Monday, February 28, 2011

Celebrating Jane Russell

jane russell

I was shocked and deeply saddened today to hear of screen legend Jane Russell’s death. Since my interest in classic Hollywood piqued about a year ago, this is the first death that I can recall of a legendary star whose work I knew and enjoyed. I just watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes this summer and Jane was truly hilarious in that film. I remember thinking how she really had a way with a line.

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Left: With Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star Marilyn Monroe.  Right: With Robert Mitchum in Macao

Not too long ago I also listened to the TCM Private Screenings Uncut Podcast which had the full interview that Robert Osborne conducted with Jane Russell and her friend and former co-star Robert Mitchum. Jane came across as a very warm woman who was also strong, brassy, and unafraid to speak her mind. That is what I love about Jane Russell. Onscreen and off, she was very genuine. From listening to the interview, I got the sense that she never took herself or her fame too seriously and always kept her values in perspective.



More facts about Jane (from IMDb):

- Received the Women's International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award in 1989.

- Discovered by Howard Hughes working as a receptionist for his dentist.

- In the late 1930s she was a member of Max Reinhardt's Theatrical Workshop and attended Maria Ouspenskaya's Drama School for six months.

- As a little girl Jane was a tomboy. She had four brothers: Tom, Kenny, Jamie and Wally.

- Her favorite book is the Bible. She reads a passage from it every day.

- A longtime pro-life activist, she opposes the use of abortion in any circumstance including rape or incest.

- Member of America's Future.

- Has a street named after her in Iowa City, Iowa.

In 1955, she founded the WAIF (Women’s Adoption International Fund), an association which placed the abandoned children in homes.
Source

- Through her organization, World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), Russell has placed 51,000 children with adoptive families.

- Unable to bear children, Russell championed the passage of the Federal Orphan Adoption Amendment of 1953, which allowed children of American servicemen born overseas to be placed for adoption in the United States.

- Her three adopted children are Tracy, Thomas and Buck.

- A born-again Christian decades before the term was coined, she held weekly Bible study at her home which was attended by some of the industry's biggest names.

mothgirlwings:<br /><br />Jane Russell<br />June 21, 1921 - February 28, 2011<br />

- Attended the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.

- Leonardo DiCaprio visited Jane while filming The Aviator (2004) in order to find up close and personal what Howard Hughes was really like.

- A political conservative, she sided publicly with an industry panel that urged the removal of certain provocative scenes in one of her films.

- In 2006 (at age 84), Jane put together a musical show entitled "The Swinging Forties" that plays twice a month at the Radisson Hotel. The show features herself and about a dozen local Santa Maria residents, including a choir director, lay preacher and retired police officer. She formed the show out of boredom and because there was nothing much going on in town for the older folks to do.

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Personal Quotes:

“I have always been a Republican, and when I was in Hollywood long ago, most of the people there were Republican. The studio heads were all Republican, my boss Howard Hughes was a raving Republican, and we had a motion picture code in those days so they couldn't do all this naughty stuff. We had John Wayne, we had Charlton Heston, we had man named Ronald Reagan, we had Robert Mitchum, James Stewart,Clark Gable.”

“Publicity can be terrible. But only if you don't have any.”

“I like a man who can run faster than I can.”

“My son said, 'Mother you can't say the word bigot because that has to do with nationalities and things.' I said, 'No darling, it's a verb. It means I can't stand these people who are trying to take the Ten Commandments off the wall, take prayer out of school and take prayer out of football games.' It's too ridiculous. The Lord put this country together or we wouldn't be like we are.”

"These days I am a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist." (2003)

“People should never, ever have an abortion. Don't talk to me about it being a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body. The choice is between life and death.”

“I want to save America. I do not want a one-world order, a one-world government, at all. I think that our Founding Fathers had exactly the right idea, and we've got a great country, and let's go back to God.” (2001)

“I've been working a lot to get the Bible back in schools because I think a great deal of our loss of wisdom as a society results from the fact that a lot of children have never read the Bible. I've been helping Elizabeth Ridenour [of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools] get the Bible back in school by going on television shows for her. She's gotten it into 38 states and 117 school districts, and as a result of this effort 60,000 children have now been able to read the Bible.”

“Music has gone just as bananas as the movies. But kids are learning swing and going back to the music of the forties. There's a swing club near my home in Santa Barbara, and the kids are fantastic. There's no drinking, no smoking, just dancing all night long.”

“My father was a Republican, and he couldn't stand what Franklin Delano Roosevelt was doing to the country. I always say I'm a mean-spirited narrow-minded right-wing, conservative Christian ... I start out with that, and if you don't like it, you can lump it. I am not politically correct.”

“It was always an accident; I wish I could take some of the credit. My mother used to say, 'You have a path from heaven and if you fall off of it, it'll be a problem, Jane.' It was always the case where no matter what way I wanted to go, the Lord wanted me to go this way.”

“I really think the 1940s were the best generation for Hollywood. Everybody was patriotic then. Nobody was talking the way they do now, against the soldiers. It was a different era, a different Hollywood then, and we respected our country, our leaders and our fighting men. Sure, I'll admit, I'm a mean-spirited, politically conservative old actress. I'm not bigoted against any race, just those idiots who want to spit on our soldiers' hard work or remove the Ten Commandments from our schools and courtroom walls.”

Jane Russell
From Classic Film Scans

We will indeed remember Jane Russell every time we enjoy one of her films. But she will also live on through all of those that she has positively affected--both personally, and though her charitable work. That is her legacy.


Miss Russell stylishly waves good-bye. [Source]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blog Announcements

If you have one of the classic film blogs listed in the left sidebar, I’m sorry if I haven’t been commenting as much. My Internet connection has been acting really weird lately and the Blogger comment system rarely has been working. A couple times I have typed comments up and then wasn’t able to post them. Argh!

You may also notice the new header. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the old one and the new one.


This one was very fuzzy and just looked bad.

banner
Recently, I found an online tutorial about how to make a header on PhotoScape (I’m fairly helpless when it comes to technical stuff, if you can’t tell. :P). It’s still not the best, but I like the new photo of Jean Arthur with a typewriter. I think the subtext may be a little hard to read, though. I may design a new one eventually, but for now I’m just glad this one isn’t fuzzy! It was surprisingly easy to do, thankfully!

Just a reminder: today is the last day to vote in the Cary Grant poll. You will find it at the top of the right sidebar.

I haven’t been posting as many movie reviews lately because I haven’t been watching as many movies! Mostly I’ve just been viewing some TV shows. I may decide to do a post on one of those, though. We’ll see.

If you are having an Oscar party this evening, have fun! I don’t usually get much into the Oscars unless there is a film or performance I really care about. Who/what are you rooting for this year?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

BATscreen731 
Feb. 26, 2011

40. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)--REWATCH

Starring Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen
Directed by Blake Edwards

Plot: "A young New York socialite becomes interested in a young man who has moved into her apartment building." (from IMDb)

****MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS****

I first saw this quite a few years back and I remember thinking it was very strange. I decided to give it a second look. While I'm glad I rewatched it, I still wouldn't count it as one of my favorites. There are things I really like about the film--such as the stylish clothes and settings, the beautiful score, and Audrey's genuine performance. Mostly, however, I find this film to be quite overrated. Capote or no Capote, to me the story seems rather weak and superficial. I also have to mention (you knew this was coming) that Mr. Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney) really bothers me. Any scene he is in makes me want to bang my head against a table. Although his character is especially offensive, he's not the only crude caricature in this film. Although the themes are serious enough, many of the characters seem like little more than cartoons. In my opinion, that kind of detracts from the genuineness and believability of the movie. Though I suppose some people just find that charming or humorous. I do feel like the ending message of how we sometimes 'build our own cages in search of freedom' is a good one, but the muddled path getting there detracted from any ultimate merit.

screen-capture-3

Other things…

I liked:

 earplugs
Holly’s tasseled earplugs. (I want a pair!)

breakfast-at-tiffanys-12-52-tile
The tub sofa (a bathtub sawed in half and used as a couch) featured in Holly’s apartment. I’ve never seen one of these before!

black hat

The fashion (of course), especially the black hat (above) and pink outfit (below).

pink dress

Notice I did not include that iconic black dress.  Sometimes I feel like if I see one more coffee mug, t-shirt or poster with that image on it I will gag. Which is a shame, because it is an elegant ensemble. Just waaay, waaay, waaay overused. (I feel very much like Sarah does about Audrey Hepburn). /rant over

BATscreen271 
Moon River. I love the song and the way Audrey sings it. The rest of the Oscar-winning soundtrack is also a highlight.

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The Tiffany’s salesman, played by John McGiver. His dry, verbose delivery is quite hilarious. One of the few actually-funny-and-amusing moments in the film.

In addition to what I noted in my review, I also disliked:

  • That they stole stuff. Even if it was just two masks. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to steal something just to have a good time. :P
  • I didn’t really think watching people get drunk was really that entertaining or funny. I actually found it rather distasteful.

As you can see, it was mostly only the minor elements of the film (music, costumes) that I liked. The plot and characters really fell flat for me.

What are your thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Do you love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in-between?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Classic/Contemporary Celebrity Look-a-likes

Reading the “look likes” on Noir and Chick Flicks has inspired me to post some actors that I think look alike (at least in these pictures).

imagekeri russell 
                Diane Varsi                               Keri Russell

keri russelllee remick ke
            Keri Russell                               Lee Remick

eehanthony andrews
  Edward Everett Horton          Anthony Andrews

What do you think?

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Feb. 18-19, 2011<br />39. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)<br />Starring James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O&#8217;Connell, Eve Arden, Kathryn Grant, George C. Scott<br />Produced &amp; Directed by Otto Preminger<br />Plot: &#8220;In a murder trial, the defendant says he suffered temporary insanity after the victim raped his wife. What is the truth, and will he win his case?&#8221; (from IMDb)<br />I&#8217;m a big fan of court room dramas and I really enjoyed this one. It is long but I didn&#8217;t feel the length because I was so interested. The casting in this is flawless and I can&#8217;t think of one actor that didn&#8217;t give a good performance. Some of the best moments of the film occur in the argumentative courtroom spats between the determined James Stewart and fiery George C. Scott, moderated by the judge&#8212;who in stark contrast to the riled-up lawyers has a very slow, deliberate manner. I also loved the small-town, lazy Michigan setting of the story. It provided a unique atmosphere and contrast to the intrigue of the plot. I relished every moment of this film, but&#8230;<br />****POSSIBLE SPOILERS*****<br />The ending was kind of a let-down. The verdict is given and fades into the next scene. We don&#8217;t get to hear the closing statements or the reaction of the characters after the verdict. There is no final plot twist&#8212;it&#8217;s just a straight-up case. Or is it? You see, the audience is never quite certain that the defense&#8217;s story is true; we aren&#8217;t convinced of the man&#8217;s innocence or even completely sure that James Stewart&#8217;s lawyer character is entirely noble. At first this is frustrating, but it does add to the artistic merit of the story. It shows the ambiguous nature of many cases and, after the film ends, leads us to ponder the facts and fill in the gaps for ourselves. 

Feb. 18-19, 2011

39. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Starring James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, Eve Arden, Kathryn Grant, George C. Scott

Produced & Directed by Otto Preminger

Plot: In a murder trial, the defendant says he suffered temporary insanity after the victim raped his wife. What is the truth, and will he win his case?” (from IMDb)

I’m a big fan of court room dramas and I really enjoyed this one. It is long but I didn’t feel the length because I was so interested. The casting in this is flawless and I can’t think of one actor that didn’t give a good performance. Some of the best moments of the film occur in the argumentative courtroom spats between the determined James Stewart and fiery George C. Scott, moderated by the judge—who in stark contrast to the riled-up lawyers has a very slow, deliberate manner. I also loved the small-town, lazy Michigan setting of the story. It provided a unique atmosphere and contrast to the intrigue of the plot. I relished every moment of this film, but…

****POSSIBLE SPOILERS*****

The ending was kind of a let-down. The verdict is given and the screen fades into the next scene. We don’t get to hear the closing statements or the reaction of the characters after this verdict. There is no final plot twist—it’s just a straight-up case. Or is it? You see, the audience is never quite certain that the defense’s story is true; we aren’t convinced of the man’s innocence or even completely sure that James Stewart’s lawyer character is entirely noble. At first this is frustrating, but it does add to the artistic merit of the story. It shows the ambiguous nature of many cases and, after the film ends, leads us to ponder the facts and fill in the gaps for ourselves. 

A Note on Content: This film often gets a reputation as a racy Code-breaker. The subject matter may have been surprising for the time, but I felt like it was done in a tasteful matter. There isn’t gratuitous sex, violence or language. Yet it is necessary when addressing subjects such as rape, murder, and possible infidelity to discuss things which are undoubtedly for a more mature audience. In other words, this isn’t one I would let kids watch. There are also some mild profanities, but none which seemed unwarranted by the plot.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

Feb. 17, 2011

38. The Razor’s Edge (1946)

Starring Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, Herbert Marshall, John Payne

Directed by Edmund Goulding

Based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham

Plot: “A adventuresome young man goes off to find himself and loses his socialite fiancĂ©e in the process. But when he returns 10 years later, she will stop at nothing to get him back, even though she is already married.” (from IMDb)

At nearly two and a half hours, this film takes its sweet time getting anywhere. But if you can plod through some of the more tedious parts, the plot starts to come to a head in the last hour. Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney are a well-matched and stunning pair. The acting was adequate (for most) but the cinematography and many different settings of the film are what stood out to me. ***SPOILERS*** I thought the whole business of Power’s character’s enlightenment was a little heavy-handing and corny. Those also happened to be some of the few scenes were I didn’t think the ‘atmosphere’ (of India) was very convincing. This is an okay film if you have a few hours to waste. It really wasn’t my favorite, but most of the film kept my interest. :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

I’ve decided to dispense with the “Short Review” preceding the titles of my posts. Although some reviews are more in depth and some are merely a way of recording the films I watch this year, I suppose people can figure out the length of the post by looking at it! Besides, it looked rather cluttered.

 So…on to today’s review!

Feb. 13, 2011

37. A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Starring David Niven, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, Kim Hunter
Written, Produced and Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

Plot: "A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court." (from IMDb)

This is impressively conceived, but it's just too odd for me to like. It does have a lot going for it: well-done special effects, captivating use of color and scenery, good performances, and an original plot. I liked many of the actors--David Niven was ideal for the lead role; Kim Hunter was believable as the all-American girl (though her character could’ve perhaps used more dimension); and Roger Livesey interjected just the right amount of honest sentiment and humor to his part. Yet the film as a whole still wasn't my favorite. To be fair, I rarely like any sort of science fiction or fantasy films. Even ones that everyone else loves.

One thing I found unsettling was the depiction of 'heaven'. (I realize that there is the possibility that the entire thing was in Peter's mind, but I’m referring to the way the afterlife was depicted, not whether it was meant to be real). As a Christian, I believe heaven to be the goal of life and a place of perfect happiness through union with God. To see it as a rather eerie prison which one seeks to avoid was problematic for me. Though, of course, there wouldn’t be a movie if it wasn’t portrayed this way.  Also, the entire argument for Peter staying on earth--that he had fallen in love--didn't make sense. Many people that die leave loved ones behind. So despite the celestial error, what makes his case different? It was things like these (as well as my general dislike for fantasy) that made the film fall flat for me.

I didn’t detest this movie, though; it just failed to resonate with me. I know many people love it and I definitely think it is worth checking out—especially if you think you might be one of those people. : )

Oh, and I just had to add: My favorite scene was the one where Niven is walking on the beach. That shot was just so ethereally beautiful against the background of the waves and the sky.

Note: this film is also known by it's American title, Stairway to Heaven.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Short Review: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Feb. 11, 2011<br />36. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) &#8212;REWATCH<br />Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains<br />Directed by Michael Curtiz &amp; William Keighley<br />Plot: &#8220;When Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard&#8217;s absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.&#8221;<br />I&#8217;d seen this film a few years ago, but that was before I really got into old movies. This is clearly one of the most BEAUTIFUL films ever made. The vivid Technicolor jumps off the screen and the costumes and atmosphere are a feast for the eyes. The film boasts a perfectly-cast set of characters plucked from the talented group of Warner Brothers contract players. As for the story itself, it is pure escapist entertainment. Filled with duels, a dashing hero, a fair maiden, humorous sidekicks and calculating villains, it&#8217;s a storybook perfect fairytale.  This is the second of eight films that Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn made together (that was mainly the reason I wanted to rewatch it!). My one regret with this film is that they left out the ending scene of the couple riding off into the sunset. 

Feb. 11, 2011

36. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) —REWATCH

Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains

Directed by Michael Curtiz & William Keighley

Plot: When Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard’s absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.”

I’d seen this film a few years ago, but that was before I really got into old movies. This is clearly one of the most BEAUTIFUL films ever made. The vivid Technicolor jumps off the screen and the costumes and atmosphere are a feast for the eyes. The film boasts a perfectly-cast set of characters plucked from the talented group of Warner Brothers contract players. As for the story itself, it is pure escapist entertainment. Filled with duels, a dashing hero, a fair maiden, humorous sidekicks and calculating villains, it’s a storybook perfect fairytale. This is the second of eight films that Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn made together (that was mainly the reason I wanted to rewatch it!). My one regret with this film is that they left out the ending scene of the couple riding off into the sunset

why are all the guys looking at Olivia

robin and marian

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Short Review: Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

Feb. 10, 2011<br />35. Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)<br />Starring Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea<br />Produced &amp; Directed by Otto Preminger<br />Plot: &#8220;A woman reports that her young daughter is missing, but there seems to be no evidence that she ever existed.&#8221;<br />I didn&#8217;t really care for this one. Besides the multitude of plot holes, it seemed very drawn-out, and I never really got into the story. I understand that the tedious pacing could&#8217;ve been done in an effort to build the suspense, but to me it just came off as unskillful editing/writing. ***SPOILERS*** I never once doubted that Bunny Lake was real, so that may have been why I found myself a little bored. There are also some just plain weird sequences&#8212;like Noel Coward&#8217;s performance&#8212;that seem to be put in solely as red herrings. As for acting, Olivier seems rather wasted in a dry part; I think they could&#8217;ve done more with his talent&#8212;especially in the awkward conclusion. Dullea was adequate, at best, but Lynley seemed a little wooden in her line delivery. Over all, this isn&#8217;t a movie that I liked (in case you can&#8217;t tell. Lol)<br />P.S. Funny story: I really hate horror movies, so I made sure beforehand that  this wasn&#8217;t one. It&#8217;s not (in case you&#8217;re interested, I would classify it as more of a mystery/suspense with an eery atmosphere) however when I saw &#8220;Zombies&#8221;  in the opening credits it caught me off guard. I quickly Googled it and found  out that the Zombies were just a band featured in the film. Doh!<br />P.P.S. Keep in mind that I really don&#8217;t even know what I&#8217;m talking about when I critique &#8216;editing&#8217; and &#8216;line delivery&#8217;. :P

Feb. 10, 2011

35. Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

Starring Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea

Produced & Directed by Otto Preminger

Plot: A woman reports that her young daughter is missing, but there seems to be no evidence that she ever existed.”

I didn’t really care for this one. Besides the multitude of plot holes, it seemed very drawn-out, and I never really got into the story. I understand that the tedious pacing could’ve been done in an effort to build the suspense, but to me it just came off as unskillful editing/writing. ***SPOILERS*** I never once doubted that Bunny Lake was real, so that may have been why I found myself a little bored. There are also some just plain weird sequences—like Noel Coward’s performance—that seem to be put in solely as red herrings. As for acting, Olivier seems rather wasted in a dry part; I think they could’ve done more with his talent—especially in the awkward conclusion. Dullea was adequate, at best, but Lynley seemed a little wooden in her line delivery. Over all, this isn’t a movie that I liked (in case you can’t tell. Lol)

P.S. Funny story: I really hate horror movies, so I made sure beforehand that this wasn’t one. It’s not (in case you’re interested, I would classify it as more of a mystery/suspense with an eerie atmosphere) however when I saw “Zombies” in the opening credits it caught me off guard. I quickly Googled it and found out that the Zombies were just a band featured in the film. Doh!

P.P.S. Keep in mind that I really don’t even know what I’m talking about when I critique ‘editing’ and ‘line delivery’. :P

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Short Review: In This Our Life (1942)

Feb. 9, 2011<br />34. In this Our Life (1942)<br />Starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, George Brent, Dennis Morgan, Charles Coburn, Frank Craven, Billie Burke, Hattie McDaniel, Lee Patrick<br />Directed by John Huston<br />Plot: &#8220;A neurotic southerner steals her sister&#8217;s husband then vies with her for another man. &#8221; (from TCMDb)<br />I thought this was an engaging and well-made drama. Bette Davis gives an over-the-top performance as the sister from hell, yet her scenery-chewing doesn&#8217;t succeed in overpowering memorable performances from other cast members&#8212;including Olivia de Havilland, Charles Coburn, and newcomer Ernest Anderson. One standout element of the movie is the way that it addressed racial discrimination, which was rare for Hollywood of that time.  Based on a Pulitzer-prize winning book, the script does apparently take liberties with the original material. Yet whatever its flaws may be, I enjoyed the film and I think it is definitely worth watching. I&#8217;m just surprised it is not better known. 

Feb. 9, 2011

34. In this Our Life (1942)

Starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, George Brent, Dennis Morgan, Charles Coburn, Frank Craven, Billie Burke, Hattie McDaniel, Lee Patrick

Directed by John Huston

Plot: A neurotic southerner steals her sister’s husband then vies with her for another man.(from TCMDb)

I thought this was an engaging and well-made drama. Bette Davis gives an over-the-top performance as the sister from hell, yet her scenery-chewing doesn’t succeed in overpowering memorable performances from other cast members—including Olivia de Havilland, Charles Coburn, and newcomer Ernest Anderson. One standout element of the movie is the way that it acknowledges racial discrimination, a rare subject for Hollywood of that time to address. Based on a Pulitzer-prize winning book, the script does apparently take liberties with the original material. Yet whatever its flaws may be, I enjoyed the film and I think it is definitely worth watching.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Short Review: Mansfield Park (2007)

Feb. 8, 2011<br />33. Mansfield Park (2007)<br />Starring Billie Piper, Jemma Redgrave, Maggie O&#8217;Neill, Blake Ritson<br />Directed by Iain B. MacDonaldBased on the novel by Jane Austen<br />Plot: Sent at a young age to live with her aunt and uncle, Fanny has always been somewhat of an outcast. Now, at age 18, she is finally coming into her own. Yet when out-of-town visitors show up, the one relationship she holds dearest is almost taken away from her. [bad summary, I know, but I couldn&#8217;t find one so I had to write my own&#8212;which I&#8217;m not good at!]<br />This is the first adaption I&#8217;ve seen of this novel, and I can&#8217;t say that I was much impressed. Billie Piper never really seems comfortable in the leading role, and the script wasn&#8217;t particularly good. I do find it odd that she is in love with her first cousin, but maybe that&#8217;s more accepted in Britain than it is in the U.S.? The ending also felt a little insincere. This was a nice effort, but for whatever reason, it just never came together.

Feb. 8, 2011

33. Mansfield Park (2007)

Starring Billie Piper, Jemma Redgrave, Maggie O’Neill, Blake Ritson

Directed by Iain B. MacDonald
Based on the novel by Jane Austen

Plot: Sent at a young age to live with her aunt and uncle, Fanny has always been somewhat of an outcast. Now, at age 18, she is finally coming into her own. Yet when out-of-town visitors show up, the one relationship she holds dearest is almost taken away from her. [bad summary, I know, but I couldn’t find one so I had to write my own—which I’m not good at!]

This is the first adaption I’ve seen of this novel, and I can’t say that I was much impressed. Billie Piper never really seems comfortable in the leading role, and the script wasn’t particularly good. I do find it odd that she is in love with her first cousin, but maybe that’s more accepted in Britain than it is in the U.S.? The ending also felt a little insincere. This was a nice effort, but for whatever reason, it just never came together.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Short Review: Summertime (1955)

Feb. 6, 2011<br /><br />32. Summertime (1955)<br /><br />Starring Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi<br /><br />Directed by David Lean<br /><br />Plot: &#8220;A lonely American woman unexpectedly finds romance in Venice, Italy.&#8221;<br /><br />I feel bad to keep doing reviews of movies I don&#8217;t like because I&#8217;m afraid I&#8217;m going to offend somebody. But the goal is to record every film I watch… So, as you might&#8217;ve guessed, I didn&#8217;t like this one much. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** First of all, the idea of a married man having an affair and sending his kid as messenger to &#8216;the woman&#8217;…does that not strike anyone as a little wrong? Plus, call me old fashioned but I just didn&#8217;t like the idea of adultery as being so romantic in the first place. The message of the film is basically &#8216;have fun when you can&#8217;, &#8216;throw morals away; it&#8217;s ITALY&#8217; (or something like that). Also, there&#8217;s really not much of a plot here: love-starved old maid goes to Venice in search of love, has an affair, they part dramatically. Cue credits. The one factor of the film that I thought was completely adorable was the little boy, played by Gaetano Autiero. He has the cutest little way of saying hilarious American phrases and is just really endearing. He&#8217;s the best part of the movie. 

Feb. 6, 2011

32. Summertime (1955)

Starring Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi

Directed by David Lean

Plot: A lonely American woman unexpectedly finds romance in Venice, Italy.”

I feel bad to keep doing reviews of movies I don’t like because I’m afraid I’m going to offend somebody. But the goal is to record every film I watch… So, as you might’ve guessed, I didn’t like this one much. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** First of all, the idea of a married man having an affair and sending his kid as messenger to ‘the woman’…does that not strike anyone as a little wrong? Plus, call me old fashioned but I just didn’t like the idea of adultery as being so romantic in the first place. The message of the film is basically ‘have fun when you can’, ‘throw morals away; it’s ITALY’ (or something like that). Also, there’s really not much of a plot here: love-starved old maid goes to Venice in search of love, has an affair, they part dramatically. Cue credits. The one factor of the film that I thought was completely adorable was the little boy, played by Gaetano Autiero. He has the cutest little way of saying hilarious American phrases and is just really endearing. He’s the best part of the movie.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Short Review: Wuthering Heights (1939)

Feb. 5, 2011<br /><br />31. Wuthering Heights (1939)<br /><br />Starring Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Flora Robson, Donald Crisp, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Hugh Williams, Leo G. Carroll<br /><br />Directed by William Wyler<br /><br />Plot: &#8220;The story of unfortunate lovers Heathcliff and Cathy who, despite a deep affection for one another, are forced by circumstance and prejudice to live their apart…&#8221; (from IMDb)<br /><br />Can I just say that I hated this movie? I know it&#8217;s a classic and all that, but I really don&#8217;t see what&#8217;s so wonderful. It&#8217;s supposed to be a great love story but what I see from this adaption is two selfish, shallow, demented people so consumed with lust that it ruins their lives. I&#8217;m sorry, but that is not romance. I really did not care at all for either character&#8212;Heathcliff or Cathy. So, I apologize for those that love this movie, I was really just waiting for it to end. 

Feb. 5, 2011

31. Wuthering Heights (1939)

Starring Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Flora Robson, Donald Crisp, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Hugh Williams, Leo G. Carroll

Directed by William Wyler

Plot: The story of unfortunate lovers Heathcliff and Cathy who, despite a deep affection for one another, are forced by circumstance and prejudice to live their apart…” (from IMDb)

Can I just say that I hated this movie? I know it’s a classic and all that, but I really don’t see what’s so wonderful. It’s supposed to be a great love story but what I see from this adaption is two selfish, shallow, demented people so consumed with lust that it ruins their lives. I’m sorry, but that is not romance. I really did not care at all for either character—Heathcliff or Cathy. So, I apologize for those that love this movie, I was really just waiting for it to end.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Short Review: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Feb. 4, 2011<br />30. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)<br />Starring Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Vincent Price<br />Directed by Michael Curtiz<br />Plot: &#8220;A depiction of the love/hate relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.&#8221; (from IMDb)<br />This was a fairly good film. While it may not be entirely historically accurate, the characters are well-presented and the dialogue is crisp and eloquent. Despite the influence from the stage play on which it was based, the story transitions well to the movie format and benefits from beautiful Technicolor cinematography and a regal Korngold score. Against the fidgety, feisty queen (Bette Davis), Errol gives a subdued performance that lends balance to the picture. Also noteworthy is the exceptional supporting cast. This film wasn&#8217;t one of my favorites, but it&#8217;s interesting and worth seeing at least once. 

Feb. 4, 2011

30. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Starring Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Vincent Price

Directed by Michael Curtiz

Plot: “A depiction of the love/hate relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.” (from IMDb)

This was a fairly good film. While it may not be entirely historically accurate, the characters are well-presented and the dialogue is crisp and eloquent. Despite the influence from the stage play on which it was based, the story transitions well to the movie format and benefits from beautiful Technicolor cinematography and a regal Korngold score. Against the fidgety, feisty queen (Bette Davis), Errol gives a subdued performance that lends balance to the picture. I thought that their relationship was a little exhausting to watch, though. They go from slapping each other to eating grapes to kissing to playing cards to yelling in minutes flat (I’m generalizing, but you get the idea). Also noteworthy is the exceptional supporting cast. This film wasn’t one of my favorites, but it’s interesting and worth seeing at least once.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Short Review: Tom, Dick and Harry (1941)

Feb. 4, 2011<br />29. Tom, Dick, and Harry (1941)<br />Starring Ginger Rogers, George Murphy, Alan Marshal, Burgess Meredith<br />Directed by Garson Kanin<br />Plot: &#8220;Working girl Janie is proposed to by a conservative car salesman, a bohemian auto mechanic, and a millionaire playboy and must make a choice.&#8221; (from IMDb)<br />I like Ginger Rogers. I really do. She was wonderful in Stage Door, The Major and the Minor, Primrose Path, Vivacious Lady, the musicals with Fred, etc. It&#8217;s just that the last few movies I&#8217;ve watched of hers have not been my favorite. Sooo, prepare yourself for another dud review. First of all, she just acts really stupid in this. (I guess there&#8217;s not a nice way to say that.) It&#8217;s like her character has the intelligence of a four-year-old (if even). It&#8217;s not even genuine&#8212;it sounds exactly like a 29-year-old woman talking in baby-talk (which it is). I can imagine an actress like Jean Arthur or Betty Hutton (think her character in The Miracle of Morgan&#8217;s Creek) doing a much better job with this role. Ginger herself could&#8217;ve done better if she would&#8217;ve played it differently. But that&#8217;s just my opinion. Though really, a better lead would not have saved the film. The plot itself is pretty thin and there are some bizarre &#8216;dream&#8217; sequences that are at best crazy and at worst downright creepy (especially with the little &#8216;babies&#8217; *shudder*). Also, all three of the male leads are pretty much unlikable. I found myself not really caring much about them. I will give the movie credit in that it kept one guessing up until the very end who she would ultimately pick to marry. I really had no idea! But even when she did pick The One, I just didn&#8217;t feel satisfied in the conclusion. One has the feeling that the marriage would not go so well and Janie would come crawling back home looking for her pacifier pretty soon. What I think she should do is tell all the men &#8216;no&#8217; and grow up a little, maybe go to college or travel. But of course that didn&#8217;t happen. Maybe I&#8217;m being unnecessarily cruel here. I hope not. It&#8217;s just that I didn&#8217;t care for this film (if you can&#8217;t tell). There was not one character that I can think of that I actually liked (even her family was strange&#8212;especially her sister, Butch. I&#8217;m not even joking; that was here name.) Ginger did wear a pretty dress and wrap, though, when she went to Chicago…I guess that counts for something? Honestly, that&#8217;s the best I can do for positives. Let me know if I&#8217;m missing something here! 
Feb. 4, 2011

29. Tom, Dick and Harry (1941)

Starring Ginger Rogers, George Murphy, Alan Marshal, Burgess Meredith

Directed by Garson Kanin

Plot:Working girl Janie is proposed to by a conservative car salesman, a bohemian auto mechanic, and a millionaire playboy and must make a choice.(from IMDb)

I like Ginger Rogers. I really do. She was wonderful in Stage Door, The Major and the Minor, Primrose Path, Vivacious Lady, the musicals with Fred, etc. It’s just that the last few movies I’ve watched of hers have not been my favorite. Sooo, prepare yourself for another dud review. First of all, she just acts really stupid in this. (I guess there’s not a nice way to say that.) It’s like her character has the intelligence of a four-year-old (if even). It’s not even genuine—it sounds exactly like a 29-year-old woman talking in baby-talk (which it is). I can imagine an actress like Jean Arthur or Betty Hutton (think her character in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek) doing a much better job with this role. Ginger herself could’ve done better if she would’ve played it differently. But that’s just my opinion. Though really, a better lead would not have saved the film. The plot itself is pretty thin and there are some bizarre ‘dream’ sequences that are at best crazy and at worst downright creepy (especially with the little ‘babies’ *shudder*). Also, all three of the male leads are pretty much unlikable. I found myself not really caring much about them. I will give the movie credit in that it kept one guessing up until the very end who she would ultimately pick to marry. I really had no idea! But even when she did pick The One, I just didn’t feel satisfied in the conclusion. One has the feeling that the marriage would not go so well and Janie would come crawling back home looking for her pacifier pretty soon. What I think she should do is tell all the men ‘no’ and grow up a little, maybe go to college or travel. But of course that didn’t happen. Maybe I’m being unnecessarily cruel here. I hope not. It’s just that I didn’t care for this film (if you can’t tell). There was not one character that I can think of that I actually liked (even her family was strange—especially her sister, Butch. I’m not even joking; that was here name.) Ginger did wear a pretty dress and wrap, though, when she went to Chicago…I guess that counts for something? Honestly, that’s the best I can do for positives. Let me know if I’m missing something here!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Poll: What era of Cary Grant do you prefer?

In my last review, I mentioned that I prefer the earlier Cary Grant to his later roles. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch just about any Cary Grant movie—’30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, or ‘60s—and I do enjoy a lot of the older ones. But the reason I prefer him in his earlier films is because he seemed to loosen up more. He was more fun and crazy, not afraid to do handstands or play a persona outside his Cary Grant ‘image’. In some of his later roles he sometimes comes across (to me) as bored, indifferent and distant.

Anyway, this got me to thinking about a discussion that Millie and Kate had a while back (click on their respective names to see those posts) whether the ‘30s/’40s Cary or the ‘50s/’60s Cary was better. I decided to put up a poll and see what YOU think.

Here is a partial filmography to get a better idea of what films were made in which decade. (I put an asterisk next to and bolded the ones I’ve seen so you know where my bias is coming from :) ).

In the 1930s and 1940s these are some of the films he made:

Blonde Venus
She Done Him Wrong
Thirty Day Princess
Wings in the Dark
Sylvia Scarlett
*Topper
*The Awful Truth
*Bringing up Baby
*Holiday
Gunga Din
*Only Angels Have Wings
In Name Only
*His Girl Friday
*My Favorite Wife
*The Philadelphia Story
*Penny Serenade
*Suspicion
*The Talk of the Town
*Once Upon a Honeymoon
Destination Tokyo
*Arsenic and Old Lace
None But the Lonely Heart
Night and Day
*Notorious
*The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
*The Bishop's Wife
*Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
Every Girl Should Be Married
*I Was a Male War Bride

In the 1950s and 1960s these are some of the films he made:

Crisis
*People Will Talk
Room for One More
Monkey Business
Dream Wife
*To Catch a Thief
*An Affair to Remember
Kiss Them for Me
Indiscreet
Houseboat
*North by Northwest
Operation Petticoat
*The Grass Is Greener
That Touch of Mink
*Charade
Father Goose
Walk, Don't Run

What do you think? Vote in the poll on the side bar.

Short Review: Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)

Feb. 3, 2011<br />28. Once Upon A Honeymoon (1942)<br />Starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Walter Slezak, Albert Dekker, Albert Basserman<br />Directed by Leo McCarey<br />Plot: “In pre-WW2 Europe, a woman notices that wherever her husband goes, the Nazis seem to follow. Meanwhile, a charming reporter is following them…” (from IMDb)<br />This film is an uneven blend of serious wartime drama, romance, and comedy. Despite genuine moments in each of these genres, the film does lag significantly in parts. Add to that a storyline revolving around the serious subject matter of the Nazi over-take of Europe and deportation of Jews, and the audience isn’t sure what to think—or when to laugh and when to cry. As for the acting, although at least one contemporary critic praised Ginger as giving one of her best performances, I could not agree. She evens out as her character matures, but near the beginning she is all over the map. I am usually a fan of Ginger, but in this film she sporadically uses and drops an accent, and sometimes just acts really odd. Cary, on the other hand, was extremely charming and enjoyable in this role. It’s watching films like this—where he is so full of life and spontaneity—that reminds me why I prefer his earlier screen roles to the later, more hardened image he adopted in the ’50s and ’60s. But back to the movie… It’s not an altogether awful film, but somehow it just doesn’t mesh. <br />(P.S. Sorry if this was kind of rambling and disjointed. I’m not the best writer and I sometimes have trouble coherently conveying my thoughts in these reviews. :P) Feb. 3, 2011
28. Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Walter Slezak, Albert Dekker, Albert Basserman
Directed by Leo McCarey
Plot: “In pre-WW2 Europe, a woman notices that wherever her husband goes, the Nazis seem to follow. Meanwhile, a charming reporter is following them…” (from IMDb)
This film is an uneven blend of serious wartime drama, romance, and comedy. Despite genuine moments in each of these genres, the film does lag significantly in parts. Add to that a storyline revolving around the serious subject matter of the Nazi over-take of Europe and deportation of Jews, and the audience isn’t sure what to think—or when to laugh and when to cry. As for the acting, although at least one contemporary critic praised Ginger as giving one of her best performances, I could not agree. She evens out as her character matures, but near the beginning she is all over the map. I am usually a fan of Ginger, but in this film she sporadically uses and drops an accent, and sometimes just acts really odd. Cary, on the other hand, was extremely charming and enjoyable in this role. It’s watching films like this—where he is so full of life and spontaneity—that reminds me why I prefer his earlier screen roles to the later, more hardened image he adopted in the ’50s and ’60s. But back to the movie… It’s not an altogether awful film, but somehow it just doesn’t mesh. 
For better old films set against the onset of the Second World War in Europe, I recommend:
For comedy: Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be (1942)
For suspense/drama: Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940)
I’m drawing a blank on the romance angle, though I’m sure that there is one out there.







Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Short Review: Mildred Pierce (1945)

Feb. 1, 2011<br />27. Mildred Pierce (1945)<br />Starring Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth, Bruce Bennett, Lee Patrick<br />Directed by Michael Curtiz<br />Plot: &#8220;After her cheating husband leaves her, Mildred Pierce proves she can become independent and successful, but can&#8217;t win the approval of her spoiled daughter.&#8221;<br />This was an interesting movie. The blending of noir and melodrama was nicely done, and I was surprised at some of the twists in the plot&#8212;especially near the end. The use of flash-backs was compelling and the lighting and shadows accentuated the different moods of the story. I also thought the acting was top-notch and contained some very memorable characters. This was a very entertaining and well-done movie. If you haven&#8217;t seen it already, I recommend checking it out.

Feb. 1, 2011

27. Mildred Pierce (1945)

Starring Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth, Bruce Bennett, Lee Patrick

Directed by Michael Curtiz

Plot: After her cheating husband leaves her, Mildred Pierce proves she can become independent and successful, but can’t win the approval of her spoiled daughter.”

This was an interesting movie. The blending of noir and melodrama was nicely done, and I was surprised at some of the twists in the plot—especially near the end. The use of flash-backs was compelling and the lighting and shadows accentuated the different moods of the story. I also thought the acting was top-notch and contained some very memorable characters. This was a very entertaining and well-done movie. If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend checking it out.

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