Monday, March 5, 2012

Classic Picks: Superman's Ma & Raiding Hitchcock

Are you of a generation that little remembers Phyllis Thaxter? Does Martha Kent in the 1978 Christopher Reeve Superman movie ring any bells? Check out two of her noirs on TCM this week, and learn a little more about her:

ACT OF VIOLENCE Thurs 6:30pm

Phyllis was one of four children born in Maine to Supreme Court Justice Sidney Thaxter, and a mother who had been a Shakespearean actress. Phyllis worked her way through stage roles and Broadway to become one of Hollywood’s most pleasant, lovable, sweet and sensitive yet strong heroines, albeit one of the most underused. In Act of Violence (the last movie Phyllis made under her MGM contract), she plays Robert Ryan’s faithful girlfriend Ann, who arrives from New York, and knows from a newspaper clipping left behind, that Robert intends to hunt down and kill Van Heflin. When Phyllis fails to stop him, she visits Heflin’s wife Janet Leigh.  Phyllis’ signature sad eyes are perfect for her role as a loyal, sympathetic, desperate and broken-hearted girlfriend, but she’s hardly a helpless softie or shrinking violet. No, Phyllis is steely and strong-willed, even more single-minded and tenacious in stalking her boyfriend across the country as Robert is in stalking his prey. Just watch how quickly, decisively, Phyllis takes Janet Leigh’s gun, and consider how logical and reasoned are her appeals to Robert Ryan, as she tries every which way to dissuade him from murder.


John Garfield is the captain of a charter boat who takes on a shipment of Chinese illegals to earn a little extra cash. Things go bad of course, and his boat is confiscated during an investigation. Garfield is faced on the one hand with his wife Phyllis Thaxter’s urging to leave the seagoing life behind for the unbridled excitement of the lettuce farm run by her family, and on the other he’s faced with a more dangerous chance at another form of lettuce, if he helps transport some crooks for lawyer Wallace Ford. Also with Patricia Neal. 

Hollywood seems intent lately on raiding the Hitchcock classics; after rumors of a possible remake of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, and a possible remake of Hitchcock’s Suspicion, comes news of Scar-Jo playing Janet Leigh in Psycho.

This is cross posted from Speakeasy, where you can find further classic entertainment delights.