Colonel Effingham & Trump Style

DATELINE:  General Nuisance?

patterson Grand Dame Eliz. Patterson!

A long-forgotten movie from 1945 with Charles Coburn is called Colonel Effingham’s Raid. It concerns a retired blowhard army officer who returns to his Georgia boyhood town to learn they are taking down the Confederate monument in the town square.

It seems ripped from today’s headlines, but was a pop novel by Berry Fleming, another forgotten literary dim bulb of ages ago. It is supposed to be whimsical by standards of a century ago. Appalling would be a better word.

The notion that people would fight to keep up a symbol of racism in the Old South is played as a comedy! Indeed, black kids sit around and listen to the old white mayor praise the slave-owning South. Effingham hires black servants and treats them like basic training punching bags. Yikes.

One progressive woman (Joan Bennett) blames the corrupt mayor and his home-grown political party for hiring his “poor white” relations in town patronage jobs.

Effingham is a colonel in the general sense of Trump military leaders. Pompous and patriotic in an old-fashioned way, he will lead a pre-World War II Georgia town to rise in revolt to protect the Confederacy. How quaint, but it made America great back then.

The film is notable for its costars Cora Witherspoon and Elizabeth Patterson, two old biddy character actresses, as grand dames of the South. It also features the fake news media, up to its tricks for Trumpite Effingham.

If you want to see what made America 75 years ago, this hoary movie may be a rattling of your teacups. Ef-ing-ham is a satire, unlike his real-life counterpart in the White House, but both are ridiculous for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

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Devilish Fun with Charles Coburn

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

 Devilish fun

A cheesy porn film with a similar title has done a grave disservice to a chestnut movie way ahead of its time.

The Devil and Miss Jones would be called dramedy decades later, but it is a charming romantic comedy film of 1941. It is too often confused with the notorious The Devil in Miss Jones. What a shame.

We were stunned by the pairing of crotchety old Charles Coburn as a billionaire without a conscience and a shoe salesgirl in the form of Jean Arthur. It seems the department store chain is having union organizers burning the owner in effigy. Coburn, a recluse with billions, is offended and decides to go undercover to deal with the morons personally.

So many TV shows have played off the concept of an undercover boss, but this film is not a reality ripoff. It is a well-honed film from the classic period. Its politics and satiric approach are timeless.

On top of that, we were stunned in the opening credits with names like Edmund Gwenn, Spring Byington, William Demarest, Robert Cummings, and S.Z. Sakall. It is a who’s who of brilliant character actors from the great studio era.

The opening and the closing scenes make the entire film worth the viewing.

The film even uses some of the Citizen Kane set, thanks to genius set designer William Cameron Menzies. And, Sam Wood directs comedy deftly. Heretofore, we associated him with social dramas that extracted stunning performances out of child actors.

In the final analysis the movie is not revolutionary or one of the great films, but it is something special despite its hoary sexism toward women. Yet, star Jean Arthur has spunk and is clearly engineering the road to independent women in business.

Dapper Oldster Charles Coburn’s Great Films

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

 Image

Charles Coburn with Monroe and Grant

After success in The Devil and Miss Jones in 1941, two unlikely actors found themselves paired up again.

Charles Coburn came to acting at age 60 and continued to play salacious millionaires and dotty grandfathers for the next twenty years. He chased Marilyn Monroe around in two movies and took all the comedic roles that Charles Laughton couldn’t play.

Jean Arthur was a nasal and twangy leading lady that seemed to go against the grain of glamour queens. In this film she does one scene with a mouthful of toothpaste. Her last major role was as the love interest of Alan Ladd in Shane.

But during World War II, the two actors seemed a most romantic couple, playing off each other as only May and December can. They usually had better chemistry than the leading men Arthur faced (Robert Cummings, Joel MacRae).

In The More the Merrier, a George Stevens film, the set piece is Jean Arthur’s apartment in Washington, D.C., when accommodations were hard to find. She takes in an old millionaire who subleases to a good-looking inventor (MacRae). He wants to play matchmaker, but he may be the best boon companion for Miss Arthur. They are a charming team.

Their shared flat is tiny enough with paper-thin walls to make for a curiously sophisticated arrangement for the pre-war crowd.

Coburn provides enough winks and nods, as well as pratfalls, to win his place as the pinup boy for the senior set. Seventy years later, he still dresses up the image of growing old.

The movie was later remade (Walk, Don’t Run) as Cary Grant’s last film (playing Charles Coburn, no less). Grant studied Coburn and  both costarred with Marilyn in Monkey Business.

You can never get enough of a good thing.