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Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Jeopardy" contestant never heard of Joan Fontaine

Last week on the popular TV quiz show "Jeopardy", there was a question about Olivia and Joan, under the category "Hollywood History". I didn't watch the program, but apparently the question had something to do with naming the first sisters to be nominated for Oscars in the same year.

Contestant Kara Spak, a Chicago Sun Times writer with a history of embarrassing gaffes on the show,  failed to answer the Olivia-Joan question correctly. According to her own admission, she never even heard of Joan Fontaine:

I knew it would take a minor miracle for me to advance into the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions two-day final. I thought that minor miracle might occur during Final Jeopardy, with the “Hollywood History” category.

It did not. I was within striking distance, but in the end, victory eluded me, along with the names of the first two sisters who had been nominated for Oscars in the same category, the Final Jeopardy question.

Joan Fontaine? I had never heard of her until Alex Trebek said her name. The sister of Olivia de Havilland? Also news to me.

Read the full text of Spak's humorous report here:
Final Final Jeopardy for Sun-Times reporter
(Chicago Sun-Times, Nov 10 2011)

At the 1941 Oscars, Joan Fontaine was nominated for Suspicion (and won), and Olivia de Havilland was nominated for Hold Back the Dawn.

This was the first time a pair of sisters were nominated in the same category. I think the last time was in 1966 when Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave were both nominated for Best Actress (and lost to Elizabeth Taylor)

A complete list of winners can be found here:

You Can't Beat Love (1937)

From RKO Pictures, this is a funny political comedy that came out in the summer of 1937, one of Joan's five films from that year. At only 62 minutes long, it was was part of a triple bill in New York, according to the NY Times review of the film.

Preston Foster plays a wealthy single socialite named "Jimmy Hughes" (perhaps a distant relative of Howard Hughes?). When we first meet him, we learn that he loves to sleeps late, has a butler named Jasper (Herbert Mundin) and doesn't have a care in the world. The opening scenes with Jimmy and Jasper are really funny. 

One day Jimmy finds himself in a rather unusual circumstance -  digging ditches with other laborers. But he's only doing it for money - some newspaper reporters dared him to work outdoors in his tuxedo for $500. The other workers taunt him for wearing his fancy duds ("Can I have the next dance?" one jokes), and when Jimmy breaks for lunch, Jasper sets up a table with champaign and caviar sandwiches!

Suddenly, the Mayor's campaign bus pulls up, hoping to earn the votes of the workers. A group of campaigners (including Joan) set up a table with free cake. Joan's character makes a speech urging everyone to re-elect the Mayor.

Preston Foster's Jimmy calls the mayor a fraud and says no one has the guts to oppose him. An aggravated Joan asks, "well why don't you do it?" Preston: "I think I will!". The rest of the movie is just as silly, and involves political mudslinging, mistaken identity, and a romance between Preston and Joan, who plays the mayor's daughter!
In one of the funniest scenes, the crooked chief of police hires a Mae West-like temptress named Bubbbles (Barbara Pepper) to seduce Jimmy and scandalize his campaign (the plot backfires).

The supporting cast includes Paul Hurst,
Barbara Pepper, and Herbert Mundlin

I enjoyed this movie, especially the supporting cast including Paul Hurst as Jimmy's bodyguard. He steals every scene. But I think I liked the first half of the movie better than the last half/ending.

Not on DVD or VHS, the movie sometimes plays on Turner Classic Movies.