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Friday, March 22, 2019

The Team That Could Do No Wrong

Greenstreet-Lorre Together For A Last Time in The Verdict (1946)

A masterpiece if your thing is Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre framed in gaslight. I'd watch them read table menus for the ninety minutes involved, which at times seems extent of action in The Verdict, a leisure stride fans would want no other way. Greenstreet/Lorre were about byplay and contrast of style/appearance, a triumph of character men bending a star system to their unique measure. Greenstreet in an Inverness cape looks like three guys walking astride, his voice an instrument that plays pure pleasure. Lorre too, of course, who was always best when bent, even if slightly. Their teamings were like Burbank doing Karloff/Lugosi on bigger budget terms, the pair fortunate they weren't typed to horror subjects and so able to reach mainstream patronage. "Mystery" could be creepy, but not horrific, with always a rational explanation for what happens. That was firm foundation of thrillers WB did with Greenstreet/Lorre.

You could turn off sound and derive scares off fog-bound setting, The Verdict not unlike Fox's The Lodger for tension the equal of chillers done elsewhere. New-to-directing-features Don Siegel was given The Verdict for Warner initiation. He said in a fine memoir that the script was weak and the picture dull, both of which you could reasonably argue, but Siegel was assessing The Verdict from '46 perspective, not in rose-hue terms on which we now approach it. Production was against backdrop of a violent studio strike that required Siegel to literally fight his way into daily work, a struggle to duck chicanery by J.L. and underlings always after something for nothing from creative staff. A Siegel Film, published in 1996, gives vivid recall to harsh reality of studio life during what we call a Golden Era. Read this book and understand why Siegel was unsentimental about The Verdict and other shows we treasure. He had to live through making them.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Star Personas Gather Up Greatness

Where Gimmicks and Tricks Made Great Actors

Gary Cooper Appears As a Friendly Witness Before the House Un-American Activities Committee

Jeff Corey in the Foreground, with Jack Carson, Gary Cooper, and Lauren Bacall, in Bright Leaf

Clark Gable and Charles Lane in Teacher's Pet
From Alan Ladd, a quote: “Maybe I can’t act, but I know the gimmicks. I studied acting all my life and know what’s good for me.” There’s defensive tone here, as if Ladd saw the category critics and some of a public kept him in. He realized that sector was not what made or maintained his stardom. Ladd went chin out by admitting “gimmicks” that drove his performing. The humble hat was common to stars “just playing themselves,” which as often meant laughing at themselves wherever “real” acting was addressed. Gary Cooper got room-filling howls for a HUAC “friendly witness” turn where questioners asked his profession, and he tentatively replied “actor.” The stronger a star’s persona, the more doubt must be cast on ability, “true” ability as defined by those who saw versatility, preferably demonstrated on a stage, as barometer of an actor's skill. Cooper and Ladd both used “gimmicks.” Cooper said as much to colleague Jeff Corey (“I only have two or three tricks at best, and that’s not enough, is it?”) when both took thesp classes in the 50’s --- I said the 50’s, a point at which Coop could have stayed home fielding job offers reliable as sun-up. He knew he was doing something, plenty, right, but sought, always, to be better.

Alan Ladd Early On, at Right, in 1936's Pigskin Parade

Ladd So Big a Star That Frame Blow-Up Stills Of Him Were Used to Promote a Wartime Reissue of Captain Caution

Clark Gable was like that too. Character actor Charles Lane recalled one of their films together: “Clark … was a man of great insecurity in his work.” Lane had come back half-an-hour early from lunch. “There were three grips eating their sandwiches out of paper bags, and Gable --- rehearsing all by himself. I said, ‘What in God’s name are you doing?’ He said, ‘Oh Charlie, I stink so in this thing, I’ve got to do something about it.’” Lane characterized Gable as “a very hard worker” (this in 1959, a point at which Gable too could have rested on laurels). These quotes, by the way, are from Jordan R. Young’s outstanding collection of interviews, Reel Characters. Jeff Corey observations derive from Close-Ups, edited by Danny Peary, a classic book from 1978. Back to Alan Ladd and his quote: Yes, he studied, and bigger yes, did know what was good for him. That study meant trial/error. Look at Captain Caution and 1941’s The Black Cat to see Ladd feeling his way toward effective screen presence. He would try “acting” in both and learn that to try hard need not mean trying too hard. Others gave advice, Ladd wired to levels of talent in both motion pictures and radio, latter where he’d develop a richly expressive voice the equal of anybody’s. This Gun For Hire demonstrated that underplaying “was good for him,” and that lesson would not be forgot.

Ladd went all out for action, but tamped down for dialogue and quieter scenes. No one would catch him over-emoting again. He kept his audience guessing, which women in particular liked. Could a man so impenetrable be reached by anyone? Ladd left most of expression to his eyes, reporting after work one day that he had done a particularly good “look” for cameras, a kidding remark, but serious too because he knew that’s where his strength was. No, Ladd did not play himself, unless himself was a process needing years to shape and perfect. I think the reason Ladd slowed in the 50’s was circumstances of his offscreen life corroding the model developed in more-less youth. He didn’t look the same or move as before, the Ladd persona by this time inflexible. Withhold of emotion perhaps made him too rigid, more so in a decade where trends in lead men rewarded outburst and even tears where event called for it, or didn’t. But viewers wanted Ladd as they knew him best, or not at all. Less work near the end reflected choice of the latter. Through the 50’s at least, he had an audience, and Jack Warner for one said that Alan Ladd was a most bankable of stars then at work. Melancholy woven into the persona from early on continued to resonate. Teens even could be moved by it, as in Ladd as identification figure for isolated high schooler Sal Mineo in Rebel Without A Cause, who keeps a photo of the star pasted inside his locker, one outsider living vicarious through another.

Ladd and Co-Star Edward G. Robinson Welcomed By Jack L. Warner for Hell On Frisco Bay

Odd thing was, Ladd’s offscreen image differed utterly from the closed shop of his film persona, as if to say latter was all pretend just like movies and everyone who performed in them. The dissent was too ingrained however, so that lone wolf Ladd of the screen became our concept of the “real” Alan Ladd, rather than uneasy exemplar of perfect family life as put forth by a mainstream press and fan magazines. As told before, I had an elementary school band teacher named Priscilla Call, formerly Priscilla Lyon, and once a child actress in movies and radio. She was represented by Hollywood agent Sue Carol, a prime architect of the Ladd image, and married to him as well. The Ladds would host Sunday cookouts for Sue’s clients, so Priscilla was invited often. She told me that Alan Ladd was polite but withdrawn, joining the party for a while, then retiring to the pool where he’d swim laps alone. Any witness to this, Priscilla for sure, might say, “Yes, here is Alan Ladd as he really is,” a figure in keeping with what we saw of him in movies.

Ladd’s persona was at once steadfast and variable. Each time, it seemed we might break through and understand him better. Shane was a truest reflection of this because George Stevens knew the acting instrument he had in Ladd. A brilliant enough director did wonders with an established image, for he could find and reveal subtleties others would not see. It was no coincidence when Ladd said he learned more about acting from Stevens than any director he ever worked with. An outstanding film actor, and Ladd was certainly that, accrues much over years of honing a screen character. Each part adds layers to a deepening mosaic. A star who’s been around long enough is known to us as well as family members. It is why loyalty to them was so acute, especially during the Studio Era when the most capable of them emerged. A Ronald Colman anecdote: He was invited to do a cameo in Around The World In 80 Days, for which he got a bucket of cash, or a Cadillac, or some such windfall, I forget which and it doesn’t matter, but someone asked him how it was that he should be paid so exorbitantly for a single day’s work, to which Colman replied, “This is not for one day’s work … it is for a lifetime of work.”

Hell On Frisco Bay is primo Ladd, and great to have back in circulation after years gone begging for decent prints. Warner’s Blu-Ray is Cinemascope-wide and a mile high for fans who have waited so long. There’s reward for seeing a star exactly as we want him, Ladd in modern dress, just sprung from Alcatraz for a killing he didn’t commit, bitter toward a wife that didn’t stay faithful for five years he’s been in the jug, to that add fact “Steve Rollins” is an ex-cop, and there’s corruption in the force he’ll root out. Who needs favorite stars to be “versatile”? The best personas were fixed, and happily so. Smart players like Ladd protected them. Lead men too eager to widen range often as not stumbled. Hell On Frisco Bay was 2018’s comfort disc for me. Ladd’s accumulation of “self” by 1955 lends even his physical decline a grandeur. The Ladd history, fed by continuity of an image congenial to us, lends depth to “Steve,” who does what we expect of Alan Ladd, the persona larger than any individual part he would play. Was it producer Ladd (his “Jaguar” company) who suggested Edward G. Robinson for lead nemesis, because the idea was inspired. The two crackle singly, and together (AL to Eddie, “I’d like to kill you so much, I can taste it”). Of course, Robinson brings freight of his own to Hell On Frisco Bay. Was it sour aftertaste of the war that made his crime lords so much crueler than before? Dialogue here is really nasty, especially the way E.G. abuses Fay Wray, an unexpected and welcome supporting presence. Ladd as Jaguar head knew how to cast his vehicles, never hogging the frame where others had opportunity to shine. I could go on, but it’s enough to say that Hell On Frisco Bay is a viewing must, and Warners’ Blu-Ray looks terrific.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Thriller Audrey Hepburn Didn't Have To Act

Dutch Girl Is Out, and It Rivets

It is almost ninety years since Audrey Hepburn was born. Whatever perception you have of her will be utterly changed from what previous books tell thanks to Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, third in Robert Matzen’s “Hollywood in World War II” trilogy. Here is biography gone past the rote word to become an all-true suspense thriller featuring this most beloved of film stars. Let me put this way: Audrey Hepburn knew not half so much danger in any film as she did growing up in Nazi-occupied Holland, nor did life-risk on screen approach gamble she took during adolescence to assist resistance efforts. Wait Until Dark must have seemed to Hepburn like Christmas pantomime compared with what she had been through. Did you know both her parents sided with the Nazis? I had no inkling of it, Matzen dredge through Euro archives, secret diaries, now-it-can-be-told interviews with family members a matter of one startling revelation after another. Better strap in for Dutch Girl --- it’s wartime espionage with Audrey Hepburn’s survival anything but a sure thing. She’d go without food for three days at a time (German starvation strategy upon the Dutch) and still help with ongoing rescue of wounded Allied soldiers. There are photographs, documents, and mementos in Dutch Girl, supplied by Audrey Hepburn’s family, that have never been seen before. You actually wonder if Audrey will make it through such harrowing ordeal, despite evidence of beloved film roles she later did, and that’s a best indicator of nail-bite Matzen maintains through his narrative. I never realized how close we came to not having an Audrey Hepburn. Dutch Girl will be released in hardcover on April 15 and available at Barnes & Noble and other booksellers nationwide. The hardcover, ebook, and audio book can be pre-ordered now at

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Columbia Hits A Budget Beach

From The Schneer School Of Combat Comes Tarawa Beachhead (1958)

It's overlooked today how Charles H. Schneer graduated from the Sam Katzman school of ultra-cheapies for any genre that paid, his a fast hand for dealing sub-features until The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad sent Schneer-Harryhausen magic shows to the top of bills. Tarawa Beachhead was a "Morningside Production," Schneer's shingle, with release through Columbia, just as with Katzman. Sinbad himself, Kerwin Matthews, gets to play hard-bitten for adults and acquits fine. I wonder if he didn't look back and consider this the better acting opportunity, however puny Tarawa Beachhead turned out otherwise. So many actioners used combat footage from the lately won war and seldom did it match well with staged stuff. Battle Cry's hit of 1954 had put successors to task of shuttling between battlefields and love interest on leave, thus Julie Adams and Karen Sharpe as partners to Matthews and co-officer Ray Danton. War movies by the late 50's were almost as ubiquitous as westerns; every action bill seemed to feature one, the other, or both. Potential for winning boxoffice battle was determined by who wore uniforms, big stars like Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift in likes of The Young Lions, or Kerwin Matthews and Ray Danton dressed out for Tarawa Beachhead, bill placement and grosses easy enough to predict from there.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

1957's Sharpest Knife In The Drawer

It's 12 Angry Men, But Let's Call It Twelve

I’ve got a sock new ending for Twelve Angry Men that re-makers may feel free to use. The jurors are coming down the courthouse steps, having done the right and conscience-salving thing, then all of a sudden the sweet-faced kid they acquitted comes skipping behind them to announce, “Hey you chumps, thanks for turning me loose --- and by the way, I killed that old man and glad as hell I did!” Now that would turn the makers’ righteous intent on its head, righteous being right/proper label for much of what was grafted off anthology TV for movies wanting to swing a progressive 50’s stick. Crowds who got fun out of a precode era knew the court system was for most part a rigged parlay, juries there to be fixed or listened in on. The Code would sap joy in myriad and subtle ways. A Lawyer Man or The Mouthpiece could not have been made in 1957, nor anything so defaming our system of justice, mockery the better term perhaps for what fun films once had with this sort of content. Had Hollywood completely lost a sense of humor by the 50’s? Twelve Angry Men was not of west coast origin, but born/bred of New York sensibility and independent filming. The story had been written (by Reginald Rose) and performed for live television in 1954. Critics fell over selves to tell how enlightened it was. For stone-age TV, Twelve Angry Men was the goods, proving tubes could be more than mere place for Milton Berle to cavort. We’re blessed to have Kinescope evidence of Twelve Angry Men done live for 9/20/54 home-sitters, it being an extra on Criterion’s Blu-Ray along with the feature film.

The vid version has Robert Cummings in the Fonda role, Franchot Tone in for Lee J. Cobb, Edward Arnold taking the Ed Begley part. We could debate who was better or more appropriate for respective roles, or maybe it’s well enough to note that Cummings by 1957 would not have been trusted, in terms of boxoffice, with a drama slot like this, however good he was for the broadcast. A lot of wonderful players lost movie bids this way. Studios casted less on ability than name value. What bank would have floated loans to make Twelve Angry Men for theatres with Robert Cummings and Franchot Tone as leads? And yet they did for Henry Fonda, him no sure bet for headlining but three features so far in the 50’s. Was Fonda star enough to pull Twelve Angry Men into profit? Humphrey Bogart, who had worked with Fonda in a 1955 TV adapt of The Petrified Forest, put it bluntly that, no, he was not. An interview with writer Tad Mosel for the Television Academy Foundation quoted Bogart on the Forest set as he addressed himself re Fonda (as in, saying it directly to Fonda): “There are no really big stars left in the world. When I say stars, I mean a name that you say at the loneliest crossroad in the world, and they’ll know who it is. There’s Gable and there’s me. Hank here, he’s no star.” Mosel referred to this to “loving needling,” but it sounds pretty tactless to me, however accurate Bogart's observation was.

United Artists Applies a Sharp Knife Edge to Promotion For The L.A. Fox Wilshire Open

For many, it would be a movie-as-TV experience, this no grim prospect, as hadn’t Dragnet been a smash? (yes), and didn’t Marty ring bells way beyond a modest cost? Success of Marty for United Artists was probably what got them behind Twelve Angry Men, plus Henry Fonda and Reginald Rose willingness to defer salaries. Fonda and Rose had been on the project from late 1955, Twelve Angry Men among three scripts the actor was developing (Variety, 1/5/56). Orion-Nova was the independent shingle Fonda and Rose hung over Twelve Angry Men, set for NY filming in June, 1956. New York had not been such a hotbed for filmmaking since silent days. Variety meanwhile noted “the rush to picturize TV properties, none of which looks like the boxoffice success that Marty proved.” Were trades already putting the Indian sign on Twelve Angry Men and others from TV? Early switch of the title (6/56) went from Twelve Angry Men to 12 Angry Men; was the numeral figured to lend more impact, or, trades asked, was it effort to avoid confusion with two-years-previous Seven Angry Men? Hollywood claimed that picture-making ran smoother amidst their clime than Gotham’s, but Angry production supervisor George Justin said no, “it is cheaper to film pictures in Manhattan than on the coast.” H’wood now faced two opponents, it seemed, Euro location and NY lensing, both burs in union saddles particularly.

Variety’s 2/27/57 review of Twelve Angry Men admitted this was a “small” picture, from which “good, if not socko returns should result.” Debate arose over how best to showcase Twelve Angry Men. Fonda felt it should start in art houses and have opportunity to build. UA saw things different and opened at the Capitol on Broadway, a spot antithetical to all things art, seating 5230. Fonda’s “as told to” book in 1981 recalled Twelve Angry Men lasting but a week at the Capitol (not so) and said only a first four or five rows were filled. UA, however, was for plenty of seats in L.A. as well, 1900 at the Fox Wilshire, where Twelve Angry Men had “a slow $7,000” for its first week. Similar product from UA, The Bachelor Party, was at the same time running at a more congenial L.A. address, the Fine Arts, and did better as result. Expecting “wheelbarrows” of cash at ticket windows, UA stuck with large venues despite Fonda misgivings. As the distributor had supplied financing, according to Fonda in memoirs, it was their call to make, strategy being to follow NY-LA dates with 44 key openings around the country (Motion Picture Daily). The star canvassed all points to promote, something he shrank from on former occasions as actor-for-hire. Now he had a personal stake, and so played ball. Returns varied, Men “rugged” (as in good) at Omaha, stellar in Boston, but “dull” in Chicago. Both coast runs were branded disappointments, maybe due to big barn opens, as Fonda predicted (“close to fair” at the Capitol for a first week, as faint praise as Variety could devise). Funny thing though, Twelve Angry Men picked up for the Capitol’s second frame, so word-of-mouth must have been good. Things were overall spotty, however, according to Variety’s 5/1/57 tally for the Easter month, Twelve Angry Men “having some difficulty in getting started.”

Again The Knife Art For Purpose of First-Run Exploitation

It seemed Twelve Angry Men was a two-edged sword, or “switch-knife,” a prop emphasized in UA selling. Overheard by Variety (5/1/57) was this exchange between moviegoers: “There’s a good movie at the Capitol, 12 Angry Men,” said one, to which response, “I don’t want to see that. I remember seeing it on television.” Receipts at the Capitol had sagged to a “dull” $13K for a third and last frame, Twelve Angry Men ceding to Metro’s The Little Hut. Army Archerd waggishly suggested a double feature of 12 Angry Men and Three Violent Men: “Better keep an ambulance at the door.” By Fall of 1957, Twelve Angry Men was being sub-run as a combo with The Bachelor Party, both awash with awards from oversea fests as well as multiple placement on Ten Best lists, Twelve Angry Men lauded as “The Film Best Serving The National Interest” by at least one presenter. Such plaudits were well and good, but UA had to spike punch to fill paying seats, and this meant selling Twelve Angry Men on excitement basis, a threat of violence there, if not actually depicted on screen. The switch-knife as crucial to narrative became more so for merchandising the film, an enlarged image of the weapon used in most of promotional art. “Angry” words in copy also played a part: “Life In Their Hands, Death On Their Minds” --- “No Motion Picture Ever Stabbed So Deep” --- “It Explodes Like Twelve Sticks Of Dynamite.”

Ads Trumpet Twelve Angry Men Arrival To Los Angeles Television

Few films from 1957 are so revered as Twelve Angry Men. There was, oddly, not a network run, the film going into first-run syndication as part of UA’s “A-OK Package,” announced to TV in June, 1961, and sold afterward to “over 39 markets.” Much of 28 titles in the group were along horror/sci-fi cheapie lines, plus Paths Of Glory for prestige company. So was Twelve Angry Men a commercial bust as most writers since 1957 contend? Answer is an emphatic No --- it did fine. In fact, better than fine, thanks to costs kept way down on the negative. Twelve Angry Men was made for $358,000. Domestic rentals were $1,342,244.88. Foreign took an even better $2,273,920.04. Total worldwide rentals were $3,616,164.92. There were 14,744 domestic bookings, 26,469 foreign bookings. As of 2/24/90, Twelve Angry Men had earned $3.849 million in profit. This then, was a considerable hit. Henry Fonda’s view would persist, however; he'd call Twelve Angry Men a “failure” in his 1981 book. Had this producing partner been misled by UA bookkeepers? It would not be the first time a star was so ill-used. Actor/producers had to smarten up quick to play a numbers game. Maybe that’s a reason Fonda pledged never to produce another movie after Twelve Angry Men. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Headsman Claims a Warners Prize

Davis/Flynn Go Hammer/Tong in The Private Lives Of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Old-age Bette Davis regularly spat on this because it had Errol Flynn as Essex rather than her preferred Laurence Olivier. She finally saw Elizabeth and Essex again and came around to how fine Flynn actually was in a tough part. Having to moon over that death's head make-up, wig, and popping BD eyes while Olivia DeHavilland fairly hurls herself at you? --- well, that took acting beyond what Olivier could achieve. And to him, just watch Fire Over England and know how less effective Olivier would have been than Flynn as Essex. EF plays for as much humor as possible in face of, well, that Davis face, which is scary as what Mario Bava cooked up for some of sojourns later on. There was incident where BD slapped Errol too hard for a scene, him whacked by rings, bracelets she had on, to which he evidently cussed loudly and ended whatever prospect they might have had for friendship. Flynn implied she wanted more than latter, to which he demurred, so maybe there was personal basis for Queen Bette saying what a punk actor he was. She'd defame his talent from seeming moment Errol died in 1959.

"Troubled" productions play well in revival. If what they do on screen is less interesting, you can read action in terms of off-set conflict and division with studio brass, which was rife between Flynn, Davis, DeHavilland, and Warner Bros., players driven like slaves they were, despite big money most got (in Flynn's case, $5000 a week). He had a tough go at lines, them dense and mouthfuls of text from source play simplified to what matinee mobs could grasp. Davis had showed up looking more grotesque than producer Hal Wallis could abide, but the deed was done (her shaved-back hairline), and besides, the severe de-glamour had worked for Of Human Bondage, and from that drama triumph, BD evolved to WB's most valuable femme asset. She was fresh wind of then-perceived reality after spent bolt of Kay Francis and such who were more known by clothes they wore than emotion they enacted. It's easy to forget how revolutionary Davis came across where doing her things for a first time. She made bold strokes that were gambles then, if familiar now. Most serious actresses would emulate her, knowingly or not. There would probably not have been an Ida Lupino without Davis paving way, and Joan Leslie, a frank admirer, mimicked BD with all due respect on several amusing occasions.

How would this have been as "The Knight and The Lady"? Sounds like a title for Republic to conjure with, and yet it was proposed almost to point of release. East Coast sales hated The Private Lives Of Elizabeth and Essex. They said it sounded like an Alexander Korda export, which everyone figured for bad news. We like some of Korda now, but lest we forget what drag he was considered by high-dollar distributors and showmen who liked flow of cash through wicket windows. His stuff was British and that meant accents and no meaningful stars. To let anything American smack of UK goods went against B.O. grain, and so it was for Pvt. Lives E&E, which lost money in the end, despite being good and liked by most who ventured forth to see it. But what made others duck beyond the daunting title? Maybe Flynn not in action, despite costume and sword he wears, but doesn't use. Plus he and DeHavilland together, but not really, and sharing but one scene. They had been tendered before as a team, and this seemed a betrayal of natural expectation. Fans could not be denied what monthly mags gave them right to anticipate, and Flynn/DeHavilland in love combat, then ultimate clinch, was a least these two together implied, so why risk withholding it where they shared a bill? (but note: two so far, Charge Of The Light Brigade and Four's A Crowd, had ended with the pair parted, so Elizabeth and Essex was in that sense more of the same)  

Michael Curtiz Directs Flynn and Davis
Davis insisted the show be called "The Lady and The Knight," her placement first on credits and the title. "Elizabeth The Queen" would be OK too, as that crowded Flynn's character off altogether, though anyone seeing final product could have no doubt this was fully BD's picture. She howls, shrieks, breaks mirrors (many), and does "Bette Davis" all over the place. She's also funny and then suddenly wise in quieter scenes with Flynn, her Elizabeth knowing his Essex is too immature to recognize forces lined up against him, not on battlefields, but in royal court. These scenes are beautifully played by Davis and Flynn. My emotional investment in their hopeless love is complete each time I watch, and that's the mark of great performing. Michael Curtiz directed The Private Lives Of Elizabeth and Essex. Evidently, none of principals could stand him, even as all realized no one could do this job so well. He had  remarkable way with composition, such sweep even where we're confined to a throne room (big enough to play football in). DeHavilland threw a fit one afternoon when he tried overworking her. I'd like seeing an outtake of that ... wonder if it would be as good as her "son .. of ... a ... bitch" blooper from 1943's Devotion that came back to haunt her in a recent lawsuit against Fox and "Feud." The Private Lives Of Elizabeth and Essex is available on DVD, but catch TCM's spiffed-up HD broadcast. The pic has not looked so good before.
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