|Danger & Despair's
|on 16mm Film
|Saturday July 24th - Thursday August 26th
GERTRUDE MICHAEL - HOLLYWOOD LEGEND
Gertrude Michael (1910-1965) was an Alabama-born child prodigy and concert pianist prior to abandoning her college career to join Stuart Walker's stock company in Cincinnati Ohio in 1928. By 1930 she had moved on to New York but had to struggle during lean times to find stage work. She first appeared on the screen in WAYWARD as Richard Arlen's fiancée filmed at Paramount's Astoria studio in late 1931 following her first Broadway lead in CAUGHT WET. Shortly, after appearing opposite Tex Ritter in THE ROUNDUP, she accepted MGM'S contract offer in the Spring of 1932 and came to Hollywood. Dropped by MGM after six months following two films, including the lead in MASK OF FU MANCHU from which she and the original director were fired early in the production, she defined her early "don't tread on me" screen persona in half a dozen parts prior to accepting a long-term contract with Paramount in December 1933. A dozen leads, many costarring roles and featured supporting parts continued through the early 1940s.
Due to alcohol-related illnesses and accidents from 1934 on, she gained a notoriety that soon prevented her career advancement. Her affair with Paul Cain, pulp and screen writer, came back to haunt her in 1936 after his novel "Fast One" used her persona as the basis for the fictional dipsomaniac lover.
By the early 1940s
Gertrude was appearing in poverty row films, most in which in
today's perspective are much more interesting than "A" productions. Despite news headlines of insobriety and once being committed to the
psychopathetic ward, she continued in small featured roles. In 1948
following her latest alcoholic binge in which she marched into the
ocean, Joan Crawford offered her a role in FLAMINGO ROAD. Her
upstaging role in CAGED followed.
While occasional films were to follow, Gertrude found a home in television, appearing regularly from 1949 until her death. Although never married, she was engaged to Roubien Mamoulien in the mid-1930s. She had many male friends. The extent of her relationship with George Gershwin, Buster Crabbe and John Lodge are to be determined. She had a long-term relationship with Charles Wilson who appears in FOUR HOURS TO KILL as the police detective.
Her best known film roles are as Rita Ross in MURDER AT THE VANITIES and as the title character in the SOPHIE LANG series. She also made her scenes count as Mae West's adversary in I'M NO ANGEL and Caesar's wife in DeMille' s CLEOPATRA. There were few actresses in Hollywood had the ability or were given the chance to enact the wide range of roles which came Gertrude Michael's way. Don Miller in his " B MOVIES" refers to her as a unique feminine lead who could play catty villainesses with equal dexterity.
|Saturday July 24th 8:00 p.m.
Gertrude Michael in a Art Deco portrait still.
|"SEARCH FOR BEAUTY" - 1934 Paramount
|Directed: Erle Kenton 78 mins.
|w/ Buster Crabbe, Ida Lupino, Robert Armstrong,
|James Gleason, Gertrude Michael and Toby Wing.
|Racy Pre-code spoof on Heath & Fitness Industry.
publishers promote their health and beauty magazine... which is 90 %
SEX. After hiring young Olympic stars to lure young athletes both
strapping males and winsome females to Los Angeles to compete in a
contest, the participants are routed instead to a health farm to
entertain debauched connoisseurs of young flesh. There is plenty of
snappy dialogue by the stars with exceptional rapport between James
Gleason and Robert Armstrong. Gertrude Michael competes with Ida
Lupino for the affections of a hunky Buster Crabbe. Toby Wing
giggles and dances in her lingerie.
This film was
released just a few months before the "code" took effect in 1934. Barebutt nudity and most of the dialogue would have been censored. Paramount studio in 1933
sponsored a Search for Beauty contest in which they attracted
contestants from around the U.S. and white British Commonwealth
The finalists all appear in the film and a few were offered contracts which gave them minor careers. One contestant, Ann Sheridan, was eventually able to obtain stardom although it took her 4 years and a leap to Warner Brothers where she was promoted as the "Oomph Girl" !
Buster Crabb in 'Search for Beauty'
Series Host & Programmer Paul Meienberg will introduce the film
|Thursday July 29th 8:00 p.m.
|"MURDER AT THE VANITIES" - 1934 Paramount
|Directed: Mitchell Leisen 89 mins.
|w/: Kitty Carlisle, Carl Brisson, Duke Ellington,
|Gertrude Michael, Victor Mclaglan
|Jack Oakie and Toby Wing.
murder at musical revue theatre are confronted with more death
threats, a blackmail plot, romance, jealousy, revenge and an on
stage killing all taking place during a most licentious stage
production. Near nudity abounds as chorines cavort amongst
outrageous set designs conceived by director Mitchell Leisen.
Paramount bought the films rights to Earl Carroll's 1933 Vanities, entitled MURDER AT THE VANITIES. The Broadway stage version was radically changed including its cast which had featured Bela Lugosi and Olga Baclanova. Kitty Carlisle and Frederick Brisson are the revue stars and among other songs introduce "Tea for Two".
Kitty Carlisle & Carl Brisson in the spot light
(left) sings "Sweet Marijuana" in a highly stylized song
and dance routine. The subject matter would soon become taboo as
censorship creeped in.
In another scene Duke Ellington and his big band is featured in "Ebony Rhapsody".
'Murder at the Vanities' was barely released prior to the implementation of the "production code" in mid 1934.
|Elliot Lavine, programmer for Alameda's new art deco cinema, "Auctions by the Bay", will introduce the film.
|Auctions By The Bay - Movie Schedule
|Following the movie, our Resident Historian Marc Kagan will present notes on the actors & lead a discussion group.
|Thursday August 5th - DOUBLE BILL!
|Thursday August 5th 8:00 p.m.
|"THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE LANG" - 1934 Paramount
|Directed: Ralph Murphy 64 mins.
|w/ Gertrude Michael, Paul Cavanaugh,
|Arthur Byron, Alison Skipworth and Leon Errol.
|Pre-code condemned by Catholic Church.
THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE
LANG (1934) is a crime/adventure comedy which is both silly at times
and fun. With a highly competent supporting cast, this was a perfect
vehicle for Gertrude Michael to attract attention with her looks,
intelligence and wide range of acting skills.
|A trio of films starring Gertrude Michael exploiting the hi-jinks of a female jewel thief were brought to the screen by Paramount starting in 1934. Based on the 1925 English novel by Frederick Irving Anderson THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE LANG, the tales of an adventuress outsmarting both the police and her sometimes lover, male adversary and fellow jewel thief was a property refused by Carole Lombard among others. A series role such as Sophie Lang, Torchy Blane or Maisie was considered a detriment to any top-flight star. Gertrude took her first top-billed role by the horns and THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE LANG (1934) became a minor triumph. It's success ensured two repeat films: THE RETURN OF SOPHIE LANG (1936) and SOPHIE LANG GOES WEST (1937). THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE LANG was condemned by the Catholic church primarily for its light-hearted approach to crime without penalty.
|Thursday August 5th 9:30 p.m.
|''WOMAN TRAP' - 1936 Paramount
|Directed: Harold Young 63 mins.
|w/ Gertude Michael, George Murphy
|Akim Tamiroff and Sidney Blackmer
Gang of jewel thieves
holds up in hacienda outside Mexican border town. GM as
aviatrix/heiress is rescued at sea by enterprising reporter and the
two meet, then
later are captured by a gang. After being taken hostage and held for
ransom in a desert hideaway, their rescue is engineered by
a mysterious party.
|Rochelle Bernet will introduce both films.
|Ms. Bernet is a fan of classic movies and owns Little Bear Productions, a Sausalito Arts Event Planning agency.
|Thursday August 12th - DOUBLE BILL!
|Thursday August 12th 8:00 p.m.
|"THE RETURN OF SOPHIE LANG " - 1936 Paramount.
|Directed: George Archainbaud 65 mins.
|w/ Gertrude Michael, Ray Milland,
|Sir Guy Standing and Elizabeth Patterson.
THE RETURN OF SOPHIE
LANG (1936) is a crime/adventure drama which is as fast past as the
previous film and reveals Sophie has truly been rehabilitated,
THE RETURN OF SOPHIE LANG produced after the implementation of the stricter production code turns Sophie into a rehabilitated criminal trying to prove her innocence to an unbelieving world.
A new series of Sophie films was
announced at this point, but with Gail Patrick in the lead, Gertrude
Michael having left Paramount to star in several films at RKO and to
travel to England to star in several films. Unfortunately, Gertrude
became seriously ill in New York before her departure and had to
delay her commitment to the English studio by one year. In 1937
Gertrude, never before and never again so glamorous, returned once
more to Paramount to star in SOPHIE LANG GOES WEST. This last films
survives but is inferior to the first two of the series. In 1938
Gertrude starred with John Lodge in JUST LIKE A WOMAN, an English
production very much in the Sophie Lang vein.
|Thursday August 12th 9:30 p.m.
|'WITCHING HOUR' - 1934 Paramount
|Directed: Henry Hathaway 65min
|w/ Tom Brown, Judith Allen, Sir Guy Standing,
|John Halliday and Gertrude Michael
Early breakthrough film
for Hathaway. Period 19th Century setting involving clairvoyance and
murder. Crime but no pre-code aspects. Gertrude Michael's part is
cameo in dream sequence. A first- rate beautifully crafted film !
comments on Sir Guy Standing: "..this courtroom drama is a
must see for students of acting just to see the great English actor
turn in a magnificent performance as the defense attorney."
|The One & Only Paul Meienberg will present the film
|Saturday August 21st - DOUBLE BILL!
|Saturday August 21st 8:00 p.m.
|"MENACE" 1934 - Paramount
|Directed: Ralph Murphy 58 mins.
|w/ Gertrude Michael, Paul Cavanagh,
|John Lodge and Henrietta Crosman.
|MENACE is a very fast-paced dark house murder mystery with a plot centering around three people who are targeted for death because of their alleged guilt in the tragic death of a psychopath's brother. Red herring abound and while their are moments of humor, it is strictly a piece of gripping suspense up until the very conclusion. This was Gertrude Michael's second starring role, once again paired with Paul Cavangagh, who was cast opposite Paramount's top femmes in the early 1930s.
The late renowned film
lecturer/archivist and author, William K. Everson, scheduled MENACE (1934) for a 1987
screening at the New School in New York. When it became
apparent that the 16mm print he thought was available could not be
found, an urgent call went out. Considering the rarity of this film,
he accepted my offer of terrible print nearly obliterated
with emulsion scratches. With some minor apologies he presented to
film to an appreciative audience. Happily current print which is
extremely rare is in nice condition.
|Saturday August 21st 9:30 p.m.
|"NIGHT OF TERROR" 1933 - Columbia.
|Directed: Ben Stoloff 65 mins.
|w/ Bela Lugosi, Sally Blane, Wallace Ford,
|Tully Marshall & Gertrude Michael.
|Terror and murder reign in a dark house. NIGHT OF TERROR (1933) is an unusual foray into the horror genre by Columbia Studio. This film is played for laughs and is something of a camp classic. A dark house mystery revolving around a secret formula, which puts people in suspended animation. A homicidal maniac and cast of characters being routinely bumped-off. Bela Lugosi stars as a a dope-smoking turbaned Hindu who is the faithful majordomo servant at the mansion. All this and a romance between Sally Blane (Loretta Young's sister) and Wallace Ford. Add Gertrude Michael in one her early nasty, bitchy roles, and you have a hour or so of diverting entertainment.
|Alan Rode a Los Angeles film historian and journalist will speak on both films.
|His film notes can be found on-line at FilmMonthly.com & his lastest review of the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival
|Thursday 26th 8:00 p.m.
|"FOUR HOURS TO KILL" 1935 - Paramount
|Directed: Mitchell Leisen 72 mins.
|w/ Richard Barthelmess, Gertrude Michael,
|Ray Milland, Helen Mack and Joe Morrison.
A police detective with arrested
killer in tow attends stage show to kill time before meeting train. A grand hotel theme well carried out in in the stylish settings of a
theatre lobby and lounge. Suspense, intrigue, violence and murder
while Gertrude Michael saunters about in chic Edith Head fashions.
FOUR HOURS TO KILL is based on Norman Krasna's 1934 Broadway play SMALL MIRACLES which featured Ilka Chase and Joseph Calleia in roles which were rendered on film by Gertrude Michael and Richard Barthelmess.
The showy role of
Sylvia Temple was eagerly sought by Carole Lombard in order to
assist her close friend director Mitchell Leisen. However due to a
production reorganization at Paramount in 1935 during which time
Ernst Lubitsch became production chief, Lombard was put on a
nine-month layoff. Her request to star was denied as FOUR HOURS TO
KILL was considered too minor an assignment for a star earning $
3000.00 per week. Lombard instead helped produce the film.
All the action centers in the theatre while a musical revue takes place. The various musical numbers are heard but not seen while tense dramatic scenes rage in the theatre entrance, the lobby and in the lounge. An ensemble of characters interact in a "grand hotel" style. Richard Barthelmess gives an excellent performance as a captured gangster. His tough yet sensitive portrayal should have revived his career but unfortunately his box office appeal ended in 1934 with his last Warner Brothers film. Gertrude Michael emotes effectively as the adulterous wife furtively meeting her gigolo boyfriend Ray Milland. Joe Morrison, Helen Mack and Dorothy Tree provide their own angst with blackmail and abortion on the menu. The production code is in evidence here but not as much as would be expected. The renowned film historian William Everson considered FOUR HOURS TO KILL Leisen's best film to date. My own impression is that DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY is the foremost early Leisen film.
|Daniel Hodges an East Bay film noir historian, will present notes on the movie.
|His essay on the role of Women in Noir during & after WWII is included in the new FILM NOIR READER 4
|All film describtions by Paul Meienberg
|ADMISSION POLICY: By reservation only
|email email@example.com or call 415 552-1533
Doors open at 7:00 pm - Films at 8:00 pm - Main Door Locks at 8:05 p.m. restricting entrance
Come early and enjoy our 'No Host Bar'.
|$3.00 minimum donation at the door for this series.
|LOCATION: Downtown San Francisco - Address given through a reservation.
|Sponsored by :
|' The Danger & Despair Knitting Circle '
|"No Martha! They're not a cell of Radical Terrorists! "
|Paul Meienberg Series Host & Programmer The Ultimate Cinematrap
|Special thanks to Mon Ayash 'Forgotten Hollywood'
|Daniela Powers & Allen Petrich Series Directors
|Marc Kagan Resident Film Historian
|Alan Rode, Rochelle Bernet, Daniel Hodges & Elliot Lavine Guest Speakers
|Eddie Sudol & Ted Whipple Operations
|Lance Carnes & Edward Dickey Projectionists
|Roma Dolezal, Ilene Shapiro, Abby Staeble & Ron Rich Directors of Libations
|Dark Marc Libations - Quality Control
See Bela and more Saturday July 24th - Thursday August 26th
Don't forget to make a reservation. firstname.lastname@example.org
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|The Thursday Night Screenings are private film events, admission to these events are by
invitation only through a request and is solely at the discretion of Danger & Despair.