This week’s mystery movie has been the 1945 MGM picture “Yolanda and the Thief,” starring Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan, Mildred Natwick, Mary Nash, Leon Ames and Ludwig Stossel. The screenplay was by Irvin Brecher based on a story by Jacques Thery and Ludwig Bemelmans (the author of the Madeline books), with songs by Arthur Freed and Harry Warren and choreography by Eugene Loring. The picture was photographed in Technicolor by Charles Rosher, produced by Arthur Freed and directed by Vincente Minnelli.
“Yolanda and the Thief” springs from the fad during World War II for movies with a Latin American atmosphere. It was based on a story by Bemelmans published in Town and Country in 1943, according to Emanuel Levy’s biography of Minnelli. Listing E.Y. Harburg as the producer, the Los Angeles Times (July 26, 1943) explained that “MGM entered the fray [in making Latin American pictures] with a planned musical that promises the height of novelty” with a plot was a fantasy based on Latin American sources. Early casting for the film included Victor Moore in the role ultimately taken by Frank Morgan as Fred Astaire’s slightly disreputable sidekick and Lucille Ball co-starring with Lucille Bremer in an unspecified role. Hume Cronin was also mentioned for a part in the film.
“Yolanda” is available on DVD from Warner Archive for $16.59.
In Los Angeles, the film opened at the Los Angeles, Egyptian and Fox Ritz theaters in November 1945 and was reviewed by The Times’ Edwin Schallert (Nov. 21, 1945), who noted the lavish production values and flimsy plot. “Not for realists,” Schallert said, adding: “It is a question too whether this picture has the basic material to satisfy the general audience, although in texture and trimmings it might almost be termed an event.”
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times (Nov. 23, 1945) said: “Fetched from a mischievous fable by Jacques Thery and Ludwig Bemelmans, and mounted with charm and magnificence by Vincente Minnelli and Arthur Freed, it is a pleasing compound of sparkling mummery and glistening allures for eye and ear, hampered throughout by a flat script which doesn’t match the visual elegance with wit.”
I have to say that “Yolanda” was major a disappointment. Since I left The Times, I have tried to select the mystery movies with more care, featuring a film that hasn’t been released on DVD or has been overlooked in some respect. A couple of friends were discussing the brief movie career of Lucille Bremer and I thought she might make a good mystery guest. A search of the Daily Mirror film vault revealed only two of her pictures, “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “As the Clouds Roll By,” so I checked the local video store and found “Yolanda.”
Truth be told, nothing could save this very weak movie, which is sometimes described as the first production of MGM’s Freed unit to lose money. Irving Brecher’s script is dreadful and the concept might have been a charming story, but a movie it does not make. Bremer is a lovely woman, but terribly weak as a leading lady and the reason for the brevity of her Hollywood career is no mystery.
As I noted earlier in the week, I had quite a bit of trouble finding images from this film that don’t turn up in Google’s image search. A few years ago, I didn’t have to worry about Google’s image search spoiling the mystery photos, but it has become a major concern and these days, every image has to be vetted to make sure it isn’t online. On some days, I had to reject five or six otherwise usable photos because of Google, which raises the prospect of whether a day will come when all images except for the most obscure are identified online.
Behind the scenes, Earl Boebert and I have had an interesting exchange on trying to outsmart Google – and for now it can be done by clever cropping or flopping an image. But I suspect Google will eventually get wise to those tricks as well. I may be the only person on the Internet who wants to keep things off Google.
For Monday, we have a mystery gent with a serious mustache.
Update: This is Marek Windheim.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman.
Update: Yes Mildred Natwick – again.
Update: This is Jane Green.
In case you are wondering about Tuesday’s mystery woman, let me explain. This lady was supposed to be Tuesday’s mystery woman – but it was virtually impossible to find a photo of her that didn’t pop up on Google images. In fact, it seems that virtually all the decent images from this mystery movie are online somewhere. I grabbed Tuesday’s mystery woman in desperation, and yes, she is a repeat. My apologies.
As an aside, though, I must say that it is increasingly difficult to find usable images that aren’t already online. Crowd shots, of course, are unusable, so I’m confined to close-ups, and two- and three-shots. Digital recognition of human faces is apparently just part of the age in which we live, which makes mystery photos more and more difficult. To find this photo, I had to go through and discard five otherwise good pictures because they were on Google images. Very frustrating.
Brain Trust roll call: Sheila (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Mary Mallory (Tuesday’s mystery guest), David Inman (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery guest), Mike Hawks (mystery movie and mystery guests), Benito (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Candy Cassell (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Don Danard (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and mystery guests), Jenny M (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Pat in Michigan (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Dewey Webb (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery guest), Floyd Thursby (Tuesday’s mystery woman/wrong movie), Anne Papineau (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery guest), Megan, Lee Ann and Thom (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery guest), Pat van Hartesveldt (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Roget-L.A. (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery guest), Gary Martin (Tuesday’s mystery woman, wrong movie), LC (mystery movie and mystery cast), Sarah (Tuesday’s mystery guest) and Bob Hansen.
For Thursday, we have a mystery woman who is apparently uncomfortable about the water outlets in her sumptuous tub.
Update: Lucille Bremer.
Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery woman), Barbara Klein (Tuesday’s mystery woman/wrong movie), Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery woman), Patrick (mystery movie and mystery guests), Richard Wegescheide (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery woman), Sarah (mystery movie), Roget-L.A. (Wednesday’s mystery woman), Bob Hansen (mystery movie and mystery stars) and Dan Nather (mystery movie).
And for Friday, we have a mysterious woman and a rather puzzled mystery gent.
Update: Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer.
Brain Trust roll call: Dan Nather (Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guest), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guest), Jenny M (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guest), Roget-L.A. (Thursday’s mystery guest), Don Danard (Thursday’s mystery guest), Anne Papineau (Thursday’s mystery guest), Lee Ann, Megan and Thom (Thursday’s mystery guest), Barbara Klein (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guest) and Mary Mallory (mystery movie, wrong mystery guest).