Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Clash by Night (4 stars)

Clash by Night, directed by Fritz Lang, is a 1952 steamy, soap-opera kind of drama, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan, and Marilyn Monroe.  The future sister-in-law of Stanwyck's character, Monroe is a supporting player and has somewhat minimal screen time, but the other three are pretty much equals...though Stanwyck gets top billing.

Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) has just returned to her small fishing village hometown, after ten years of being away in the big city.  Because things hadn't worked out as she had hoped, Mae is disillusioned, especially with regards to men.  At a local bar, she runs into fisherman Jerry Damato (Paul Douglas), who is immediately smitten with her.

After taking Mae on a date, Jerry introduces her to his friend, Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan), a cynical, unlikeable man, who is as disillusioned about women as Mae is about men.  It is not a good first impression for either Mae or Earl...they argue and quibble and exchange barbs within minutes of meeting one another.

Eventually, because she wants the feeling of being protected by a strong man, Mae agrees to marry Jerry; however, she knows she doesn't really love him, nor is she cut out for the housewife kind of life.  Although Mae soon gives birth to a baby girl, she's bored with marriage and with Jerry and finds herself drawn to the newly-divorced Earl.  Though she at first fights the attraction she feels for Earl, Mae soon succumbs to her passion, and the two embark on an affair.  In a small town, though, everyone seems to know everyone's business, and their relationship is found out.

What will Jerry do when he learns of Mae's affair with his best friend?  What will Mae do when she's forced to choose between stability with Jerry and their baby daughter and passion with Earl?  Can she figure out what she really wants out of life?  And Earl?  He says he loves Mae...but can such a selfish man ever really love?  These are the questions that will play out in this very interesting film.

Clash by Night stars two of my favorites...Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan.  Stanwyck is my third favorite actress, and Ryan, one very under-rated actor in my opinion, is my co-#1 guy.  I'm not sure why I like that man so much...the characters he generally portrays are almost never likeable...they're usually cynical, angry "bad boys," which is not at all in line with who I am as a person.  Even so, though, I am completely crazy about Mr. Ryan, and when I see his name among the cast of a film, I always give it a try.

As an aside, I want to say that Clash by Night is VERY dated (translation: chauvenistic) with regard to a man's treatment of his wife.  There were several statements that made me cringe; however, it is what it is...a reflection of a different time, so I can easily overlook those statements.  I just wanted y'all to be aware because some might be offended.

This film is out on DVD and should be readily available and quite easy to track down.  (I got it from Net Flix.)  Anyhow, happy viewing!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Man of the West (3 stars)

Man of the West, starring my #2 guy Gary Cooper, is a Western drama from 1958.  While I am not a huge fan of Westerns, I DO occasionally watch them.  After all, many of my favorite stars, including my #2 guy, made plenty of them, and since I want to watch their works, I must occasionally view a Western.    Starring along with Coop in this one are Julie London and Lee J. Cobb.  Arthur O'Connell and Jack Lord, of Hawaii Five-O fame, have supporting roles.

Coop plays Link Jones, a former outlaw who has been walking the straight and narrow for many years.  Link has successfully left his thieving, murderous ways behind and has carved out a new and respectable life for himself in a little town called Good Hope.  As the movie begins, Link boards a train to Fort Worth, where he intends to hire a schoolteacher for his town.

While in a very remote area, the train makes a stop to add wood, and all able-bodied passengers are required to help.  At that point, a gang of outlaws jumps the train, and gunfire ensues.  The outlaws are not successful in their takeover, though, and the train pulls away...leaving three passengers behind...Link, Billie Ellis (Julie London), and Sam Beasley (Arthur O'Connell).

Knowing that  there won't be another train for a week and that it is 100 miles to the nearest town, Link suggests that the trio begin walking to shelter, and eventually they reach a secluded homestead...where Link comes face to face with his past.  The home is the hideout of Dock Tobin's (Lee J. Cobb) gang, with whom Link used to run, and with Link back with him, Dock intends to pull off a huge robbery in a nearby town.

Has Link really left his outlaw ways behind him?  Will he return to his thieving ways and join Dock in the robbery?  And when Billie is forced to undress for the lusting men, will Link intervene to protect her?  These are the questions that will play out in this movie.

While I actually enjoy other Coop Westerns more than this one (and even give them 4 stars), this one is very good, very solid.  I like the character of Link me, he's the quintessential Gary Cooper.  I think Coop's portrayal of the outlaw-turned-good citizen was very believable.  It was a perfect role for him.  Lee J. Cobb was fabulous in his role.  He played outlaw Tobin to perfection.  And Jack Lord, Hawaii Five-O's good guy Steve McGarrett, portrayed a member of the gang.  As one who regularly watches (and enjoys) Hawaii Five-O, it seemed quite strange to see Jack Lord in such an evil role, but he did it very well. He and Coop face off in one brutal fighting scene.  (An interesting note---my son read on Wikipedia [which means it may or may not be true] that Jack Lord always credited Gary Cooper as being his on-screen role model.)

Man of the West is out on DVD and should be quite easy to track down.  Those that enjoy Westerns will definitely like this one.  Happy viewing!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Hole in the Head (4 stars)

A Hole in the Head, directed by the fabulous Frank Capra, is a delightful little film starring Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Edward G. Robinson, Thelma Ritter, and a sweet little boy named Eddie Hodges.  Part comedy, part drama, it also has a few sentimental moments.

Tony Manetti (Frank Sinatra), a widower with a young son, owns and operates a run-down hotel in Miami.  Since business isn't all that good, Tony is constantly having to worry about the mortgage and an assortment of other bills.  A gambler, Tony is always sure that his big moment is just around the corner, that very soon, he will hit the jackpot and his financial worries will be over.  All he needs is a short-term loan, just to tide him over until his riches come in. 

Tony's brother, Mario (Edward G. Robinson), and his sister-in-law, Sophie (Thelma Ritter), are quite comfortable financially, and since they've helped him out in the past, Tony is sure they'll be willing to help him out again...especially because of their love and concern for Tony's son, Ally.  Mario, though, doesn't want to enable Tony to continue gambling and living on dreams.  He wants him to settle down, to get a real job and a wife.  He wants a real home, not a hotel, for his nephew, so he tells Tony he won't give him a dime.  Unless Tony is willing to marry and settle down, there will be no money from Mario and Sophie.

Tony agrees to meet Eloise Rogers (Eleanor Parker), a kind-hearted widow his sister-in-law knows, but he's really not sure he wants to give up his carefree existence to marry her...even if it means that Mario and Sophie take Ally back home to live with them.  So, he tries once more to get the big payoff, this time asking an old friend to finance him, but when that doesn't work out, Tony is forced to make some tough decisions.

There are some very tender moments in this film...I even get lightly misty-eyed a couple of times.  There are many lighthearted moments, though, and even some hearty laughs.  I am so used to Eddie G. as a gangster, so I was unprepared for just how funny he could be.  And the way he and Thelma Ritter played off of one another was great.  She is always fabulous, and she certainly doesn't disappoint here.  Also, the chemistry between Frank Sinatra and little Eddie Hodges was amazing.  I loved watching the two of them together.  Yes, their characters had a strong bond, but I believe that bond was off-screen as well.  They just connected in a wonderful way.

Also in this movie, Frank has a chance to show his musical abilities with the delightful "High Hopes."  It's always a treat to hear Ol Blue Eyes sing.

Anyhow, this sweet movie is out on DVD and should be quite easy to track down.  I hope y'all get a chance to see it.  Happy viewing!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

East Side, West Side (4 stars)

East Side, West Side, from 1949, is a soap-opera kind of drama which features four big names in its cast.  Top billing goes to Barbara Stanwyck, with James Mason, Van Heflin, and Ava Gardner rounding things out.

Stanwyck and Mason are Jessie and Brandon Bourne, a married couple who have weathered the storm of the husband's infidelity.  The viewer is made aware that prior to the start of the movie, Brandon had an extra-marital affair with model Isabelle Lorrison (the gorgeous Ava Gardner).  Said affair ended, however, and Isabelle left town, and because Jessie knew that even if she divorced Brandon, she would never stop loving him, she chose to forgive his unfaithfulness. Though all is well in the Bourne's marriage at present, a friend asks Jessie what would happen if Isabelle returned to town.

Isabelle does, indeed, return to town and, in short order, begins her pursuit of Brandon once more.  At first, Brandon, determined to be faithful to his wife, resists Isabelle's advances, but she is relentless in her pursuit, and, in the end, he succumbs to her seduction, causing him to stand Jessie up at a party.

Jessie is devastated by Brandon's failure to arrive at the party, particularly when she phones his office to check on him and learns he had left hours earlier with Miss Lorrison.  To her rescue comes a new acquaintance, Mark Dwyer (Van Heflin), who has very quickly fallen in love with Jessie.  He escorts her home, where he cooks dinner for her and even manages to make her smile.  Mark tells Jessie that although he loves her, he is not in the wife-stealing business, so it's a good thing he will soon be leaving town.  When Brandon returns home that night and is confronted by Jessie about his infidelity, he is broken and repentant, and he promises to never see Isabelle again.

Can Brandon keep his promise?  Isabelle is sure that all she has to do is phone Brandon and he will come running.  Will he?  What about Jessie?  Can she forgive Brandon for, once more, being unfaithful to her?  And what about Mark?  Will he gracefully bow out of Jessie's life?  These are the questions that will play out in the film.

I thought the cast of this film was totally fantastic.  For starters, I am already a huge Barbara Stanwyck fan...she is my third favorite actress...and I enjoy almost anything she does.  James Mason...what can I say, except, wow, what a voice!  I have only recently discovered how much I like him...can't wait to see more of his work. Van Heflin is likeable and totally charming...very much the romantic.  And Ava Gardner is her usual stunningly beautiful self.  Each of these four was perfect in the role they played.

East Side, West Side is a very interesting, thoroughly entertaining film, and I highly recommend it.  Out on DVD, it should be readily available and quite easy to track down.  I hope y'all get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lizzie (3 stars)

Lizzie, starring one of my favorite actresses, Eleanor Parker, is a 1957 drama that explores the subject of multiple personalities.  This is a role which, I think, really shows the amazing range Eleanor had as an actress.   She is joined here by Richard Boone and Joan Blondell.

Elizabeth Richmond is a quiet and rather dowdy-looking young woman, who suffers from forgetfulness and chronic headaches. Socially awkward, she refuses the invitations of her co-workers and, instead, prefers to retreat to the home she shares with her aunt. While at work one day, Elizabeth discovers a threatening letter in her purse, signed by "Lizzie." She has no idea who Lizzie is or why Lizzie would want to kill her.

Later that evening, after transforming into Lizzie, a bold and brash seductress, Elizabeth ventures out.  While enjoying drinks and flirtations with a man, Lizzie writes another threatening letter to Elizabeth.

Lizzie isn't the only personality living inside Elizabeth, though.  There's also Beth, the likeable "real" personality of this young woman.  It will take the skill of a good psychiatrist to uncover Beth and bring her to life.  That, of course, is the focus of this film.

Oh, there's a little treat in this movie, in the form of a very young Johnny Mathis singing "It's Not for Me To Say" in the nightclub scene.  Those who enjoy the velvet voice of Mr. Mathis will love it.

Happy viewing!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Never Say Goodbye (4 stars)

Never Say Goodbye, from 1946, is a sweet little romantic comedy that TCM aired yesterday as part of a birthday month tribute to Eleanor Parker.  The lovely Miss Parker is my 4th favorite actress, behind Bette Davis, Susan Hayward, and Barbara Stanwyck, and just ahead of Grace Kelly and Judy Holliday; therefore, any time TCM airs a movie of hers that I haven't seen, I definitely set my DVR.  Yesterday, I recorded three, but Never Say Goodbye is the only one I've had a chance to watch so far.  This sweet movie, which also stars Errol Flynn, co-stars Lucille Watson and "Cuddles" Sakall, and it introduces a little girl named Patti Brady.

Eleanor Parker is Ellen Gayley, and Errol Flynn portrays her ex-husband, Phillip, a swimsuit artist.  While Ellen never stopped loving Phillip, nor he her, she grew weary of him continually wining and dining his lovely swimsuit models, so she divorced him.  They have an adorable 7 year old daughter named Phillippa (Flip), whose custody they share---six months with one parent, six months with another.

As the movie begins, Flip, who loves both her parents and yearns for them to get back together, is finishing up her time with her dad and is due to return to her mother.  When Phillip returns Flip to Ellen on the first anniversary of their divorce, he asks her to go to dinner with him at Luigi's, one of their favorite restaurants.  As the evening progresses, both Ellen and Phillip make it clear that they long to reconcile with one another; however, unremembered by Phillip, swimsuit model, Nancy, shows up at Luigi's for the date Phillip had made with her.  In a very funny scene (with "Cuddles" Sakall being his adorable, hilarious self), Phillip tries to dine with both women in one restaurant...without either one of them knowing of the other's presence.  Of course, he can't keep up the charade, and Ellen finds out that Phillip hasn't given up other women after all, causing her to walk out on him.

Meanwhile, little Flip, desirous of boosting armed services morale, has been writing letters to a Marine, signing them "Smoochy."  Only thing is, the photo she sent to him is one of her mother in a swimsuit, so when the man is in town on leave and stops by to meet his pen pal, he assumes Ellen, not Flip, is the one who has been writing him love letters.  Flip decides to use the situation to get her parents back together...and she does it adorably.

Never Say Goodbye is a total delight.  Though I've not watched many Errol Flynn films and, therefore, don't know him all that well, I found him very charming here.  And, of course, as I have already made clear, I love Eleanor Parker.  She is beautiful, graceful, and thoroughly captivating here.  There are a few screwball comedy moments, but mostly, this movie is just sweet and adorable.  Definitely try to see it if you can.  I believe it is out on DVD, but I know it's available on VHS.

Finally, just an aside, there is another movie called Never Say Goodbye, which I am longing to see.  It's a drama from 1956 and stars Rock Hudson.  In no way is it a remake of this.  Totally different films, just the same name.  Have any of y'all seen that one?  I keep hoping TCM will air it, but, so far, it hasn't been on their schedule.

Anyhow, happy viewing!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Payment on Demand (3 stars)

For this classic movie gal, Bette Davis is the best actress that has ever lived.  I totally love Bette and want to see all of her movies, so when TCM airs one that I've never seen before, I definitely set my DVR.  One such movie that I recently discovered is Payment on Demand, from 1950.  This movie, which also stars Barry Sullivan, was originally titled The Story of a Divorce; however, before it premiered, the title was changed to Payment on Demand.  (Bette really hated the new title, because she thought it sounded cheap and demeaning.)  Payment on Demand was actually made before All About Eve, but it wasn't released until afterwards, probably hoping to capitalize on the success of that movie.

Payment on Demand is the story of Joyce and David Ramsey, a 20-year-married couple, with two upper teenage daughters.  As the movie begins, David informs Joyce that what they had is gone and that he wants a divorce.  Thinking that because they are now wealthy and successful and have everything they ever wanted, Joyce is totally blindsided by David's request.  She becomes introspective as she wonders what has brought David to this point, and through a series of flashbacks, the story is told of the manipulation and bossiness which have driven her husband away from her and into the arms of another woman.

Upon learning that David has been unfaithful to her, Joyce is furious and vows to make him pay dearly.  She intends to take him to the cleaners financially, and if he doesn't give her what she wants, she vows that David's new love will find herself involved in a very public scandal.  How the situation is resolved is the core of the movie. 

Two pieces of trivia about this film, which I learned in Bette Davis, Larger Than Life, by Richard Schickel and George Perry:

First, the original film ending was changed at the very last moment before the film's premiere.  Howard Hughes, owner of RKO, the studio producing Payment on Demand, felt the original ending was too bleak and that it would be unpopular.  

Also, at the time of filming, Bette's marriage to William Grant Sherry was falling apart.  Mr. Sherry was convinced that his wife and her co-star, Barry Sullivan, were involved in an affair, and although Sullivan denied it, when Bette learned of the altercation between them, she took the remaining steps to end her marriage.

Payment on Demand is a very solid 3-star movie, and Bette, as always, is very good.  I've never discovered a film in which she didn't do a stellar job.  Though this isn't a favorite Bette Davis movie by any means, it is definitely worth watching, especially if you are a Bette Davis fan. 

Happy viewing!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dear Wife (4 stars)

Dear Wife, from 1949, is an adorable little comedy I recently discovered in the "instant viewing" inventory of Net Flix.  As I have long made known, I am a William Holden freak.  He is my #1 guy, and it is my goal to see all of his movies.  That is how I discovered this adorable, little-known movie.  In addition to Bill Holden, the movie stars Edward Arnold, Joan Caulfield, and Mona Freeman.

Miriam Wilkins (Mona Freeman) is a politically-minded high school student.  Always one to jump on board one cause or another, Miriam's latest plan is to draft a petition against the state senator for her district.  Seems that a high-profile man keeps appointing his own choices for the state senate seats, and Miriam has had enough.   She proposes that her brother-in-law, Bill Seacroft (William Holden), run for the seat. What Miriam doesn't know when she starts her petition drive is that her own father, Judge Harry Wilkins (Edward Arnold), has received the latest appointment, which would pit father-in-law against son-in-law in a primary election.

Bill tells his wife, Ruth, and the rest of the family that he has no intention of running for the office; however, after attending a dinner held by the "Seacroft for Senate" supporters, Bill changes his mind.  He was made aware of the other side of a particular issue, and he wholeheartedly believes in that other side.  To not run, would allow the judge to bulldoze ahead with a plan he, himself, opposes.  So...Bill decides to stay in the race and oppose his father-in-law in the primary, which, of course, causes marital disharmony since Ruth must choose between her husband and her dad.

Dear Wife is totally cute and lots of fun.  No, it's not hysterically funny.  No, there aren't any deep belly laughs.  But it is very cute.  Edward Arnold is stellar in this role.  And Bill Holden is in the most handsome years of his life.  He is totally gorgeous here.  The movie is worth watching just to look at him!

I don't think this movie is out on DVD, but, as I said, it IS available through Net Flix instant viewing.  I hope you get a chance to watch it, because I feel sure you will enjoy it.

Happy viewing!!