Insomniac Theatre: “The Sisters”

25 Mar

So … it’s been awhile.  I did, in fact, go to Annapolis for training, and then there was the recruiting and interviewing and the driving to North Attleboro twice and getting stuck in traffic outside of Boston and the driving to Providence and being awake for almost 24 hours straight and the party wherein myself and some good friends reenacted the key scene from Office Space and beat the shit out of a printer and somewhere in there I totally gave up on Oscar!Watch because hey, did you see those movies?   Yeah, didn’t think so, stop looking at me like that.  Anyway, none of the above was in chronological order, but look, the point is I’ve been busy, okay?

And no: I still haven’t watched Attack of the Clones.  Somehow, I don’t think you’re gonna be that mad at me.

What I have been doing is recording random titles off of Turner Classic Movies.  Unfortunately, between the movies and the backlogs of Ringer, Grimm, and Psych currently filling up Jeremy the Dreaded Beloved DVR, capacity’s holding steady at 87%, and Mad Men comes back tomorrow, so … I actually have to watch those movies.  And quickly.  So I decided — because in addition to not watching Attack of the Clones, the other thing I haven’t been doing is writing anything of substance lately — that I was going to use Movies Alaina’s Never Seen as an output for the random late night movies I record off TCM, in a segment that will heretofore be known as Insomniac Theatre

It’ll be cool, I promise.  I think.

For some reason, TCM has been showing a lot of Bette Davis movies in the past month.  And random, obscure Bette Davis movies at that.  I love that, because I love Bette Davis. 

I mean, look at those eyes.  She’s clearly looking at you with a mixture of amusement and disdain.  I wish I could get my face to do that without making a grimace.  And the dialogue that comes out of her mouth!  To this day I’m unsure if I’m mistaking Bette Davis for her greatest character, Margo Channing, but I aspire to that level of wit and verbal repartee.  If she were alive today, I would hope she’d have at least two million followers on Twitter.

In the past week, I’ve watched Dark Victory and The Golden Arrow, both of which are pre-All About Eve.  In Dark Victory, she plays a socialite with a brain tumor who falls in love with her neurologist, played by Bette Davis’s future lover George Brent.  If I can find that somewhere again – either Netflix Insta!Watch or TCM again – I have to write about it, because a) of all, Humphrey Bogart’s also in it, and he’s in love with Bette Davis’s character, but most importantly b) of all, one of the side characters is played by future president Ronald Reagan, and I didn’t recognize him until I saw his name in the credits.  That led to a long while of laughing by myself at an inside joke I have with a friend of mine about Reagan’s funeral, being buried in the backyard, and all presidents going to heaven.

Unless you’re Sarah, don’t ask.

In The Golden Arrow, she still falls in love with George Brent, but it’s more of a comedy.  I almost wish I hadn’t deleted Golden Arrow from my TiVo list (mainly because I fell asleep halfway through and can’t remember a good bulk of it) – if any movie should have been the inaugural post of Insomniac Theatre, The Golden Arrow should have been it.  The first scene involves an archer who is shooting arrows across wings of a hotel!  And the arrows fly through an open window and the guy manages to shoot like, four lamps out!  And then we never see the archer again!  There are no more arrows!  Or any reason as to why the movie is even called The Golden Arrow!  Also, George Brent’s character has a valet!  Pronounced like “ballot,” and the valet’s name was Walker, which is so close to Woodhouse that I laughed for five minutes straight.  And then when George Brent’s character fires the valet, I laughed for another five minutes, imagining that George Brent’s character asked Walker/Woodhouse to search the living room for dog hair and if he found even one when he got home, he was going to rub sand in the valet’s cold, dead little eyes.  Oh, and also, George Brent needed to have Walker/Woodhouse go buy sand, and he didn’t know if they graded it, but he’d need to get … coarse.  Oh god, the hilarity!  Hooray for metaphors!

HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS there is a tumblr that takes stills from Mad Men and puts quotes from Archer over them and it is the greatest and best tumblr in the entire world!  This one is my favorite for reasons I can’t actually put into words!  Dear Sterling Archer Draper Pryce Guy: I love you.  So much. 

Uh, okay.  One hour later, and I still haven’t started watching this damn movie.  Oh, right.  Tonight’s entry: The Sisters, also starring Bette Davis, which was the point of me talking about Bette Davis so damn much three paragraphs ago.  (Y’know, I bet she’d love Archer.)  The synopsis, according to the TiVo: “One Montana sister (Bette Davis) marries a San Francisco sportswriter (Errol Flynn); another, a ric–”

What’s a ric?  Is it Ric from Vampire Diaries?  *gasp* But right now Ric is having problems controlling his evil side!  Jeremy the Dreaded Beloved TiVo, you idiot.  Here, let me pour coarse sand in your eyes.


Okay.  Here we go.  Oh, wait — I need to refill my drink.  There’s no more vodka and the Sprite has gone flat.

Okay.  Now – here we go.  While we’re waiting for the credits to roll, let me see what imdb. has to say about this flick: “Three daughters of a small down pharmacist undergo trials and tribulations in their problematic marriages between 1904 and 1908.”  So — not funny, I guess?  We’ll see.

Apparently, this movie is An Anatole Litvak Production.  I’m not sure what any of those words mean.  Oh — Anatole Litvak was the director.  Good to know.  I’m always amused by credit sequences of old movies.  For instance, in this movie, the director is credited before the “music by.”  That would never happen in this day and age.  Nowadays, there may be multiple production companies and much more star power, but the director is always the last name you see before you push into the first scene.

In The Sisters, the first scene is a book — similar to the first shot of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, or Shrek

Oh man, I need to quote this; the prose is so violet!

“There is much to remember about Silver Bow, Montana.  In the eighties it was a lusty, wide-open mining town, brought into sudden life by new-found copper. … By 1904 it had mellowed … and those who had lived its exciting youth, mellowed with it.

And now, again, a new world was beginning to form.  A dangerous radical named Theodore Roosevelt was asking the people to send him back to the White House … and Silver Bow was preparing to celebrate his hoped for victory.”

And then the camera sits there for over a minute so we can read it (or, in my case, transcribe it).  Now there’s a parade for Roosevelt, with flaming torches and signs that say things like GET ON THE ROOSEVELT BANDWAGON and SILVER BOW IS FOR “TEDDY” and I’m sorry, but both of those can easily be followed up with a “That’s What She Said.”  HOLY SHIT there’s a big picture of Teddy Roosevelt layered over a picture of a big stick with the words “BIG STICK” written over it.  I’m laughing so inappropriately right now…

Right outside the parade route is the home of Ned Elliott: Drugs (he’s a pharmacist, but the sign for the shop reads “Ned Elliott – Drugs.”  It’s how every druggist should advertise!).  Apparently he and his wife are going to a ball (what is this, Cinderella?), and he can’t fasten his collar and she needs to be zipped into her dress but then her daughter yells for her and off she runs.  Meanwhile, the night bell is ringing up a storm, so Ned yells out the window that the pharmacy is closed, but it’s a doctor or someone, and he says: “The Lester kid’s got diptheria.  I want you to fix me up a little dope.”  Who knew that medical marajuana was a cure for diptheria? 

Oh, it’s an election ball they’re heading to.  And two of the sisters are killing each other with their hairpins or something.  And there’s Bette, but her voice isn’t raspy and she’s way too nice.  It’s like she’s modulating her voice to be soft and feminine. 

My goodness, these women sure do yell a lot.  Always sniping at each other about their beaux and the amount of powder a woman is allowed to wear and holy crap, they actually have dance cards!  How antiquated and sort of cute?  Meanwhile, all of this hulabaloo about Roosevelt makes me want to reserve the next book in the Roosevelt trilogy.  But I’ve been reading too much non-fiction lately; it’s taken me almost three weeks to finish reading Bright-Sided.

So they’re at the ball and they’re all dancing and everyone’s talking about Louise (Bette Davis) and Tom and when the wedding’s going to be, but Tom hasn’t asked Louise to marry him yet.  So Tom and Bette Davis are dancing, and Bette Davis’s Sister Helen is dancing with some dude and then a girl asks Helen if she was able to save a dance for her father (?  Ew!) but she wasn’t.  Apparently the friend’s father went to the prize fight instead of the parade (what?  What kind of town is this?!), and Helen says that she’d love to go to a prize fight someday (and now all I can think of is last week’s episode of The Vampire Diaries with Sage the Vampire engaging in boxing matches with men and winning), and Helen’s friend comments that ladies don’t go to prize fights, and Helen’s witty retort is: “But I’m not a lady; I’m Helen Elliott!”

Somehow I think that statement’s going to come back and bite her later.

Right — the movie.  Helen goes to shamelessly flirt with some dude (played by Errol Flynn).  He is introduced thusly: “He’s a newspaper man from San Francisco, and he likes prize fights better than dances, and he likes a good drink better than pretty young girls.  He’s a dangerous man!”

Helen’s response:

it's even creepier in real life

“How exciting!”

Dear Lord, that woman is batshit crazy.  And we’re only twenty minutes in.

Oh no!  While the town dances a square dance, Dangerous Reporter exchanges significant glances with Bette Davis over Tom’s shoulder.  BWA!  I think my new favorite thing is that Dangerous Reporter describes Tom as “the one that looks like day-old spinach.”  They go off to flirt over roast beef sandwiches or something (I swear I’m not making shit up – there is flirting and there are sandwiches).  And then he walks her home, and — gasp! — he’s holding her arm!  SCANDAL.

Dear Bette Davis: stop whispering.  I swear to God, the next movie I watch is going to be All About Eve, so I can watch her yelling at Birdie and telling everyone to shut up about Eve and asking Bill if he is the Paderewski who plays his concerto upon her, the piano, plus the whole speech about being a woman and slow curtain, the end and she’s just being so dang … soft and girly in this movie, it’s making my fingers itch for a cigarette and a martini.  My Bette Davis is sultry, feminine, but most importantly of all, brash and bold.  This Bette Davis is not my Bette Davis, and that makes me sad.

DangerousMan goes to dinner with Bette’s family, and there is thirty seconds of the entire family eating soup and exchanging significant glances with everyone from across the table.  And now there’s more yelling when DangerousMan proposes marriage to Bette Davis, but she doesn’t say yes; she just stares into his eyes, while the lens is coated in Vaseline.  Later, on the front porch, he convinces her to bolt in the night with him, away from her family, and take the midnight train going aaaanyywheerrree — er, San Francisco.  Her sisters watch her escape from through their bedroom window, and in any other movie, that’d be the end –the heroine overcomes her fear and agrees to run away with the man she loves – the score even sounds like it’s the end, with the swelling strings and brass underneath!  There should be a “The End” overlain on the  scene — but instead, this movie is only half an hour in.

So now, Bette Davis and DangerousMan have returned to San Francisco.  And — Bette Davis, is that you?!  Wearing that hideous hat with feathers and smoking a cigarette with a boa looking like a gypsy woman?!  Oh, thank god — it’s just Bette Davis’s crazy neighbor, going over to Bette Davis’s apartment, introducing herself and asking to borrow some butter.  There’s a joke in here about something being just like the Gypsy Woman said, but I’m too tired to find it right now.  Crazy Neighbor Lady sounds eerily like Glinda the Good Witch.  I know she’s not Glinda in real life, but dear lord, she just sounds insane.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Silver Bow, Montana, Day Old Spinach Guy is taking out Bette Davis’s Younger Sister Grace out in his automobile.  Dad-gum, it’s a blowout!  And Grace jumps off the automobile to help him change the tire, and she holds the hubcap and collects the nuts but when — oh hell, you know that’s not what happened.  (It’d be cooler if it did, though.)  Anyway, Tom’s pumping up the tire with an overgrown bicycle pump, and Grace wants to help, so she jumps down and they both pump together.  As they’re pumping, we have this conversation:

Tom: Now Grace, there’s been something I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time.
Grace: Yes, Tom?
Tom: Will you marry me?
Grace: Yes, Tom.
Tom: That’s fine.

THAT’S FINE?  Wow.  He really is exactly like Day Old Spinach.

Also meanwhile, Helen visits her friend Stella’s father (the guy who introduced Louise to DangerousGuy), and I think she just went to visit her friend and got wrapped up in a conversation with the father, and then THE FATHER PROPOSES MARRIAGE TO HER AND WHAT THE FUCK, MOVIE?  I mean, yikes.  Because Helen is easily less than 30 (knowing that this movie takes place in 1904, probably less than 25), but that dude is easily over fifty.  And her best friend’s father!  That is “ick” on too many levels for me to be comfortable with it.  And it sounds like it’s just a marriage of convenience — Sam loves her, but Helen just wants to go to New York and be taken care of, she doesn’t care for love.  Especially since the town thinks she’s just marrying the dude for his money.  Which, in a way, she kind of is, even though she denies it.

Meanwhile, DangerousGuy turns out to also be DrunkGuy — and at only 8 p.m., too!  Lightweight — and comes home and starts bitching about being a man of responsibility and not wanting help from anyone, and it’s pretty much a case of self-doubt about his lack of novel that he’d been trying to write and causes him to drink, but now Bette Davis is going to have a baby, and that’s just going to spell trouble for Bette Davis and DangerousGuy.

And according to the book — they keep showing the book from the beginning! — DangerousGuy resolves to be Stand-Up Husband.  Why, he even takes his loving wife to the prize-fights, where they sit right next to a guy smoking a cigar and one of the fighters almost falls directly into Bette Davis’s pregnant lap.  Oh wait, she didn’t tell him she was pregnant until now?  Uh, well played, Bette Davis?  Except Bette Davis WENT TO THE PRIZE FIGHT and then WALKED UP AN ENTIRE TWO AND A HALF FLIGHTS OF STAIRS and she collapsed on the third landing and suffered a miscarriage.  Christ — that’s all it takes?  Don’t tell the Christian Conservatives!  Stairs and the boxing profession will be outlawed!

However, Bette Davis’s Younger Sister Grace has had a baby with Day Old Spinach Guy.  Suck on that, Bette Davis!  (Oh don’t you dare threaten her — well, normally, I’d say don’t threaten Bette Davis, but she’s so wimpy in this movie!)

DangerousGuy goes to ask his editor boss for a raise, and they fight and then he gets fired.  When he comes home, Bette Davis has scrimped and saved up enough for a Christmas tree (oh, right, it’s Christmas), and when Bette Davis offers to get a job, he flies off the handle and takes it as a personal affront (because, again, this is 1905ish) and runs out to get drunk and Bette Davis tells him to not come back and now, finally? She becomes an independent woman?  PLEASE

Meanwhile, in London, Helen and her Friend’s Father are attending a party.  In London.  Man, that girl gets around.  Anyway, Friend’s Father is drinking heavily and Helen is flirting with some dude named Norman.  Her friend gets all uppity when she finds Norman professing his love for Helen in front of Friend’s Father’s drunken stupor.  She shakes her father awake, and he manages for all of four seconds before he collapses on the ground and now Helen’s a widower.

Well, Bette Davis welcomed DangerousGuy back into her apartment, and it kind of pains me to say it (because he’s playing a shitheel), but Errol Flynn is kind of hot when he’s all disheveled.  Where can I find me one of those?  Y’know, one that hasn’t been dead for three hundred seventy years.  Anyway, he goes out to find a new job, but after a detour to a bar, he finds out that there’s a job in Djibouti and he’s going to leave Bette Davis to do that.  That SHIT HEEL.  Screw it.  If I can find a modern-day Errol Flynn, I’m going to —

Uh, I just remembered that some male friends of mine read this blog, and they probably don’t want to know what I’d do with a modern-day Errol Flynn.  Or, if they do want to know, I don’t want them to know, so I’m just going to shut up about tying anyone to bedposts and move on.

So Bette Davis’s husband cuts and runs.  Shitheel.  And she still believes he’s going to come back?  Poor, poor delusional Bette Davis.  And then it’s the earthquake of 1906!  Because when everything’s the worst and you’re in the depths of despair, THEN GOD GIVES YOU AN EARTHQUAKE.


Hey, is anyone wondering what’s going on with Bette Davis’s Younger Sister Grace?  No?  Yeah, me neither, apparently.  Oh, and also, DangerousGuy’s not going to Djibouti, he’s going to Singapore.  Because yes, those places sound alike.

Everyone’s trying to get ahold of Bette Davis, but she’s just waiting for DangerousGuy.  The mounties or whatever have to pull her out of her exploded apartment because she refuses to leave because DangerousGuy could come home.  But hey, at least when she yells, she’s starting to sound like My Bette Davis again.  Also, when she goes to a boarding house, it’s run by Miss Pittypat!

Oh, please tell me the boarding house is actually a brothel.  Please tell me the boarding house is actually a brothel.  That will make my life! 

Oh hey, it’s the story of Bette Davis’s Younger Sister Grace’s Son, Day-Old Spinach Jr.!  Oh no, wait, actually, we’re going to find out that Day-Old Spinach is actually cheating on Grace.  What type of spinach does that make him now?  Regardless, Bette Davis and Helen both return to Silver Bow to support Grace.  Hey, the Sisters are back together for the first time on-screen in over an hour.  What the hell, Movie?  Apparently, “supporting” is equivalent to “encouraging the cheating men to run their whore out of town via blackmail.”  And that’s the Bette Davis I know!

But DangerousGuy has returned to San Francisco and he’s determined to see Bette Davis again.  Except she’s back in Silver Bow, dealing with the town whore.  Meanwhile it’s another Election Ball, and it’s almost a repeat of the first ten minutes.  THAT MEANS THE MOVIE’S ALMOST OVER, RIGHT?  And apparently Helen has another fiancé — while she’s waiting for her husband to divorce her back in New York (that’d be Norman, for those keeping track) — and Tom is driving Grace in their new automobile. 

Everyone dances together, and then DangerousGuy surprises Bette Davis at the election ball, and apparently William Howard Taft is the next president of the United States, and Bette Davis and DangerousGuy are going to try again, and then there’s this weird shot of the three sisters standing in the middle of the dance floor, standing stoically and staring upwards, holding each other and then it’s the end WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S THE END, DOES SHE GO BACK TO DANGEROUSGUY AND HOW MANY MORE TIMES DOES HELEN GET MARRIED

…. And I’m done.  And if it weren’t two in the morning, I’d totally put in All About Eve and watch that.  As it stands, I still haven’t finished watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang without falling asleep, and I’ve tried four times with no success.

Anyway.  This is a movie I don’t feel the need to pick up again.  Talk about false advertising — for ostensibly being a movie about sisters, they sure as hell weren’t together a lot.

Grade for The Sisters: Meh.

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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Insomniac Theatre


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