Tuesday, September 19, 2017

IWU Theatre 2017-18: LUGHNASA and SOUTH PACIFIC Casts, Lab Theatre Info

The new season for Illinois Wesleyan University's School of Theatre Arts will bow in October, so this is a good time to fill in some blanks on the whos, whats and wheres.

IWU previously announced the main part of their season, with four shows set for the Jerome Mirza Theatre in MacPherson Hall.

Beginning October 3, we'll see Dancing at Lughnasa, Brian Friel's memory play about five sisters trying to stay together and find some measure of happiness in a small village in rural Ireland in the 1930s. IWU Adjunct Instructor of Theatre Arts Michael Cotey will direct, with a cast that includes Cadence Lamb, Kamilah Lay, Hailey Lechelt, Cami Tokowitz and Libby Zabit as the Mundy sisters, with Tuxford Turner as Michael, the narrator who steps back in time to tell us about his mother and aunts, Sam Hulsizer as Gerry, a charming man who waltzes in and out of youngest sisters Chris's life, and Will Mueller as Father Jack, the older brother who has returned quite changed from a mission in Africa. Dancing at Lughnasa will play for five evening performances at 8 pm October 3 through 7, with a matinee at 2 pm on the 8th.

The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific will take the stage November 14 to 19, with Emily Hardesty and Madison Steele alternating in the role of cockeyed optimist and Navy nurse Nellie Forbush; Timothy P. Foszcz as planter Emile de Becque, the handsome stranger Nellie meets one enchanted evening; Holden P. Ginn as Lieutenant Cable, a young Marine called by the mysterious power of Bali Ha'i; Megan Lai and Juna Shai alternating as Liat, a beautiful young Tonkinese woman who complicates Cable's life; Paola Lehman and Kira Rangel alternating as Bloody Mary, Liat's wheeling and dealing mother; and Connor Widelka as Seabee Luther Bills, another wheeler and dealer who has a way with a coconut bra.

As we move into 2018, Eugène Ionesco's absurdist Rhinoceros, about the dangers of conformity and groupthink, will be performed February 27 to March 4, with Xanadu, a fantastical musical involving a Greek muse who visits Earth and gets into roller disco, with music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar and book by Douglas Carte Beane, scheduled for performances April 10 to 15.

And what about the E. Melba Johnson Kirkpatrick Laboratory Theatre?

There's an October option there, too. Fault Lines by Ali Taylor, described as a "razor-sharp new comedy that exposes the dilemmas of working in charity today," is scheduled for performances October 27 to 29, with a cast that includes Andrea Froehlke, Morgan McCane, Emily Strub and Braden Tanner.

The Girl Who Fell Through a Hole in Her Sweater, a "witty adventure for young audiences" written by Naomi Wallace and Bruce McLeod, closes out the Lab Theatre season, with performances March 15 and 26.

Tickets for shows in the Jerome Mirza Theatre range from $10 to $12 for plays and $12 to $14 for musicals, with a season package option as well. Lab Theatre shows are $3 for general admission and $2 for students. For advance purchase for Fault Lines in the Lab Theatre, tickets will become available October 19 and for The Girl Who Fell March 8, 2018.

For information on the entire Mirza season, click here. For the Lab Theatre, click here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Arts@ICC Theater Season Opens Sept 29

Illinois Central College will open its 2017-18 theater season on September 29, when Steve Martin's crazy comedy The Underpants begins a six-performance run in the ICC Performing Arts Center.

Martin based his boisterous farce play on a 1910 satire of middle-class mores written by German playwright Carl Sternheim. The Underpants involves what happens after Louise Markes, the wife of a puffed-up civil servant, loses her undies as she's attempting to get a better look at the king during a parade. Her husband fears his reputation and his career are toast because of his wife's errant intimate apparel, while Louise is starting to get a lot of attention from smitten men who saw her panties drop in public. Those men include two would-be boarders in the Markes household. And hilarity ensues.

Tim Wyman directs The Underpants at ICC with a cast that includes Nathanael Anderson as the king, Darrell Kimbro as Louise, Noah Lane as Theo, Dylan McDonell and Creighton Peacock as the two men who want to rent rooms to pursue Louise, Max Rutschke as an elderly scientist and Adyson TerMaat as the upstairs neighbor.

Tickets for The Underpants are $8 for the general public and $6 for students and senior citizens. Performances run from September 29 through October 8, with Friday and Saturday shows beginning at 7:30 pm and Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm. The show is rated PG for "mild adult situations."

In November, ICC Theatre will offer a dinner-theater option with Bullets for Broadway by David Landau, billed as "an audience participation whodunit that combines music, food….and murder!" Look for Bullets for Broadway and its "The Sopranos meet The Producers" antics November 10 to 19 in ICC's studio theater. The food will, of course, be Italian.

And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank by Jim Still is up next. This multimedia experience is "part oral history, part dramatic action, part remembrance" as it focuses on the world of Anne Frank, seen through the eyes of two Holocaust survivors. And Then They Came for Me will play for six performances between February 23 and March 4, 2018, in ICC's mainstage theater. Rated PG for intense material.

Keeping up the intensity level, Martin McDonagh's biting, bitterly funny The Cripple of Inishmaan comes to ICC's studio theater from April 13 to 22, 2018. This tragic comedy centers on an Irish boy whose body holds "a host of troubles." He is a square peg in his small village but dreams of becoming a movie star in Hollywood when a documentary film crew (Robert J. Flaherty's real venture to film The Man of Aran in 1933) comes calling. Let's just say things don't turn out the way "Cripple Billy" hoped. Rated R for adult language.

Both individual and season tickets are available to these shows. To get all the info on ordering, check out ArtsAtICC.com or call the ICC Performing Arts Center box office at 309-694-5136.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Unlike the presidency, Emmys go to the winners of the popular vote... Did not expect to see Sean Spicer, I'll tell you that. I'm fine with Stephen Colbert's performance so far. Political, but funny and Emmy-related.

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Ron Cephas Jones, This Is Us
Michael Kelly, House Of Cards
John Lithgow, The Crown
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

I was rooting for Ron Cephas Jones, but I think we all kind of knew this was going to Lithgow, a perennial Emmy favorite.

Vanessa Bayer, Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Kathryn Hahn, Transparent
Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live
Judith Light, Transparent 
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Another no-brainer. She won last year and was even better this season.

Regina King, American Crime
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Shailene Woodley, Big Little Lies
Judy Davis, Feud: Bette and Joan
Jackie Hoffman, Feud: Bette and Joan
Michelle Pfeiffer, The Wizard of Lies

This category was a little harder to predict, but I think it's very well-deserved. And it may portend a good night for Big Little Lies.

Random presenter note: Three smoking red dresses in a row. Nicole Kidman, Gina Rodriguez and Issa Rae all looked fantastic.

Jamie Babbit, Silicon Valley
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Mike Judge, Silicon Valley
David Mandel, Veep
Morgan Sackett, Veep
Dale Stern, Veep

Glover is also nominated for a writing Emmy for Atlanta. Hmmm... Can he take that one, too?

Billy on the Street
Documentary Now!
Drunk History
Saturday Night Live
Tracey Ullman's Show

Yeah, no surprise there.

The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, The Americans
Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, Westworld
Bruce Miller, The Handmaid's Tale
Peter Morgan, The Crown
Gordon Smith, Better Call Saul

Expecting to hear a lot from Handmaid's Tale tonight.

Louie Anderson, Baskets
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Tony Hale, Veep
Matt Walsh, Veep

This is four awards for actors from SNL (counting Dave Chappelle and Melissa McCarthy, who won last week during the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony) plus the Variety Sketch award above.

Noah Hawley, Fargo
Ryan Murphy, Feud: Bette and Joan
Ron Howard, Genius
James Marsh, The Night Of
Jean-Marc Vallée, Big Little Lies
Steven Zaillian, The Night Of

Alexander Skarsgard, Big Little Lies David Thewlis, Fargo
Alfred Molina, Feud: Bette and Joan
Stanley Tucci, Feud: Bette and Joan
Bill Camp, The Night Of
Michael Kenneth Williams, The Night Of

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee  
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver 
Late Night With Seth Meyers 
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Saturday Night Live

Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things  
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Chrissy Metz, This Is Us
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale 

I'm still bitter about the dearth of honors for The Leftovers, but there's no question Ann Dowd deserved and deserves awards for both her stint on that show and her work on The Handmaid's Tale. She knows how to do evil, that's for sure.

Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, Master of None
Alec Berg, Silicon Valley
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Stephen Glover, Atlanta
Billy Kimball, Veep
David Mandel, Veep

I admit I think Master of None is a better show (or at least a funnier show) than Atlanta, so I'm not sorry Donald Glover didn't get that second Emmy for this. The writing on Master of None really is spot-on.

The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
Project Runway
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Voice

Random production note: Why are they playing Steely Dan's "Reelin' in the Years" after a win by The Voice? Or is there no connection? Because I don't exactly think Walter Becker or Donald Fagen would've done well on that show. Yeah, I think it's just a coincidence, but not very good planning. It wouldn't have gone any better with any of the other choices.

Stephen Daldry, The Crown
Kate Dennis, The Handmaid's Tale
The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things
Vince Gilligan, Better Call Saul
Lesli Linka Glatter, Homeland
Reed Morano, The Handmaid's Tale
Jonathan Nolan, Westworld

Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror: San Junipero
Jaffe Cohen, Michael Zam and Ryan Murphy, Feud: Bette and Joan
Noah Hawley, Fargo
Ryan Murphy, Feud: Bette and Joan
David E. Kelley, Big Little Lies
Richard Price and Steven Zaillian, The Night Of

A bit of a surprise, I think. And this may just mean that Feud and The Night Of are shut out. You never know about Jessica Lange and Emmy voters, though.

Production note: The In Memoriam reel is always tough, but this one... Right at the heart. And closing with MTM closing the door at WJM. Wow. Beautiful performance by Christopher Jackson as well as a proper amount of celebration of the departed. Well done, Television Academy.

Andy Fisher, Jimmy Kimmel Live
Jim Hoskinson, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live
Jeremy Konner and Derek Waters, Drunk History
Paul Pennolino, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Late Late Show with James Corden
Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Real Time with Bill Maher

Anthony Anderson, Blackish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Zach Galifianakis, Baskets
Donald Glover, Atlanta
William H. Macy, Shameless
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

I am not sure Donald Glover is the best actor in that bunch. I have that problem with the Comedy category fairly often, however.  

Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Tracee Ellis Ross, Blackish
Jane Fonda, Grace and Frankie
Allison Janney, Mom
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

Whatever points the Academy got for not going with Jeffrey Tambor again (I get really tired of Emmy repeats and threepeats and fourpeats...) they lost with this one. Don't get me wrong -- I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus. But she's been honored PLENTY. And then some. Let's not always see the same hands. I guess she can only win one more for Veep, anyway.

Master of None
Modern Family
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Riz Ahmed, The Night Of
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Lying Detective 
Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies
Ewan McGregor, Fargo
Geoffrey Rush, Genius
John Turturro, The Night Of

Can't argue with that! 

Carrie Coon, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies

I sometimes kvetch about movie stars winning Emmys when they do TV, but Kidman absolutely deserves this. No kvetch.

Black Mirror: San Junipero
Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Sherlock: The Lying Detective
The Wizard of Lies 

Big Little Lies
Feud: Bette and Joan
The Night Of

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Anthony Hopkins, Westworld
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

Not gonna lie -- very happy about this. Sterling K. Brown has been outstanding on This Is Us, elevating everyone around him. Extra credit for a wonderful acceptance speech, mentioning Andre Braugher, Bryan Cranston and Jon Hamm and their indelible characters from shows past.

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Claire Foy, The Crown
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Not a surprise. And she knows who Dick Whitman is, too.

The Crown
The Handmaid’s Tale
Stranger Things
This Is Us
Better Call Saul
House of Cards

Margaret Atwood on stage? Holy smokes! 

All in all, I would say that was a spiffy show. Mostly the winners were fine by me, Rachel Bloom was fun, the Westworld robot bit was nicely done, it all moved well and I enjoyed seeing Carol Burnett, Norman Lear and Oprah. In a year when we lost TV royalty like Mary Tyler Moore, I'm glad to touch base with those three. And Margaret Atwood!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Emmy Awards: Part Two

In addition to all the "creative arts" Emmy Awards given out last Saturday, another slew of gold statues were handed out on Sunday by the Television Academy. This time, guest actors, hairstylists and costume designers were among those honored.

Here's the whole list of Emmy Award winners from Part Two of the Creative Arts ceremony.

Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on SNL
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series 
Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series 
Dave Chappelle, Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series 
Gerald McRaney, This Is Us

Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series
Kim Estes, Dicks

Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series 
Jane Lynch, Dropping the Soap

Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series

Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series 
Stranger Things 

Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie or Special 
Big Little Lies 

Outstanding Children’s Program 
Once Upon a Sesame Street Christmas 

Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie 
The Night Of 

Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series 
The Ranch 

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour) 

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour) 
The Handmaid’s Tale 

Outstanding Commercial 
Calling JohnMalkovich.com 

Outstanding Contemporary Costumes for a Series, Limited Series or Movie 
Big Little Lies 

Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Within a Scripted Program 
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie 
Feud: Bette and Joan 

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series 

Outstanding Main Title Design 
Stranger Things 

Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or Movie (Non-Prosthetic) 
Feud: Bette and Joan 

Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) 

Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series 
The Big Bang Theory 

Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (Original Dramatic Score)

Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)
House of Cards 

Outstanding Music Supervision 
Big Little Lies 

Outstanding Original Interactive Program 
The People’s House – Inside the White House with Barack and Michelle Obama

Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music 
Stranger Things 

Outstanding Period/Fantasy Costumes for a Series, Limited Series or Movie
The Crown 

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (Half-Hour or Less)

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)
The Handmaid’s Tale 

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period Program (One Hour or More) 
The Crown 

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special 
American Horror Story: Roanoke 

Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series
Los Pollos Hermanos Employee Training 

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series 
Master of None 

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series 
Stranger Things

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie 
The Night Of 

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie or Special 
The Night Of 

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series 
Stranger Things 

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation 
Mozart in the Jungle 

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour) 

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie 
The Night Of 

Outstanding Special Visual Effects 

Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role 

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program 

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series or Movie 
Marvel’s Luke Cage

Monday, September 11, 2017

Emmy Awards: Part One

The Television Academy gives out so many Emmy Awards for excellence in primetime television that they have to split them into three separate nights, with 93 different categories of "creative arts" divided into two early ceremonies and the rest -- big awards like Best Actor, Director and Drama -- reserved for the fancy ceremony a week later.

All of those "creative arts" Emmys were handed out over the weekend, honoring everything from guest actors, casting directors and editors to animation programs, documentaries, variety specials and informative shows. Here are Saturday night's 28 winners (29 if you count the tie for Outstanding Choreography):

Outstanding Special Class Program
70th Annual Tony Awards

Outstanding Variety Special
Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2017

Outstanding Short Form Variety Series
The Daily Show – Between the Scenes

Outstanding Interactive Program
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Outstanding Documentary Filmmaking
LA 92

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series
Planet Earth II 

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

Outstanding Informational Series or Special
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

Outstanding Animated Program
Bob’s Burgers

Outstanding Short Form Animated Program
Adventure Time

Outstanding Structured Reality Program
Shark Tank

Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program
United Shades Of America: With W. Kamau Bell

Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series
Viceland at the Women’s March

Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program
Born This Way

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance
Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy

Outstanding Choreography
(tie) Mandy Moore, Dancing with the Stars, for "On Top of the World" and "Carol of the Bells," and Travis Wall, So You Think You Can Dance, for "The Mirror," "Send in the Clowns," and "She Used to Be Mine."

Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program 
Planet Earth II: Islands

Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program
Born This Way

Outstanding Costumes for Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Programming
RuPaul’s Drag Race

Outstanding Directing for a Nonfiction Program 
O.J.: Made in America 

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special
The Oscars

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special 
Hairspray Live! 

Outstanding Host for a Reality/Reality-Competition Program
RuPaul Charles, RuPaul’s Drag Race

Outstanding Narrator
Meryl Streep, Five Came Back

Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic) 
Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics
"Letter to the Free" by Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins for 13th

Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program 

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Presents Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Next up: Guest actors, cinematography, editing, stunts and lots, lots more...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

PBS Fall Schedule Starts in September

PBS has announced its upcoming season, offering new and returning series, miniseries, special events and performances. And that season includes some of my favorite things.

One of the biggest new stories about the new season is the ten-part documentary miniseries from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Episodes of The Vietnam War are set for September 17 to 21 and 24 to 28 on WTVP in Peoria or WILL in Urbana. These episodes will include "testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both sides."

If you're a genealogy buff -- or even if you aren't -- you'll find the October 3 season premiere of Finding Your Roots of interest. Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosts this fascinating search into the family history of an intriguing group of people that includes actors Aziz Ansari, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Rudd and Scarlett Johanssen, writers Ta-Nehisi Coates, Garrison Keillor and Janet Mock, musicians Carly Simon and Questlove, TV hosts Dr. Phil and Bryant Gumbel, director Ava DuVernay, athlete Carmelo Anthony, and a host of other celebrities.

Great Performances comes back in October, as well, with the effervescent Broadway musical She Loves Me, starring Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi, up first on October 20, followed by Noël Coward's classic comedy Present Laughter, which won Kevin Kline his third Tony, on November 3. They'll bring Indecent, a new play from Paula Vogel about a real incident in theater history, to our TV screens on November 17, with Holiday Inn, the stage version of the Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire movie musical, on November 24. Two Lin-Manuel Miranda-related encores -- performances mixed with behind-the-scenes documentary info for In the Heights -- Chasing Broadway Dreams and Hamilton's America -- finish up the Great Performances schedule, broadcast on November 10 and December 1.

For all the details on these programs as well as more Great Performances, American Masters, Frontline, Live from Lincoln Center, Masterpiece, Nature, Nova, Space and special events like David Letterman receiving the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize on November 20, click here to see the whole line-up.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Although I am familiar with some basic info about actress Marion Davies -- that she was the long-time mistress of William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration for the Susan Alexander character in Citizen Kane as well as the whole Rosebud thing, and a talented comedienne who probably would've benefited from Hearst taking his mitts off her career instead of trying so hard to control it -- I haven't seen much of her work on screen. I think Cain and Mabel, a comedy she did with Clark Gable, is it as far as Marion Davies and I go.

That one didn't impress me much, but yesterday was Marion Davies Day on Turner Classic Movies and I thought maybe I should give her another chance. To that end, I sampled three of her works, The Red Mill, a silent from 1927 about a Dutch barmaid, Five and Ten, a weeper from 1931 about a dime store mogul and his unhappy family, and Blondie of the Follies, a 1932 cautionary tale about good girls who go bad for fame and fortune in the follies. I lasted less than a minute with Red Mill and maybe five minutes with Five and Ten. The former looked better than the latter in terms of production values, but they were both pretty tough sledding, even with Leslie Howard as Marion's romantic partner in Five and Ten. After bailing so quickly on both of them, I was determined to make it all the way through Blondie of the Follies.

It's interesting to note that both Davies and her costar, Billie Dove, really did have experience in the Ziegfeld Follies. Neither appears to be a singer or much of a dancer, but the numbers staged in the movie are so clunky -- one features three women, including Davies, clomping around and halfheartedly stabbing pirate daggers into the air as a showstopper of a dance move -- it's not like there was a whole lot of talent required. Dove, at least, shows presence. Davies, on the other hand, comes off as more of an oddity than a leading lady. She's not a glamor girl, not a coquette, not an ingenue, not much of anything except odd.

Throughout Blondie of the Follies, she is skittish and jumpy, with little hops and skips here and there for no apparent reason, awkward giggling that goes on and on, nervous clomping around on crutches (it's a plot point -- don't ask) and in general an absolute inability to make a scene feel genuine. The only place she really seems relaxed is when Jimmy Durante enters a party scene about 7/8 of the way through and the two of them spoof Greta Garbo and John Barrymore in Grand Hotel, which came out that same year and was also directed by Edmund Goulding. There is no explanation given for why the movie's plot is put on hold for this little trick, but Davies seems much more comfortable doing her Garbo impression than anything else in the film.

I did find Dove enjoyable as Blondie's BFF, and Robert Montgomery was his usual affable self as the romantic interest who provides conflict between the two pals. James Gleason and Zasu Pitts were also welcome additions as Blondie's weary dad and salt-of-the-earth sister.

As much as I'd like to blame Davies for the film's shortcomings, it's unclear if she was dancing as fast as she could to paper over the plot problems and inconsistency in tone or if that was the way director Goulding wanted it. And then, of course, it's also impossible to know how much William Randolph Hearst had to do with it. The picture was made by his Cosmopolitan Productions, after all, and there have been rumors that this was Billie Dove's last movie because she was so unhappy with how she and her role were treated, as Hearst pushed for changes to keep his Marion front and center. Who knows? The end result is a strange, jittery slog, too long, too forced, too... Marion.