Tag Archives: Van Johnson

Movie Review: Divorce, American Style

Im seeing conflicting reports on DVD availibility.  Amazon sells it used, but TCM says its not on DVD.  Hmmm.
Availability: Amazon has is on Instant Watch and sells it used. Netflix has it on DVD only.

Divorce, American Style (1967) is way out of my normal viewing range, but I watched it for several reasons.  First, Raquelle over at Out of the Past did a series of posts a couple of weeks ago about films from the 60’s, encouraging her readers to give them a chance.  She was terribly optimistic, so I decided that my close-mindedness about 60’s films needed to end.  I had to swallow my preconceived notions and watch one with a new outlook.  My other reasons for viewing Divorce, American Style were the stars: Debbie ReynoldsDick Van Dyke, Van Johnson, Jean Simmons and Jason Robards, Jr.  It’s a first class cast if there ever was one.  So, long story short – I’m very glad Raquelle pushed me on my 60’s dislike, because I found Divorce, American Style to be funny, smart, entertaining and earnestly sweet.

Debbie & Dick are Barbara and Richard Harmon, a married couple that continually quarrel.  With the help of a dubious marriage counselor and their friends, they decide that they would be so much better off divorced.  (This aspect struck me as being similar to The Women (1939), btw.)  The  film deals with the logistics of their divorce and the treacheries of dating.  A lot of the humor is derived from the divorce laws of the time, which strongly favored women and made it highly undesirable for men to get divorced, since they pretty much got shafted.

Richard meets up with Nelson Downes (Jason Robards, Jr.) while having visitation with his sons.  Nelson is divorced from his wife, Nancy (Jean Simmons) and is living in poverty because of the settlement.  Nelson wants to remarry his now-pregnant girlfriend, Eunice (Eileen Brennan) but can’t until Nancy gets remarried and disqualifies herself for alimony.  Nelson plays matchmaker for his wife, bringing home possible beaus for her to choose from.  (I found that aspect of the story to be rather disturbing and kind of bizarre.) Nancy and Nelson seem to have a mutual fondness for one another, but are bound and determined to be married to other people.  Anyway – Richard becomes Nancy’s love interest, but there’s a problem .  Richard can’t marry Nancy until Barbara remarries (that pesky alimony!).  So, Nancy and Nelson set out to find a new hubby for Barbara.  This is where Van Johnson comes in. Van adds a lighthearted touch to the whole mix as “Big” Al Yearling, a lovable, mama’s boy car salesman.  If this sounds ridiculously complex, it is.  I think it’s a purposeful complexity to make the 60’s divorce craze look silly and pointless.

I really liked Van in this film.  He is a joy to watch.  He’s not supposed to be likable, but he is sweet and honest.  Jason Robards was rather creepy, I thought.  He has an almost evil quality that shines through a couple times and it’s undesirable.  Debbie and Dick are a very believable married couple.  It always annoys me when the couple in a film don’t seem to truly be in love.  You can always tell when actors and actresses don’t like each other and it makes the film less enjoyable.  Jean Simmons is amazingly lovely.  I would venture to say that she looks better in this film than in her earlier films (if that’s possible – maybe age was becoming to her?).

My most favorite scene of the whole film is the nightclub scene with Pat Collins, the hypnotist.  Barbara & Al, Richard & Nancy, Nelson & Eunice all go on the town together to celebrate Barbara & Richard’s divorce being final. (Like I said, it’s got it’s bizarre aspects.) They end up in a nightclub where Pat Collins is performing and Barbara & Al get up on the stage to be hypnotized.  I tried to find a clip of it, but it doesn’t seem like there is one (at least not on YouTube or TCM’s Media Room).  Pat Collins totally steals the show in her lovely 60’s gown, big hair and enormous sunglasses.  According to this article in the New York Times, Pat had a successful nightclub in Hollywood on the Sunset Strip.  She used her hypnosis techniques to help people quit smoking and overcome fears.

There is an episode of The Lucy Show that Pat appeared on.  I’ve got it linked below.  It’s in several parts, and it’s not the best quality, but you can get to see Pat Collins at work.  If you’d like to see the rest of the act, click on the video, they should be in the sidebar.

Enjoy.  :)

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Filed under Classic Movies, Film Bloggers, Let Me Introduce You, Movie Review

Top Twenty Classic Film Actors

I was tagged by the terrific Raquelle at Out of the Past to list my top 20 favorite movie actors.  It was a hard order to fill, because I really like so many of them.  The first five are according to my esteem for them, the rest are in alphabetical order.

(All images from Dr. Macro, unless otherwise stated)

1. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

2. Tyrone Power

(and the lovely Maureen O’Hara in The Black Swan – I just love the red scarf he wears in this movie!)

3. Robert Taylor

4. Errol Flynn

5. Gary Cooper

6. Marlon Brando

(I adore him in Guys and Dolls as Sky Masterson!)

7. Ronald Colman

(Photo from Arrowsmith)

8. Robert Donat

(This pic comes from The 39 Steps.)

9. William Holden

(from The Bridge Over the River Kwai)

10. Van Johnson

(Shown here with Lana Turner in Weekend at the Waldorf)

11. Jack Lemmon

(From The Apartment which is such a lovely love story.)

12. Victor Mature

(Shown here with Gene Tierney and Phyllis Brooks in The Shanghai Gesture – which, incidentally, if you’ve never seen it, it’s a quirky must!)

13. Robert Mitchum

14. Robert Montgomery

(My favorite Montgomery film is Lady in the Lake, although this photo is not from it)

15. Chester Morris

(The Boston Blackie series is so great!)

16. John Payne

(This photo is my scan from a vintage 1942 copy of Modern Screen magazine.)

17. William Powell

(Asta is pretty cute too!)

18. Gene Raymond

(I found this photo on the internet years ago now.  I can’t remember where it came from, so if it’s yours or you know whose it is, I’d appreciate a little heads up.  Thanks!)

19. Ronald Reagan

robert-sterling-120. Robert Sterling

(I just adore him in I’ll Wait for You (1941).  And, remember, he was Ava Gardner’s husband in the 1951 version of Show Boat!)

This is another photo that I cannot remember where I found it.  Link info would be very much appreciated!

Okay, there it is.  I know I’m going to feel guilty about who I listed and who I didn’t.  I like so many more actors, but when you can only pick 20, it puts a limit on your ardor.  Oh well.

Off to finish my art project!

[1/25/09 Edit:  I am supposed to pass on this tag, but when I wrote this, I couldn’t decide on who to award it to.  Since the lovely Jen was kind enough to be the first to comment on this post (other than my crony in film admiration, Raquelle) I’ll pass it along to her.  Here ya go, Jen.  Have fun!]

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