This Time for Keeps
Cast & Crew
The season opening of a big city opera coincides with the return from the war of opera star Richard Herald's son Dick Johnson. Dick, who is also an opera singer, attends a pool party held in honor of returning servicemen and greets Leonora "Nora" Cambaretti, a water ballet dancer starring in the new "Aqua Capers" show. Nora, who entertained Dick and other wounded soldiers in Europe during the war, barely remembers the day she met Dick and he planted a kiss on her lips, but Dick remembers the kiss very well. Unaware that Dick is the son of a famous opera star, Nora, believing that he is penniless, asks friend Xavier Cugat to give him a job at his nightclub. Nora is also unaware that Dick's father expects him to marry Frances Allenbury, a childhood friend of Dick who is now a wealthy socialite. Ferdi Farro, Nora's pianist and self-appointed guardian, objects to Nora's interest in Dick, as does Gordon Coome, owner of the aquacade. Ferdi and Coome are both in love with Nora, but Nora is only interested in pursuing a romance with Dick. Time passes, and Nora consents to marry Dick if he can pass an "inspection" by her grandmother in Michigan. Braving the cold winter weather, Nora and Dick set out for Mackinac Island, to visit aging Grandma Cambaretti. Nora's grandmother instantly approves of Dick, as does Nora's young niece Deborah, but the wedding plans are soon called off when Nora receives word from Ferdi that newspapers have announced Dick and Frances' engagement. Believing that Dick has been deceiving her, Nora leaves Mackinac Island at once and returns home. Dick soon discovers that his father and Frances deliberately tried to sabotage his romance with Nora by placing the engagement announcement in the newspapers. Dick makes repeated attempts to explain the situation to Nora, but she refuses to speak with him. Several months pass, and Richard, now certain that his son will only be happy with Nora, has a change of heart and tries to aid Dick and Nora's reconciliation. After learning that Nora is vacationing at Mackinac Island, Richard convinces Ferdi to accompany him there to help bring Nora and Dick back together. Nora, meanwhile, makes plans to elope with Gordon. When they arrive on the island, Richard and Ferdi find that Dick is there, too, performing with Cugat's band at the Grand Hotel. Ferdi and Richard eventually convince Nora that Dick is worthy of her love, and they are happy to see that the couple will resume their romance.
Dame May Whitty
A. Arnold Gillespie
Henry W. Grace
Dr. Herbert Graf
Francesco Maria Piave
Friedrich Wilhelm Riese
Friedrich Von Flotow
Albert Von Tilzer
Edwin B. Willis
This Time for Keeps
Williams plays Nora, the star of an aquatic show and comedian Jimmy Durante is her friend and co-worker. Nora encounters a former GI, Dick (Johnnie Johnston), whom she met during the war, and the two fall in love. He's a pop singer, but his father (played by operatic legend Lauritz Melchior) wants him to become an opera singer like himself. Nora takes Dick home to picturesque Mackinac Island, Michigan to meet the family. The plot is of little consequence in this Technicolor confection produced by master of schmaltz Joe Pasternak; it's the music, the water ballets, the comedy, and the spectacular locations that are the main attractions in this slight but pleasant film.
This Time for Keeps was the third of four films Williams would make with director Richard Thorpe. Williams disliked Thorpe from the start, and the feeling was mutual. Thorpe was fast and efficient, which pleased MGM executives, but he was "cranky," Williams wrote in her autobiography. "Dick didn't like people who were too cheerful, which meant that he took an instant dislike to me." During production of their first film together, Thrill of a Romance (1945), Thorpe humiliated her in front of the crew and made her cry. Although she protested, he was once again her director for Fiesta, shot under difficult circumstances on location in Mexico. She was furious when she found she would have to work with him again on her next film, This Time for Keeps. After the usual hostility between them, Williams writes, she confronted Thorpe and they finally achieved detente when she agreed to be less cheerful and not talk to him in the morning.
Williams also had few kind words for her co-star, pop singer Johnnie Johnston. She called him "a bit of a con man" who used to make money doing golf tricks, and recalled that he "invited his fan club, consisting of ten giggly teenagers, up to visit him on location at Mackinac." While on location, Johnston was having what Williams called "a torrid long-distance romance" with MGM singing star Kathryn Grayson, whom he would soon marry. "She wrote Johnnie almost every day. One evening after dinner he gathered all his dewy-eyed groupies around him and began reading them Kathryn's most intimate letters aloud, including the all-too-graphic details concerning what she liked about his lovemaking."
Williams had no problems with her two veteran co-stars, Melchior and Durante. The Danish-born Melchior had been the most famous Wagnerian tenor from the 1920s through the mid-40s. As his operatic career wound down, he turned to Hollywood. His first film was Thrill of a Romance, and Williams was immediately charmed by his warmth. She was happy to work with him again in This Time for Keeps.
Vaudeville comic Jimmy Durante had been making movies since 1930, but his film career had been hit-and-miss. He had been appearing mostly on Broadway when MGM producer Joe Pasternak convinced him to give movies another try in the mid-1940s, offering him a five-year contract for two films per year. Durante appeared in several MGM musicals, including two with Esther Williams, This Time for Keeps and On an Island with You (1948).
The film crew went on location for This Time for Keeps to a beautiful resort, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The unique little island between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas is only accessible by boat, and was then, and still is, a car-free island. Only service vehicles are allowed. People either walk or ride bicycles or horse-drawn carriages. The island has a timeless quality that made it the perfect setting for the time-travel film romance Somewhere in Time (1980).
To convey the sense of outdoorsy, country small town life in This Time for Keeps, costume designer Irene decided to use a lot of plaid in the costumes. She designed a swimsuit for Williams made out of lumberjack plaid flannel. But as Williams recalled, "It absorbed water like crazy. I dove into the pool and tried to swim, but the suit just dragged me to the bottom. It was like trying to swim while wrapped in an old army blanket." So she took it off and it sank to the bottom of the pool. There were a lot of tourists on the set, and she was completely nude. Finally, the wardrobe woman brought over a large towel, cut a hole in it, and dropped it over Williams' head like a poncho. She exited the pool to applause. From then on, Williams always took part in swimsuit design meetings - the beginning of her career as a swimsuit designer. Irene made a lighter version of the flannel suit, with the same plaid, but lighter fabric.
As usual for an Esther Williams movie, reviews for This Time for Keeps were tepid: praise for the color, music and swimming, yawns for the story, acting, and direction. Time magazine's was typical: "Just one more of the standard brand which contains the following standard ingredients: amphibious Esther Williams, Jimmy Durante, Xavier Cugat, Lauritz Melchior, a juvenile who weighs less but can also sing...[and] what seems an enormous amount of dull new popular music...Luckily, Jimmy Durante is a lovable performer and blooming Miss Williams is as easy to like as she is to look at." The public agreed, and continued to like her in a dozen more MGM films through the mid-1950s.
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Gladys Lehman; Lorraine Fielding, Erwin S. Gelsey (story); Hans Wilhelm (uncredited)
Cinematography: Karl Freund
Art Direction: Randall Duell, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Calvin Jackson, George Stoll (both uncredited)
Film Editing: John Dunning
Cast: Esther Williams (Leonora 'Nora' Cambaretti), Jimmy Durante (Ferdi Farro), Lauritz Melchior (Richard Herald), Johnnie Johnston (Dick Johnson), Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra (Themselves), Dame May Whitty (Grandmother Cambaretti), Sharon McManus (Deborah Cambaretti), Dick Simmons (Gordon), Mary Stuart (Frances Allenbury), Ludwig Stossel (Peter), Dorothy Porter (Merle), Tommy Wonder (Himself).
by Margarita Landazuri
This Time for Keeps
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice.
Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).
Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
In the long shots of the scene where Deborah drives the sleigh, it's actually being driven by a local boy of the same age.
Although the initial Hollywood Reporter production chart for this film lists Hal Rosson as the photographer, subsequent charts and onscreen credits list Karl Freund. The extent of Rosson's contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to M-G-M publicity materials, Elyse Sutter, who appeared in the film as a water dancer, was Miss Wisconsin of 1945. A July 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Angela Lansbury's mother, Moyna MacGill, was set for a role, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to an August 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item, Calvin Jackson substituted for musical director Georgie Stoll when Stoll fell ill. Some filming took place on Mackinac Island, MI. A 1981 Hollywood Reporter news item notes the 1980 film Somewhere in Time was filmed at the same Mackinac Island location used for this picture. Actress Anne Francis made her motion picture debut in the film.