Anne Baxter

The 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon – Anne Baxter

Anne Baxter (7 May 1923 – 12 December 1985)

This is an entry for the 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon.

(Hosted by Journeys in Classic Film)

Anne Baxter. I’m embarrassed to say that I’d never heard of her before watching Yellow Sky (1948) (but that’s now a good number of years ago and I’m the wiser now). The only reason I came across Yellow Sky was because I was searching for movies that weren’t of the “romance” genre but still had some sort of romance. I have a weakness for Western, Action or Adventure type movies where the main character/s fall in love (and I’m not fussy – I’m happy with an understated romance).

AnneBaxterYS6I was rewarded with what was to become one of my favourite movies but also with an introduction to a really wonderful actress. The story is about a gang of bank robbers who, while fleeing the law, survive a grueling trip across a desert to finally make it to a seemingly abandoned mining town. They discover ‘Mike’ Constance Mae (Anne Baxter) and Grandpa (James Barton) whom they come to suspect as having struck gold. As the gang is stirred up with their own politics (gold can cause tension), so are ‘Mike’ and James ‘Stretch’ Dawson (Gregory Peck), the gang leader.

What a great role to have been introduced to Anne Baxter. I like her because she strikes a chord with me. Ever since I was a little girl I had this romantic notion of being a cowgirl  who could hold her own. And ‘Mike’ does just that. She is tough yet feminine and never clingy or whiny. To top it off, she also stands by her ethics of hard work and honesty (she tells ‘Stretch’ and the gang that they know nothing of building up a life, a dream. AnneBaxterYS2She accuses them of being takers. Which they are I guess. Although, one could motivate each one’s actions). ‘Mike’ is totally dedicated to her Grandpa and will do anything to protect him and what they have worked for together (She almost wants to protect him more than herself). However, just because she lives with her Grandpa and no other company around, she isn’t totally ignorant or naïve, having very natural responses when she encounters ‘Stretch’.  Yes, she can’t immediately pin-point them but she knows he makes her feel good. Despite her pants and gun belt she’s still a lady under all that outer toughness and even has a leaflet of a beautiful dress pinned up in her room. She’s clear on exactly what she wants and what not – rudeness and scruffiness are certainly not going to be accepted and, outlaw or not, she makes that very clear to ‘Stretch’. And he takes it…now that’s a woman. This said, she’s never nasty or mean. Just and fair, I’d say.

Anne Baxter takes on this role with ease and it comes across that she’s not scared to get her boots dusty. I believe that every role finds its relevant actor/actress and this one she most definitely pulls off. I couldn’t imagine another actress from her day taking on this character, so natural and convincing…she’s really ‘Mike’. With the spunk and the looks, she never comes across as a “tart” or ditsy woman. I’d say she’s perfect.

‘Stretch’ tells Grandpa “You’ve got yourself quite a granddaughter Mister”. Absolutely.

AnneBaxterYS5

 

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A Kiss is just a Kiss – not with Jeff Bridges or Gregory Peck

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A Kiss is just a Kiss…absolutely not! Well not those that move me. I have a few favourites, but two in the pre-80s really make me giddy. You know, that fluttering, squeezing feeling when you realise the characters have fallen in love? And then, you wait for the kiss. That kiss. One that draws you in, engages your own emotions, that’s a Kiss. The ones that catch me unawares they’re the ones that hit the spot. So, without further ramblings, let me present two stirring kisses (in no order of passion and naturally, there are spoilers here):

The first from a largely unknown movie Lolly Madonna XXX (1973) aka The Lolly Madonna War and no, it is not an x-rated film. In a fairly violent story around mistaken identity, Zack Feather (a very young Jeff Bridges) has been charged with keeping a kidnapped Rooney Gil (Season Hubley) from escaping. LollyMadonnaKissSpending quite a bit of time in the hayloft (what is it about those haylofts?) Zack reaches out to gently mess her hair and then leans in to kiss her…tenderly, sensitively, gentlemanly. In fact, three kisses with the first on her mouth, the second her cheek and the last somewhere along the side of her neck. “Nobody’s ever kissed me like that before” to which he replies “I know that”. It is just so moving how, despite the terrible circumstances, he remains kind and caring and learns to love again (or so I tell myself). Her amazement from that special moment is beautiful. A second group of kisses follows, moments later, just as lovely but cut short by reality. The entire hayloft scene is simply my kind of romance.

Then, the western Yelllow Sky (1948). Ah, one of my favourites (movies and kisses) where Stretch (Gregory Peck), a bank-robbing gang leader and Mike (Anne Baxter), a tom-boy, cross paths when the gang hides out in the ghost town of Yellow Sky. We are treated to that special kiss one evening when she can’t sleep (I wonder why???), leaves her house and waits in a barn watching the gang camping at the spring a little way over. The moment is tenderly built up as she is waiting, anticipating, Yellow Sky Kisshoping and then…he appears. That ensuing kiss is just something. Being a black-and-white movie, the shadows and lighting are perfect as Stretch takes Mike into his arms in that classic-movie-stylised type of way (you know what I mean?) and she collapses backwards into his arms (also, classic-movie-stylised type of way). Finally! I was waiting for that as much as she was. And in that classic cliché (but I like it) she runs off, he grabs her arm and ends up saying “Listen here Lady. This ain’t something you argue about”. I have a weakness for these old movies. Oooh and how he looks at her in previous and subsequent scenes….swoon.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Romantic in me…

For starters, don’t read this if you don’t want me spoiling things for you. So:

I’m a romantic. Let me rephrase. I’m a hopeless romantic. The one who thrives on that tumbling, twisting feeling in my stomach when two characters finally fall in love. But not just any two characters. No, they have to be strong and independent with lots and lots of oomph! Their journey to each other mustn’t be obvious and definitely not soppy but also not the overused “we hate each other but actually love each other” type. In fact, the romantic kick I need is the kind that is not typically “romantic drama” or “romantic comedy” formula driven material. Don’t get me wrong, in order for my escapism to be satisfactory, I do want a happy ending (otherwise, what’s the point?) but, not the cheesy guy-and-girl-get-together-as-you-predicted-from-the-first-few-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after, but a rich, rewarding, more realistic ending where there is genuine hope that they will stay together. Here are the ones that are my absolute best:

One of the most romantic movie moments for me is in Centurion, where Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) and his two roman colleagues come across the dwelling of Arianne (Imogen Poots). Quintus Dias has been a tough, yet intelligent, ruthless Roman until this point. She has been living on her own (I admire her), using the guise of being a witch to keep men from the nearby garrison away. Without a moment of doubt, she holds her own but for some reason (fate?) she lets Dias and his men into her home, risking her life. These two form such a natural bond that Dias sees her home as the place he ultimately belongs. He doesn’t give up his quest for her, she doesn’t beg him to stay, yet, their actions are so much more romantic, more real because of this. Nothing like a good cat-and-mouse action movie with such tenderness thrown in to give a bit of a pace reduction for just a few minutes yet having such an impact.

Then, moving on to one of my favourite films in general, but, also one of the most romantic. The Last of the Mohicans. Wow, now there is romance. In the wild frontier of America, you get this absolute heart-wrenching love.  What is more romantic that Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Uncas (Eric Schweig) running through the carnage of an attack to save the women they have come to love. Or the waterfall scene where Hawkeye says to Cora (Madeleine Stowe) “No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you” and Uncas just holding Alice (Jodhi May) not requiring any words. In fact, the Uncas/Alice love story is so understated that it leaves me wishing it had been more prominent. But then, had that been the case, I doubt it would have been as heart-felt, as real, and as rewarding, even though, she does get a bit needy and helpless at times. But, thinking about it, how much more could have been said about their love than Alice throwing herself off the cliff to be with Uncas?

Yellow Sky, now that’s an amazing film. This 1948 black and white film is absolutely fantastic with James ‘Stretch’ Dawson (Gregory Peck) taking his bank robbing gang across the desert to hide out in a ghost town. Here he comes across Constance Mae (Anne Baxter), disguised as Mike, and her grandfather. As the story unfolds, Stretch discovers that Mike is Mae but, we also see the contradiction of Mike/Mae where she is tough and holds her own, yet, at other times wants to be a lady. This is so much more rewarding that the usual man saves damsel in distress scenario. He simply lets her be who she really is and vice versa.

Ah – Robin Hood, the Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett version. I just love the amazing love story that develops between Robin Longstride and Marion Loxley. There is utmost respect for each other from the moment they meet. Both are strong and independent without ever changing who they are for each other. The most romantic part is, not when they finally dance together or when they bid each other farewell stating their love, but, when Marion arrives on the beach of the Cliffs of Dover to help fight. They stand by each other, working together yet always staying true to themselves.

And man, oh, man. I spent the entire first season of the brilliant Peaky Blinders wanting, needing, silently begging Thomas (Cillian Murphy) and Grace (Annabelle Wallis) to get together. I was tortured to the last episode for that to finally happen and therefore it had so much more impact. Grace makes all the right (or wrong, depending on your stance) decisions fully knowing the potential consequences yet staying true to herself while rationally knowing she shouldn’t be falling in love with a tough, uncompromising gangster.

Then, the Swiss Family Robinson (1960) deserves a mention. Yes, Roberta (Janet Munro) comes across as the stereotype helpless damsel to be rescued, but, cut me some slack here – watching Fritz (James MacArthur) and her fall in love is just beautiful. She may not be the strong independent woman at first, but, she rises to the challenge and puts her whole heart into the situation that has come her way. This story leaves me wanting more but, realistically, all that needs saying is said and anything more or less would not have worked. I guess what it comes down to is that by leaving the viewer craving that feel-good effect, the goal has been achieved.

Then there are those films that leave you wishing, wanting the hinted or implied romance being developed more. The likes of The Quick and the Dead (Sharon Stone’s Ellen and Russell Crowe’s Cort), Broken Arrow (Christian Slater’s Hale and Samantha Mathis’ Terry), and oh my gosh…Ironclad where the brilliant James Purefoy’s Thomas Marshal and Kate Mara’s Lady Isabel develop an understated relationship. Ultimately, for me, the romance is in the strong women and the men who love them. Or, maybe, it’s the fact that these films have romances second to the main story and therefore have so much more impact. But, that “addictively” strange lurching feeling, that’s when I know a scene has worked with me, regardless of the actors (being good or bad) but the fact that they have successfully portrayed an emotion that has reached the audience.