Monday, April 25, 2011

Attention Gregory Peck Fans!!!

Just want to give a heads-up to all the Gregory Peck fans out there.  Later this week, the United States Postal Sevice will release another of its "Hollywood Legends" postage stamps.  This newest stamp, which will be a "forever stamp," features Mr. Peck in his Academy Award-winning role of Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird).

I know that I will be purchasing several sheets of these beautiful stamps, and for the next several months, it is the ONLY stamp I will be using...just like the gorgeous Gary Cooper stamp was the only stamp I used from September 2009 until this past month when I used the last one I had.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Deception (4 stars)

Deception, an Irving Rapper drama from 1946, reunites Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains, who had starred together four years earlier in Now, Voyager (my all-time favorite movie).  Though Bette Davis gets top billing and did do her normal wonderful job here, I think Claude Rains really steals the show.  He is totally brilliant in his role.

Bette is Christine Radcliffe, a concert pianist, who has become the mistress of her instructor, renowned composer Alexander Hollenius (Rains).  Alex enables Christine to live a very extravagant lifestyle...fancy apartment, lavish decor, beautiful clothes, etc.

One evening, Christine attends a concert, where European cellist Karel Novak (Paul Henreid) is performing for the first time in the United States.  While in Europe before the war, Christine and Karel had been deeply in love; however, the war separated them, and Christine eventually came to believe Karel had been killed.  After the concert is over, Christine goes backstage and is reunited with her long-lost love, who declares to her that only his hope of finding her again kept him alive.  Seeing no wedding ring on Christine's finger, Karel is relieved, and he suggests that they finally fulfill their plan of getting married.

However, while Christine is not married, she is a very jealous Alex Hollenius.  But Christine doesn't want Karel to know the truth about her relationship with Alex.  She doesn't want him to know she's been kept by Alex.  She doesn't want Karel to think she is anything but a struggling music teacher who has remained true to him even though she thought him dead.   So, one lie after another pours from her mouth, and, amazingly, Karel really has no idea of the true nature of Christine's relationship with Alex.  And Alex has no intention of letting Christine go...even after she and Karel are married.

Do Christine and Karel find happiness?  Does Christine stop lying?  Does Karel learn the truth?  Does Alex let Christine go?  These are the questions that play out through the balance of the movie.  It's very interesting, and, again, I must say that Claude Rains was magnificent in this role.  I didn't think the chemistry between Bette Davis and Paul Henreid was as strong as it was in Now, Voyager.  But since Now, Voyager is my all-time favorite movie, I suppose it's hard for me to be totally objective.  Anyhow, Deception is a very solid 4-star film for me, and I highly recommend it.

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Counterfeit Traitor (4 stars)

The Counterfeit Traitor was one of the movies I watched for my William Holden Birthday Movie Marathon.  I had seen it once before, about two or three years ago, but I felt it was time for a re-watch.  Also starring Lilli Palmer, The Counterfeit Traitor, which is based on a true story, is a very intense WWII espionage flick from 1962.

Erick Erickson (Holden) is an oil trader living and working in neutral Sweden.  Though American-born, Erickson has long been a Swedish citizen, and he is completely non-political...whatever is good for business is good for him.  However, he finds himself pressured (blackmailed in a way) by the British Intelligence to spy on the Germans, reporting back to them about the German oil refineries.  Between a rock and a hard place, Erick has no choice but to get involved in the dangerous world of espionage and is soon given a contact, a beautiful German woman named Marianne Mollendorf (Lilli Palmer).

Though he originally took on the role due to pressure from the British Intelligence, after witnessing atrocities committed by the Nazis, Erick comes to believe in his cause wholeheartedly.  Even though his wife leaves him and his friends abandon him because of his (apparent) pro-Nazi views, he won't back off.  And even when it might mean his own life, he refuses to leave Germany.

There are many powerful, bone-chilling moments in this film, and William Holden is positively brilliant in his role.  I think it's one of the best performances of his career. The movie is a bit long (just short of two and a half hours); however, it never's pretty much non-stop action. I definitely highly recommend it.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Storm Warning (4 stars)

Storm Warning, a hard-hitting 1951 drama that explores some very intense issues, including the ugly blight of the Ku Klux Klan, is definitely not a feel-good movie.  Directed by Stuart Heisler, it stars Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, and Steve Cochran.  Our family chose to watch this last night in honor of Doris Day's 87th birthday; however, it's really Ginger's movie.  She gets top billing, and she more than steals the show.  She's totally fabulous, and since my husband adores Ginger and was in need of a fix, we chose to watch Storm Warning.  But even though it was totally Ginger's movie, Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, and Steve Cochran were all terrific in their roles.  Really, if anyone thinks Doris was all musicals and comedies, this is one of several movies they need to watch in order to be enlightened.

The story begins when Marsha Mitchell (Ginger), while on a business trip, stops off in the small Southern town of Rockpoint in order to visit her sister Lucy (Doris).  Lucy has recently gotten married to Hank Rice (Steve Cochran), whom Marsha has never met before.  So, late one evening, she steps off the bus and into a horrifying new world.

Marsha barely gets out of the bus depot before all the businesses nearby turn off their lights and shut down.  The few people she runs into are unfriendly and unhelpful; in fact, the cab driver won't even give her a lift.  So, after quickly checking her large suitcase at the bus station, Marsha begins the long walk to Lucy's place of employment.  Within minutes, though, she hears shouts and then watches a lynch mob attacking a man, even shooting him in the back and killing him.  As Marsha hides in the shadows of a building, she gets a clear view of the mob; although most remained in their white-hooded Ku Klux Klan robes, two of the of them being the man who fired the deadly shots...have removed their hoods, and Marsha is able to see their faces clearly.

Sickened by what she has witnessed, Marsha is extremely distraught when she finally connects with her sister.  But she is even more distraught when she is introduced to her new brother-in-law and discovers that  he was part of the lynch mob and that he was the one who fired the deadly shots.  Despising Hank, yet not wanting to hurt Lucy, Marsha doesn't want to get involved and decides she will just hightail it out of town the next morning.

County Prosecutor Burt Rainey (Reagan) is positive that the man's death was the work of the Klan; however, as has been the case with many activities that have taken place in Rockpoint, no one ever sees anything, no one is ever willing to testify against the Klan.  And without a witness to back him up, Rainey never has a case.  This time, though, he is determined to indict the Klan, and after learning that Marsha had checked her suitcase at the bus station only minutes before the murder, he brings her to his office for questioning.

Although Marsha doesn't reveal the identity of the two men she clearly saw, she does tell Prosecutor Rainey that the mob were all wearing hoods.  That is exactly what Burt needed to hear in order to pin the crime on the Klan; however, in order to get an indictment, he needs Marsha to testify to that, and he subpoenas her.  Now Marsha can't leave town as planned. On the other hand, the Klan head, who has learned that Marsha witnessed the crime, tells her that if she testifies that it was the Klan, then her brother-in-law will be fingered as the guilty party and hanged.  How can she do that to her sister?

Burt Rainey is having a similar dilemma.  Over and over, his colleagues counsel him to drop the case, saying it is political suicide to try to indict the Klan, that he will never win another election in Rockpoint again.  How can he prosecute the very people whose votes he needs to stay in office?

So, how do Burt and Marsha resolve their moral dilemmas?  What will they do?  Will they do what they think is right even when it is to their detriment to do so?  Well the remainder of the movie chronicles the choices they both make, so in order to find out, you will have to watch for yourself.

Storm Warning is a very good message movie, and I highly recommend it.  It's out on DVD and should be readily available and quite easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sabrina (5 stars)

Sabrina, an adorable romantic comedy from 1954, is one of my twenty all-time favorite movies. Another fabulous work of director Billy Wilder, it stars Humphrey Bogart, the classy and elegant Audrey Hepburn, and the oh-so-handsome William Holden. The story is about the two sons of the wealthy, socially prominent Larrabee family. Older son Linus (Humphrey Bogart) is basically an unemotional workaholic. He lives and breathes the family corporation and has little time for fun or love. Younger son David (William Holden), on the other hand, is the family playboy, who has been involved with several women, sometimes to the detriment of the family business. He's all about fun and games and doesn't really give a hoot about business.

Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn), the daughter of the family chauffeur, has been in love with David since she was a little girl, but, of course, David barely notices her. With unrequited love breaking her heart, and after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Sabrina is sent off to a culinary school in Paris. There, she nurses her broken heart and becomes a fashionable woman of the world. By the time she returns home to New York, she barely looks like the same young girl that she had once been. In fact, she looks so different that, when David happens upon her at the train station, he has no idea who she is....a fact that amuses Sabrina. David is totally enamored of the woman she now is, and even after learning her identity (that she is the chauffeur's daughter), he continues to be smitten.

But David's family in no way is open to a romance between him and Sabrina. After all, she is only the chauffeur's daughter. Add to that, they have successfully gotten David engaged to a girl that will unite their business with another. Therefore, the family will do whatever it takes to keep David and Sabrina apart.

When a minor accident sidelines David for a time, brother Linus steps up to the plate. Under the guise of filling in for David, he wines and dines Sabrina, with one goal in mind all the get her out of town and out of David's life. And it doesn't matter to Linus if Sabrina gets hurt in the is business, after all. Unfortunately for Linus, and to Sabrina's great surprise, Sabrina begins to realize that it was a childhood infatuation she had for David, that she really doesn't love him after all. In fact, she is drawn to Linus, and she is pretty sure he is falling for her as well. What she doesn't know is that Linus has only been pretending to fall for her in order to get her out of the picture...or has he? He doesn't really want to accompany her to Paris (and out of New York), does he?

Okay, so this little cliffhanger is where I will leave off. After all, I want you all to watch the movie for yourselves...and I don't want to completely spoil your viewing pleasure. So, definitely, look for this one. It's out on DVD and should be readily available through Net Flix or your local library. I know you will love it. (And if, like me, you are crazy about William Holden, you'll love it even more.)

For the record, Sabrina was done as a remake in the mid 90's, with Harrison Ford in the Humphrey Bogart role. I am not a huge fan of remaking the classics, so I didn't see it. However, my daughter did, and while she thought Holden and Hepburn could not be improved upon, she did think Harrison Ford was better suited for the role of Linus than Bogart was. I'm the first to admit, that much as I enjoy Humphrey Bogart, I thought he was quite stiff and uncomfortable as Linus. With the exception of Casablanca, he's not really a romantic lead, and he seemed a bit unbelievable in the role. Even so, though, I love the original Sabrina and highly recommend it.

Happy viewing!!