stevens as Best Director. Truer words, never spoken. Though his reasons were unassailable, I wish he’d never made a last comedy. But if he had to say goodbye, there could not have been a higher note to go out on than this brilliant, lovely, loopy, tender film.

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Please Join Us for the Backstage Blogathon!

I’m thrilled to be co-hosting another blogathon with the fabulous Fritzi at Movies Silently! And this one premieres in—gasp!—2016. Which is much closer than you think.

On that cheery note, please join us January 15-18 for the Backstage Blogathon!

What’s it about? Well, the entertainment industry has always loved looking in the mirror, and we’re going to be taking a peek at what they put on the screen as a result—from love letters to scathing indictments and everything in between.

This isn’t limited to movies about movies: You can pick films that go behind the scenes of any performing art: ballet, theatre, puppetry, opera, the circus… use your imagination!

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The film must feature performing arts as a significant part of the plot. So it’s not enough for a character to simply be, say, an actress; the profession must play an important part in the story. John Cassavetes, for instance, plays a struggling actor in Rosemary’s Baby, but the movie’s about communing with Satan, who in this case is not Louis B. Mayer.

To join up, all you have to do is tell either Fritzi or me your film choice. All movies must be from 1970 or before and, considering how often the arts have gazed at themselves on film, no duplicates are allowed—we are confident there’s something for everyone! Animated films are welcome, as are foreign movies. But no documentaries, please.

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Here are some suggestions: Make Me a Star, Film Film Film, Ella Cinders, Our Gang Follies of 1936, All About Eve, The OscarForever FemaleValley of the DollsA Star Is Born (Janet Gaynor or Judy Garland but not, heaven forbid, Barbra Streisand)The Big KnifeBlack Widow, Lili, Pinocchio, The Hard WayThe Mind ReaderNightmare AlleyTrapeze, At the CircusA Night at the OperaFreaksHe Who Gets SlappedLaugh Clown LaughThe UnknownBerserk, Sunset Boulevard, The Next Voice You HearShine on Harvest MoonIt’s a Great FeelingSummer StockLove Me or Leave Me, Bombshell, Dancing Lady, Svengali, Sullivan’s Travels, and biopics of performers.

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And to answer a couple of other questions in advance:

I have great behind-the-scenes stories of a famous film. Can I write about those?

No. We’re covering how movies portray the entertainment industry. Of course, if you have some juicy anecdotes about the backstage film you are covering, feel free to include them.

Can I write about authors and painters?

While we all love us some Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh or Norma Shearer as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, they’re for another blogathon another day. This event centers around the performing arts. Other forms of art can be featured but the movie must focus on acting, singing, dancing etc. as the main theme.

Once you sign up, please take a banner from this post and place it in your blog’s sidebar. We’re so happy to have you aboard! (We also understand that life happens, so if you find you can’t make the event after all, please let us know as soon as you can so we can free up that film for another blogger to claim. Thanks!) Grab a movie and let’s go backstage!

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The Roster So Far:

Movies Silently    Kean and No Way to Treat a Lady
Sister Celluloid    Souls for Sale
Criterion Blues    The Red Shoes
Speakeasy     The Lost Squadron
A Shroud of Thoughts     42nd Street
B Noir Detour     A Double Life
Now Voyaging     Show People
Silver Screenings     Footlight Parade
The Motion Pictures     Annabel Takes a Tour
The Last Drive In     The Legend of Lyla Claire
Citizen Screen     Daffy Duck in Hollywood
Movie Movie Blog Blog     You Ought to Be in Pictures
Caftan Woman     Charlie Chan at the Opera
Make Mine Criterion     Hellzapoppin’
Carole & Co.     Twentieth Century
Defiant Success     Yankee Doodle Dandy
Love Letters to Old Hollywood     There’s No Business Like Show Business
Stardust     Singin’ in the Rain
Nitrateglow     The Unknown
Mildred’s Fatburgers     Kiss Me Kate
Wolffian Classic Movie Digest     The Bad and the Beautiful
Cinematic Scribblings     8 1/2
Cinema Cities     The Barkleys of Broadway
Immortal Ephemera     What Price Hollywood?
Moon in Gemini     Unfaithfully Yours
Smitten Kitten Vintage     Easter Parade
Cinephiliaque     Contempt
Tam May, Author     Stage Door
The Movie Rat     Our Gang Follies of 1936
Critica Retro     The Phantom of the Opera (1925 and 1943)
The Joy and Agony of Movies     All About Eve
David Bruce Appreciation Society     Alice in Movieland
Cinema Shame     A Night at the Opera
Second Sight Cinema      The Gang’s All Here
Girls Do Film     Contempt
Cinema Gadfly     Variety Lights
Wonderful World of Cinema     Lady Be Good
Scribblings     Upstream
LA Explorer     Babes in Arms and Babes on Broadway
Welcome to My Magick Theater     Abbott and Costello in Hollywood
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies     What a Great Feeling and Funny Girl
Old Hollywood Films      Summer Stock
Pop Culture Pundit     Sunset Boulevard
Crimson Kimono     They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
Tossing It Out     Idiot’s Delight
Wrote by Rote     Give My Regards to Broadway
The Love Pirate     The Producers (1967)
BB Creations     The Band Wagon
Laini Giles     Ziegfeld Girl

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Posted on 32 Comments

Please Join Us for the “TRY IT, YOU’LL LIKE IT!” Blogathon!

When you’re plunking down on the sofa to watch a classic film, do your friends and loved ones react like…

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Or…  not so much? Well, never fear, the “Try It, You’ll Like It!” Blogathon is here!

Hosted by Sister Celluloid and the fabulous Fritzi at Movies Silently, the blogathon is a public service of sorts… We’re asking you to pick a “gateway film”—a classic movie you think (or know from experience!) has crossover appeal to those suffering from a tragic scourge: Dread Of Old Movies (DOOM) syndrome. Don’t turn away from these DOOMed souls—reach out and help them! Rescue them from a life filled only with <sniffle> modern movies!

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Your choice of movie is wide open. Maybe you’re thinking of a nifty little noir or gangster film that might rope in the modern-crime lover. Or an intriguing mystery that’ll keep them guessing until the closing credits. A comedy that’s as fresh today as the day it came out. A timeless drama that could win over the worst cynic. A swoon-worthy or blistering-hot romance. A frank Pre-Code. A rousing Western. Or even a—gasp!—musical with energy, style and rhythm to burn. Whatever it is, if you think it fits the bill, it’s yours for the taking.

In line with the definition of “classic” in the new TCM Presents Leonard Maltin’s Classic Film Guide, all we ask is that you pick a film made in or before 1965.

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By the time the blogathon goes live in December, we’ll have created something of a ready-made “cheat sheet” for our fellow classic movie lovers potentially facing a house full of DOOMed friends and relatives for the holidays.

So please join us! Your classic-film family—and your actual one!—will thank you!

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On December 5, when the blogathon begins, Fritzi and I will add new posts for it on our sites, which will be updated as entries pour in. Here’s mine: The “Try It, You’ll Like It!” Blogathon Is Here!

I’ll be handling the first half of the list, through The Hidden Fortress , and Fritzi will take the second half. So check which half your film is in to see which of us you should send your post to, and we’ll put your link into our post.

When you write your piece, please include one of the banners at the top or the bottom, with a link to the December 5 post on either Fritzi’s or my page, depending on which of us has your post.

And please add this description or something similar to your post: This post is part of the “Try It, You’ll Like It!” Blogathon, hosted by Sister Celluloid and Movies Silently, where we write about “gateway films” that might bring non-classic-film lovers into the fold! For all the entries, click here!

The Roster:

Movies Silently     Judex
Sister Celluloid     The More the Merrier
A Shroud of Thoughts     Bringing Up Baby
Silver Screenings     The Big Country
Caftan Woman     12 Angry Men
BNoirDetour     Gilda
Now Voyaging     The Palm Beach Story
Cinema Gadfly     Pandora’s Box
Book ’em Danno!     The Crowd
Moon in Gemini     The Razor’s Edge
Drew’s Movie Reviews     Some Like It Hot
An Ode to Dust     Why Be Good?
Cinematic Scribblings     Elevator to the Gallows
Special Purpose Movie Blog     Casablanca
Queerly Different     All About Eve
Big V Riot Squad     The Great K&A Train Robbery
Aperture Reviews     The Americanization of Emily
Criterion Blues     Wild Strawberries
Le Mot du Cinephiliaque     Wings of Eagles
365 Days 365 Classics     The Virgin Spring
Critica Retro     Roman Holiday
Defiant Success     Singin’ in the Rain
The Movie Rat     Psycho
Bookshelves and Daydreams     East of Eden
Old Shelter     Underworld
Jesgear’s Blog     The Hidden Fortress
Girls Do Film     It Happened One Night
Cinema Cities     Rear Window 
Gravatar     Stalag 17
I Love Terrible Movies     Attack of the 50-Foot Woman
Old Hollywood Films     His Girl Friday
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood     The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Silent-ology     The Scarecrow
Speakeasy     Gun Crazy
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies     My Favorite Brunette
Shadows and Satin     Too Late for Tears
Mildred’s Fatburgers     M
The Love Pirate     High Noon
wolffianclassicmoviedigest     The Wizard of Oz
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You     Ace in the Hole
LA Explorer    The Lady Eve
Welcome to My Magick Theatre    Safety Last
Totally Filmi     Jungli
The Flapper Dame     The Thin Man
The Wonderful World of Cinema     Modern Times
Play Off the Page     Here Comes the Groom
1001 Films 1001 Days     Silver Lode
Christina Wehner     The Horror of Dracula
The Basement Tan     The Best Years of Our Lives
Aperture Reviews     The Americanization of Emily

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Posted on 10 Comments

D.O.A.: A Love Story

Ah, classic movie love scenes! Scarlett and Rhett on the bridge in Gone with the Wind. Rick and Ilsa on the tarmac in Casablanca. Kathy and Heathcliff on the moors in Wuthering Heights. Frank and Paula on a seedy street corner in D.O.A.

Wait, what?

Oh yes, people! Tucked amid the sleazy bars, poisoned cocktails, glowing toxins and creepy villains is one of the most romantic scenes in all of film—filled with more longing, love and loss than you’ll find in a hundred bodice-rippers.

When first we see Frank (Edmond O’Brien) and Paula (the approachably gorgeous Pamela Britton), the setting couldn’t be less romantic: an accountant’s office. But right away, we know at least one of them is in love, when Paula throws the fish-eye to the chippy who’s draped herself across Frank’s desk as he’s eyeing her deductions.

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Frank is wrapping up some work before heading to San Francisco on vacation—alone. Seems that although he and Paula have been seeing a lot of each other, he’s still burned and bruised from a bad marriage, and she’s, well… I hate the word “needy” because really, who among us hasn’t been desperately in love and grasping at any shred of reassurance we can get our hands on? But yeah, she’s a little clingy.

Later that day, over drinks at the pub downstairs, Paula’s trying to be brave. “I’m not going to crowd you any more, Frank,” she says, fighting her impulse to handcuff him to her handbag. “Go to San Francisco.” (Then she calls and leaves a message at his hotel literally before he arrives.)

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Frank gets to the St. Francis just in time for a hoppin’ convention—it’s the Market Week Summer Shindig!—and leaps into the spirit of things pretty damn quickly: no sooner has he checked in than he’s checking out the local talent. He’s even scoping out skirts while he’s on the phone to Paula back home.

But a classy hotel is no place to rumba with complete strangers, and soon the conventioneers, with Frank in tow, high-tail it to a dive bar on the wharf to take in some bad jazz and worse drinks. Frank’s bourbon tastes especially funny…

The next morning, he feels so hung over he heads for a doctor’s office, where tests reveal he’s ingested iridium, a “luminous toxin” with no antidote. A second doctor confirms the poisoning—and when he learns that Frank has no idea how it happened, says it must have been deliberate.

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Desperate and devastated, Frank sets off on a frantic search for his killers that leads him up and down San Francisco and finally to Los Angeles. And Paula, frightened at how he’s sounded on the phone, follows him there.

When she steps out of the shadows onto the street, it’s as if he sees his whole life before him—a life that was his for the taking just yesterday.

“Look at you, you’re a sight! Your clothes look like you’ve slept in them! Are you ill? You are—you’re feverish!” Paula cries, gently dabbing his brow with her handkerchief. “What is it, Frank? If you’re in any kind of trouble you certainly can trust me!” He could trust her with his life, and now realizes, too late, that he should have. If he hadn’t left her… if he’d stayed home… he would have gotten the phone call that would’ve warned him…

“Frank, I know that you’re in trouble, that something is wrong, that you’re in serious trouble!” she says. “You frighten me, Frank!”

“Oh don’t be frightened Paula!” he tells her, pulling her even closer. “Don’t ever be frightened of anything again, will you promise me that?”

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Suddenly everything comes spilling out, everything they should have said before, everything that could have saved them both.

“I love you so much, darling, more than you seem able to understand!” she says, fervent as a prayer. “I never really knew happiness until I loved you. Sometimes when I used to be afraid that you weren’t sure how you felt, I tried to hold back, but I couldn’t. Losing you would have meant losing everything! There would have been nothing left!”

“Don’t, Paula, don’t!” says Frank, all but collapsing under the weight of regret.

“Now I’m afraid again! Somehow I feel that I’m going to lose you but there’s nothing I can do about it! I feel so helpless—you’re leaving me out of something! Tell me Frank, what is it?” she pleads. “Give me a chance to fight back, just give me a chance, please! You do love me, don’t you?”

Almost before she can finish the question, he cries,”Oh yes, Paula, I love you! I never was more certain of anything in my life! I wasn’t sure before, I was a little blind, I guess, but believe me, I’m sure now, can you understand that Paula?”

“I understand,” she says softly. And she looks so relieved—as if this were the breakthrough that would finally make everything okay for them. As if this were the beginning.

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“A man can be like that, Paula, something has to happen, it can be a big thing or a little thing, but it can make him realize how much someone means to him, how much he really loves her,” he says, reassuring her even as he tortures himself. “Oh and I love you Paula—more than I ever thought it possible to love anyone in the world, I love you.”

He urges her to go home, but she refuses, and he promises to meet her later in the lobby of the nearby hotel.

“You’re sure, you promise?” she asks. And he does.

Then in his last moment of anything approaching normal life, he asks, like any good husband, “Is that a new outfit?”

“Yes,” she beams.

“Well it’s beautiful,” he smiles. He takes her head in his hands and kisses her, and wraps her up in his arms.

“You’ll come back to me, won’t you Frank?” she asks.

“Yes Paula I’ll come back, I promise,” he tells her, wishing it were true.

“Please hurry, darling,” she pleads. “Oh, I love you!”

Seeing everything he’s lost, everything that could have been, standing right in front of him, he holds her one last time.

“I love you, Paula!” he cries. “Goodbye, Paula.”

One final kiss, and he frames her face in his hands and turns to walk away. But he looks back, and looks back again, before leaving her for the last time.

You know the rest, or you can guess. And Frank’s last word as he collapses in the homicide detective’s office? Paula.

D.O.A. was produced by Leo Popkin’s ill-starred Cardinal Pictures, and because its copyright was never properly renewed, it’s fallen into the public domain. Here’s one of the better YouTube prints. The love scene starts at the 1:08:51 mark, though you’ll want to watch the whole thing…

By the way, there’s another reason that this movie, and that scene, are especially close to my heart: I adore Edmond O’Brien. It’s not just that he’s an incredibly natural actor who can do anything, and whose deep, tender voice is an instrument of the gods. It’s that I think he’s a total heartthrob.

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A skeptical friend and I recently saw him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame on the four-story-high screen at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and she said afterward, “Ah, now I get it.” But no. I don’t mean when he was gorgeous. I mean when he was chunky and craggy. Doughily hot! The Edmond O’Brien of the ’40s and ’50s—oh my God I just want to lock him in a room. If I were Paula, he never would have made it to San Francisco. He wouldn’t have gotten as far as the door.

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This article is a sneak preview of the “…And Scene!” Blogathon, hosted by Sister Celluloid. Starting on Thursday, June 25, read all the fabulous entries here!

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