Archive for the ‘Ralph Bellamy’ Category


19 May

Forbidden – directed by Frank Capra. Drama. 83 minutes Black And White 1932


The Story: A small down librarian heads for the high-life and finds true love.


Imperturbably soigné is how we usually see Adolphe Menjou, tailored so perfectly you don’t even notice it – except here we peer under the togs and find an actor of chance.

He had moved from playing betrayed and betrayer of husbands in the Silents, and now in the Talkies, we find a character with perfect diction and a well placed voice. All of which is to the good when his tuxedo gives out to a warm heart inside it. Surprise, surprise!

An unusual love story, pre-code, in which that heart is given to his mistress, played by Barbara Stanwyck, whose heart is also true. But Menjou can’t marry her, or won’t, he says, because he is already married to a woman he is indebted to. Perhaps it is the case that he can’t divorce and remain a successful politician. In any case, what we have is a story that rings true in its execution at every turn. All I know is I care for both these people and have not a single word of advice for either of them. All I can do is watch.

A triangle is completed by Ralph Bellamy as a muck-raking journalist, with a mean streak that gets wider as the years elapse. It’s not his usual thudding part, and he is very good in his crudeness, energy, and drive for Stanwyck’s hand. Surprise, surprise!

The story takes them through the years. They age. And things get worse for all of them as they do. Surprise, surprise!

Each scene is beautiful Their romance at night horseback riding on the beach is one of the most stunning scenes I have ever seen in a film. And the big confrontation filmed outside in a downpour is emblematic of the hardship true lovers will put up with to be with one another. Again – no surprise –  because all of it filmed by Joseph Walker.

And, also no surprise, it is written by Capra’s standby Jo Swerling.

Stanwyck is interesting, vulnerable, raw. When speech fails, Capra uses her as Silent actress, and she never gets it wrong, too big, too broad, too much. Always just right. She was one of those actresses who was greatest when young. Here she is 24. Her name is now above the credits. It will never find itself anywhere else.

She and Capra made four films in a row together. Then, years later, Meet John Doe, a collaboration of masterworks, as fresh and true in their execution and playing as a glass of milk at dawn.



Young America

12 Mar

Young America — directed by Frank Borzage. Melodrama. A small down Peck’s Bad Boy gets into worse and worse Dutch every time he does a good deed. 70 minutes Black and White 1932.


The 8th of Spencer Tracy’s pre-MGM feature films, and it is interesting to see him, aged 32 already cast as a middle-aged Babbitt with a grouch. Essentially the film is about the boy, played by Tommy Conlon and his pal Nutty, played by the penny-whistle voiced Raymond Borzage. Ralph Bellamy does an odd turn as the judge who lets all the boys off, even though Conlon borrows folks’ cars at will. They are all open convertibles and in driving them no one seems to notice that he is only 13. A local lady of good intention, played by Doris Kenyon, figures Conlon isn’t a bad boy after all and, against her husband Tracy’s incensed objections, decides to take him into her home. More than this you have not sinned enough to be told. Interestingly, though, most of the film is focused on the boys, particularly in scenes with Borzage’s grandmother played by a sterling actress, Beryl Mercer, who really knows how to hold the screen and to hold her emotion in check while draining us of ours. She gives us a lesson in screen craft. As does Tracy, of course, for he never hedges his bets; he is relentlessly mean and hard-headed; he is furious with his wife and the boy; he uses his instrument honestly and thoroughly, and never asks for popular sympathy. How he did this, without histrionics, is a secret he brought from his cradle to his craft. For, it is perfectly easy to go berserk with a feeling, or to milk it, or underplay it, but to find the right key for it and hit it – not as common as Tracy makes it seem. These films are interesting particularly because Tracy is the leading actor in all of them, a situation which did not prevail when he signed with MGM and became Clark Gable’s sidekick. It was only after a good while at MGM that Tracy took leading roles, but when he started in film at Fox, leading man’s how he was cast and that’s what you’re seeing here.

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