Raquel Stecher

Raquel Stecher

I'm a film writer

I specialize in classic films and have been running the blog Out of the Past for 10 years. I'm also a full-time online marketer in the book industry.

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Kirkandanne article
outofthepastblog.com

Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood

Kirk Douglas met Anne Buydens in Paris 1953. They fell in love and married in Las Vegas the following year. It sounds like the makings of a whirlwind romance but it was anything but that. Anne heard that Kirk Douglas needed a translator while he was in Europe. She met with him and turned down the job. This drove Kirk a little batty. The divorced Kirk had a busy dating life and was serious with actress Pier Angeli when he met Anne. Although he was immediately smitten with Anne and she with him, he made it clear early on that he planned on marrying Pier. Oh how different dating was back then! Anne couldn’t stand being the other woman and she broke up with Kirk which drove him right into her arms. They soon married and are still married today more than 60 years later.
The book is written from both Kirk and Anne’s perspectives. Readers learn the story of young Issur Danielovitch, a young Jewish man growing up in abject poverty in Amsterdam, NY. He grew up with a doting mother, 6 sisters, a disinterested father and a passion for acting. Then there’s the story of Hannelore Marx born and raised in Germany. During WWII she fled the Nazis and reemerged as Anne Buydens. Kirk Douglas became a world-famous actor and Anne became a movie industry executive helping Hollywood actors with translation and organizing the Cannes Film Festivals. We learn about their family lives, careers, how they met and the journey they had with all it’s ups and downs including Anne’s breast cancer, Kirk’s stroke, manager Sam Norton’s extortion of their finances and the death of their son Eric.

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Out of the Past: A Classic Film Blog

Prisoners of war are interrogated and tortured for their secrets. But what happens when they're tricked out of them?

Directed and adapted for the screen by George Seaton, 36 Hours (1965) is a fascinating WWII film about a major in the US Navy whose drugged and captured by the Germans. When he comes to he's made to believe that it's 6 years later and the war is over opening up the opportunity for the Germans to learn crucial information about the imminent invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day.

James Garner stars as Major Jefferson Pike. The US Navy has sent him to Lisbon, Portugal on an intelligence mission. However before he's able to execute his assignment, a German spy slips something into his coffee which knocks him out and he's taken prisoner. While he's unconscious a team of Nazis work to execute an elaborate plan that's been months in the making. Led by psychiatrist Major Walter Gerber (Rod Taylor), the team has studied Pike for months. Their plan is to make him think it's 1950 and he's recovering in an American Navy hospital. He's recruited fellow Germans who speak impeccable English to play Americans. Also part of his team is Anna Hedler (Eva Marie Saint), a concentration camp victim who spoke good English, was a trained nurse and saw this as an opportunity out of her situation. Anna plays his wife and nurse and Gerber plays a sympathetic American major and psychiatrist. A team of doctors perform plastic surgery on Pike to make him look like he's aged by 6 years. Gerber gets word from his higher ups that he only has 36 hours to finish his project and get important battle details out of Pike. His superior Otto Schack (Werner Peters) is visiting and anxious to interrogate the prisoner all the while doubting Gerber's plan. Will Pike figure out what's going on before he reveals too much?

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10 Must-See Robert Mitchum Movies for His Centennial Year ...

Robert Mitchum is my favorite actor. There is something about his on-screen charisma that keeps me coming back for more. He brightens up even a dull movie. August 6th marks the 100th anniversary of Robert Mitchum’s birth. To celebrate, I encourage all of you to marathon some of his best films. New to Mitchum? I highly recommend starting with Out of the Past (1947), the classic film noir that put him on the map. Once you’ve watched that, follow it up with these 10 films available on DVD Netflix to rent. Even if you’re familiar with Robert Mitchum, it’s still fun to revisit the legendary actor’s body of work.
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On the Making of Out of the Past (1947)

Out of the Past (1947) is based on the 1946 novel Build My Gallows High by Geoffrey Homes, a pen name for author Daniel Mainwaring. The film rights for the story went to auction before the novel was even published. RKO's William Dozier beat out Warner Bros. with the winning bid. Although the book was released as Build My Gallows High, it wasn't quite right for the movie. Such a morbid title wasn't going to work for audiences and a Gallup poll conducted by RKO confirmed that. The name was changed to Out of the Past most likely after filming was wrapped up.

Along with the rights to the novel, RKO also brought Mainwaring on board to work on the screenplay. He took a crack at it but it proved to be too complicated and the flashback structure just wasn't working. Various sources say that author James M. Cain (Postman Always Rings Twice) also attempted to write the screenplay by making numerous changes to Mainwaring's story and characters. Director Jacques Tourneur apparently read both screenplays and requested his own changes. A third writer, Frank Fenton, solidified the structure and added some colorful dialogue. Although multiple screenwriters worked on the adaptation, only Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Homes) received credit. In the end Tourneur still thought the final product was confusing but went ahead with the production regardless.

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The Beloved Brat (1938)

The Beloved Brat (1938) could just be a story of a spoiled brat who learns the error of her ways and transforms into a well-behaved child. This Warner Bros. film is much more than that. In its mere 62 minutes of screen time it packs a wallop with two big takeaways: 1) there are big consequences to suffer when you neglect your child and 2) you should find it in your heart to be inclusive of others.

The Beloved Brat is based on an original story by Jean Negulesco, who was on loan to Warner Bros. as a writer in 1938 and soon transitioned into a career as a director. Directed by Arthur Lubin, the film stars Bonita Granville as Roberta Morgan, the only child of a wealthy couple. She's been primarily raised by the household servants and her governess because her mother Mrs. Morgan (Natalie Moorhead) and her father Mr. Morgan (Donald Crisp) are far too busy with their careers and travels to pay much attention to their daughter. This results in Roberta acting out. A lot. The more Roberta feels stifled, the more she acts out and the more they try to repress her. It's a vicious cycle. The one person who seems to be emotionally invested in her is her father's secretary Williams (Donald Briggs). He's also the only person to remember her on her birthday which turns ends with a sad little party only attended by the servants and with cake she doesn't even get to eat.

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Medium

Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled (2017) – Cine Suffragette – Medium

If you’ve seen the Don Siegel’s 1971 adaptation of The Beguiled, it’s easy to compare and contrast it with Sofia Coppola’s version. Both intend to tell the same story, the one told in Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel of the same name, but they deviate in one thing: perspective.

Director Sofia Coppola was looking for a new project when a friend of hers suggested that she remakes Seigel’s The Beguiled. She studied the original source material including Cullinan’s novel and knew she needed to tell the story in her own way. Working on the script, Coppola stripped the story down to its essentials. She envisioned a more focused story honing in on the experiences of women living at an all-girls school in the America’s Civil War era South. Cullinan’s novel was written with multiple perspectives and Siegel’s adaptation follows the male lead, John McBurney played by Clint Eastwood. Coppola’s vision shifted to the female point of view.

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On the Making of River of No Return (1954)

River of No Return (1954) was supposed to be a small picture; a simple B Western shot on the cheap in Idaho with a small cast and a skeleton crew. Writer Louis Lantz had the idea of taking Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief and turning it into a Western. Producer Stanley Rubin worked with Lantz and writer Frank Fenton on developing the story for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Production was moving forward until Zanuck decided to up the ante and add Fox's biggest star Marilyn Monroe to the mix. Everything had to be brought up a notch. Robert Mitchum and Rory Calhoun were added to the cast as was child actor Tommy Rettig. It would be shot in color with Cinemascope, a new technology Fox had invested a lot of money in. And Otto Preminger, who was under contract to the studio, would be directing the film whether he liked it or not.
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Aliveandkicking article
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National Dance Day: Interview with Norma Miller and Susan Glatzer

At 97 years old, Norma Miller is still as feisty as ever. The legendary swing dancer is the last surviving member of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers which also included the late great Frankie Manning. She started dancing at the age of 5 and quickly became an attraction whether it was on the sidewalks of Harlem or in the Savoy Ballroom. In my phone conversation with Norma Miller she explained, "the Savoy Ballroom was the first integrated place in America. And it was a place where we could go in every night and dance and we didn't have to pay to come in."At the tender age of twelve, she and her mother lived across from the Savoy Ballroom and Miller could often be found dancing just outside it. She was invited in and soon started enchanting eager audiences with her moves.

Miller then caught the eye of Herbert White, also known as "Whitey" and he invited her to become one of his dancers. On becoming one of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers Miller told me, "that became the professional act that came out of the Savoy Ballroom. We were traveling for [the] Whitey's Lindy Hoppers [in] 1937." Whitey's troupe of talented swing dancers traveled the world and it wasn't long before she got to Hollywood.

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5 Classic Movies Filmed in Hawaii

THE BLACK CAMEL (1931)

The much beloved fictional character Charlie Chan was created by author Earl Derr Biggers and inspired by a real-life Honolulu police detective. Although Charlie Chan’s home base is Oahu, the film series takes the detective all over the place to solve mysteries. In The Black Camel (1931), Charlie Chan solves the murder of a Hollywood movie star that was filming in Honolulu. The movie stands out because it’s the only one in the entire series of almost 50 films to be shot on location in Hawaii. You’ll see scenes from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki, Punchbowl Hill, as well as Kailua Beach.

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Undercurrent (1946)

In 1946 Robert Mitchum was under contract to RKO. They had loaned him out to MGM for two pictures Undercurrent (1946) and Desire Me (1947) which were filmed back-to-back. He had relatively small roles in both as the third person in a romantic melodrama. Both films turned out to be box office failures. Not that this hurt Mitchum's career trajectory at all. In fact, placing Mitchum in movies with the type of high-caliber stars that were missing from RKO's line-up, in this case MGM heavyweights Greer Garson in Desire Me and Katharine Hepburn and Robert Taylor in Undercurrent, was incredible exposure for Mitchum. And the following year he'd make Out of the Past (1947) which would help secure him a spot as a popular leading man in Hollywood.
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Obit. Life on a Deadline (2016)

"Obits have next to nothing to do with the death and absolutely everything to do with the life." - Margalit Fox

Classic film enthusiasts are well-acquainted with obituaries. The deaths of our beloved stars are a common occurrence. When someone dies we take the time to reflect on their life. Reading obits on and offline is one of the ways we celebrate the life and mourn the loss. When I first started this blog I always knew that I didn't want to write obits. At first I would post little tributes instead with just a few words and a picture or two. Even then it became too much and I abandoned the practice. I have the utmost respect for those who regularly write obits even more so now that I watched the new documentary Obit. Life on a Deadline (2016).

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Betrayed (1944)

In 1949, Robert Mitchum was a household name. By that time he had made a splash in the genre that was later dubbed film noir with movies such as The Locket (1946), Undercurrent (1946), Crossfire (1947) and the noir we all know and love Out of the Past (1947). That last film made him famous and his arrest in 1948 for the possession of marijuana made him notorious. The King brothers, Frank and Maurice King, must have been following the trajectory of Mitchum's career very closely. Five years earlier, Mitchum made two films for the King brothers and poverty row studio Monogram Pictures. The first one was Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1944) (you can read my review here), a WWII housing shortage comedy starring Simone Simon. Mitchum had a very minor role in that film. He got a juicier part in When Strangers Marry (1944) which also produced by the King brothers and distributed by Monogram. In that film Mitchum didn't have the lead role but he was third billed with his name truncated to Bob Mitchum so it would fit the poster. Fast forward five years and Mitchum was now making movies for Howard Hughes at RKO. And he was doing well. If you know anything about the King brothers you'd know that when they saw a money-making opportunity they pounced. With Mitchum's fame and notoriety firmly established in Hollywood, Maurice and Frank King re-released their two Mitchum movies. They bumped up his name to top billing, altered the posters to more prominently display the star and changed Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore to And So They Were Married and When Strangers Marry to the more ominous Betrayed.

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The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic

The Pride of the Yankees (1942) is considered one of the greatest sports films of all time. It served as the template for how movies about inspirational athletes would be made. It cemented Lou Gehrig as not only a legend of baseball but an important figure in American history. And Gehrig's final speech, one that demonstrated gratefulness in spite of his dire circumstances, would inspire generations to come. 75 years after it's initial release the film still has the power to move audiences to tears.
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Dawsoncity article
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Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016)

It's a cinephile's dream to unearth a trove of silent gems. Films unseen for many decades, written off as lost forever are brought to life again. When this event occurs usually one or two films are found in someone's attic or shed. Sometimes these discoveries happen in lands many miles away from birthplace of the film. We hear about newly discovered silents, sometimes entire films, sometimes just fragments, coming from South America or Australia.

"Dawson had an idle, captive audience ready to be entertained." - Dawson City: Frozen Time

Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada is over three thousand miles away from Hollywood. It's an isolated city in the heart of the gold rush territory of the north. Once a gambling town that suffered from countless fires, it eventually became the home of a small community of just under 1,000 people. In the 1910s and 1920s, Dawson City residents were captivated by the silent films shown at their local athletic center's family theater. Dawson was the end of the line for film distribution. Back in those days, film distributors would send out nitrate prints for rental periods. After the rental period was over, the theaters would send back the prints. Because Dawson was so far away, it would sometimes take 2-3 years to arrive in Dawson. Not only was it cost-prohibitive to pay to get the prints back, by then the distributors were no longer interested in them. The local Dawson bank was in charge of making sure the films were only screened during that rental period before locking them up. As the years passed they ran out of room. Crates of nitrates were set ablaze, dumped in the Yukon river and just over 500 reels were used to fill a pool in the local athletic center. Over 50 years later, those reels, buried in permafrost and forgotten were unearthed.

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Sadiemckeedvd article
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Sadie McKee (1934)

On the heels of Dancing Lady (1933), MGM teamed up off screen couple Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone for another on screen romance in Sadie McKee (1944). But it seems like Hollywood wouldn't let Crawford be the apple of one eye. She has to be desired by several. Crawford stars as Sadie McKee, a maid working for the wealthy Alderson family. Michael Alderson (Franchot Tone) has returned home to discover that Sadie has blossomed into a beauty. But Sadie is in love with the formerly employed Tommy (Gene Raymond). The two run off to New York together and plan to marry. Sadie befriends Opal (Jean Dixon), a street-wise dame with a penchant for a good time. While the two are waiting for Tommy to show up at the courthouse for the wedding, he runs off with show girl Dolly (Esther Ralston). Sadie is destitute of both money and love. She starts a new life as a show girl (plus a little more) to make ends meet. That's when she meets the incredibly wealthy and incredibly drunk Jack Brennan (Edward Arnold). Brennan is smitten with her and through marriage offers her an opportunity to get ahead. Sadie takes advantage of this even though it puts her in the precarious situation of taking care of an alcoholic. She also suffers the disdain of Brennan's friend and her old acquaintance Alderson and Brennan's staff including his butler Finnegan (Leo G. Carroll). Sadie takes on the task of saving Brennan from himself, closing one chapter in her life and starting a new one.

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