Sunday, December 04, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Something in the Wind (1947)

Today is the 90th birthday of one of cinema's great treasures, and one of my very favorite actresses and singers, the incomparable Deanna Durbin.

Since I'm down to just a handful of Durbin titles remaining to see for the very first time, I've been spacing out watching them, savoring them bit by bit. Deanna's birthday was the perfect occasion to see one of the last movies on my list, SOMETHING IN THE WIND.

Deanna plays Mary Collins, a disc jockey who becomes mixed up with a wealthy family of snobs. Donald (John Dall) has discovered a recently deceased relative was making payments to a Mary Collins, and mistakenly thinks it's the Mary played by Deanna, drawing all the wrong conclusions. In reality, the Mary was Deanna's Aunt Mary, played by Jean Adair, but it's complicated so we'll leave it at that!

Will Mary find a sponsor for her radio show? Will Donald dump his proper fiancee Clarissa (Helena Carter) when he finds out Mary's really a nice girl? Will Donald's lovelorn cousin Charlie (Donald O'Connor) win Clarissa?

The answers probably aren't in doubt, but what fun getting there! I may be unusual in that I prefer Durbin's '40s films to those she made as a child. She's sassy, confident, and a whole lot of fun to watch.

The film has a strong score by Johnny Green and Leo Robin, starting off in fine fashion with the opening number, the perky "Turntable Song," sung by Mary as she wraps up the latest episode of her radio show.

"You Wanna Keep Your Baby Looking Right" is slyly sung by Deanna to make Donald uncomfortable, and the lovely "Something in the Wind" provides an emotional turning point an hour into the film, as Donald and Mary realize their feelings for one another.

Deanna also duets "Miserere" from IL TROVATORE with Jan Peerce of the Metropolitan Opera, playing a singing policeman.

This was John Dall's second film, following THE CORN IS GREEN (1945). His best-known movies are probably Hitchcock's ROPE (1948) and Joseph H. Lewis's GUN CRAZY (1950). I felt he was rather wooden for much of the film, although a certain amount of that works with his initially stodgy, patrician character. He did warm up in the last third of the film and effectively convey his character's transformation. I thought he was pretty phony in his drinking scene with Donald O'Connor, but the audience probably wasn't supposed to take it all that seriously anyway!

The lively O'Connor adds some energy to the film, singing "I Love a Mystery" and a version of "Something in the Wind," backed by the four Williams Brothers, including Andy.

The film's supporting cast includes Charles Winninger and Margaret Wycherly. William Ching, seen a couple days ago as Marge Champion's beau in GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953), plays the master of ceremonies at a fashion show.

The director was Irving Pichel. The black and white cinematography was by Milton R. Krasner. The costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly. The film's running time was 89 minutes.

SOMETHING IN THE WIND is available on DVD in the six-film Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack, which contains some of her very best films. As I write, it's currently selling at Amazon for a price which is more than a bargain.

It's also been released on a Region 2 DVD and on VHS; the videotape includes two trailers.

Please visit the birthday tribute I posted one year ago today.

I have just four Durbin films left to see for the first time! Links for all Deanna Durbin films previously reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: FIRST LOVE (1939), HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), NICE GIRL? (1941), FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948), BECAUSE OF HIM (1946), MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY (1943), THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941), CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944), HERS TO HOLD (1943), IT'S A DATE (1940), LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), THAT CERTAIN AGE (1938), and ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937).

8 Comments:

Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I love Deanna Durbin--After seeing only a few of her movies on the big screen, I was grateful when they started coming out on VHS and over five or six years saw everything that was out. Although it's not out in the U.S., I've seen CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY several times--if you haven't seen this yet, Laura, it's something to look forward to; her most unusual film, which you might call "Deanna on the dark side" and directed by the great Robert Siodmak. It's one of her outstanding ones.

I still haven't seen HERS TO HOLD or SPRING PARADE, linked to your review of the first of these and find they are accessible Region 2 so it would be nice to be complete.

Unlike you, I like the movies of "younger Deanna" about equally with those of "mature Deanna"--my favorites are in both groups. In the "younger Deanna" films there is a tremendous charm and lightness in the ones directed by Henry Koster, her first director, especially "It Started With Eve" which seems to me last of that first group--who would want to miss that scene of her dancing with Charles Laughton?

But mostly, we agree, she's captivating--both her singing and screen persona. She handles drama as well as comedy. She's just so special.

And I also agree with you I'd name HIS BUTLER'S SISTER as my favorite especially for the final scene and that sublime final shot. One of the great moments of Frank Borzage as well as Deanna

11:09 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake!

What a delight to hear from another fan of Deanna Durbin -- and also to know that you like HIS BUTLER'S SISTER, and that wonderful ending, as much as I do. :)

I'm very fortunate that my dad collected all the Deanna VHS tapes and has shared them with me! Since those first introductions, I've bought my own DVD copies of those titles which are available.

I've bought CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY on Region 2 but have been saving it -- it sounds like a fascinating merger of Deanna, Gene Kelly, or film noir.

I should be clear that I do like Deanna's "younger" films a lot, I just like the older Deanna films better. I'd class IT STARTED WITH EVE in the latter group -- it's a fabulous movie! -- in fact I guess I'd say I view the older Deanna as starting with FIRST LOVE, although it's from the '30s and not the '40s! I think of it as something along the lines of Cinderella meets MY MAN GODFREY -- a great merger of musical, fantasy, and screwball comedy.

It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't seen her films just how unique Durbin is. She's a one-of-a-kind screen persona.

Best wishes,
Laura

12:22 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T Lynch said...

It's a sad feeling, isn't it, coming down to the last few movies you haven't seen and knowing there won't be any more after that?

5:12 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

"I've bought CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY on Region 2 but have been saving it -- it sounds like a fascinating merger of Deanna, Gene Kelly, or film noir."

Among the merged elements, you might add "Christmas." The present tense part of it does take place then--there's a memorable scene in a Church for a Christmas service early on. I'm just pointing this out because it's, well, the Christmas season, and I'd encourage you that this would be a good time to catch up with it. A nice contrast to some of those more upbeat Christmas movies we all watch every year. And you'll get to hear Deanna sing "Spring will be a little late this year."

I got it that you liked "younger Deanna" but liked "mature Deanna" better. I do think we see a different point for the break. Even though she has youthful romances in the later of those early ones, I see the mature persona emerging in THE AMAZING MRS. HALLIDAY, after a bit of a time lapse. I read what you wrote about this film and liked it a lot, Laura. I would add for those interested that it now seems pretty well confirmed (not least by Deanna herself) that Jean Renoir did seem to direct most of the film and when I saw it, I didn't know that but the evidence of watching it made me feel it was so even though I'd then heard otherwise. Renoir did wonderful things with her in that movie and I would say helped her find her mature self on screen. Bruce Manning was a producer and I don't believe he has any other credits--if there had been a lot left to film, I think they'd have replaced Renoir with a real director.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It really is, Jacqueline! One of my little quirks is that once I safely "own" a movie, I will often put off seeing a longed-for title for quite a while. Partly it's due to schedule busy-ness and so many choices, but it's also because once the "first time" is over, it's over! Fortunately there are always more movies on the horizon waiting for those special first viewings...

Best wishes,
Laura

10:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, your description of CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY really intrigues me! I will make it a point to try to watch it this month; my daughters have asked me to wait and watch it with them so hopefully we'll all be free to see it during the holiday break!

I have kept hoping since I got the CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY DVD that I might have the chance to see it on a big screen the first time -- I couldn't go to a screening at the Aero last week, and the lucky folks in San Francisco get a Film Noir Foundation double bill this month of CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY and LADY ON A TRAIN! (I think the Noir City festival in Hollywood next spring should do a "Christmas in March" evening with those two films!) So I guess I will go ahead and watch it on the DVD. :)

Although I think of "older" Deanna beginning with the film with her first kiss, I can see what you mean about the older Deanna starting with THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY -- definitely a more mature role, with very serious subject matter. I liked it so much that I recently re-borrowed my Dad's VHS tape for another viewing, because that's one that's not out on DVD yet. Thank you very much for your feedback on my MRS. HOLLIDAY post!

Very interesting about Renoir, and the influence he may have had on Deanna's transition to adult roles. (I have a DVD of Zachary Scott in Renoir's THE SOUTHERNER I still need to catch up with...)

Best wishes,
Laura

11:07 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

THE SOUTHERNER is a beautiful film and something for you to look forward to. Zachary Scott is mostly known for his roles as villains or sleazy cads, but he's just as good as a very decent, down to earth and in his way heroic man.

To clarify if needed, I meant to say I Bruce Manning had no other credits as a director that I know of other than THE AMAZING MRS. HALLIDAY--of course he does as producer. Someone correct me if I am wrong but I think I checked this out at one time.

Also wish I had said specifically the scene in CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY is a midnight mass--it's early in the film and one becomes very intrigued about Deanna's character there. I won't say more and spoil it for anyone. I know this hasn't been widely seen in recent years.

Sorry you couldn't make it to the Aero to see it Laura--I was aware of that screening and didn't get to it either but that is the print I've seen, I'm sure; it's a beautiful restoration done by UCLA.

Wanted to add and should have in my first post here that I thought your description of Deanna Durbin and the qualities of her personality as she projects them on screen were very eloquent--I'm thinking especially of your last year's birthday tribute.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for your response, Blake. Trying to describe Deanna isn't easy, just because she's so different! I've spent a fair amount of time as I watch her films wondering how to put her personality into words.

I'm glad to know what you think of THE SOUTHERNER. I always enjoy Scott and look forward to seeing him in an atypical role.

So many movies, so little time...! It's a good problem to have! :)

Best wishes,
Laura

2:05 PM  

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