Dramas Out of Time

The U. S. film industry has experienced various crises:  silent to sound beginning in 1927; the breaking of the standard 7-year star contract in 1945 led by actress Olivia de Havilland and briefly covered in the February 3, 1945 issue of The New York Times:  “The State supreme court today ruled that Olivia De Havilland, actress, does not have to work an additional twenty-five weeks for Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc.  The actress had a seven-year contract with Warners during which she was suspended at various times for a total of twenty-five weeks in disputes about types of films.  Upon expiration of the contract, Warners insisted Miss De Havilland work twenty-five weeks,”; the “Paramount Decree” of 1948 that divested the major studios of their monopolistic hold on theater chains; the competition from TV; and the blacklisting of suspected communists in the 1950s.  There was another crisis in the early 1960s that nobody seemed to notice:  the making and release of dramatic or, for the most part, melodramatic movies that were “out of time,” many of them as some critics back in the day were wont to say, “turgid” melodramas.  These were carryovers from the 1950s.

Many soap operas of the fifties, even good ones like 1957’s Peyton Place, would soon be magnificent obsessionirrelevant and fall by the wayside.  Esteemed director Douglas Sirk had created his own oeuvre via a half dozen and today critically-admired soap operas/melodramas/women’s pictures:  Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956), The Tarnished Angels (1957), Interlude (1957), and Imitation of Life (1959).  Sirk did not make any ‘60s films.  The movies that followed in his vein lacked the undercurrent of societal criticism or a compelling subtext and strike us now as positively antiquated, even, as some reviewers used to say, “antediluvian.”  They were “out of time.”

Curiously, Academy Award-winner Susan Hayward (1958’s I Want to Live!) starred in four 60s movies that inhabit this bailiwick.  Back Street (1961) was a remake of the 1932 and 1941 films about a “kept woman” (a term trending into oblivion).  I Thank a Fool (1962) concerned a doctor who served time for a mercy killing and was henceforth hiredback street to attend Peter Finch’s mentally disturbed wife.  Stolen Hours (1963) was a remake of the 1939 Bette Davis tearjerker Dark Victory.  Where Love Has Gone (1964) seemed a disguised take on the Lana Turner-Johnny Stompanato affair in which Turner’s daughter killed her mother’s mobster boyfriend.  At the time and certainly in retrospect, these movies were rather dull, and in Hayward’s and some of her co-stars’ cases, beneath their abilities.  (At least Where Love Has Gone featured Hayward’s immortal line, “I never considered carpentry an art form.”)  Also observe that the leading men in these films were for the most part lesser stars than their female counterparts.  What does that signify?

By decade’s end such movies would disappear.  Also exiting the scene by the second half of the 60s were cheaply made but successful “beach” and monster movies targeting the wild angelsyoung.  The new teens were inheritors of Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953) and Blackboard Jungle’s (1955) classroom of delinquents including Sidney Poitier and Vic Morrow.  Like James Dean in that same year’s Rebel Without a Cause, they were aimless and blamed their parents for ennui.  Their sixties counterparts came of age influenced by war in Vietnam, increased sexual freedom, racial tensions, heightened drug use, and the rise of feminism.  Think The Wild Angels (1966) with Peter Fonda, The Fox (1967) with Keir Dullea, Anne Heywood and Sandy Dennis, Wild in the Streets (1968) with Christopher Jones, and Angel, Angel, Down We Go, aka Cult of the Damned (1969).  There may be significant subtext regarding Angel as classic era film actress and Academy Award winner Jennifer Jones was the ostensible star, seduced by young Jordan Christopher.

Violence, profanity, and nudity were let loose into the mainstream after the 1934 Production Code was supplanted in 1968 by the Motion Picture Association of America’s G, M, R and X rating system.  Partly this was to combat the freedom of expression provided by international films.  In the U.S., Love Has Many Faces, Kitten with a Whip, and Harlow were out, The Graduate, Reflections in a Golden Eye and Midnight Cowboy were in.

By contrast, comedy was slightly immune, and as the decade came to an end attempted to be “where it’s at” with the likes of the Bob Hope-Jackie Gleason starrer How to Commit Marriage (1969) and The Impossible Years (1968) with David Niven as a dad attempting toyours mine and ours.jpg deal with his unruly flower children daughters.  A few took pot shots at the anything goes youth culture.  See 1968’s Yours, Mine and Ours.  Attempting to bridge the gap was the same year’s Where Angels Go…Trouble Follows.  Rosalind Russell reprised her role from The Trouble with Angels as the conservative Mother Superior while blonde bombshell Stella Stevens played the liberal Sister George.  (How can one not mention that coincidentally but not companionably it was released in December as was the lesbian-angled The Killing of Sister George!)

“Portmanteau” dramatic films were still viable in the 60s.  They traced their heritage to Grand Hotel, the Best Picture Academy Award-winning film of 1932.  The V.I.P.s (1963) used the London Airport where the various characters crossed paths with one another as they waited for the fog to lift.  This film was good and a financial success partly because it teamed Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, soon to be seen in the much anticipated Cleopatra.  The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1965) was also of this ilk, a “composite” film whose characters were tied to each other via the title car.

Certainly out of time was Cleopatra’s director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s The Honey Pot (1967).  At one time this would have been termed a “drawing room” comedy-drama.  Befitting Mankiewicz but not the younger audience, this was too intelligent for its own good and its decade.

valley of the dollsA few turgid but glossy soap operas hit the screen late in the decade, notably Valley of the Dolls (1967), in which, incredibly, Susan Hayward again surfaced, replacing Judy Garland.  This actually made money, a lot of money, as had Jacqueline Susann’s novel, a publishing phenomenon.  Nevertheless, Valley was a rather boring movie that might have benefited if it had been filmed and released in 1968.  Hayward gave it some pizzazz, however, in her ladies room cat fight with Patty Duke.

Perhaps the most incongruous movies of the decade had been at the beginning:   Desire in the Dust (1960) was a black and white, steamy potboiler set in the south land with classic film star Joan Bennett, younger Hollywood veteran Martha Hyer, “And Introducing Anne Helm.”  Again, the leading men were of a lesser breed:  Ken Scott, “And Introducing Jack Ging,” plus, apparently because his hit TV series was on summer hiatus, Raymond Burr, aka Perry Mason.  You would be correct to label Desire a poor man’s God’s Little Acre or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  At least as inappropriate was the underfunded Madison Avenue, (1961) a pre-Mad Men tale of ad men, or in this instance, ad man Clint Lorimer (Dana Andrews) who responds to his firing by successfully promoting a dairy farmer’s (Eddie Albert) business.  So what’s desire in the dustwrong with the film, what makes it incongruous?  Like Desire in the Dust, it’s in black and white, is only one hour and 34 minutes long, and doesn’t deserve the cast, including the former girl next door become a beautiful and voluptuous woman, Jeanne Crain, multi-Academy Award-nominated Eleanor Parker (the Baroness in The Sound of Music) and 40s mainstay Andrews, like Crain a Fox contract player whose resume includes 4 films in which the duo were paired.  Their last would be Hot Rods to Hell (1967), symbolic perhaps of their career trajectory and sixties dramas that were out of time.

By Kim

Audiobook Spotlight: Hunting Game

Fans of Helene Tursten’s Inspector Huss novels will love this first installment of the author’s new series, a Nordic noir mystery starring Detective Inspector Embla Nystrom. Hunting Game sees the 28-year-old inspector taking a break from her stressful job in the mobile unit of Gothenburg, Sweden to go on a moose hunt with her family and friends inhunting game remote and rural Dalsland. Embla, a talented boxer and longtime sportswoman, is excited to channel some of her nervous energy into her passion for hunting. That is, until Peter Hansson—an enigmatic stranger with a penchant for technology, to whom Embla feels inexplicably drawn—joins the hunting party, making their number an unlucky thirteen. Soon after his arrival misfortune after misfortune befalls the band of hunters: a dog is poisoned, a woman is bitten by a snake, and the party finds a dangerous trap on the path, seemingly set for them. These occurrences culminate in the disappearance of two members of the party, who had received a pair of mysterious messages just days before. When one of them is found dead, his body submerged in a freezing lake, Embla realizes her vacation has come to an end. Now it is up to her to catch the killer. But to do that, she must uncover the dark pasts of some of her closest friends and relatives.

First seen as a side character in Tursten’s 2015 novel The Treacherous Net, here Embla Nystrom shines at the center of her own story. A thoroughly balanced character—full of willful gumption and sharp wit, yet still sensitive and clearly plagued by the ghosts of her own past—she is a joy to follow through this twist-and-turn mystery, especially when she makes the choice to not play by the rules. With such a strong character at its fore, it’s no wonder that the Book List Review is raving that readers “…will want to follow this series from its start.” You can start this series now, in your home or on the go, with RBDigital. Thanks to its multi-access lending model, you will never have to put a book on hold or wait to check it out. Remember that listeners like you keep this service available for everyone, so start listening today!

Get started with RBDigital by clicking here!

By Emily

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The Future of RBDigital

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Chester County Library has always offered many ways to listen to electronic audiobooks, but for listeners who want a platform that is quick, convenient, and easy-to-use, RBDigital might be the top choice. With this service you can access e-audiobooks anywhere: from your desktop computer in the comfort of your home, or on the go with the mobile app. RBDigital gives you access to a vast collection of exclusive content and classic novels, as well as new and popular releases. Beloved authors like Diana Gabaldon, Alexander McCall Smith, and Robyn Carr can all be found there, along with the works of many other bestsellers. Best of all, every title on RBDigital is multi-access, which means more than one person can listen to at a time. You can check any book out right away—no need to put it on hold or join a waitlist. And like our Libby and Overdrive services, RBDigital is totally free to use with your library card!

Unfortunately, RBDigital might not be around forever. The life of this service has always depended on how many people are using it, and currently there are not enough listeners or checkouts to justify the cost of maintaining it. If the service continues to go underused, there is a strong chance it will be discontinued. But there is still hope for RBDigital! If you have used the app, and would like to see it stick around, spread the word! Tell your friends to check it out— whether they are mystery fans, romance buffs, or lovers of the great classics, there’s sure to be something in the collection that they will enjoy. And if you’ve never used RBDigital before, there has never been a better time to try it! You can learn more about it here, or stop by the Multimedia department with any questions you may have. We’ll be happy to help you get started, and we’re sure you’ll be happy with what you find!

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Audiobook Spotlight: Mama’s Last Hug

If you have ever caught your pet doing something they’re not supposed to and seen them give you a guilty look, or watched a nature documentary where mother animals care for mamas last hugtheir babies, the thought has probably crossed your mind that animals feel emotions just like humans do. According to bestselling author and primatologist Frans de Waal, that might just be the case. In his new book Mama’s Last Hug, de Waal explores both animal and human emotions, their similarities and differences and the way they intersect. His account begins with Mama, a fifty-nine year old chimp, whose deathbed reunion with her former keeper and longtime friend Jan van Hooff went viral online. The video of their last meeting showed Mama giving van Hooff a wide smile and a big hug, and even patting him gently on the back—a gesture than many view as distinctly “human,” but de Waal explains is observed in most primates. Using their touching final interaction as a jumping-off point, de Waal reveals the findings of many years of research into the social and emotional lives of primates (and many other species as well, from elephants to fish and, yes, even dogs). Over the span of the book he covers everything from facial expressions and questions of feelings versus emotions, to animal sentience, consciousness and the illusion of free will. All of this is woven through an expertly-told story of Mama’s own long life and sad passing that will touch listeners’ hearts and open their minds to a natural world more connected to our own than we ever imagined.

A follow-up to his previous bestseller, Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?, Mama’s Last Hug acts as a companion piece to de Waal’s thought-provoking meditation on animal intelligence. Yet with its thoroughly-researched facts and its warm, easy prose this book is easily compelling enough to stand on its own. What sets it apart, however, is the author’s emphasis on the importance of empathy across species. Kirkus Review raves, “de Waal is a skilled storyteller, and his love for animals always shines through.” If you are an animal-lover, or even a little curious about the connections that we might share, this book is a must-read. Check it out today on RBDigital, where you can start enjoying it right away, without ever placing a hold or joining a waitlist. Remember: listeners like you keep this service available for everyone, so give RBDigital a try! You may love what you discover.

Want to learn more about RBDigital? Click here!

By Emily

Audiobook Spotlight: Love on the Line

Filled with colorful characters, rich historical details, and romantic intrigue, this novel by author Deeanne Gist is sure to be a treat for listeners looking for a book that will sweep them off their feet. In Love on the Line, Georgie Gail is a tenacious and tough love lineswitchboard operator, trying to make her way in the working world at the turn of the century, when men dominated nearly every field. Her experience on the job has made Georgie somewhat spiky to others, especially to Luke Palmer, her company’s new telephone repairman. However, she manages to find solace in nature—going on birding expeditions in the wide Texas wilderness. On one such expedition Georgie makes a discovery she was not quite bargaining for: instead of finding a rare bird out on the range she finds Luke, armed with a gun and far from any telephone lines. Luke, it turns out, is not a repairman at all, but an undercover Texas ranger by the name of Lucious Landrum. He is on the trail of the notorious outlaw Frank Comer and his gang of train bandits. With his cover broken by the wily Georgie, he has no choice but to take her into his confidence while he tries to solve the case. But doing this puts them both in danger, and just as Georgie starts to lose her heart to the mysterious lawman, she realizes she also stands to lose her life.

Deeanne Gist is well-known for her sweeping historical romances, and critics have long praised her careful attention to historical detail, which immerses readers in the world of each story. She shows this same level of care in Love on the Line, but the true stars of the show here are her romantic leads. Book List Review says that “…readers will fall head over heels” for Luke and Georgie, and it is easy to see why. Each is an engaging and entertaining character in their own right, and together their chemistry strikes irresistible sparks. You will want to listen to it again and again—and with RBDigital, you can! Audiobooks are always available, so you never have to wait to listen to your favorites or to pick up something new. Listeners like you keep this service available for everyone, so give RBDigital a listen today!

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By Emily

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Audiobook Spotlight: True Grit

Fans of westerns and of cool, smart historical fiction won’t want to put down this classic novel by renowned author Charles Portis. True Grit follows the stubborn and clever true gritMattie Ross, a fourteen-year-old girl from Arkansas who bears witness to a grisly shoot-out. After the sinister outlaw Tom Chaney takes her father’s life, his horse, and 150 dollars in cash, young Mattie takes it upon herself to bring the criminal to justice and avenger her father’s death. Along the way she enlists the help of a one-eyed U.S. marshal by the name of Rooster Cogburn—who may be the only man in the west as stubborn as she is. As their pursuit of Chaney leads the two deep into Indian Territory, Mattie must keep her wits about her in order to outsmart and out-maneuver the hardened men of the old west.

Published in 1968, True Grit was later adapted into two different major motion pictures—one in 1969, starring John Wayne in an Oscar-winning turn as Rooster Cogburn, and another in 2010 which was written and directed by the Coen brothers. Its many adaptations attest to the timeless nature of the novel, which was met with praise upon its publishing and remains well-beloved by readers today. Its characters—especially the relentless, clever young Mattie—are flawed but deeply compelling, and its prose is quick, crisp, and peppered with dry humor. Anyone in want of a rousing adventure to get lost in and a cool heroine to root for will want to check it out right away. With RBDigital you can check True Grit out anytime, anywhere for free, without ever having to place it on hold. Listeners like you keep this service available for everyone, so start listening with RBDigital today!

To learn more about RBDigital, click here!

By Emily

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