On snow day, we screen Broken Arrow: Breaking! As our sprawling campus was being hit with as much as 0.01 inches of snow, we declared a snow day and a Daily Howler Film Festival.
Thanks to TCM and On Demand, we were able to screen Broken Arrow, the 1950 western which featured this romantic/marital pairing:
Broken Arrow 1950: Jimmy Stewart, 42 in real life; Debra Paget, 16According to the leading authority on Broken Arrow, the film "won a Golden Globe award for Best Film Promoting International Understanding."
"Film historians have said that the movie was one of the first major Westerns since the Second World War to portray the Indians sympathetically."
We're going to guess that those historians could also be thought of as "experts." Our interest in the film was recently piqued when research told us of Paget's role in the film.
According to the leading authority on her life, Paget seems to have come from a vaudeville/burlesque family. Our own sainted father was in vaudeville/burlesque, though on the business end.
Bud and Lou were some sort of family friends, or so the old snapshots say. Also, even the tempestuous Dorothy Lamour, sidekick to Bing and Bob in the Road to... movies, though this was all well before our own time.
Thanks to a show business mother, Paget was under contract in Hollywood starting at age 14. She's best known as the love interest in Love Me Tender, Elvis' first film. But years earlier, she had starred with—and even married!—Stewart in Broken Arrow.
According to the leading authority on Broken Arrow, she was 16 during filming; he was 42. It was the way of the era.
Meanwhile, the leading authority on Paget's life tells the story like this:
Paget's first notable film role was as Teena Riconti, girlfriend of the character played by Richard Conte, in Cry of the City, a 1948 film noir directed by Robert Siodmak. Fresh out of high school in 1949, she acted in three other films before being signed by 20th Century-Fox. Her first vehicle for Fox was the successful Broken Arrow with James Stewart. At the age of 16, Paget played a Native American maiden, Sonseeahray ("Morning Star"), who falls in love with Stewart's character. Stewart was 42 at the time.Morning Star? We'll say! Heh heh heh heh heh!
Watching the first half of the award-winning film, we've been amazed to think that Stewart was making such dreck within four years of It's A Wonderful Life (1946).
The earlier film offers an iconic portrait of same-age American married life. In real life, Stewart was 38 at the time; the transplendent Donna Reed was 25.
In Hollywood. that counted as "same age" marriage. A more ridiculous era was a few years away.
By 1950, the peculiar era of "codger chic" was being launched in Tinseltown. As a result, Stewart was hooking up with Paget, who was still a high school student.
For a fascinating profile of Paget, try this 1951 Hedda Hopper column, exactly as it appeared in the Toledo Blade. We'll admit to a deep soft spot for families of this board-trotting type.
As this decade moved along, Hollywood created an array of portraits of old coots walking away with teen-aged brides. Future mothers in Alabama were absorbing this cultural ideal, as were several men.
In 2014, the Washington Post described Humphrey Bogart's relationship with Bacall as "the best love story ever." He was 44 when they met and got it on; she was inexperienced and 19.
Three years later, the Washington Post triggered a moral panic. Someone who was 32 had once dated someone who was 19. kissing her several times! Her mother had even seen him as "good marriage material." Every pundit knew that this latter fact had to be disappeared.
At the Post, the fact that the fellow had dated someone 19 reinforced the claim that he had molested someone who was 14. For ourselves, we don't approve of molesting people. We also don't approve of that kind of "journalism."
We have a soft spot for trouper families like Paget's. We'll admit that we're a bit less impressed with the people who staged that (latest) moral stampede.
While we're at it, we watched a few minutes at the start of last evening's Golden Globes. We'll admit to an unlovely basic reaction:
Given the reams of hypocrisy and misdirection being put on display by the various high-level "artists;" given the many major players who had enabled those decades of crime; what decent person would have wanted to be inside that room?
That was our unpleasant basic reaction during our moments of watching. We watched a bit of the opening monologue, didn't much like what we saw.