Dizzy Dialogue in ‘Christopher Strong’

While watching Christopher Strong (1933) recently, we were struck by one perplexing line of dialogue. First, some context…

Christopher Strong posterIn the movie, Colin Clive plays the title character, a member of Parliament who prides himself on his love for and commitment to his wife of many years (played by Billie Burke, who was, it’s interesting to note, nearly 16 years older than Clive). Their daughter, Monica (played by Helen Chandler, who was just six years younger than Clive—quite a trick, that), is a thrill-seeker who, as the movie opens, is involved with Harry Rawlinson (Ralph Forbes), an unhappily married man.

Katharine Hepburn plays Lady Cynthia Darrington, a world-renown aviatrix, in the picture, which was just her second movie. We’ll get back to her.

Rawlinson eventually divorces his wife and weds Monica. Sir Strong and Lady Strong initially oppose Monica’s marriage to a man she was having an adulterous affair with, but when she announces that she’s pregnant, they are persuaded to accept the union and be happy for Monica and Harry.

But here’s the point of this post: During a scene at a restaurant, where Monica and Harry have just revealed to Lady Strong that they are expecting, in walks Lady Darrington—who, as it happens, is having an affair with Sir Strong (we know, we know) and is, unbeknownst to him, also pregnant.

A woman of her acquaintance approaches Lady Darrington to share Monica and Harry’s news of a coming blessed event, and in sharing this news with her, the woman says something along the lines of, “They don’t yet know whether it’s a girl or a boy.”

And that left us scratching our heads: Monica and Harry have just learned they’re pregnant, and it’s 1933. Of course they don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, right? We almost expected Lady Darrington to do a double-take and say, “Of course they don’t know if it’s a boy or girl—how could they?”

So why was that line in the picture?

We wondered if perhaps we just weren’t up to speed on the state of obstetrics in the early 1930s, so we checked with our favorite ob-gyn, Dr. Mary Kirk, and asked her if there were, at that time, accurate scientific methods of determining the sex of an unborn child that we were simply unaware of.

“In the 1930s, you would find out the sex in the delivery room,” said Dr. Kirk. “There were all kinds of old wives’ tales, but nothing reliable. Ultrasound was not even very accurate or consistent until the 1970s, and only then much later in a pregnancy.”

In short, Dr. Kirk agreed that the line of dialogue was very odd, indeed. So the mystery of why it was included remains…

Happy 75th Anniversary, Casablanca!

It’s a tough choice, but if asked to name our favorite motion picture of all time, we’d have to say it’s Casablanca​, which premiered 75 years ago today in New York City. (You can still visit the theatre where it debuted, but you’ll have to watch the video to learn more about that.)

We rewatched the “La Marseillaise” scene recently, in which a passionate rendition of the French national anthem gives the patrons of Rick’s Cafe Americain a small but satisfying victory over Maj. Strasser and his Nazi henchmen, and though we’ve seen this wonderful movie easily a dozen times (probably closer to two dozen), that scene still gave us chills.

Here are 16 things you should know about Casablanca​, the official movie of Cladrite Radio…

Happy 112th Birthday, Mikio Naruse!

Director and screenwriter Mikio Naruse was born 112 years today in Tokyo, Japan. Naruse isn’t as well-known as some other directors of classic Japanese cinema, such as Yazujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, and Kenji Mizoguchi, but we are great admirers of his quiet, well-crafted family dramas and the compelling women who are so often at the center of them (not to mention the remarkable actresses who played them). 誕生日おめでとう、成瀬巳喜男、どこにおしています… (Happy birthday, Mikio Naruse, wherever you may be…)

Here are 10 things you should know about Mikio Naruse…

Happy 121st Birthday, Paul Muni!

Actor Paul Muni was born Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund in what is now the Ukraine 121 years ago today. Here are 10 PM Did-You-Knows:

  • Both of his parents were professional actors in the Yiddish theatre.
  • Muni grew up speaking Yiddish. When he was seven, his family left Austria-Hungary and settled in Chicago.
  • Beginning in 1908, Muni spent four years with New York’s Yiddish Art Theatre before moving on to work for the next 14 years with other Yiddish theatres in NYC.
  • His first English-language role—and Broadway debut—was in a 1926 production of a play called We Americans. Though just 31 years of age, Muni portrayed an elderly man.
  • Muni began his motion picture career in 1929, but continued to alternate between the Broadway stage and Hollywood.
  • Muni, along with James Dean, is one of just two actors to receive an Oscar nomination for his first film role (The Valiant, 1929) and his last (The Last Angry Man, 1959). Muni totaled six Oscar nominations, winning once (Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Story of Louis Pasteur, 1936).
  • Muni’s nickname was Munya.
  • Muni suffered his entire life with a rheumatic heart.
  • Muni turned down the role of Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941). The part eventually went to Humphrey Bogart.
  • In 1956, Muni won the Tony Award for Best Actor (Dramatic) for his role as Henry Drummond in the play Inherit the Wind.

Happy birthday, Paul Muni, wherever you may be!

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