Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tonight's Movie: The Affairs of Martha (1942)

THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA is an MGM "B" movie which is great fun. Martha (Marsha Hunt) is a maid who is secretly writing a book about her employers (Spring Byington and Melville Cooper). She also has another secret concerning the family's son (Richard Carlson), an anthropologist who as the movie opens has spent the last year and a half in the Arctic. The son arrives home with a fiancee on the same day news of the book roils the local community, and chaos ensues.

The movie features an extensive cast of pros, including Marjorie Main, Virginia Weidler, Margaret Hamilton, Allyn Joslyn, Barry Nelson, Sara Haden, Grady Sutton, and Hedy Lamarr lookalike Inez Cooper.

This black and white film (also known as ONCE UPON A THURSDAY in Great Britain) was directed by Jules Dassin and runs a quick 66 minutes. The Writers Guild of America magazine ran a November profile on Dassin which is worth a read. Dassin is now 95 years old and has lived in Europe since he was blacklisted; he was married for nearly three decades to the late actress Melina Mercouri.

Actress Marsha Hunt, incidentally, is also still with us -- and acting! -- at age 89, and she is quoted briefly in the Dassin article.

THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA is not available on either video or DVD. It is part of the Turner Classic Movies library.

A trailer can be viewed at the TCM site. I'm pretty certain that's Ava Gardner in the trailer as one of three girls seen raving about the film after leaving a preview screening; if there's any doubt, she's the beautiful girl on the left in that brief scene. At the time MARTHA was released, Gardner was receiving her MGM training in uncredited bit parts...including, it appears, in this trailer!

A final note, my 11-year-old daughter recognized Richard Carlson from the wonderful Bell Science movies directed by Frank Capra, such as HEMO THE MAGNIFICENT. Carlson starred in three of the four films in the series with USC's Dr. Frank Baxter; Eddie Albert costarred with Baxter in the fourth. These educational films are still worth watching, half a century after they were produced.


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