Friday, December 10, 2010

It Had to Be You (1947)

I just watched It Had to Be You starring Ginger Rogers and Cornel Wilde, and I found it…puzzling. I kind of liked the movie. I felt like it had a lot of the elements of a fun film, I just didn’t always like how those elements were put together.

First off: Ginger. I am usually a big fan of hers so it surprised me to find her character of a flighty, babbling society girl rather annoying. I mean, I still like Ginger but she just seemed a little one-dimensional in this. Maybe that was what the movie called for, though, because it obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously. Amanda Cooper at A Noodle In a Haystack wrote a post about this film about a year ago, and I revisited it once I got the chance to finally see the film. For the most part, I concur with her thoughts. She writes:

Ginger used her “ingenue” voice for this one. She used to quite often when she was playing younger women, and it always frustrates me (to varying extents, depending on the movie). I don't think she needed it to seem young and fresh. Victoria could have been a much more interesting character if she had been allowed the depth of Ginger's real voice. Nevertheless, this is one movie where the ingenue voice doesn't bother me too much. I think if Rogers had been allowed (or maybe told?) to play Victoria as a more intelligent, mature woman, the potential of the movie would have been more fully realized.

I agree 100% with everything Amanda says in this paragraph, except for the fact that Ginger’s “ingenue” voice isn’t as annoying here. Obviously, I kind of thought it was. I like her observation that the character would’ve had more depth (yes, comedies can have depth!) if she was played differently. One of the things I really like about Ginger is her unique, REAL voice. Many actresses of the era had soft and mousy voices, stagey accents, or a shrill and high-pitched way of speaking. Thus Ginger’s natural voice (I don’t know how to describe it—kind of a tough, earthy drawl, maybe) is very refreshing and relatable. The fact that she attempts to speak in this film in the soft, breathy voice makes me feel like she was trying to be like all those other actresses. But she could’ve just done it because it seemed to fit the character or merely because the director told her to! In any case, I like her better with out it.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way…let’s get into the plot (which will include LOTS OF SPOILERS, so consider yourself warned.)

When the Indian popped up it had me scratching my head (figuratively speaking) trying to figure out what was going on. My mind was going something like this: “Is she dreaming? Is this a fantasy ? Oh, anytime now this will start making sense. He’s just a guy playing a joke on her, right? Hmm, nope, IMDb doesn’t say anything about it being a fantasy. Must not be. It’ll make sense here eventually…” You get the idea. I generally have trouble with suspension of belief type things and fantasy in general (though if it’s comedy, I find it a lot more agreeable. Bewitched, anyone?) so it’s not really a surprise that I didn’t grasp on sooner. The plot is pretty simple and that’s not what confused me. It was just a “where is this going” type of thing. And this does have a weird plot.

Cornel Wilde was fabulous in this as George McKesson. He seemed to be having so much fun with the part and his role alone is reason enough to watch this film. Notice that I only say as George McKesson, though—not as Johnny Blaine, even though Wilde played both characters. That’s because, quite frankly, I found Blaine to be sooo dull and boring. It was like a different person…well he was, (or was he?) but I mean a different actor…wow this is confusing. It seemed that all the things that Victoria liked about him were because either it was what George did or because they were just supposed to be together because they played kissing games at her five-year-old birthday party. Huh? I know… It didn’t really make a lot of sense. If she liked George why didn’t she just marry him. Oh, but I guess she couldn’t because he was some sort of spirit/cupid? But then at the end it was like she did marry George because of the moccasins…right? Or was that just Johnny with those? Because Johnny is kind of stuck-up and George is just fun. He and Victoria need to be together. The movie should’ve been more a story about them, without Johnny. And Victoria needs to get a hold of herself. What was it that suddenly just before the end made Johnny turn around and forgive her? So many questions…

I realize this probably makes no sense. And that’s because it didn’t make a lot of sense to me, either. But the movie was still fun. I guess I just tend to over critique things. :) Cornel Wilde is great (best part of the movie) before he turns into the stuffed-shirt fireman, and Ginger isn’t as bad as I say. I’m just not used to seeing her in this type of role. It’s actually a pretty fun film. Just confusing. And yes, it is a fantasy. There are also some really fun scenes: including the one where they are playing gin, just about any scene with George, the dinner party, at the baseball game…lots of fabulous scenes.

Now that the initial shock of what’s-going-one-here has passed and I am completely prepared to not take the movie too seriously, I think this is one that I could definitely rewatch with pleasure.

Wow, I wrote a lot more here than I planned on. Also check out Amanda’s review. I promise it makes more sense than this one.

Quote from the film: "You can buy a lot of honor for three million dollars."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas In Connecticut (1945)

You may have heard about the 12 Days of Christmas Movies that Sally from Flying Down to Hollywood is hosting. If not, head over to her blog for more info on it.  

For my movie I chose Christmas In Connecticut, a 1945 film starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet (you may recognize him from Casablanca), Reginald Gardiner, and S.Z. Sakall (he was in Casablanca, too!). And this film just happens to be the one featured in the badge Sally made for the event (above).

It had been a while since I saw this movie, and I remembered it as a terrific and fun holiday/screwball comedy. It was all that, but sometimes I have a tendency to mentally overbuild movies I haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes I think the best way to view a movie is with no preconceived notions or expectations. Still, this is a very enjoyable movie that clips along at a steady pace and keeps the audience interested. 

The plot is really quite a clever one: Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck), author of a successful feature in Smart Housekeeping magazine is roped into hosting a war hero (Morgan) at her Connecticut farmhouse with her family for the holidays. The only problem is…Elizabeth doesn’t have a farmhouse…or a family. And in real life, she knows nothing about the cooking and housekeeping topics she is so famous for writing about.

This was a great scene. I love how they are all hovering over. And isn’t
Stanwyck’s outfit adorable?

Though the plot is entertaining, and the script sufficient, what really keeps this film ticking is the great character actors and moments of screwball situation zaniness. It’s especially fun to see Elizabeth attempt to adapt to all the domestic activities that she is supposed to be such an expert on—from flipping flapjacks to trying to bathe a baby, Stanwyck is great as always. Dennis Morgan is perhaps one of the weaker links in the film, however (at least in my opinion). His role is basically to just stand around looking handsome in his uniform and [*SPOILER ALERT*] fall in love with Elizabeth from the moment he sets his eyes on her. I know this movie isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, but he just strikes me as a bit of a cad to run after a woman that he thinks is married. But maybe I’m just over-thinking things. I do give his character props for being cute with the baby. That was pretty adorable. While we’re talking about spoilers, what happened to Reginald Gardiner’s character at the end? Am I the only one who felt kind of sorry for him? [*End of spoiler*] The rest of the cast (even minor characters) are spot on, though, and this film has some really, really funny lines and sequences in it.

Holiday Cheer: 2/10 Although this takes place around Christmas, that is just the backdrop. A tree is trimmed and a carol is sung, but that’s not the main focus.

Feel-Good feeling: 6/10 The cozy New England setting and pure escapism of this comedy definitely give it some feel-good factor. It’s not really a warm-and-fuzzy type of film, though.

Overall, this is a a lovely screwball comedy that just happens to take place at Christmas. If you haven’t seen it, I would definitely check it out. Make some popcorn, grab your family, and enjoy this amusing and delightful flick.

P.S. An interesting trivia fact about this film that I did not know (thanks, IMDb) is that this farmhouse set was the same one used in Bringing Up Baby (1938).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Amanda’s Cinema Survey

Yay! I love surveys--Though they are really hard. While most people would probably just whip through a survey like this, it takes me days of musing and rumination. But I did the best I could, though I couldn’t completely answer all the questions (either because I was indecisive or because I haven’t seen enough classic movies). And remember to do Amanda’s survey yourself (click on the logo above). It’s a lot of fun and I love reading everyone’s answers!

1. What is your favorite movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, excluding all of The Thin Man films? I think I've only seen one--Libeled Lady--so I can't really answer that question.

2. Name a screen team that appeared in only one film together but are still noteworthy for how well they complimented each other. Hmm…the only one I can think of is Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday.

3. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' best film together? Swing Time is probably their best film as a duo (because it features such great dances). I'm not sure if it's my favorite movie of theirs though.

4. Your favorite actor named "Robert"? Robert Montgomery

photo from here

5. An actor/actress who, when you see one of their movies, you always wish that someone else was in his/her role? Dennis Morgan, George Reeves, Sonny Tufts, James Craig, Joseph Cotten, John Hodiak, Melvyn Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn, John Lund (as a lead), and Louis Jordan come to mind. There are others though. I guess I don’t like a lot of male leads. Haha.

6. An actor/actress that someone close to you really loves that you can't stand or vice versa? I don't usually watch movies with other people so this is hard to answer. Most of my classic film loving friends are online.

7. An actor/actress that you both agree on completely? Ditto #6.

8. Complete this sentence: Virginia O'Brien is to Ethel Merman as Alice Faye is to Betty Hutton…?

Note (added later): I really didn’t get this question when I first posted. But then once I remembered that O’Brien was in The Harvey Girls I figured that I probably did this wrong.)

9. What is your favorite film starring Ray Milland? The Major and the Minor

10. You had to have seen this one coming: what is your favorite movie of the 1960s? I haven't seen a lot of '60s films, but The Sound of Music is one of my all time favorites.

11. An actor/actress that you would take out of one film and put into a different movie that was released the same year? I can’t think of a good answer for this one. :(

12. Who was your favorite of Robert Montgomery's leading ladies? I haven’t seen enough of his movies to compare.

13. You think it would have been a disaster if what movie starred the actor/actress who was originally asked to star in it? I don't think that Bette Davis could've played Scarlett in Gone With the Wind. (I'm not sure if it is true, but I heard she turned the part down.) I also am glad Gene Tierney played the title role in Laura rather than Rita Hayworth. And I can't imalucynic83:<br /><br />Olivia De Havilland<br /><br />Beautifulness!gine Montgomery Clift, Fred MacMurray, Marlon Brando, or Gene Kelly (all prospectives) in the role that eventually went to William Holden in Sunset Boulevard.

14. An actor/actress who you will watch in any or almost any movie? Olivia de Havilland. [updated 2/19/11] 

15. Your favorite Leslie Howard film and role? I think the only film I've seen of his is Gone With the Wind…and even that was a while ago. The Scarlet Pimpernel is on my list of films to see, though.

16. You have been asked to host a marathon of four Barbara Stanwyck films. Which ones do you choose? I’m just discovering Stanwyck’s work. I guess for now I will go with Ball of Fire, Christmas In Connecticut, Remember the Night, and I don’t know about a fourth one.

17. What is, in your mind, the nearest to perfect comedy you have ever seen? Why? There are so many fabulous comedies. It's hard to pick. One that comes to mind is The More the Merrier. The premise is so much fun and the Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn are all great. It’s just an adorable movie.

18. You will brook no criticism of what film? The Sound of Music is one that comes to mind.

19. Who is your favorite Irish actress? I don't know of a lot of Irish actresses, but I’ll say Maureen O’Hara. [updated 2/19/11]


20. Your favorite 1940s movie starring Ginger Rogers? Of the ones I've seen: The Major and the Minor

21. Do you enjoy silent movies? I've only seen one. Let's just say I want to grow in my appreciation for them.

22. What is your favorite Bette Davis film? All About Eve…again, of the films I've seen of hers.

23. Your favorite onscreen Hollywood couple? Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland! [updated 2/19/11]

presentinglilymars:<br /><br />God, they are so cute. ♥<br />

24. This one is for the girls, but, of course, the guys are welcome to answer, too: who is your favorite Hollywood costume designer? I don't know. Is it unoriginal to say Edith Head? I need to pay more attention to designers. I know most of the main ones but I haven’t yet identified their unique styles. I really enjoy the clothes in old movies, though! It’s just one of the great things about classic movies.

25. To even things out a bit, here's something the boys will enjoy: what is your favorite tough action film? Does Angels With Dirty Faces count? I kind of doubt it but I’ll go with it.

26. You are currently gaining a greater appreciation for which actor(s)/actress(es)? Van Heflin, Robert Montgomery, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Debbie Reynolds, Olivia de Havilland, Robert Mitchum…and more that I probably can't think of at the moment.

27. Franchot Tone: yes or no? I don't think I've seen a movie with him in it.

28. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated? Ray Milland, George Sanders, Robert Montgomery, Eve Arden, Edward G. Robinson, Ronald Colman, Irene Dunne, Ginger Rogers, Jean Arthur, and many of those wonderful character actors that contributed so much to classic movies.

29. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated? I had a long list of people here, but I decided not to post it because a) most of you would be very insulted at my taste b) my mind is constantly changing as I view more films. tumblr_lgdfae5eyL1qb290go1_500

30. Favorite actor? It changes a lot but right now I'll go with Robert Montgomery.

31. Favorite actress? Olivia de Havilland! [updated 2/19/11]

32. Of those listed, who is the coolest: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, or Patrick Stewart? I don't think I've seen any movies with these people! And I don't even know who Patrick Stewart is…so that probably makes me a really bad movie fan.

33. What is your favorite movie from each of these genres:

Comedy: This is just too hard. There are so many great comedies. So I will just pick one of my favorites--You Can't Take It With You.

Swashbuckler: I haven't seen many of these. I love The Adventures of Robin Hood, though!

Film noir: Laura

Musical: The Sound of Music

Holiday: It's A Wonderful Life

Hitchcock: probably Rebecca…although I haven't seen all his films.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Carousel (1956)

*CAUTION: This review may, and most likely does, contain spoilers.*


Yesterday I watched the 1956 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. I  had heard mixed reviews about it—some lauding it as the team’s best artistic collaboration and others saying it was just a mediocre effort. My overall opinion was that it would be a so-so movie. And it was. Some things were really fabulous…and other things, I didn’t like as much. 


                                                The Characters

First of all, I thought the two main leads (Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones) were wonderful. They did occasionally flail in the acting department but even that was okay. Their gorgeous voices and excellent on-screen chemistry more than made up for any shortcomings. I wish they would’ve made more movies together (besides just the other R&H classic Oklahoma!). Jones has a very lovely screen presence and conveyed the naivety, innocence, and loyalty very well. As for MacRae, I have read that many people consider this his finest performance. Not having seen all his work I’m not sure I would say that, but he certainly fits the part perfectly as the big strapping, headstrong character, who has a soft side beneath the nonchalant attitude he exudes. But don’t get any preconceived notions that his character will change much. Even after death he is still a ‘ne’er-do-good’, although the plot attempts to end the film on a somewhat happy and decidedly tender moment. MacRae certainly does look a lot different than he did in By the Light of the Silvery Moon and On Moonlight Bay. I could hardly believe it was the same man.

The supporting cast is mostly good. All have nice voices and contribute adequately as far as acting.


                                                          The Plot

My main problem was with the story. Besides the fact that I don’t care much for fantasy, It was dark and depressing. I kept waiting for an upturn but it didn’t really happen. I know that many people like it for this exact reason. I have no problem with deep plots but this one just kind of dragged one down. It starts out as a relatively happy love story and then goes into the more serious character downfalls of one of the main characters.

Before I go any further, though, I suppose I should give an idea of what the basic plot is. It revolves around a surly carnival barker named Billy Bigelow (MacRae), who falls in love with Julie Jordon (Jones), makes a lot of mistakes, dies and has one day to go back to Earth and attempt to make things right. That was a very poor synopsis, but you get the idea.

Watching this, I got rather frustrated with Billy. I was like: just be nice to your wife, don’t hit her, get a job…argh. And then he dies. Oh, well. I guess if he was nice there wouldn’t be a movie, but even though the ending attempts to patch everything up, it still feels somewhat unsatisfactory considering the pain he caused his family. Especially the part about being hit feeling like a kiss. I mean, whhaat?


                                                 The Setting

This story claims to be set in the whaling community of New England, but as someone who has personally lived in the northeastern states, I have never heard anyone talk like they do in this film. I’m not sure what the writers were trying to achieve here by making them talk this way, but I’d say it had more in common with a Western or Southern dialect than anything. But, I could be wrong. I just found it rather distracting.

I do really like the New England setting, however. While the discrepancy between fake-looking sound stage sets (standard for musicals of the time) and breathtaking Maine location shooting can be a bit jarring, one of the best parts of the movie is of the gorgeous seascape.

The place that was supposed to be heaven or purgatory or whatever was rather dreadful, though. Thankfully, the scenes there don’t take up much of the movie, but it looked like a soundstage someone poured royal blue paint over and then hung a few plastic (was plastic invented then?) Christmas tree ornament stars from the ceiling of. Seriously. It was a bad. It could’ve been much more ethereal and mysterious. Instead, it looked like a bad piece of scenery from a middle school play…designed by a team of kindergarteners.


                                                   The Dancing

It is wonderful, too, how the setting is incorporated in the two acrobatic ballet sequences of the film. I like the first one, to “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”, (which reminded me a bit of the barn dance in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) more than the later one done with Louise (Billy and Julie’s daughter). That one started out well with Louise doing some lovely dancing on the beach (the girl who played her is not much of an actress but dances quite nicely) and then merged into this full on ballet with people acting out things through dancing and her meeting a very creepy looking circus guy. Anyway, it just seemed to drag on and interrupt the flow of the movie. I understand that it was necessary to have something to fill those plot points in but I think it could’ve been done in a different way.


                                                        The Music

Although apparently many critics liked it, unlike Rodgers and Hammerstein’s other musical pictures, this film was not a large box office success. The soundtrack, however, was very popular. I would agree that the music is one of the outstanding features of this film. The title waltz, “If I Loved You” and “You Will Never Walk Alone” were some of the best, in my opinion. I was a little disappointed with the lyrics to “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”, as I think it could’ve been a lot more than just a ‘mating song’. I also didn’t really like the “Soliloquy” ballad where Billy sings about his future child, as much as everyone else seems to. I did enjoy the beachside scenery for that scene, however. Perhaps the other numbers will grow on me, but I think the one that really stands out is “You Will Never Walk Alone”. It was beautifully incorporated into the plot of the story and brought a tear to my eye. I definitely recommend checking out the soundtrack.


                                                    The Verdict

Now that I’ve seen this musical once and know what to expect, perhaps in time I will learn to appreciate it more. It did contain a  lot of great moments even if the overall result was somewhat unsatisfactory. I do think this film is worth watching, if you haven’t seen it already. I was probably unnecessary harsh on this movie, so I will just say right out: I am a hopelessly romantic type person. Blame it on that.

Random observation: why are most of the women’s dressing shades of orange, pink, red, and peach during most of the movie?

I’ll leave you with a clip of the movie, the “If I Loved You” duet…one of the most beautiful moments of the film.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Possibly the Best TV Show Ever

 Well, the inevitable finally happened: I started a classic movie blog...

The other day I had my birthday and I got the fifth season of The Dick Van Dyke Show, which is one of my all time favorite TV shows. The whole cast is so funny and the shows are written really well. Over all, it is just a very fun and fabulous show. In case you haven't seen it, I think there are some episodes on Hulu and/or Fancast. [By the way, if you are already a fan of the show, there is a completely amazing Tumblr blog with all kinds of pictures and neat stuff related to the show.]
This is a pretty corny picture, but just take my word for it. It's an awesome show.
On a completely unrelated note...
I love the new Blogger. The extra little tweaks they made are really nice. I haven't figured out everything yet, but I am enjoying the availability of greater options.

Does anyone know of a way to make a header so that it is not blurry? I'm not very tech-savvy so I just made it on Paint! I don't really like the quality, though, so let me know if anyone knows of a better program or how to transfer the image so it's a better quality. And in case anyone is wondering, the picture I used is Joan Fontaine in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca. It was a great movie and I loved Fontaine's performance in it!
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