Wednesday, May 27, 2020

‘The Name of the Game’ an Ordeal for Jessica Walter 1968

The rotating stars of 'The Name of the Game': Gene Barry, Robert Stack, & Tony Franciosa.

When I was a grade school-age kid, The Name of the Game was one of those "grown up" TV shows that I loved. That Dave Grusin theme song instantly brings back memories. Game’s storytelling was considered hip and adult, and this Upper Michigan kid quickly made that distinction between what Mom liked, and what Dad liked. Mom favored cool shows like The Mod Squad, and Dad watched mostly westerns and the Green Bay Packers—though she watched the “modern” westerns, with hunky stars. When Name was still on at night time, its reruns were shown on our local afternoon movie show. My Mom enjoyed The Name of the Game, which was on NBC Friday nights, between two of Mom’s very favorites, High Chaparral and Star Trek!
Friday nights in 1968 were a fave TV night for my Mom!

The Name of the Game’s three leading men were essentially stars of their own 90 minute TV movies. Today, I still enjoy the shows more for the storytelling, and not so much the stars. In our house, we always thought Robert Stack was a stiff, with that sonorous voice and glowering eyes, sort of a minor league Charlton Heston. Gene Barry was another actor who acted with his voice, but seemed mellower, if slightly pompous. We thought Tony Franciosa was the king of cool back in the day, but now, he seems rather smug, like another Tony—Curtis. Still charming as ever is Susan Saint James, as the wisecracking girl Friday, Peggy Maxwell.
Veteran Robert Stack had youngsters Ben Murphy and Susan Saint James as his co-stars.

This episode, titled Ordeal, starred regulars Robert Stack as hard-nosed Dan Farrell, Crime magazine reporter, Ben Murphy as cocky sidekick Joe Sample, and Susan Saint James as Peggy, the quirky and often kidnapped secretary.
The guest stars are from my eye-roll Hollywood Hall of Fame: perennial plastic starlet Martha Hyer; middle-aged but still-pouty Farley Granger; and drum roll, please: Lloyd Bochner, with his trademark slicked back hair, ascot, and sneer. Most surprising is an uncredited O.J. Simpson, as the gas chamber prison guard. I guess The Juice got promoted when he rescued that cat in The Towering Inferno!
Jessica Walter faces the gas chamber with prison guard O.J. Simpson!

On the plus side, there’s Jessica Walter, at the start of her long roll in TV guest star roles, right up there with Vera Miles. Walter’s role was a showcase for her, sort of a mini-I Want to Live! And Jessica has that old time movie diva vibe, like Susan Hayward and Anne Baxter, theatrical, yes, but also intense and empathetic. Walter makes the most of her juicy role as Linda Ramsey, tough as the young "dancer/waitress," later the hurt wife, and finally the stoic figure on death row, fighting for her life. Walter looks lovely, even with her short '60s hairdo that would soon evolve into her famous Play Misty for Me shag.
Jessica Walter as topless cocktail waitress turned top-tier socialite Linda Ramsey.

I realized right off that Ordeal was a take-off on the infamous shooting of high society’s Billy Woodward by his former showgirl, now wife, Ann. This scandal was immortalized in the '70s by Truman Capote as part of his notorious Answered Prayers. Later, Dominick Dunne became a best-selling author with a fictionalized account, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. Well, Ordeal got there first!
Socialite from the wrong side of the tracks shoots her boozy rich husband, & claims she mistook him for a burglar?! 'Ordeal' could have been called 'The Two Ms. Ramseys!'

In this take, Linda Ramsey is on death row, for the murder of her rich husband, Tom Ramsey, respectively played by Walter and Bochner. She shot him, claiming she thought he was a prowler. However, their marriage was very publicly on the rocks, and his wealthy family and friends thought she was a gold digger. The drunken playboy met Linda when she was a topless waitress, which is ironic, since Walter is rail thin here. Bochner's Tom seems to think of his marriage as a joke. He humiliates Linda by ripping her top off at a ‘welcome to his world’ cocktail party, to demonstrate how he met her. I recall being outraged by this as a 9-year-old!
Farley Granger co-stars as Jessica Walter's louche lover.

The bitter sister-in-law, Billie Ramsey, is played by Martha Hyer, in her usual mannequin manner. Her character is angry at being second banana to a brother who is bananas! Hyer’s Billie sees Linda as a fortune hunter and Tom as a debit to the family. However, Hyer’s expressions of unhappiness or anger looks like someone who just smelled something bad. At 44, Martha looks pretty, but the late '60s clothing and hair styles Martha sports make her slightly plump figure and face look like a glamorous bowling ball.
Martha Hyer as the sinister sister-in-law, with Farley Granger as a charming hanger-on.

Farley Granger plays the handsome, charming, and weak man with ease—sort of an American Louis Jourdan. Interestingly, Granger and Robert Stack acted together in the notoriously awful TV version of Laura the same year, with Lee Radziwill in the title role, Granger in the Vincent Price gigolo role, and Stack as Dana Andrews’ detective. Here, in Ordeal, their roles aren’t really that different.
The opening titles of 'The Name of the Game' were made even more memorable paired with Dave Grusin's theme song. 

Lloyd Bochner is haughty and hammy as Tom, first as the degrading husband, then suddenly hurt and pathetic when he finds out his abused wife is cheating. Bochner’s character is a lot like Robert Stack’s Oscar –nominated role of a rich boy drunk, whose wife is suspected of shooting him, in Written on the Wind. That too, was based on a real life murder. Back to Bochner, who made a career of supercilious and slimy characters, from cheesy movies like Sylvia and Harlow to television villains, most memorably as Dynasty’s Cecil Colby. 
Robert Stack doesn't take kindly to intimidation, as former FBI man now reporter Dan Farrell.

Robert Stack as Dan Farrell, was an extension of his famed Eliot Ness role in The Untouchables. Dan was also once an FBI man, now a crusading reporter, inflamed by the murder of his wife. The role is tailored for the actor, so the deadpan stare and booming radio voice are on full display. Now Bob Stack was by all accounts a nice guy, who had the good humor to spoof his image in the Airplane movies. But Bob’s humor is not on display as Dan!
Ben Murphy as Joe Sample, Dan Farrell's cocky sidekick.

Ben Murphy's character as the outspoken sidekick is rather annoying. Considering he’s supposed to be a hip young guy, his knee jerk reactions to everything are today middle-brow. Still, Murphy was an engaging actor, who always reminded me of a young Paul Newman mixed with Ryan O’ Neal. His big break, Alias Smith & Jones was just around the corner, another Mom favorite. Susan Saint James isn’t in this episode much, but it’s always nice to see her good-humored Peggy Maxwell.
Dan Farrell's wise veteran paired with energetic upstart Joe Sample is a TV show staple.

There are a lot of clever twist and turns in this episode and I won’t spoil them for you. The Name of the Game can be hard to come by, but YouTube is a good place to start, as are various classic TV cable channels, and Amazon.
The dramatic tale of Ordeal, especially as enacted by Jessica Walter, has stayed with me all these years, and I’m glad to have seen this episode again.
From gas chamber to cover girl--that was a close one, Jessica!
FYI: I put all the movie overflow on my public FB  movie page. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Classics for Comfort Blogathon

See Rick's Picks for comfort films below!

For the Classics for Comfort Blogathon, I could have easily named 50 classics that offer cinematic comfort over the allotted five films. The movies I listed are ones that I love for their uplift, whether it is romantic, musical, or suspense. These films have never failed to entertain me and also lift my spirits.
Paul Henreid & Bette Davis in 'Now, Voyager,' one of the golden era's most grown up romances.

Now, Voyager, 1942
Now, Voyager shows that Bette Davis could be just as brilliant playing a sympathetic character as she could with her famed villainous roles. Bette’s Charlotte Vale goes from a neurotic spinster to a stylish but insecure socialite to finally, a self-assured, independent woman. Davis takes Vale through an emotional minefield: a monster mother, a kind but married lover, and a rich but dull fiancée. Davis’ character evolves every step of the way. Even after her “cure,” Charlotte is still uncertain, a voyager in uncharted waters. Had this been a MGM production, with Joan Crawford or Norma Shearer, Charlotte Vale would have been fine and dandy after her therapy and makeover! Though 1942’s Now, Voyager’s plot is pure soap, the story still resonates with emotional truth and empathy. Bette Davis once wrote that she never received as much fan mail as she did for Now, Voyager, with people writing about their own tyrannical family members. This WB personal voyage is sublime.

Cary Grant & Eva Marie Saint are a stellar duo in Hitchcock's ultra-nifty 'North by Northwest.'

North by Northwest, 1959
As I watched1959’s North by Northwest again recently, I realized the secret weapon is Eva Marie Saint, as mystery woman Eve Kendall. What Saint brought to North by Northwest, encouraged by Hitchcock, was an understated, confident, smart sex appeal. Brains and beauty were a hallmark of the Hitchcock blonde. After playing several sweet young things, Eva got to play the bad girl/good girl role as Eve Kendall. Eva’s Eve initiates an introduction to Cary Grant’s man on the lam, while aboard the 20th Century Limited. Sparks and risqué repartee fly with Eve and Grant’s Roger Thornhill, but many twists and turns follow their further meet ups. Saint’s subtle changes in Eve’s supposed character benefited from her Actors Studio training, and was visually enhanced by Saint’s smooth makeover, guided by Hitchcock. North by Northwest presented her as a subtle siren who lures Cary Grant’s leading man. This Hitchcock classic takes viewers on the run, across the USA, with great humor, suspense, and romance. Grant and Saint lead a stellar cast. And Eve Kendall is a forerunner to the modern movie heroine and benefits greatly from having a multi-faceted performer like Eva Marie Saint to essay her.
For full review:

Christopher Reeve & Jane Seymour are timeless in 'Somewhere in Time.'

Somewhere in Time, 1980
Somewhere in Time captures Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour at the height of their youth and beauty for eternity in this 1980 fantasy romance. Somewhere in Time begins with college grad Richard Collier (Reeve) celebrating the performance of his first play. At the after party, an aged woman approaches him, and clasps a watch into his hand, saying, “Come back to me.” Eight years later, Collier is a playwright living and working in Chicago. Suffering through a breakup and writer’s block, Richard goes to Michigan’s Mackinac Island to get away. Feeling a connection there, he sees a photo of a long ago actress that fascinates him. There seems to be clues of a strong connection between them. With the help of a professor who’s believes in time-travel, Richard seeks to self-hypnotize, to go back in time, and meet his dream girl. Once he goes back to the island circa 1912, Richard indeed meets the actress, Elise McKenna, but finds more than he bargained for. Jane Seymour later said that no one seemed to believe in Somewhere in Time except the people actually making the movie, and they were validated when Time went from instant cult classic to a perennial favorite.
For full review:

Doris Day is abs adorable in 'The Pajama Game,' with a great cast, songs, dancing, & direction by Stanley Donen.

The Pajama Game, 1957
The Pajama Game, the delightful 1957 Doris Day musical, was released two years prior to Pillow Talk. That glossy sex comedy, with Rock Hudson, set Doris’ image stylishly in stone for the next decade. But in Pajama, Doris Day is a down-to-earth delight in this underrated Broadway adaptation. The story is as lightweight as those jammies they make Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory, where the workers’ call for a seven-and-a-half cent raise is turned down by the boss. He then hires a tough guy to become the factory superintendent to keep everyone on task. John Raitt plays Sid, the new man on the job; Doris plays Babe, the head of the grievance committee. Guess what happens next?
Doris Day was 35 and filled with snappy energy, smarts, not to mention natural sex appeal, in The Pajama Game. The rest of the cast is a delight down to the smallest parts. Vaudevillian Eddie Foy, Jr. and character actress Reta Shaw have a great song and dance number, “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again.” For Carol Haney, this would be her only film role with dialogue, but she’s a scene stealer as the bookkeeper who keeps the numbers close to her heart! Her big number, “Steam Heat,” is a stellar Bob Fosse choreographed number, and Haney’s moves are marvelous. Though The Pajama Game debuted 63 years ago in 1957, and it looks like a snapshot of an era, the film still feels fresh. Aside from the great material, credit must go to Stanley Donen, whose body of work is filled with some of the most stylish, imaginative musicals and comedies of the post-war era.

Dorothy McGuire & Robert Young learn what love is truly about in 'The Enchanted Cottage.'

The Enchanted Cottage, 1945
One way to look at1945’s The Enchanted Cottage is a pure Hollywood golden era fantasy.  Another is that the film’s message—beauty is literally in the eye of the beholder—is timeless. First a play, then a silent movie, The Enchanted Cottage was remade two decades later for WWII audiences, with Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young heartwarming as the leads. 
Oliver Bradford brings his lovely fiancée to a cottage where honeymooners once nested, on the New England coast. The tradition was broken 25 years earlier when the last groom died tragically; the bride is now the cottage’s taciturn owner/housekeeper. The current couple's plans are put on hold when Oliver is sent off to war after the Pearl Harbor attack. Tragedy strikes when he is injured and left disfigured. His bride-to-be bails and Oliver arrives alone at the cottage. The soldier meets the maid, Laura Pennington, a girl with a homely face and the heart of a romantic. They slowly bond and Oliver proposes. Sadly, Laura is more in love than Oliver. Yet, on their honeymoon, he sees past his self-pity and realizes how loving Laura is. Miraculously, they begin to appear physically beautiful to each other. Laura attributes this to the enchanted cottage. Hedging their bets, they keep to themselves. Finally, the newlyweds decide to face his parents. Their sympathetic pianist pal, who is blind, tries to warn the visiting family. Let’s just say what follows isn’t pretty! Never fear though, the couple gets their happy ending. And the movie’s message will warm your heart and maybe bring a tear to your eye.
For full review:

Stay calm and watch comforting classic cinema! And read more here!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Doris & Cary’s Class Carries ‘That Touch of Mink’ 1962

Grant & Day were at the peak of movie stardom when they teamed. Cary retired in 1966 & Doris' last film was in '68.

Doris Day and Cary Grant are the opposite of Doris and Rock’s easygoing chemistry in their only movie teaming, 1962’s That Touch of Mink. Doris is sunny and outgoing; Cary is wry and remote. They “meet cute” when Phillip’s limo splashes Cathy’s outfit when he passes by her on a NYC street corner. He sends gofer Roger (Gig Young) over to the automat across the street to make amends. Roger, who comically resents Shayne’s charmed life, ends up bringing Cathy back to the office to give him a piece of her mind. Her waitress pal/roommate Connie (Audrey Meadows), full of sisterly advice, warns Cathy off. Spoiler alert—hardly! Instead of giving Philip what for, Cathy instantly goes gaga for him.
Day's career girl gets more than a cheap lunch from roommate pal Connie (Audrey Meadow.)

Doris’ Cathy Timberlake is written as agog of Grant’s Philip Shayne. And Cary’s millionaire goes to great lengths to win Cathy over. Today’s viewers may wonder why. That’s because the script—which somehow got an Oscar nomination—says so.
Cary Grant, nearly 60, aged far better than nearly all the male stars of his era.

While That Touch of Mink goes down smoothly, with its skilled stars and lavish production, it’s also beyond predictable and dated. The first problem is the stars’ collective age. Cary a rich playboy looking for a plaything. Grant was soon 60 shades of gray and this makes Phillip a bit creepy. Doris was 40 and she is playing a “career girl” hesitant to sleep with a man out of wedlock. Doris’ pal Connie constantly refers to herself as old; Audrey Meadows is the same age as Day! And Gig Young, as Grant’s insecure underling, is 50, just decade younger than Grant, though they look the same age. All are well-photographed, but cinematographer Russell Metty reserves for Doris Day that soft focus that makes viewers realize there is also Doris Day photography, as well as parking!
Doris Day positively glows in 'That Touch of Mink!'

That Touch of Mink has superbly attractive stars, beautifully styled, great clothes for both Day and Grant, lavish sets, locales—everything except content. I will say this: Back when studio era stars worked hard and played hard, they often looked rode hard and put away wet by the 1960s. However, Doris Day and Cary Grant both took great care of themselves and looked like a gorgeous, mature couple here. Doris Day had a better bod than most sex bombs, notably on display in a form-fitting black spaghetti strap evening dress. And when Grant leaves the NYC Athletic Club in nothing but a towel, Cary shows he could still carry that stuff off. But realistically, they are playing 20-something and 40-something, respectively, and it adds to this movie’s artificiality.
Cary was still a hard-body heart throb four years before Grant retired from film.

This is a one joke movie: Will she or won’t she? Okay, maybe a three or four joke movie! There are several running gags that would not fly in today’s movies, which I don’t take offense, because that was humor back in the ‘60s. And it’s not mean-spirited, just silly. After a point though, it also feels tiresome.
Doris Day, in fine form at 40!

 Doris’ Cathy is constantly worried that ‘everyone knows’ she’s on vacation with an unmarried man. There’s the subplot with Gig’s character talking to his shrink. Dr. Gruber has mistaken Roger’s obsession with Cathy’s romantic problems with the millionaire as his own. This leads the shrink to think Roger’s on romantic weekends, contemplating marriage, and so on, with Phillip. At the end, spotting Young with Grant and Day’s baby carriage, the shrink finds Roger bubbling over about babies and wedded bliss. This must have seemed hee-larious back in ‘62. Or maybe not, since this shtick was already done in Pillow Talk. Then there’s John Astin as the unemployment clerk who tries to weasel a sex date with Day’s Cathy by withholding her check. What a knee-slapper! What makes Day’s dated sex farces tolerable is that Doris is strong and outspoken, plus nobody’s fool.
A bit of jolt to realize Gig Young was nearly a decade younger than Cary Grant!

Also, PC movie watchers will not enjoy the fur coats flung around this movie in the name of luxury. This is back when animal lover Doris still loved fur. It is strange that Grant lavishes a full wardrobe on Cathy for a trip to Bermuda. But as any Day fan knows, Doris movies at this point were glorified fashion shows, there’s even a real one in an early scene. Also not PC today, but Doris’ drunk scene is pretty funny, with such nasal, loosey-goosey answers to an agog Grant: “Sure beats hot milk with butter!”
Day's Cathy steels her courage by chugging a bottle of Scotch! 

There are some sadly ironic plot points in That Touch of Mink. Gig Young again plays a comic drunk, something he had seriously become in real life by this time. Young attempted many forms of therapy to alleviate his deep-seated problems, so it’s a wince to see him playing therapy for laughs, considering his life ended in a murder-suicide. Then there’s a slapstick scene where drunken Doris falls out a hotel window and lands on a canopy. In an eerie coincidence, Irene, Doris’ dear designer friend, holed up at the Knickerbocker Hotel on Nov. 15, 1962, got drunk, left suicide notes, jumped out the hotel window, also landing on the canopy, to her death.
I love the automat scenes in this movie! Connie feeds Cathy a personal chicken pot pie,
 baked potato, carrots, jello salad, and cake ...for lunch!

Mink is a movie that shows the early‘60s at its most fun: the clothes and styles, the automat, and even cans of color-changing hairspray. Or that new innovation, charge cards, and how someday, people are going to charge everything! The movie’s attention to luxury also includes plugs for Bergdorf-Goodman, Cardinal Clothes, Pan Am, Grey Hound, and those boutiques who supplied the furs, jewels, etc. And there’s even a guest appearance by Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees.
Movies like That Touch of Mink have fans who just want to watch charismatic stars in beautiful fashions and locations, that’s fun and has a happy ending. That Touch of Mink is the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy. Enjoy!
A pretty, pastel publicity photo of the stars of 'That Touch of Mink.'
FYI: I put all the movie overflow on my public FB  movie page. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Wood & Wagner Wallow in ‘All the Fine Young Cannibals’ 1960

Natalie Wood & Robert Wagner, together for the first time.

All the Fine Young Cannibal’s opening titles are the giveaway to this movie’s mindset. They look like the tawdry paperback novels my Mom used to read when I was a kid! Though Cannibals looks like a B-movie, all of MGM’s top talent was involved, plus its bright young cast. While it not a prestige picture, like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, it was definitely an A-flick, but deserves a Z rating.
Wagner, George Hamilton, Wood, and Susan Kohner as 'young moderns' in an old soap!

The source novel, The Bixby Girls, was allegedly bought with Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor in mind. While Elvis made MGM a fortune with Jailhouse Rock, his fate in “drive-in movies” was sealed early on. As for Elizabeth, she had already become permanently plump after Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. By 1960, it was more appropriate that ET appeared in BUtterfield 8 rather than All the Fine Young Cannibals. Natalie Wood, who got away with playing younger longer than she had a right to, was then 21. During the early shack scenes, Nat looks about 12. Still, I’d have loved to see ET feeding those no-neck siblings their dinner slop!
I can think of TWO good reasons Elizabeth Taylor would be miscast as an 18-year-old girl.
Natalie Wood, 21, was cast instead. Nat & ET around the time Cannibals was made.

The film version was influenced by melodrama hits of the time, like Written on the Wind and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The screenplay is by Robert Thom, who was a playwright, poet, and screenwriter. Thom’s big hit was the play Compulsion. Once in Hollywood, Thom wrote these “eclectic” gems: The Subterraneans; The Legend of Lylah Clare; Angel, Angel, Down We Go; Wild in the Streets; Bloody Mama AND Crazy Mama; and Death Race 2000.  Then there’s All the Fine Young Cannibals, which forces its cast to spout some of the most insane dialogue ever.
RJ's Chad Bixby & Nat's Salome start off as poor Texas trash.

At the movie’s opening, Robert Wagner’s Chad Bixby is the son of a preacher man, yes, he was… and he’s the only one who can ever teach Natalie Wood’s Sarah aka “Salome.” Chad’s daddy, who was hard on his wild child, has died. And Chad wants to party his pain away. “You shouldn’t be near any dancing!” gasps Salome. Sounds like a prequel to Footloose!
Well, they do, and from there they go to the black side of town. First, Chad makes Salome promise her one thing: she won’t leave his side until sunrise. No, he’s not a vampire. It’s because Chad’s afraid of the dark—seriously.
Chad and Salome go to Rose’s, a whorehouse and all round fun house. George Hamilton, as rich kid Tony McDowall, makes his entrance as a customer who mistakes Salome for a hooker. The screenplay is filled with purple proclamations of the characters’ passions and motivations that feel like a Carol Burnett Show parody. Proprietor Rose (Louise Beavers) introduces Chad's big talent: “He’s gonna tell us what he feels, then he’s gonna play us what he feels, just like he’s been doing down here since he was seven.”
Wagner's white boy is gonna 'say' the blues, then play them, for Rose and her patrons!

RJ as Chad, pouts and peers through his pompadour, like he’s gonna burst into an Elvis song. But no, the young man with a horn belches such hot air as, “You gotta be awful strong not to love anybody, because the world gets colder every year.” Then Bixby blows something brilliant on his trumpet on the spot! RJ’s hunched posture is supposed to look so James Dean, but really more like a monkey humping a football! Other gems that follow: “This is how strong my father was.” Womp! Womp! Wahhh! “And these are my tears!” Cue another horny wail. I’m no music expert, but the sounds are actually pretty cool, but are negated when performed by the hopelessly uncool Robert Wagner.
After Chad and Salome part ways, he wanders back to the roadhouse, looking for mother figure Rose. Instead, he finds her sister, Ruby Jones, played by Pearlie Mae Bailey herself. Their first exchange is a hoot.
Wagner asks her gruffly TWICE: “Do you think I’m a fool?”
Ruby’s response: “I think most men are fools, white boy!”
Pearl Bailey as morose Ruby Jones & RJ as the tragic trumpet player, with a bottle as a buffer.

They both commence to swill down huge tumblers of whiskey that people only drink in movies, probably because it’s actually ice tea. Ruby was once the biggest singer in NYC—and the South, too! But a man had gone done her wrong, spending all her money, and then leaving her for another woman. Now Ruby’s done, determined to drink herself to death. After a night together, they decide to establish Chad as a performer in NYC. He encourages her to sing again, but she’s not having it. Though implied that they are lovers, when he offers to at least care for her, Pearlie Mae growls: “I don’t carry on with no white boys!”
When George Hamilton's frat boy meets Nat's country girl the first time, he takes her for a prostitute!

In the early section of the movie, Hamilton’s Tony is a carefree college playboy. At one point, while arguing with his father about joining the family biz, Tony replies, “I love you, Daddy-O.” Then he proceeds to tell Pops that he loves oil money, too, but doesn’t have oil in his veins! Dig? Or in this case, drill.
When we first see Susan Kohner’s Catherine McDowall, she’s lolling on her brother Tony’s bed, acting like she wants him to join her. Kohner is a combination of Dorothy Malone’s rich bitch sister in Written on the Wind and Elizabeth Taylor’s crazy Catherine from Suddenly, Last Summer. “I like spoiling the fun!” You keep wishing somebody would clock her, and stop her declarative, fake southern baby talk, and posturing.
George Hamilton's Tony is taken with the poor girl he befriends on a train.
Wood's scenes here remind me a bit of her Alva, in This Property is Condemned.

Natalie’s Salome gets mixed up with this crew when she hops a train out of Hicksville and meets George’s Tony on the train. One evening with Salome and Tony’s entranced; he marries her and instantly becomes a dull, dutiful husband. Just as suddenly, Salome now has a gorgeous wardrobe. They barely make it his frat house door, when Catherine shows up. Also, Salome’s got a secret: she is pregnant from her last night of “dancing” with Chad. In true soap fashion, she keeps it secret, and marries another. This movie doesn’t drag, that’s for sure.
Natalie gets the MGM glam treatment & looks lovely in her Helen Rose costumes.

Natalie is radiant in Helen Rose’s MGM glam wardrobe, especially a red cocktail dress that beautifully brings out Wood’s dark coloring. This is offset by sister-in-law Catherine’s nonsensical bitchery. Nat’s Salome, despite a bitty baby bump, looks wafer thin. Hell, Nat’s Bambi false eyelashes probably weighed more than she did! Yet, Kohner’s Catherine cattily comments that she wouldn’t be caught dead in public in her condition. Why? “How can you dance that way?”
Nat's Salome getting pestered by Kohner's sister-in-law Catherine.

Another clinker from Catherine: “If I irritate you, you can image how I irritate myself. I’m what am known as spoiled.” You don’t say! Tony interrupts this scene, to tell his sister that he loves Salome, in a most unconvincing manner. Her response is zingier: “But she doesn’t love you.”
Meanwhile, Chad and Ruby are ensconced in a ruby red apartment suite, apparently in the black part of the city. As Ruby’s getting him fitted out for stardom, she abruptly asks, “You got underwear, white boy?” This made me laugh, since at times, RJ looks like his other instrument is swingin’ free!
They talk about money, and Ruby laments, “What do I need money for, when I’ve lost my mind?” Ruby Jones is just jonesin’ to end it all!
When we first see Chad perform in a polished performance, he’s got his tell and show down. Then he drags morose Ruby onstage to perform. It’s the classic cliché: No, no, no, I can’t! Then after a slight falter, Ruby wows with a mini-set! Absurd as the setup is, Pearlie Mae’s performing is the highlight of this movie, including a rendition of God Bless the Child.
Pearlie Mae sings the blues, with RJ as the young man with a horn.

Salome finds out about Chad’s success when she awakens one night, to find out Catherine is entertaining a fellow with Bixby’s latest disc as mood music! Salome awakens, goes downstairs, hair intact, full makeup, and in a lovely MGM nightgown that Wood could have worn to the Oscars. The scene is so hokey, but with the music playing, Nat’s silent, natural emoting, this is one of the film’s more effective scenes. But once she has to endure Catherine’s prattle, the spell is broken.
When Salome finds out that Chad’s a NYC sensation, she cajoles everyone to go see him perform. In keeping with the rest of the movie melodrama, she’s a jittery wreck, and then Chad spots her while performing. Natch, he improvises on the spot! And so does the wicked sister-in-law, who senses their connection, and decides to come between them, just for kicks.
Wagner's Chad & Kohner's Catherine enjoy some marital happiness.

When Catherine comes home from an all-nighter with Chad, Salome confronts her. Kohner has one of her most baroque moments, yawning ostentatiously and caps her insults by saying, “I’m bored. I’m bored with this conversation. I think you better go now, mother.”
The next day, Salome meets Chad and spills the beans, her baby is theirs. Chad huffs, “If I can’t have ya, then I wanna hurt you. And I will.”
This all comes to a head when now newlyweds Chad and Catherine have one of their biggest fights. She whips him with a riding crop, and he taunts her that his father’s scars cut deeper. She slips off to the bathroom and slashes her wrists. Her response: “Did I cut them deep enough, Chad? Did I?” Surprisingly, this scene is one of the more effective in the film.
Kohner's character redeems herself, RJ's Chad looks like he has heartburn. 

Cannibals’ saga all wraps up in an absurd about face. Salome realizes she isn’t crazy about Chad after all, and that maybe she loves Tony. Likewise, Chad considers that he hasn’t given neurotic Catherine a fair shake. Salome takes baby Pete back home. Natch, Hamilton’s Tony follows Nat’s Salome, almost makeup-free, and calling herself Sarah once again. Chad brings Catherine back to their apartment, reads the reply that she’s left to his lipstick written scrawl—How BUtterfield 8! Her response when she awakens: “I left the light burning every night.”
Nat's Salome goes back home & to being called Sarah again.
Wood's character has a few similarities to her next role, in Splendor in the Grass.

None of the four “young moderns” rise above the hilariously outdated script. At least Natalie, as the Sondheim tune I’m Still Here goes, “Still, someone said, “She’s sincere.” The next year, Wood would fare much better as another small town girl navigating romance with a rich boy who has a bitchy sister, in Splendor in the Grass.
That’s more than you can say for Susan Kohner, who is absurdly artificial and arch as the bitchy sister of the rich boy Wood marries. Much was made about how Natalie and Susan looked like each other. But once seen on screen together, you see that's not so true. Kohner looks more like a vulpine, imperfect version of Ava Gardner. Susan Kohner retired in 1964 to a happy personal life.
RJ's Chad not only pours out his feelings on the trumpet, but his wife's lipstick, too!

The two male leads are leaden: Robert Wagner and George Hamilton. Wagner got the build up by 20th Century Fox the prior decade and after his heartthrob status subsided, he flat lined as a leading man; Hamilton would soon travel the same trajectory. Neither were simply talented enough dramatic actors. Both fared much better later, on TV in light comedy/adventure or films that allowed them to spoof their classy personas.
All four of the fine young stars went on to better things, and All the Fine Young Cannibals is best enjoyed today as camp.
Susan Kohner tries to whip some life into Robert Wagner, but no luck!
FYI: I put all the movie overflow on my public FB  movie page.