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Classically Speaking:
Promoting Classic Movies in a Jaded World!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Mitchell LeisenYou really should know who MITCHELL LEISEN (1898-1972) is! He was arguably one of the most versatile behind-the-scenes men in Hollywood history, beginning in 1919 and continuing well into the sixties. He excelled as a costume designer for Cecil B. DeMille, set designer, art director and finally a solid career as a film director. In that last category, he was equally at home in both comedy and drama, and while he was best known for directing vehicles for actresses, he won acclaim for building the career of actors such as Fred MacMurray. Late in his career, he turned to television and directed several episodes of "The Twilight Zone" and other series.

Hands Across the Table (1935) Lobby CardA fine place to start is by viewing: Hands Across The Table (1935), the first of four teamings of MacMurray and Carole Lombard, and arguably the best film Carole (who portrays a gold-digging manicurist) ever made during her seven-year tenure at Paramount. It's a light, deft romantic comedy which Leisen infuses with just the right touch -- and a few twists and turns on genre formula along the way.

Watch this and then see these other four Leisen films.

Death Takes A Holiday (1934) Based on a play by Maxwell Anderson, who helped craft the film script. Made only months before the Code was enforced, it stars Fredric March as Death, who takes the form of the deceased Prince Sikki to learn why men fear him. The story was redone for a 1971 TV movie and the more recent film Meet Joe Black, but this has polish and power more than 70 years later.
Easy Living (1937) One of Jean Arthur's best vehicles, from a script written by Preston Sturges. Jean plays a working girl who has wealth, notoriety and even influence over the stock market land on her (literally) in the form of a millionaire's fur coat, leading everyone in this comedy of errors to believe she's his mistress.
Midnight (1939) Billy Wilder co-wrote the script. This is a splendid romantic comedy starring Claudette Colbert as a down-on-her-luck chorus girl who's stranded in Paris; both she and the taxi-driving man who loves her (Don Ameche) find they have to pose in elite Parisian society. This also features John Barrymore in arguably his last significant role.
Remember The Night (1940) Four years before teaming for "Double Indemnity," Barbara Stanwyck and MacMurray co-starred in this charming, gentle comedy penned by Sturges. Stanwyck plays a jewel thief and MacMurray the Manhattan district attorney who prosecutes her...but when the trial is postponed until after Christmas, MacMurray reluctantly agrees to drop her off at her Indiana family for the holidays (he's also a Hoosier).

*Contributed by: "Vincent Paterno" Date: Tues, Jan 17 2006 / 21:30:00 PST

Academy Awards®
© A.M.P.A.S.®
1928-1929 Nominated for Best Achievement in Art Direction: DYNAMITE — Art Direction