This week’s mystery movie was the 1953 MGM film Torch Song, with Joan Crawford, Michael Wilding, Gig Young, Marjorie Rambeau, Henry (Harry) Morgan, Dorothy Patrick, James Todd, Eugene Loring, Paul Guilfoyle and Benny Rubin.
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes and Jan Lustig.
Based on a story by I.A.R. Wylie.
Musical direction by Adolph Deutsch.
Musical numbers staged by Charles Walters.
Follow Me by Adolph Deutsch. You Won’t Forget Me, by Kermit Goell and Fred Spielman. Tenderly by Jack Lawrence and Walter Gross. Two Faced Woman by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz.
Color by Technicolor.
Photography by Robert Planck. Technicolor consultant Henri Jaffa. Color consultant Alvord Eiseman.
Art direction by Cedric Gibbons and Preston Ames.
Edited by Albert Akst.
Set decorations by Edwin B. Willis and Jack D. Moore.
Special effects by Warren Newcombe.
Women’s costumes by Helen Rose.
Recording supervisor Douglas Shearer.
Assistant director Al Jennings.
Hairstyles by Sydney Guilaroff.
Makeup by William Tuttle.
Produced by Henry Berman and Sidney Franklin Jr.
Directed by Charles Walters.
More on the history of Torch Song is available from the AFI catalog.
Torch Song is available on a Warner Archive DVD from Critics’ Choice Videos.
Howard Mandelbaum sends along the Carol Burnett takeoff on Torch Song:
I chose Torch Song on the basis of the reviews in the trades and I was not prepared for the blackface sequence. Others have spoken more eloquently than I about blackface, but I cannot imagine how this seemed to anyone to be a good idea in the 1950s.
I’m going to guess that Bosley Crowther hated it.
Wrong and wrong. It’s A.W. (possibly Abe Weiler) of the alphabet soup critics (New York Times, Oct. 13, 1953):
In Torch Song, which arrived yesterday at Lowe’s State, Joan Crawford’s obvious charms are enhanced by Technicolor, and she wears a profusion of gowns and accessories likely to dazzle designers and debutantes while singing and dancing the numbers of a bulging musical comedy book. Miss Crawford, it is only fair to state, never looked lovelier and it might be indicated also that Torch Song is not precisely a bright new kind of story. Miss Crawford’s desperate need for love is the essence of the drama here, a film problem, it would appear, that she has encountered before.
For Monday, we have a mysterious piano player.
Update: This is Rudy Render.
ps. I’m now <a href=”http://Mastodon“>on Mastodon. (Ignore this. It’s just to get the website verified at Mastodon).
For Tuesday, we have a mystery fellow. The leading lady in the fishnet stockings does NOT approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Charles Walters and the fishnet-clad leg of Miss Crawford.
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have a mystery woman.
Update: This is Marjorie Rambeau.
We also have this mystery woman.
Update: This is Maidie Norman.
Brain Trust roll call: Jenny M. (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery pianist and Tuesday’s mystery leading lady), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and all mystery guests) and Robert Morrissey (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery pianist and Tuesday’s mystery leading lady).
Thanks to Howard for sending along a link to the Carol Burnett takeoff of our mystery movie and to Robert for pointing out one of the more dubious milestones achieved by our mystery movie.
For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mysterious fellow. Also Back of the Head Woman.
Update: This is Harry/Henry Morgan and Joan Crawford as Back of the Head Woman.
And this mystery guest. Our mysterious leading woman has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness.
Update for Friday: Adding pouty leading lady.
Update: This is Joan Crawford in one of her many costume changes in Torch Song. Also Gig Young.
Brain Trust roll call: Beach Gal (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery pianist and Wednesday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery guests), Mary Mallory (mystery movie, Monday’s mysterious piano player, mystery woman in fishnet stocking and Wednesday’s mystery guests), B.J. Merholz (Wednesday’s mystery guest No. 2), Sylvia E. (mystery movie, all mystery guests and mystery leg in fishnet stocking), Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery guests), L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast), Anne Papineau (mystery movie and mystery guests, plus mystery leg in fishnet stocking) and Megan and Thom (mystery movie, Monday’s mysterious piano player and Wednesday’s mystery guests).
For Friday, we have our mysterious leading man and a mysterious companion.
Update: This is Dorothy Patrick and Michael Wilding.
And then we have our mysterious leading lady in blackface. I wasn’t prepared for this sequence and my jaw was on the floor.
Update: This is Joan Crawford. Ouch.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery guests and cropped-out woman), Beach Gal (Tuesday’s mystery dancer and fishnet stocking woman and Back of the Head Woman, and Thursday’s mystery guests), Benito (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery guests and Back of the Head Woman), Incredibleinman (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery guests and Back of the Head Woman), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guest No. 2 and cropped-out woman), Gary (mystery movie, Back of the Head Woman, Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 1 and Thursday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Sylvia E. (Thursday’s mystery guests and Back of the Head Woman/cropped-out woman) and Suzanne (mystery movie, mysterious fishnet stocking woman, Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 1, Thursday’s mystery fellow No. 1).
Bobby Short in CALL ME MISTER.
An excellent guess, but alas….
Movie – Torch Song
Monday- Rudy Render
Tuesday – John Brascia and Joan Crawford
Monday: Rudy Render
Tuesday: Charles Walters, Joan Crawford
AHA!! Fishnet stockings…..it’s JOAN in Torch Song (1953), playing a famous Broadway singing and dancing star. It’s got to be one of the last Hollywood movies to feature its star in blackface makeup. So then that’s Rudy Render in Monday’s photo.
Bob Fosse on Tuesday?
Marjorie Rambeau; Maidie Norman.
Film is Torch Song
Mon – Rudy Render
Tues – I think our mystery top hat dancer is John Brascia
Wed #1 – Marjorie Rambeau
Wed #2 – Maidie Norman
TORCH SONG. Rudy Render Monday, John Brascia Tuesday, Marjorie Rambeau and Maidie Norman today.
I’ll take a flyer on Maidie Norman.
“Torch Song” 1953
Mon – Rudy Render (full name Rudolph Valentino Render)
Tue – director / dancer, Charles Walters and Joan Crawford’s leg.
Wed – image 1- Marjorie Rambeau /
image 2 – Madie Norman ( who was my key to the picture) Ms Norman was to join Ms Crawford years later in ‘whatever happened to baby Jane?’
Interesting to read that there’s a musical number later where Ms Crawford appears in blackface. Ah, Hollywood.
Marjorie Rambeau and Maidie Norman in TORCH SONG.
Torch Song (1953) Joan Crawford, Marjorie Rambeau, Michael Wilding, Maidie Norman, Gig Young, John Brascia, Rudy Render…
Oh lordy, it’s Torch Song!!!! Rudy Render plays the piano, Charles Walters dances around Joan’s leg, Marjorie Rambeau listens and I’m not sure what Maidie Norman is up to.
Our movie is Torch Song with Rudy Render on Monday, and Maidie Norman and Marjorie Rambeau today.
Is that Joan’s leg Tuesday?
Eugene Loring Tuesday, and Harry Morgan and Gig Young today with JC off camera.
Wen #1 – Harry Morgan
Wen #2 – Gig Young
Tues is Chuck Walters, dancing partner/film director., Our fishnet dancing leading lady, as well as bothl, is Joan Crawford.
Henry Morgan, Joan Crawford’s back of her head, and Gig Young in TORCH SONG 1953. PS Blackface alert!
Henry (Harry) Morgan and Gig Young today, with the back of Joan Crawford’s head, makes this “Torch Song.”
Joan Crawford and Gig Young.
The iconic auburn hairdo has to be Joan C in Torch Song. Plus Gig and Henry and Marjorie R.
Harry Morgan; Gig Young.
Joan Crawford is the BOTHW and cropped for lack of mysteriousness to Harry (Henry) Morgan and Gig Young.
Read that this was Crawford’s first color film. That’s a real surprise, given the release date.
Joan Crawford’s leg in TORCH SONG, with Marjorie Rambeau as her mom…Harry Morgan with the hat…I keep myself from checking IMDB so i do not know the rest of the cast.
Paul Guilfoyle Tuesday, and Dorothy Patrick and Michael Wilding today.
Update on Thurs #1 – leading lady Joan Crawford with Gig Young
Fri #1 – Dorothy Patrick and Michael Wilding
Fri #2 – Joan Crawford in black face
Dorothy Patrick, Michael Wilding; Joan Crawford
Friday’s leading lady is Joan Crawford in 1953’s Torch Song.
Dorothy Patrick, Michael Wilding and Joan Crawford.
Dorothy Patrick and Michael Wilding
Joan Crawford in the “Two-faced Woman” number. Such a strange choice, but she was the one in creative control.
I think part my reaction stems from this being 1953, so probably production occurred in 1952. It’s so tone deaf for the time. You saw blackface musical numbers regularly up through the 1940s. But by the 1950s they were gone or at least altered to keep the music but, it was hoped, lose the offensiveness. A good example is “Holiday Inn” and the Lincoln’s Birthday number. When it was finally available on TV, stations edited out as much as possible (tough because a key story point happens at the end of the number.) Though I still cringe “what were they thinking!” even for the forties, being aware of how insulting it was (to members of the audience and even to some cast members) was not really in play as a consideration at the time. A decade later in “White Christmas”, there’s a minstrel number and no one is in blackface, no one performing in stereotype actions. Number works just fine.
By the way, I believe that “Holiday Inn” should be shown, in full, in historical context – as is done with other films. Maybe the same with this one.
Looking forward to your Saturday breakdown.