Category Archives: Insomniac Theatre

Insomniac Theatre: “The Virgin Queen”

This feels weird.  I’m writing an Insomniac Theatre post at … 4:17 p.m.  This is, like, the opposite of “Insomniac.”  But the fact remains that I have a shit-ton of movies stored on Jeremy the TiVo, and I have approximately forty days in which to eliminate them.  So prepare to be spammed with random TCM jewels, dear readers.  (And when you get back from England, Sarah, is when I’ll watch Rubber.  Because by that time, I’ll have had enough with black and white movies and will need a decidedly weird and gory break.)

On the last Insomniac Theatre, I watched The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.  Which y’all probably realize, as it’s the post directly underneath this one.  Well, the night it originally aired on TCM, they did a double feature of Times Bette Davis Played Elizabeth I.  I figured, “Hey, why not?” and ended up taping both.  So … here’s the second one!


Seeing as how the last movie I watched had similar plot points (I’m guessing — I haven’t exactly hit ‘play’ yet), I’m just going to jump right into the live-blog-recap.  So, without further ado, the synopsis according to the imdb.:

Sir Walter Raleigh overcomes court intrigue to win favor with the Queen in order to get financing for a proposed voyage to the New World.

But … hm.  I hope Richard Todd does a good job, because for the past couple of weeks I’ve been associating Sir Walter Raleigh with Sir Vincent Price.  What kind of favor are we talking about, here?  Because all I can think now is that it’s going to be creepy.

According to Robert Osbourne, this is the performance Bette Davis preferred when she played Queen Elizabeth, but we have to decide for ourselves which is our favorite.  *shrugs*  Okay, Osbourne, whatever you say.

The credits roll over a rich blue tapestry and a sword in a scabbard.  It brings to mind the opening credits to Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, another movie I haven’t watched in quite a while.  That right there is one of my all-time favorite movies from childhood.  Speaking of, have you guys seen the stills of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent?  GOD I cannot wait for that movie.  Maleficent is one of my favorite villains.  I want to be her when I grow up.  I mean, she has minions, and she can turn into a dragon, and she has an over-developed sense of vengeance, and — oh, she dies in the end?  Yeah, but she dies with a SWORD thrown into her HEART.  Talk about a way to go.

Man.  I should really watch Sleeping Beauty again … maybe I’ll create a category for Movies Alaina’s Seen a Lot?  Because dudes, if I did that?  The inaugural post would be on Spaceballs, which is apparently 25 years old today. 

Oh shit the movie’s actually starting now.

In 1581 all the roads of England led to London — for better or worse

And there’s a coach and four driving rapidly through a rainstorm on a muddy road, and it doesn’t quite look like a British landscape, but what do I know, I’ve never been to England.  The wheels of the coach get stuck in some mud, and a dude jumps out of the coach to assess the situation.

“Tis but a pothole, Ned!  Whip them on!”  Okay, a) of all: I’m not sure that whatever those types of sinkholes where, they were called ‘potholes’ — I’m pretty sure that word came about later than 1581.  Of course, I don’t have an Oxford English Dictionary on hand, so I can neither confirm nor deny that assumption.  And secondly — in my head, I just went “Tis but a scratch!” and then proceeded to recite the remainder of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  And that’s another movie I haven’t seen in a long time.

Everybody associated with the coach jumps out and proceeds to this big house about five hundred yards away.  When they get to the house, it appears to be either a tavern or an inn or possibly an inn with a tavern in it, because there are a lot of people drinking at tables in there, and also two couples macking on each other in the back.  Apparently one of the guys in the coach is a Lord, because everyone calls him Milord. 

What the fuck?  Some dude who’s been macking on a girl in the dark corner of this tavern-inn, when he hears the Lord announce that he’s on the Queen’s business he leaves the girl and asks the tavern-innkeeper why he’s not sending help to get the Lord’s coach out of the mud.  And the tavern-innkeeper says something about how he hates the court and they can all go fuck themselves (I’m paraphrasing), and then he punches the guy in the nose with his sword.  AND THEN THEY START SWORD FIGHTING. 

DUDES THE GUY IS SWORD FIGHTING A GUY WITH AN EYE PATCH.  There’s a joke in here about pirates with bad depth perception, but I think I’m not tired enough to find it.

The guy disarms the tavern-innkeeper — oh, he’s saying something about the Irish Wars, which tells me that this movie is supposed to take place after the events of Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex?  WHICH DOESN’T MAKE SENSE, because according to the timestamp in that movie, the events there took place in 1596!  SHENANIGANS

Apparently the sword-fighter was Walter Raleigh.  Anyway, he gets all the innkeeper people to get the coach out of the mud.  The Milord recognizes Raleigh and says that he can visit him at Whitehall in three days.  Raleigh’s friend tries to get more gold out of Milord, but Raleigh pushes the friend into the mud to shut him up.  Nice friend.

Raleigh goes to see Milord, and asks to see the Queen.  Milord warns Raleigh of wanting that, because the Queen is felicitous and flighty.  Or, rather, something about having whims and wisdom.  But Raleigh is determined to make his way in the world, so Milord sends him to a tailor to get better clothes.  Raleigh wants a pretty cloak to wear to the Queen, and is able to talk the tailor into giving him the French Ambassador’s cloak.

The next day, Raleigh strolls into Court as if he owns the place.  Geez, Raleigh’s kind of a pretentious bastard, ain’t he?  Anyway, the French Ambassador is there with his minions (AGAIN WITH THE MINIONS) and sends one of them to go ask Raleigh where he got his cloak.  The Minion asks where Raleigh got his cloak, and Raleigh responds that he took it off a guy he stabbed to death.  OH MAN THAT’S — that could have been a way better retort.  It’s good for a 1950s-era period drama, but if I was making that movie today?  The response would be I GOT IT FROM YOUR MOTHER AFTER I SLEPT WITH HER LAST NIGHT.

Because in my head, Sir Walter Raleigh is actually Sean Connery on Celebrity Jeopardy! in disguise.

Hold on — I need to YouTube that shit right now.

Twenty minutes later…
Oh right, I was watching a movie.

Forty minutes after that —
Sorry, guys.  I had to deal with a crisis that my STUPID FUCKING PHONE put me into.  Y’know, Phone?  When I say “SEND EMAIL,” that means SEND THE FUCKING EMAIL, not SAVE AS A DRAFT.  Also, I finally settled on a name for my phone: SMORON.  Because that’s what it is: a Smoron. 

ANYWAY.  So, Raleigh walks into Court, and then Joan Collins comes up in a breathy whisper of a voice, and starts asking him about why he’s at Court, and why he wants to meet the Queen, and then she starts listing stuff about the Queen as if she’s counting a rosary of pearls, and then the string of pearls breaks, AND THEN BETTE DAVIS ENTERS.

She asks if Raleigh is Joan Collins’s new pig, because she has strewn pearls before him.  OH MAN THAT’S ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD.  Maybe, instead of face-slapping, this movie has good put-downs?  Bette has a more nasal version of her Margo Channing voice, and I don’t like it.  The Queen takes a liking to Raleigh’s jib, and she invites him to dinner.

On their way to dinner or to inspect armor or something (I’m not really paying attention, I’m half-inclined to send another text to a friend apologizing for the first which, to be honest, wasn’t really that bitchy in the first place) and there’s a puddle in the courtyard.  Raleigh takes off the cloak and lays it across the puddle so the Queen can cross it without getting her slippers or her dress muddy.  He’s going to leave the clock in the puddle, but she tells him to pick it up.  She then says: “I’m not sure if you please me or not, but I must admit you have some qualities the rest of the Court lacks.”  Raleigh is a man of many rare qualities.  His loyalty, efficiency, devotion, warmth, and affection, and so young!  So young and so fair!

Raleigh is having a private wine and cheese party with the Queen later that evening.  The Queen dismisses her guards.  And now there is a discussion that is riddled with innuendo: the Queen asks what Raleigh’s new campaign is, and he says it’s her.  Intrigued, she starts using citadels as metaphors for vaginas and is sorely disappointed when she learns he doesn’t want to sleep with her and instead only wants ships to go to the New World.  She’s so disappointed that he’s not trying to storm her citadel that she tosses her goblet of wine on him. 

When he’s done filling her wine goblet (not a euphemism) and exits the Queen’s chamber, there is one hell of a walk of shame as he strolls through the entire Court, who practically jump to avoid being seen with their ears to a glass on the door.

Joan Collins strolls up to Raleigh and gives him his cloak back.  There’s some talk about her pursuing Raleigh for herself.  Meanwhile, the Queen makes Raleigh the Captain of her Guard, which he didn’t want.  The next day, he’s inspecting his troops (again, not a euphemism) and Joan Collins teases him about being a Captain without a cloak.  Oh good, this movie’s only 90 minutes long.  I was worried, because I’m getting totally bored and it’s only been half an hour.

Queen Elizabeth is holding court around a rectangular table and then just BITCHES out the French Ambassador for a lot of stupid little reasons but damn, it’s good to see Bette Davis verbally bitch-slapping little men.  Sir Christopher, who’s kind of a rat bastard, implies that Raleigh’s friend Sir Derry is actually an Irish rogue who wants to murder the Queen.  The Queen orders Raleigh to send Derry to the Tower, but he refuses and storms out, after making a speech about wanting to live with ships captains and discovering new worlds and such.  The Queen feels faint, and so she leaves with Rat Bastard Christopher.

Raleigh goes back to his in to prepare escaping the Queen’s wrath when Joan Collins arrives and professes her love for him.  They kiss.  A town crier announces that it is 9 p.m. and all is supposedly well.  Raleigh is sitting at the window seat with Joan Collins in his lap, and I am appalled that there are no Dynasty-esque hijinks ensuing.  Joan Collins must serve the Queen for five years, as she is the Queen’s ward.  And there’s the possibility that the Queen could marry her off, should she choose.  And so, in a fit of spontaneity, Raleigh calls up the innkeeper and a serving wench and he marries Joan Collins.  They’re preparing to escape when the Queen’s guard comes along and arrests Raleigh.

The Queen is pretending to be ill so the French Ambassador can go tell the French Queen that she’s dying.  When the Ambassador leaves, the Queen sits up and is as lively as Bette Davis in the Theater Fight scene (you know the one — all playwrights should be dead for three hundred years!).  She calls for Raleigh to come to her and she tricks him into getting knighted by giving him a sword, and then she agrees to give him not the three ships he’s asked for, but one ship.

He leaves the Queen’s chambers and is announced as Sir Walter Raleigh.  He strolls through the Court — and look, I get that she’s a Queen, but does the Court have nothing else to do but hang around her bedroom?  Raleigh goes to find Joan Collins.  Joan Collins gets all bitchy on Raleigh for not standing up to the Queen and telling Her Majesty that he secretly married her.  Raleigh storms out after Joan kicks him out and runs into Christopher.  WHO SLAPS RALEIGH IN THE FACE!  YES!  Now, if only the Queen can get some face-slaps in.

There’s a prayer session just before Raleigh sails off to Plymouth.  The Bishop is as long-winded as the Holy Brother who tells King Arthur that he must count to three, no more, no less, when using the Holy Hand Grenade.  Eventually, the Queen tugs on the Bishop’s robes to get him to shut the hell up and cut the proselytizing short. 

In Plymouth, Raleigh is working on altering the ship he got to make it lighter and quicker.  Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, the Queen has laid a plot that will bring Raleigh back to the castle, and also, she’s shipping her ladies in waiting off to serve Catherine de Medici.  In Paris.  For two years.  Joan Collins looks pale, and there are insinuations that Joan Collins is pregnant with Raleigh’s child, of which the Queen is unaware.

Raleigh races back to see Joan Collins, who is indeed preggers.  She doesn’t want to return to the Queen’s court, so Raleigh comes upon the idea of having Joan Collins sail aboard his ship to the New World, avoiding the return to London.  She agrees to go with him.  But seriously, for having a lot of seamen in his history (heh), he doesn’t know that it’s bad luck to have a woman on board a ship.  I mean, seriously! 

Sir Christopher the Rat tells the Queen that Raleigh has a super-awesome bed in his cabin on board, and insinuates that Raleigh is going to sail away from England with his wife, Joan Collins.  But Sir Christopher the Rat goes to Plymouth to bring Raleigh back and when he refuses, he SPITS IN RALEIGH’S FACE!!  What the shit, Sir Christopher?  And now he’s trying to kill Raleigh, but apparently they’re both pretty good fighters, although this looks more funny than violent.  Especially with Sir Christopher jumping on Raleigh after he punched him onto the bed.

But in the end, the Queen’s guard captures Raleigh and brings him back to London.  And the Queen’s Guard goes chasing after Derry and Joan Collins, whom they find riding along the road to Plymouth.  They capture Joan Collins, and then a dude stabs Derry in the back while he’s swordfighting another guy.  And as he’s dying, he’s saying some shit about “not dying on a Friday, because it’s bad luck.”  Uh, Derry?  Any day you die is an unlucky day.

They bring Joan Collins back to the castle, and they call her the “Throckmorton Minx.”  Now THAT’s a name I’d love to have.  In fact, that would be my superhero name, if I had any say.  “Look, up in the sky — it’s the Throckmorton Minx!”  She escapes the guard as they, I kid you not, attempt to light a candle.  She steals into the Queen’s bedroom, which is especially brazen.  She tries to plead his case, and then she tries to plead her case on behalf of her unborn babe.  Instead, the Queen shows Joan Collins her lack of hair and also tells her that she was told at the age of eighteen that she could never have children.  I — really?  Was medicine that advanced back in the mid-1500s?  I mean, Jesus — I look at my country right now and weep for its lack of medical knowledge.

Anyway, the Queen visits Raleigh in the Tower, and after they have a fight at which I did not pay attention, she agrees that only Raleigh should sail the ship to the New World.  So she doesn’t exactly pardon him, but she does let him out of the Tower.  When the ship finally sails away from London, Raleigh is on board with Joan Collins — and the Queen says the same thing I’m thinking: Who would bring a pregnant woman on board a rocking ship? — but Raleigh’s also flying the Queen’s flag.

So.  That’s how the movie ends.  With very little resolution to what is a very sad attempt at a love triangle.  Oh, Bette — I had such high hopes.  Seriously, I’m going to have to watch All About Eve again to get the taste of this out of my mouth.

Grade for The Virgin Queen: Yay! It’s Over!

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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Insomniac Theatre


Insomniac Theatre: “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex”

So I said I had a bunch of movies on Jeremy the TiVo — oh, shit, I seriously almost typed Jeremy Lin, thanks, SNL repeat that I have to tape now because it’s the Maya Rudolph repeat, and I need to rewatch the skit where Hader, Wiig, and Rudolph can’t get through the scene because they’re laughing too damn hard.  I’m certainly not enjoying this stupid Jeremy Lin sketch again.

Anyway.  I have about ten films on the TiVo, and I really need to watch some of these before I — OW WHAT THE FUCK IS —

Okay, apparently?  The love seat I’m sitting on had a freaking FEATHER poking out of the cushion, STEM FIRST.  I thought I was sitting on a needle.  Jesus Christ, that fucking hurt.


I think I taped this a few months ago, pre-Movies Alaina’s Never Seen, but couldn’t get through it.  Well, I’m going to try it once more, Insomniac Theatre-style.  The imdb. describes it thusly:

A depiction of the love/hate relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.

Oo, love/hate relationship?  PLEASE LET THERE BE FACE-SLAPPING.  EVERYTHING is better with face-slapping.

Ooh, this version has an introduction by Robert Osbourne!  And according to Robert Osbourne, there was a lot of behind-the-scenes fighting about what to call the movie, because everyone wanted to have top billing or make their role sound more important than it really was, and — wait, Vincent Price is in this?!  Sweet!

London, 1596.  After defeating the Spanish forces at Cadiz, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, marches in triumph toward Whitehall Palace where Queen Elizabeth awaits him.

Yeah, I’ll bet she does.  Jeez, the set looks like they turned It’s A Small World into late Renaissance-England.  The colors are super-bright and there are tons of flags and also, music playing.  Up on some balcony, a bunch of ladies-in-waiting are tittering about Essex’s victory in Cadiz, and one lady badmouths the Queen out of her earshot, and another lady shushes her and pretty much insinuates that the Queen is going to behead her for talking smack.  My only question is, is the smack-talking Lady in Waiting played by Olivia De Havilland?  Because if it is, I’m not sure I know what to do – Miss Melly don’t have a mean bone in her body!

Some dude-in-waiting is having a conversation with Queen Elizabeth as she dresses to receive Essex.  (Yeah, she does.)  Throughout the entire conversation, the Queen is behind a screen and we can’t see her face.  As much as I love Bette Davis and her face, how cool would that movie be?  Only seeing a character from the back or in shadow?  Has that ever been done before?  Because I am unsure.

What I am sure of is that Bette Davis wears Queen Elizabeth’s renowned ugliness well.  Holy Hannah, that’s a high forehead and her eyes are … weird, to say the least.

Elizabeth is pissed at Essex because she thinks he acted in Cadiz on his own behalf and not on the behalf of England.  In spite, she promotes Raleigh to commander of the Navy, and some other dude she promotes to something else.  Pissed, Essex tries to hightail it out of the Great Hall or whatever, but Elizabeth calls him back and – FACE-SLAP!  SHE JUST FACE-SLAPPED ESSEX!  WHAT HAVE I BEEN SAYING ABOUT FACE-SLAPPING AND HOW AWESOME IT IS!


So Elizabeth is writing letters or to-do-lists or, possibly, to-behead lists (I wasn’t completely paying attention — sorry), and there’s this Random … I was going to call him a courtier, but he’s not courting Elizabeth.  Let’s call him … Random Jackass, because he’s trying to jackass Essex out of Elizabeth’s favor in order to promote himself.  Oh, right, because Elizabeth isn’t really pissed at Essex; she admits that she was too harsh on him.  Dearest Bette, you know I adore you and all of your roles, but — you FACE SLAPPED HIM IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE COURT.  Of course he’s pissed!

Ha!  Elizabeth just called the Random Jackass a slimy toad!  SLAP HIM YOUR MAJESTY RULE HIM WITH YOUR IRON PALM

Elizabeth goes to sit in one of her thrones, and briefly soliloquizes that she’s not sure who she hates more: Essex for making her love him, or herself for needing him.  Uh, little from Column A, little from Column B, perhaps?

Wanstead — Essex’s ancestral home, northeast of London.

Wanstead?  That’s — that’s a place?  I’m … not sure how that sounds.

Okay, I have just been distracted by a) an email from a former co-worker that I, sadly, can’t answer right now, and b) the next movie Sarah’s “forcing” me to watch (no arm-twisting this time; with a synopsis like that, I have to watch it!).  So, when I last looked at the screen, Essex was talking to a friend about how much he loves to hate Elizabeth too.  Or something.  Whatever.  NEEDS MORE FACE-SLAPPING.

And scene.  Glad I paid attention to that.

Someone’s riding their steed off to London like crazy, and Olivia de Havilland is playing chess with Queen Elizabeth.  This is the fastest game of chess I’ve ever seen.  What is this, speed chess?  DOES THE BOARD BLOW UP IF THEY SLOW THE GAME DOWN?  Olivia taunts that she put the Queen into check, and Queen Elizabeth retaliates by FLIPPING THE TABLE or, at least, sweeping all the pieces off the table, but how awesome would this movie be if there was not only face-slapping, but also flipping of tables?


Oh god, is there going to be singing?  Oh god, there’ssinging.  Apparently Olivia de Havilland is using the magical power of song to be bitchy to the Queen about Essex.  Wow, Miss Melly is being a bitch in this movie!  I … seriously, has Olivia de Havilland ever played a bad person?  I do not know what to do with her!

Apparently the song is about an older woman loving a younger man.  I assume this is the case because Elizabeth examines her reflection and does the same thing Margo Channing does when she suspects Eve of stealing Bill from her – looks at her eyes and the crow’s feet and hates men for looking young.  AND THEN SHE SMASHES HER MIRROR.  YES!  SMASHING OF THINGS!

Elizabeth calls Penelope a wench and a spoiled hussy!  YES.  She goes completely batshit insane and breaks ALL THE MIRRORS in her chambers!  Holy shit this movie is fantastic!

Elizabeth gives Miss Margaret some love advice, but I wasn’t really listening.  Then she calls for Francis Bacon, whom she calls Master Bacon, and hi, can I have some Master Bacon?  I love Master Bacon.  I’m a Master Baconator.  Seriously, bacon’s the best thing in the world.  There are a lot of things I would die for; my right to eat bacon is one of them.  Even if I were raised Jewish, I’d be the worst Jew in the world because my love for bacon resides deep in my bones.  I have a bone for bacon.


SO ANYWAY Elizabeth is asking Sir Francis Bacon (not bacon the food) how she can get Essex back to the palace without seeming weak, when a random person — oh, it’s the guy riding the steed! — breaks into the room and faints.  When he revives, he tells Bacon and Elizabeth that a war has broken out in Ireland.  Bacon and Elizabeth use the war as the PERFET EXCUSE to get Essex back to London without having to lie!  Instead, they’re going to create some stupid role and title to get him back so he can monitor the troops in Ireland from there in London, and oh whatever.  But also, sadly, the person that Mistress Margaret loved is now dead. 


Wait, I have to take a picture of this:

SERIOUSLY.  WHAT IS THAT?!  I think — though I could be wrong? — that that is a falcon with a hat.  A FALCON.  With a HAT.  (Sidenote: Falcon With a Hat would be an excellent name for a band, yes?)

Oh my God, Essex and his peeps are falconing!  He’s got a falcon of his own with a random feather on its head!  He’s falconing with Master Bacon, and I’m sorry, but that is a That’s What She Said.  Anyway, Queen Elizabeth has dressed Sir Walter Raleigh up in a silver suit of armor, and Vincent Price is Sir Walter Raleigh so that makes it even more creepy, but anyway, Elizabeth is using Raleigh to make Essex jealous, and he returns to the palace in London, as we knew he would.

Raleigh is wearing this ridiculous suit of armor, and apparently, to piss him off, and to exude his own manliness or whatever, Essex commissioned an entire army’s worth of silver armor?  WHAT?  This movie, all of a sudden, has a very Project Runway-esque vibe to it.  I half expected Essex to go all Michael Kors on me and talk about the distracting yellow feathered headdress that tops Raleigh’s helmet.  (And again, That’s What She Said.)

Uh oh, it looks like Penelope/Olivia de Havilland is trying to steal Essex away from the Queen for herself.  I mean, I know why this is happening — de Havilland and Flynn had played lovers / were lovers? multiple times, including in the famed Robin Hood movie that made Errol Flynn famous. 

OMIGOD THIS SCENE So Penelope kisses Essex briefly — the briefest of brief pecks — JUST as Elizabeth walks in.  Penelope quickly runs out of the room to give her queen privacy, and Elizabeth walks over to a table and starts munching on, what is that, a pretzel?  Did they have pretzels back then?  WHATEVER.  Anyway, Elizabeth accuses Essex of loving Penelope, and Essex dismisses Penelope by calling her a child.

DUDES.  FIRST of all, Elizabeth has the same gleam in her eye that Margo Channing had in her eye when she asked Eve if she wanted a milkshake.  Plus, the walking around the room eating bon-bons.  PLUS Essex dismissing Eve Penelope by calling her a child.  “STOP CALLING HER A KID.”  OMIGOD THIS SCENE.

… But, unlike that classic fight scene, the two end up having a great big laugh over Raleigh’s silver armor.  They appear to be all hunky-dory, but oh wait a sec, they’re fighting again.  Nope, wait, the fight’s over, and now they’re embracing again.  Hey, yo-yos, cut it out: pick a side and commit!  Do you love each other, or do you hate each other?  FIGURE IT OUT, I’m getting BORED.

Nope, now she’s trying to get him to love another woman?  WHY?  Elizabeth, you’re just going to get mad and ask him to love you again.  What is with this movie?  So much awesome: face-slapping, mirror-shattering,All About Eve-homaging, but then I’m also so very, very confused.

AND NOW SHE’S TOSSING PLAYING CARDS IN ESSEX’S FACE?!  YES?  And accusing him of conspiring to depose her?  And now they’re laughing again?  THIS MOVIE IS DAMNED SCHIZOPHRENIC.

There’s a war council, and Essex is sent to Ireland to fight.  Elizabeth and Essex are both conflicted, but Essex eventually (after ten minutes of talking about it) goes off to Ireland.  Elizabeth gives him one of her rings as a favor to remember her by.

Ireland — For Essex and his army, a nightmare of suffering, disease and death.  Apparently abandoned by their Queen, the English forces push hopelessly on in pursuit of an elusive enemy.

Abandoned?  Elizabeth — you’re not supposed to abandon your lover when he’s at war! 

Oh shit, I’m falling asleep.  Apparently Essex gets a letter from the Queen, in which she tells him he needs to give himself up and return to London.  He goes off the paranoid wagon and starts wondering if the Queen is in league with the Irish enemy.  Meanwhile, back at the London ranch, the Queen is ranting and raving about something and the letters they write to and from each other are statistically sappy and about nothing I’d want read at my wedding.  Elizabeth dismisses the dude who was here so she can go mope about missing Essex. I may be wrong about that whole last paragraph, by the way.  Because yeah, I’m  falling asleep.

The English army is surrounded — trapped, to quote the Irish general, and now I’m just sad nobody said “It’s a trap!!”  Surely there’s an Admiral Akbar in the English army?

Confession time!: I totally fell asleep.  The last two paragraphs?  I’m not sure if they even match the plot of the movie.  I am now writing the remainder of this entry at 11 a.m. the following morning, refreshed after an eight-hour nap.  I even rewound back to the Ireland leadline.

Apparently, the Queen has forgotten the English army and they are lacking supplies and morale.  Essex is pissed because the Queen is ignoring his requests for more troops, food, and arms.  I think he’s actually pissed because the Queen isn’t including any love letters in her missives.  When the latest tells him to return to London, he gets super-pissed and decides to do one final battle with Ireland.

Meanwhile, what I missed last night — Vincent Price and his silver armor manipulated Lady Miss Melanie and her love for Essex to keep letters to Essex from getting to the Queen and vice versa.  Why Vincent Price, you shrewd bastard!

Sir Francis Master Bacon knows why the letters aren’t getting to where they need to go, and he’s telling the Queen in an oblique way so as to avoid being beheaded.  Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth is acting like a college freshman.  “Oh, he wrote you but didn’t write to me?  Why doesn’t he respond to my letters when I tell him I love him?  Is he dead?  But if he was dead, someone would have –”

Uh, oh shit.  I just had a stunning realization about something going in my own life.  Wow.  Okay, moving on. 

Although now that I think about it, I think my thing is more that I communicate via text (emails, text messages), and the other person communicates verbally, and I’m sorry, Troy, but even though I was born in the 80s, I don’t really use my phone as a phone.  Much.

Anyway, back to the movie – the Queen dismisses Sir Francis Master Bacon, and takes a nap.  Then we are thrust onto the Irish battlefield, and there’s cannons and bugles and dust and it kind of looks like the same set where Dorothy and her friends were picked up by the Flying Monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.  England calls a cease-fire with Ireland.

General Tyrone of Ireland calls to Essex and tells him that, unless England surrenders, then Ireland’s going to cut off England’s supplies and arms.  I’m very pleased – that is the best cease-fire I’ve ever seen.  Tyrone pretty much convinces Essex of what he already knew: that he needs to surrender in order to live to fight another day.  He ceases fire, and he and his army returns to England to march on the Queen. 

After a pompous walk to her throne, Elizabeth asks somebody about the latest play that Shakespeare wrote, about the deposement of a king, and she mocks that her people are going to storm on the castle based on what they see in “the theatre.”  First off, yay more homages to All About Eve!  But mostly, which play is it?  It must be MacBeth.  Hooray, I love MacBeth!

Hoo boy, Essex and Elizabeth just realized that they never received each other’s letters.  Elizabeth is PISSED.  I hope there’s more face-slapping.

Oh, Jesus, Elizabeth’s sitting in her throne and Essex is lounging on the floor with his head in her lap.  Shouldn’t that seating arrangement be reversed?  I mean, I know she’s the Queen, but I don’t usually see men supplicant to women in movies.  While I like the idea, I’m not sure I like seeing a powerful man subverting himself for a woman.  I don’t know; I am a huge fan of powerful men and women maintaining their power while in a relationship, not having one party lose some power to maintain the relationship.  *sigh*  This type of thinking is too heavy for Insomniac Theatre.  It’s too heavy for The Morning After Insomniac Theatre.

Elizabeth: Take me, my life, my world, my present and future in your hands.  Stand behind my throne, and together we shall build up England, to make the old world one.
Alaina: Uh, that’s what she said?

Oh good, Essex wants to be king.  So he wants to maintain his power and be equal with Elizabeth.  Yay, power equality!  Oh, Essex convinces Elizabeth to share her role and power with him without making him king, and he disbands his army.  Huh.  Poor lovestruck kid.  Hm.  Because with her tone of voice and her posture, it appears that Elizabeth is leading him on, and she’s going to send him to the Tower of London.  Seriously, she had the same look in her eye she had before warning her party that it was going to be a bumpy night.

Ha I was right!  She sends Essex off to the Tower.  Dude, seriously – you can’t love a Queen and ask for equal power unless you are married to the woman before she is made Queen.  I repeat: poor lovestruck kid.

Kittens!  There are kittens … playing near the executioner’s grindstone?!  THAT’S HORRIBLE. 

Meanwhile, Lady Miss Melanie is pleading for Essex’s life.  Miss Melly is telling the Queen that he loved her, not Melanie, and that she was jealous of the Queen because of Essex’s love.  The Queen is not giving pardon whatsoever.  And y’know, I’m okay with that decision.  Because as Queen, she must retain her power over possible usurpers. 

Oh, maybe she is relenting a little bit.  Dangit, Elizabeth!  Rule with your iron palm, not your heart!  She calls him back from the Tower, and they have an argument about if they love each other.  Good Lord, I am bored.  QUICK NEEDS MORE FACE-SLAPPING

Essex goes off to his execution, not willing to submit to Elizabeth’s demands.  Good on you, Essex.  He is brought down through this SECRET TRAP DOOR to go to his execution, and he’s wearing a puffy shirt!  Y’know, I get why Seinfeld hated his puffy shirt, but can I tell ya, Errol Flynn makes it look damn awesome.  He kisses the ring Elizabeth gave him, then says he’s ready.

And then the movie ends!  There was entirely too little face-slapping.  There could have been way more in the last half.

Oh, what does Robert Osbourne have to say at the end?  Eh, nothing I didn’t read in the trivia section on imdb yesterday.

Grade for The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex: Meh.

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Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Insomniac Theatre


Insomniac Theatre: “That Certain Woman”

Aw man.  While I was debating on what to watch for tonight’s edition of Insomniac Theatre, I realized Bravo was showing Quantum of Solace.  And since the only man I love more than Daniel Craig right now is Ian Somerhalder and sadly, he’s not on TV right at the moment, I turned it on and began playing the game “Where does Stana Katic show up?”  And then I stopped playing because I’m getting only slightly bored (only slightly — Bond just took his shirt off and all of a sudden, things got interesting again), so I checked out Wikipedia and apparently, Stana Katic’s character doesn’t show up until the end.  Damn.

So I’m over it.  Also, I have actually seen Quantum of Solace, and I own the DVD, so I can wait on rewatching that and let’s kill some movies on Jeremy the TiVo, shall we?

Tonight’s entry is the last — oh, hold on, James just found Dying!Mathis.  *sadface*  What is it this week with the deaths of Epic Bromances?  First Damon and Alaric (*SNIFF* I’LL MISS YOU ALARIC, possibly only slightly less than Damon will), and now Bond and Mathis?  Awww… — Um, anyway.  Before I continue, dear Everyone I’ve Ever Met: I HAVE NO SHAME.  But most importantly,That Certain Womanis the last Bette Davis movie I have left from my rash of recording Bette Davis movies.  And the synopsis on imdb. leads me to believe that this one won’t be a comedy:

Mary Donnell, a young legal secretary with a past, elopes with a client’s son, but his father has the marriage annulled without knowing she’s pregnant.

What’s with Bette Davis movies and strange pregnant circumstances?  I mean, I knew she didn’t do too many ribald comedies, but this is a crazy amount of drama.  I swear, I am kicking myself for not recapping The Golden Arrow when I had the chance.

But before I can truly recap this bad boy, there is one thing I’m going to need: pajamas.  Be right back.

OKAY.  I am in pajamas, and I have vodka and Sprite.  If I don’t hit ‘play’ in the next five minutes, I’m going to end up watching the entirety of Quantum of Solace.  Play has been hit, vodka has been sipped, and the rating is a G.  Let’s dig in, shall we? 

That Certain Woman also stars Henry Fonda and — Anita Louise?  Didn’t she play one of Bette’s sisters in The Sisters?  She did!  She played Crazy Helen, the middle child!  I would say “this is going to be good,” but let’s face it — this isn’t going to be the happiest of movies.  But maybe she’ll play someone crazy again?

Bette Davis comes running out of the rain and onto a double-decker bus, carrying a bouquet and with her friend or possibly her mother.  When she gets on the bus, a shadowy guy tosses a newspaper at her, and the headline reads “Fourth Anniversary of the Valentine’s Day Massacre” or something like that.  I DON’T REWIND.  Anyway, apparently that has some significance for our heroine, because the next shot is of a headstone that dates someone dying at 30 back in 1929, and that’s who the bouquet is for.  So Bette Davis loved someone who died in the Valentine’s Day Massacre?  That’s my gal!

Meanwhile, a paparazzo has followed her and her friends to the cemetery, and he asks her to pose at the foot of the grave on which she is bestowing the flowers.  He thanks her as Mrs. Haines (the name on the headstone is Haines), but then her friend with the newspaper who also went with her and her other friend drags the paparrazzo over to the headstone in a rather awkward manner — apparently the Depression wouldn’t allow for a second, smoother take — and bangs the guy’s camera into pieces.  Ha!

The paparrazzo attempts to get Bette to buy him a new camera.  In what will surely become my new catchphrase, Bette Davis calls him a “fresh monkey” and orders him to scram.  Fresh Monkey?  Oh, that’s priceless!

Bette Davis is working as a secretary in a law office.  She seems to have a nice boss – he goes around singing and everything as he’s getting ready for lunch.  Everything’s going well, until the paparrazzo from the cemetery shows up and asks her to sign something that gives him the right to publish a tell-all about her dead husband.  She asks him to leave in no uncertain terms — but without calling him a ‘fresh monkey’ again — and then her boss, Mr. Rogers, resues her.  And he reveals that he always knew that she was Al Haines’s widow, and that she’s okay with him.  As imdb. says, Al Haines was a gangster, so Bette Davis is trying to keep out of the mob.  Good on you, Bette. 

Mr. Rogers goes out and … invites the paparrazzo out to lunch?  What?  Mr. Rogers comments that it’s so wet out, that it’s a great day for ducks.  Fun Fact!  Ducks actually hate the rain.  He runs into Henry Fonda, who is apparently Bette Davis’s boyfriend.  Awww… he’s kind of a goober.  I like that.

Bette Davis goes out to a restaurant where she runs into an old gangster acquaintance while she waits for Henry Fonda.  She thinks he’s stood her up, but he shows up after all, and then he takes her home, and I think he tries to get her to ask him up to her apartment, but she tells him that they’re just very good friends.  And apparently, Henry Fonda has Daddy Issues.  I’m not sure what the deal is between Hank and Daddy — it hasn’t been discussed at length at this point.  But hey, Henry Fonda is asking Bette Davis to marry him. 

Henry Fonda goes over to Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rogers tells Henry Fonda all about Bette Davis’s past.  Aw, does Mr. Rogers love Bette Davis too?  I’d be surprised if he didn’t.  After all, a) of all, everybody loves Bette Davis, but b) of all, all men are in love with their secretaries in some way.  But the most important part of this whole scene that I’m watching is that the next day, Mr. Rogers goes to the office after playing poker the entire night before, and he swivels a bookcase around and on the other side of the bookcase is a full wet bar!  Can I have one of those?!  That one little thing would satisfy three of my fantasies: 1) an awesome library, 2) an awesome bar, and 3) the ability to reenact the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy and his father are tied to the chairs and the poker makes the fireplace swivel and they end up in a Nazi switchboard room.

Anyway, Mr. Rogers sends Bette Davis out to marry Henry Fonda, and it’s all very blah, and honestly, I’m regretting a bit not actually watching Quantum of Solace to the end.

(I may have just paused That Certain Woman to be able to rewind Quantum of Solace so I could watch the ending.  Shut up.  Hey, Detective Beckett!  On another yet similar note, can I has Skyfall now?  How about now?  When can then be now?  THAT’S NOT SOON ENOUGH)

Bette Davis and Henry Fonda get married, but then it looks like Henry Fonda’s father interrupts the honeymoon.  Ouch — that’s not even remotely cool, Henry Fonda’s Dad.  Henry Fonda wants to stay married, but Henry Fonda’s Dad doesn’t want them to be married.  To the tune of HOLY SHIT HE JUST BACKHANDED HENRY FONDA.  And Henry Fonda’s Dad believes that she is a gangster’s moll and is trying to insinuate herself into the Fonda family for nefarious deeds and reasons. 

While Henry Fonda is trying to convince his dad that Bette Davis is as fantastic a woman as we all know her to be, Bette Davis bolts in the night.  The cool thing was that the detective who once arrested her when she was married to the gangster defended her.  But she still runs back home.

But hey!  Then a year passes — or possibly two — and now Bette Davis has a baby!  Hell, that was a very productive three-hour honeymoon.  She’s working at Mr. Rogers’s law office again, and I still say that Mr. Rogers is in love with her.  This same morning, Bette Davis learns that Henry Fonda married another girl.  She is determined to remain solvent on her own, without asking Henry Fonda’s family or father for help.

She goes into another room to take a phone call, where it’s revealed that Henry Fonda and his new wife were in a terrible car accident IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE and the chauffeur was killed and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fonda are in a hospital, unconscious.  I’m sorry, but this just reinforces the fact that, should I ever go to France, I am not driving ANYWHERE.

Mr. Rogers sends Bette Davis on a trip to get her mind off things.  NOT TO FRANCE?!

Fast-forward, like, two more years, and now Jack Jr. is 4 years old, and Mr. Rogers is apparently extremely sick.  One day, Mr. Rogers runs away from his home or hospital or wherever he is, and a private detective or someone goes to Bette Davis’s home, hoping to find Mr. Rogers.  Mr. Rogers did end up at Bette Davis’s apartment, and he claims that he asked his wife for a divorce, that he loves Bette Davis, that he wants to marry her.  But he has a fever and something awful, though it’s never said what he has, so Bette Davis writes his feelings off as nonsense.

I’m sorry — what kind of plotline is this?  I mean, I get that everyone loves Bette Davis, but when does Henry Fonda come back?  Anyway, Mr. Rogers dies, and there’s some big frouferah about how Bette Davis was having an affair with Mr. Rogers (which wasn’t true), and the paparrazzi were able to take a picture of her kid.  She decides to run away, but then — then!  — Henry Fonda shows up!  But he’s still married to the other woman.

And he has the gall – THE GALL – to go over to Bette Davis’s house, and out of the ‘goodness of his heart,’ offer to adopt her son to ‘help her out.’  She absolutely refuses, but she still introduces her son to Henry Fonda, which is something I wouldn’t have done.  Maybe.  I’m not sure, seeing as how I’ve never been in the situation where I’ve had a baby and not told the father.

I’m not going to delete that sentence, but please note as you reread that sentence that it is currently 2:39 a.m., and I can’t be held responsible for my typing actions.  I don’t rewind, I don’t retype, and nothing good happens after two a.m.

Anyway, Bette Davis wants to run away with her son and tells Henry Fonda her plans.  But Henry Fonda’s Dad puts a restraining order out on Bette Davis and tries to adopt the son out from under Bette Davis because he thinks Bette Davis is an unfit mother.  Henry Fonda barges in and berates his father, and he and Bette Davis are back in love.

The next day — what is with this movie and such abrupt transitions? — Henry Fonda’s Wife shows up at Bette Davis’s house, and she tells Bette Davis that, yeah, she’s in love with Henry Fonda, but Henry Fonda loves Bette Davis, so she’s willing to give Henry Fonda up so he can be happy.  But then Bette Davis says that she doesn’t love Henry Fonda!  WHAT!?  WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU — BUT ISN’T THIS — AHCK.  I kind of hate this movie right now. 

Also, in case I forgot to mention this up above, remember that car accident that Henry Fonda and his Wife were in?  Well, it left Henry Fonda’s Wife paralyzed in a wheelchair for life.  And you know the horrible parts?  Number One: Her name is ‘Flip.’  Flip?  FLIP?!  THAT’S A HORRIBLE NAME FOR A CRIPPLE.  Number Two: Actually, not so horrible — I’m going to hell.  But Number Three: When Bette Davis offered to push her wheelchair, I went to the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? place.

Henry Fonda and his wife leave, and then Bette Davis makes some kind of decision, and asks her roommate slash maid or whatever to take the son and put him in his sailor suit.  Then she quickly types up a letter to Jack and seals it, but we don’t know what it says.  Is she giving up her son?  Is she sending the little kid to his father’s house to live with him?  WHAT IS GOING ON?!

Yeah, you’re regretting it now, aren’t you?  Bette Davis, as much as I love you, your character just made some bad decisions. 

FOLLOWED BY AN EVEN WORSE ONE.  Now she’s in Monte Carlo — what the fuck?  — with a little dog?  And — what the FUCK is going on?

Oh man — please tell me there will be some poetic justice and she takes a car ride and gets in an accident and becomes paralyzed?  That will be awful and yet fantastic at the same time.  And I never want to wish Bette Davis harm, but this movie is getting slightly ridiculous.

Nope, no car accident — just a trans-Atlantic phone call from Henry Fonda after Bette Davis learns that ‘Flip’ died last year, because apparently it’s over a year since the last scene?  Transitions, people!  Anyway, with Flip out of the picture, they are now safe to be a big, crazy, happy family because apparently now Henry Fonda’s Father doesn’t give a shit — or maybe he died too and no one told Bette? — but the best part is that we don’t even see the actual reconciliation and the movie’s over and holy shit, that was even worse than The Sisters.

I mean, why was it even called That Certain Woman?  Because I’m not entirely sure the title meant what I think they thought it did.

Grade for That Certain Woman: Meh.

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Posted by on April 28, 2012 in Insomniac Theatre


Insomniac Theatre: “The Great Lie”

Well, let’s continue with the Bette Davis films with The Great Lie, a 1941 drama starring my favorite dame and her lover, George Brent.  The imdb. has this synopsis:

After a newlywed’s husband apparently dies in a plane crash, she discovers that her rival for his affections is now pregnant with his child.

Ooo… intrigue!  And hopefully face-slapping, yes?  There needs to be more movies where Bette Davis slaps the shit out of people.  (Just sayin’.)

Hoo boy ... this one's going to be *dramatic*

OH MAN the movie starts off with music that I should remember … I think it’s from a Bugs Bunny cartoon?  And — WAIT I HAVE SHAZAM NOW HOLD ON

Hm.  Apparently Shazam doesn’t believe in being able to tag classical music.  The fuck, Shazam?  Even classy people need to figure out where they’ve heard that song before.

A-ha!  The music is apparently the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and the beginning strains were heard at the beginning of the classic Merrie Melodie cartoon, A Corny Concerto, starring (in part) Bugs Bunny!  Fun Fact!: The introduction is by Tchaikovsky, but the rest of the music heard in A Corny Concerto is all composed by Johann Strauss. 

Hi, my name is Alaina Patterson, and I used to be a classical music nerd.

ANYWAY.  The credits end, and here’s where the story actually begins.  Holy cow, this apartment they live in has a leopard-printed couch!  Well, some dude comes in and wakes George Brent up — apparently his name is Mr. Van Allen — and his wife is sleeping in the other room, and apparently Mrs. Van Allen is a pianist who might be playing with the Philadelphia orchestra, and the storming dude wants to see her for some reason?  And there goes George Brent, making a scotch and soda at, like, nine in the morning.  Awesome.

Let me take a moment (speaking of scotch) to mention how freaking happy I am that Ron Burgandy announced that there’s going to be a sequel to Anchorman!  I swear, Anchorman is easily on my list of top ten favorite movies of all time, and the fact that we’re getting a sequel is fantastic!

The next day (or later that day, whatever), Mr. Van Allen — also known as Pete — goes to see his lawyer.  That can’t be good.  The lawyer does mention that Pete hasn’t been in the daylight for a week, and his response is “there’s something about that woman.”  Nice!  Was this before or after the Whatchimacallit Laws, because that seems kind of racy for its day.

Well, Mr. Lawyer tells George Brent/Pete that his new marriage isn’t legal because Sandy (his wife) — her divorce wasn’t finalized.  So if he wants to marry her, he’ll have to do it again and sober in the daylight.  That tells me a lot about their original ceremony.

Flash to him flying a plane — what!? — over Maryland, and there’s this — oh god, I don’t know how to proceed.  He’s clearly a servant, and he’s African American, and it’s like … you know that episode of Mad Men where Roger did blackface and all the viewers got offended?  That’s how I’m feeling about this moment, especially when the servant calls him “Mr. Pete.”  Oh, 1942 racism!  Don’t ever change!

And HOLY SHIT THERE’S MAMMY FROM GONE FROM THE WIND.  And yes, I have seen that movie — three times, even.  So shut up.

And there’s Bette Davis, hiding from “Mr. Pete” by pretending to have a cold.  Oh, lord, and she’s got a Southern accent?  That type of accent sounds awful coming out of her mouth.  I swear, one of the next movies I have to watch isAll About Eve, because I’m not sure if I can take another movie of Bette Davis being a simpering female.

Oh, Pete proposed to Bette Davis (Maggie), and she refused him.  And then he went off and married someone else.  And she asked him to be a sober person — wait a minute.  She had a problem with alcohol?  Is this because of what happened with Errol Flynn in the last movie? 

And now he’s leaving Maggie’s house, not saying a word about the fact that his marriage is null?  Why — what?  This movie is confusing.  So he goes back home and his wife (Mary Astor) is still hiding, and that dude is still waiting for her.  Apparently Mary Astor is getting a massage from some dude because Pete left the window open (?) and she caught cold in her shoulder (??), and at one point the massage dude pinches too hard or something and she just hauls off and slaps him!  Holy shit, I kind of love Mary Astor.  Because what did I say about face-slapping?  ALL MOVIES NEED MORE FACE-SLAPPING.

Pete at least tells Mary Astor that they’re not legally married, and he pretty much gives her an ultimatum: marry him on Tuesday, or play the concert in Philadelphia on Tuesday as scheduled.  Judging by the tantrum she pulls on her piano and the poster we see in the next shot (holy shit, orchestra seats were $5 back then?!), we are led to believe that they don’t remarry and Sandra Kovak (Mary Astor) remains in love with her career.  Good on her, I guess.  And here’s Bette Davis, waiting for Sandra Kovak to finish her performance.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost guess that Bette was beginning to play the Eve role in this.  Holy crap, Mary Astor’s even wearing the cape that Eve wears after winning the Sarah Siddons award!  Not making that up, I swear!

Maggie and Sandra talk about Maggie’s idea for Pete — Pete wants to maybe get back into aviation, or something.  Hey, at least Bette Davis has lost the horrific Southern accent she sported for all of two seconds.  It was just bad. 

It’s weird to see Bette Davis in the non-powerful role.  Mary Astor is totally being the bitchy one, and it doesn’t feel right in my head to not hear those lines come from Bette Davis.  Not to say she hasn’t had some one-liners, but … it’s strange, not seeing her own the room when she’s sparring with Mary Astor.

Pete has shown up, meanwhile, at Maggie’s house in Maryland.  Pete finally tells her that he’s not really married to Sandra.  And then there’s the requisite scene of the servants working in the kitchen.  And then Maggie and Pete FINALLY get married, and they have the saddest looking wedding cake ever — I mean, it’s just one big slab of cake, without tiers or any other decoration.  And while the servants are all celebrating, Bette and George are hanging out on a couch far away from the frou-ferah.

WAIT A SECOND — Bette Davis’s character’s name is Maggie Patterson?!  THAT’S MY MOM’S NAME!  THE HELL?  I don’t know what to do with that!

Why does Maryland look like Georgia?  Seriously, down to the proliferation of plantation workers and moss-covered willows, this place looks like Tara.

Pete joins the aviation department in Washington, and goes flying off somewhere.  Maggie is hanging out in New York and runs into Sandra, who tells Maggie that she’s pregnant with Pete’s baby.  Just as Maggie learns that news, Pete calls her long-distance to let her know he’s going on a long trip.  Sandra tells Maggie that she’s going to get Pete back, and Maggie accuses her of lying about the baby. 

And now Pete’s plane is missing, and everyone thinks he’s dead, but Maggie’s trying to hold on to the belief that he’s still alive in Brazil somewhere.  And as Bette’s crying, she finds a long letter to Pete from Sandra.  And she gets a gleam in her eye, similar to the gleam the Grinch gets when he gets his horrible, awful idea. 

She storms into Sandra’s house and asks to adopt Sandra’s baby when it’s born so it can have Pete’s name and legacy.  Maggie offers to take her and Sandra far away where no one will know them, and after taking the baby, will set Sandra up for life money-wise.  Her eyes practically boinging dollar signs, Sandra agrees.

And when Bette Davis says “we’ll go far away where no one knows us,” apparently that means the Arizona desert, because apparently in order to avoid the paparazzi that follows all the concert pianists around in 1941, Arizona is the wilderness to which one disappears.  Damn, they are in the middle of nowhere.  And Sandra’s getting bored with being all alone, and being bored equates to smoking a lot, which apparently even in 1941 was not recommended for pregnant women. 

In the middle of the night, Bette Davis wakes up and finds Sandra in the kitchen making a sandwich.  Out of an entire ham.  And Sandra also has a craving for pickles, and apparently that’s not a good idea for a pregnant woman?  What?!  That’s all pregnant women have been eating for decades!

And then Mary Astor freaks out, what with the solitude and the cravings and the not having alcohol and the not smoking cigarettes and the wind outside and the everything, and finally, Bette Davis smacks her friend upside the head.  And THAT’S what I’ve been waiting for!  Bette Davis needs to smack more people.  Can I make that happen?

And FINALLY, the baby is born, a poor squabbling little thing that sounds like a duck.  Bette leaves the birthing room to go talk to the shade of Pete, and then there’s a spinning globe that lands on Australia, and there’s Mary Astor, playing the piano in Australia.  She’s cleverly wearing an empire waist gown to hide the remnants of the baby fat.  Meanwhile, there are two old dudes looking at a globe, perhaps hoping to find Pete in Brazil.  It sounds like there could be a chance, but they’re not going to tell Maggie at the risk of getting her hopes up.

Bette’s feeding Young Pete when her Aunt comes to visit, and there’s a telegram from Pete, saying that he’s alive and he’s coming home!  At midnight, Thursday, in Cartersville, or whatever.  The plane lands on the plantation, and Pete emerges from the plane in practically the same suit he left in, and he certainly doesn’t look like he’s been missing in Brazil for almost a year.  He and Bette Davis have a nice reunion, and then there’s a showing of home movies — they had the ability to make home movies back then?  I find that rather hard to believe.

Bette Davis and George Brent head to New York for some reason and, of course, run into Mary Astor at a bar.  Because there’s only one bar in New York.  Mary hints that Bette should have told Pete whose baby it was, then she dances off evilly with some random dude.

Then Bette Davis is at the house taking care of her dogs and she hears piano music.  When she goes in, of course, there’s Mary Astor playing on her piano.  There’s a joke in there, about the Paderewski playing the concerto upon her, the piano, and I just maintain that the next movie I watch is going to be All About Eve.  Pete invites her to stay the night, and Bette says it’s okay.  The baby gets put to bed around six, apparently, because when they dress for dinner it’s almost seven o’clock. 

Pete gets a phone call, and Maggie and Sandra have a brief fight about what they’re going to do with their plan.  Sandra tells Maggie she’s not going to do anything, but she wants Maggie to tell Pete about the baby, because, and I quote, “It was never part of the bargain that Pete was still alive.”

The next day, Sandra confronts Maggie, and they both tell Pete about Young Pete.  Pete slowly goes over all the evidence and puts everything together.  In the end, he tells Sandra that if she wants the baby, it’s within her rights to take the baby, but he’s going to stay with Maggie.  But in the real end, Sandra lets Maggie keep both Old Pete and Young Pete, and in the real end, I can finally go to bed. 

What is it with these old Bette Davis movies that just don’t measure up to Bette Davis’s potential?  I mean, seriously!  I watched Now, Voyager last year and liked that, but this stuff is kind of ridiculous.  Come on, Bette, you can pick scripts better than this!

But hey, at least this movie held up to its title?

Grade for The Great Lie: Meh.

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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Insomniac Theatre


Insomniac Theatre: “The Sisters”

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