Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Make Way for Tomorrow (5 stars)

Make Way for Tomorrow is a powerful and sentimental heart-tugging drama from 1937.  Directed by Leo McCarey and starring Beulah Bondi, Victor Moore, Thomas Mitchell, and Fay Bainter, it explores the plight of older couples whose children can't (or don't want to) take care of them.  I first saw this movie about a year and a half ago through Net Flix, and I waited a very long time for had been in my queue in some sort of wait status ("very long," "long," and finally "short") for several months, and when it was finally sent, it was from a facility clear across the country from where I live. But the wait was definitely worth it.

Bark and Lucy Cooper (Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi) are a 50-year married couple of about 70 years of age.  As the film begins, they have called their adult children home for a family meeting.  Four of their five children attend the meeting; their other daughter lives in California and cannot be there.  Because Bart had been out of work for four years and was unable to make the house payments, the bank has taken possession of the house, and Bart and Lucy need to move out.

Since none of their kids have room for both of them, it is decided that Lucy will live with son George (Thomas Mitchell) and his family, while Bark will live with one of their daughters.  The separation is supposed to be for only three months, at which time, one of the other daughters will take them both.  In the meantime, Bark and Lucy are living 300 miles apart and have to depend on the phone and letters to keep in touch.  They miss each other desperately and can hardly wait until the time they are reunited.  Adding to the pain of their separation is the fact that both of them are feeling unwanted and in the way where they are.

Make Way for Tomorrow is an incredibly powerful movie.  After finally seeing it (and loving it!) through Net Flix, I was elated to catch this about a year ago when it had its TCM premiere.  Robert Osborne said that Leo McCarey considered Make Way for Tomorrow to be his finest film.  Also, the same year as this film, McCarey won the Academy Award for directing The Awful Truth, and, according to Osborne, he said in his acceptance speech that he got the award for the wrong film.  McCarey's words speak volumes about the caliber of this movie.

Beulah Bondi is especially fabulous in her role, and it's amazing to think that she was 49 when she did it...playing a 70 year old woman.  In fact, she was only four years older than Thomas Mitchell, who played her son in the film.  The makeup artist did a fabulous job to age Beulah 20 years. Victor Moore was also stellar in his role as the aging father who sees more than his children think he sees.

The emotional tug of this movie makes it a bit painful to watch, but it's also quite beautiful...the couple's 50 year marital love is beyond touching. All of us yearn for such a faithful love.  I must admit, though, I was surprised to find such a movie was made back in 1937...I didn't think people in that generation had that kind of an attitude toward their aging parents.  (I thought such an attitude was more a product of the late 20th and 21st centuries.)

Anyhow, Make Way for Tomorrow, is an absolute must-see, if only because most of us at one time or other are going to be faced with the question of how to care for our aging parents.  The film is available on DVD as well as through YouTube.  (HERE)  Definitely track it down...and expect your eyes to mist over as you watch it. 

Happy viewing!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beware, My Lovely (4 stars)

Beware, My Lovely, from 1952, is a mildly suspenseful drama starring Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan.  This is another of the many roles in which I think Ryan totally excels, as does Ida. 

The film begins with a man (Ryan) discovering a dead body in a closet and then hightailing it away from that house.  Catching a ride on a freight train, the man soon arrives in another town and at the home of widow, Helen Gordon (Lupino).  Introducing himself as Howard Wilton, he offers his handyman services to Mrs. Gordon, and she immediately hires him.

Though Howard is obviously troubled in some way, that isn't at first apparent to Helen.  It isn't until later, after Howard tells her that he has episodes of confusion and forgetfulness and that he sometimes wonders if he has hurt someone, that Helen begins to be alarmed.

Upon discovering that the front door has been locked and the key removed and that she is trapped inside her house with a man she thinks intends to harm her, panic really begins to set in for Helen.  Does he intend to harm her?  Will he do so, or does she get away from him? Those are the questions that play out in this very interesting film.

Beware, My Lovely is definitely an enjoyable viewing experience.  It's suspenseful without being scary.  And the acting of both Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino is terrific (as is typical for both!).  Incidentally, Ryan and Lupino starred together in another film, On Dangerous Ground, which I have reviewed HERE.  That, too, is a very solid 4-star film.

I don't believe this movie is out on DVD; however, I know it is available on VHS.  Plus, TCM airs it fairly regularly.  Hope you get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!!

NOTE:  This story was recreated as the TV drama, The Man, in 1960, with Audie Murphy and Thelma Ritter in the Ryan/Lupino roles. With only a few minor changes, the stories are identical. Read my review HERE.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jeopardy (3 stars)

Jeopardy, from 1953, is a mildly suspenseful drama starring Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, and Ralph Meeker.  Not suspenseful in a scary sense, this movie is more of a "can't wait to see how it turns out" kind of movie.  I really was quite riveted to the storyline.

Helen and Doug Stilwin (Stanwyck and Sullivan) and their little boy, Bobby, have headed to Mexico for a 2-week camping trip.

After leaving the populated city of Ensenada, they travel South on a lonely, desolate road, hardly seeing a single car or person along the way.  Their destination is an isolated beach, hundreds of miles down the coast.  (Just an aside, I have to say that lonely, desolate roads and I absolutely do not mix.  I have had some horrible panic attacks when my husband has decided that we needed to venture on those kinds of my fear of those situations really made this movie incredibly vivid to me.)

After reaching their destination, little Bobby, not knowing that the word "peligro" means  "danger," begins exploring a very broken-down pier.  When he gets his foot stuck between some boards, his dad goes to his rescue; just after Bobby has made it safely back to shore, though, one of the pier's rotting timbers breaks, causing that section of the pier to collapse, pinning Doug's lower leg beneath it.

Doug can't pull loose from the massive weight holding him down, and try as she might, Helen can't budge the timber either.  With the tide beginning to come back in, and knowing that he has only about four hours before he will be drowned, Doug sends Helen back up the desolate road in search of help.  With time running out, Helen finally comes upon someone who might be able to help her...only thing is, he is a dangerous criminal who really has zero interest in doing so.

Will this man change his mind and help Helen?  Will they get to Doug in time?  Those are the questions that play out in this riveting film.

Jeopardy is definitely an interesting, exciting film.  Barbara Stanwyck, who is near the very top of my favorite actress list, is, as always, fabulous in her role.  Ralph Meeker was really good as well, as was Barry Sullivan.  I don't have much exposure to either of those men, but I thought they were both excellent in their roles.  This movie is one which, had it been a trifle longer and developed just a bit more, I would easily give 4 stars.  However, at 70 minutes, it's simply an extremely solid 3-star film.

Out on DVD as part of a Barbara Stanwyck double feature (with To Please a Lady), Jeopardy should be fairly easy to track down.  Additionally, TCM airs it fairly regularly.

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tender Comrade (4 stars)

Tender Comrade, from 1943, is a mildly sentimental wartime romantic drama starring Ginger Rogers, with Robert Ryan, Ruth Hussey, Kim Hunter, Mady Christians, and Patricia Collinge in supporting roles.  This film is very much a morale-boosting, flag-waving film, and it's also a mild tearjerker (at least for me).  It's the story of five women, four of whom work together at an aircraft plant, who share a house during the war.

First, there's Jo Jones (Ginger Rogers), whose husband, Chris (Robert Ryan), is in the Army.

As the film begins, before the women have moved out of their tiny apartments and into the house they share, Chris, who will be shipping out the next morning for overseas duty, makes a surprise 8-hour visit to his wife.  The movie is liberally dotted with flashbacks of Jo and Chris's courtship and early married life.

There's Barbara (Ruth Hussey), whose husband Pete is in the Navy.  Convinced that Pete has a girl in every port, Barbara is ready to begin seeing other men.  She's weary of rationing and sacrificing.

Helen (Patricia Collinge), who has both husband and son in the Service, is rather the matriarch of the working girls.

Doris (Kim Hunter) and her husband, Mike, were married only minutes before he was shipped off.

Finally, there's Manya (Mady Christians), a German woman who responds to the girls' ad for a housekeeper.  Not an American citizen, Manya is unable to work in the war plant; however, she still longs to help in the war effort, and by helping those that are working there, she feels she is doing her part.

While I originally discovered this film because of my husband's love for Ginger, I enjoy it even more because of my own love for Robert Ryan.  While I totally love Ryan in his usual "heavy" roles, I really enjoy the opportunity to see him in a romantic role...and I think he took to the role beautifully.  He definitely could have been a romantic leading man!

Tender Comrade is totally Ginger's movie, and her story is the one most touched upon. The other girls' stories are only a tiny portion of the film.  Ginger fans will undoubtedly want to see this.

Also, Robert Ryan fans (such as myself!) will enjoy seeing him in this kind of role (especially looking SO incredibly handsome!). 

Finally, those that enjoy films about the World War II homefront will probably want to see this.  However, just a warning, the film is heavy into what has been called the "propaganda speech," so if that bothers you, you probably will really dislike this movie.  It doesn't bother me at all; in fact, I quite enjoy these morale-boosting films.  But those who are really bothered by those kinds of speeches will probably want to skip this.

I don't think this film is out on DVD or on least I've never seen it in either format.  It might be available on YouTube or other online sources, but I haven't been able to locate it.  However, TCM airs it periodically...that's where I caught it a couple years you might be able to catch it there.

Happy viewing!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Turning Point (3 stars)

Still in the midst of my William Holden viewing month (as if I need the excuse of his 30 year death anniversary to OD on his films!), I discovered The Turning Point on Net Flix instant viewing.  This 1952 crime drama also stars Edmond O'Brien and Alexis Smith, with Tom Tully and Ed Begley taking on supporting roles.  Though I don't see this film as noir, Net Flix classifies it that way.

Prosecutor Johnny Conroy (O'Brien) is out to break up the criminal gangs in his city.  The son of police officer Matt Conroy (Tom Tully), Johnny has no political ambitions...just a desire to bring down the Eichelberger syndicate.  Telling his dad that he wants an honest cop---one he can trust---on his team, Johnny asks Matt to be his special assignment the older man refuses.

Jerry McKibben (William Holden), a news reporter and longtime friend of Johnny's, wonders about Matt's refusal to help his son investigate the criminal gang, and after following him on a hunch, Jerry begins to believe that Matt is a crooked cop.  Eventually, Jerry is certain that Matt is on the syndicate's payroll, and, confronting him, Jerry makes clear that unless Matt breaks free, he will expose him in the newspaper.   Not wanting to embarrass his son that way, Matt comes clean to Jerry, explaining how he got involved in corrupt activities and asking for advice about how to get out.

Hoping to keep from Johnny the fact that his father is a cop on the take, Jerry doesn't go to Johnny with the information; instead, he counsels Matt to double-cross Eichelberger (Ed Begley).  However, Eichelberger has people planted everywhere, so he knows of Matt's intent to double-cross.  How will he respond?  Will Matt be able to break free?  Will he be able to keep his corrupt activities from his son?  Or will the prosecutor find out that his trusted father is a crooked cop?  And what does Eichelberger intend to do to keep newsman McKibbin from finding out anything more?

In the midst of all these questions being resolved, Jerry is finding himself drawn to Johnny's girlfriend, Mandy (Alexis Smith), and she is finding herself drawn to Jerry as well.  How will Johnny react if he discovers that not only is his dad a dirty cop, but his girlfriend and best friend have fallen in love?

The Turning Point actually started out as a 4-star film; however, somewhere in the middle, it deteriorated slightly for me.  A courtroom scene that was a bit tedious...trying to wrap everything up a bit too quickly, so that it seemed a bit contrived...a scene toward the end (with Neville Brand, at the boxing arena) that was too drawn out...for those reasons I went with 3 rather than 4 stars.  Still, though, this is a very solid 3-star film, with an interesting storyline and good acting by all.  Edmond O'Brien was super---and every believable---in his role.  And Bill Holden gave his usual fantastic performance.  Plus, he was beyond handsome at this point in his career, so this film is worth watching just to look at him!  I feel sure William Holden and Edmond O'Brien fans will enjoy this movie.

I don't believe the film is out on DVD, but I know it is available through Net Flix instant viewing, and it is available in its entirety on YouTube (above video).

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wishing You All Thanksgiving Joys

Just wanted to wish all my classic movie lovin' friends a wonderful, abundantly blessed Thanksgiving.  And to my international friends, who aren't observing Thanksgiving today, I wish you a joyous and beautiful Thursday.  A huge thank you to all of you for your friendship and kind comments.

Since making the decision to do a post every day all through the winter, I have been pretty much on task.  I think I've only missed two days, but since there were a couple days I actually posted twice, I'm very much okay with that.

Given that I'm not a Black Friday shopper, I will be sticking close to the house tomorrow, so expect a new movie surprise, it's another William Holden movie I've recently discovered.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

There's Always Tomorrow (3 stars)

There's Always Tomorrow, from 1956, is a romantic drama starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, and Joan Bennett.  Produced by Ross Hunter, and directed by Douglas Sirk, this film was the final of four pairings between Stanwyck and MacMurray.  They had previously worked together in Remember the Night (1940), Double Indemnity (1944), and The Moonlighter (1953).  This film is a remake of a 1934 film, also entitled There's Always Tomorrow, starring Frank Morgan and Binnie Barnes.

Toy manufacturer Cliff Groves (Fred MacMurray) is feeling a bit overlooked in life.  His wife Marion (Joan Bennett) and their three children have their own lives, and there just doesn't seem to be room for him.  In fact, the children seem to be Marion's matter what Cliff wants to do, she cannot tear herself away from the children.  Though it is Marion's birthday and Cliff had planned to surprise her with dinner and theatre tickets, Marion is unable to do that.  Their youngest child has a ballet recital that evening, and she absolutely will not disappoint the child by not attending.  With his son and older daughter also having their own plans, Cliff is left home alone, with the theatre tickets about to go to waste. 

At that point, an old acquaintance stops by for a visit. Norma Vale (Barbara Stanwyck), a fashion designer who used to work for Cliff and who left town due to her unrequited love for him, is in town on business, and at Cliff's suggestion, the two of them make an evening of it.  They have a great time together---strictly platonically.

Later that week, Cliff had hoped that his wife would accompany him on a business trip; as it turns out, though, the sprained ankle of their youngest child changes Marion's plans.  Telling Cliff to go on without her, Marion, once again, puts the children ahead of Cliff. 

When Cliff arrives at the conference center, he is notified that his business appointment cancelled on him; at the same time, he discovers that Norma is registered at the same hotel.  Since they are both there, Cliff decides to stay on, and he and Norma spend the next two days together...swimming, dancing, riding, laughing, talking.  While it is all very above-board, Cliff's son, who has driven down to the conference center himself, discovers them and gets a wrong impression of things.

Though things with Norma and Cliff didn't begin with the intention of falling in love, that is exactly what happens.  After realizing that Norma has been in love with him all these years, Cliff acknowledges his love for her as well.  The two of them are forced to make hard choices about what the future can be for them.  Meanwhile, Cliff's son, determined to get Norma out of his dad's life, is watching Cliff's every move.  How it all plays out is the focus of the remainder of this film.

While I enjoyed this movie, it really didn't touch me the way other Ross Hunter and/or Douglas Sirk films have done.  Ross Hunter produced such sobbers as Madame X, Imitation of Life, and Back Street, and Sirk directed Imitation of Life, All That Heaven Allows, and Magnificent Obsession; all those films moved me deeply and were definite tearjerkers; There's Always Tomorrow, however, just didn't ignite that same fire.  Oh, I enjoyed the movie, but I was disappointed that it didn't touch my heart like the other films did.  Still, though, Barbara Stanwyck, one of my absolute favorite actresses, gave her usual stellar performance.  Plus, she and Fred MacMurray worked well together, which made for an enjoyable film.

This film is out on DVD, as part of the 6-film Barbara Stanwyck Collection.  It should be quite easy to track down.  Happy viewing!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ten North Frederick (5 stars)

Always on the lookout for a deeply moving, 5-star film I've never seen before, I recently hit the jackpot with my viewing of Ten North Frederick.  A little-heard-of Gary Cooper romantic drama from 1958, this movie also stars Suzy Parker, Diane Varsi, and Geraldine Fitzgerald.  Much like the beautiful Fredric March/Kim Novak film, Middle of the Night (reviewed HERE), Ten North Frederick explores the romantic relationship between a 50-ish man and a woman half his age.

With this one movie, two films have been toppled from their positions on my lists. For quite some time, Madame X has been the tearjerker of all tearjerkers for me. I totally love that movie and generally sob to the point of being unable to breathe. While that is still the case, Ten North Frederick brings an equal amount of sobs.  Additionally, when it comes to my beloved Gary Cooper, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town has long been my favorite of his films. While I still totally love that movie, I love this one even more.  After only one viewing, Ten North Frederick is on my 20 favorite films list.

The fabulous Coop is Joseph B. Chapin...successful lawyer, faithful husband, loving father.  The story, which is told in flashback, begins at number Ten North Frederick Street, immediately following Joe's funeral.  Through the eyes of Joe's 20-something daughter Ann, we see that while the Chapin family looks good on the outside, inside there is scandal and unhappiness.  Although Joe has always been faithful to his wife, Edith (Geraldine Fitzgerald), there is no love or warmth between them; in fact, while Joe's children have a bond with him, it is clear that they, too, have no love for their cold, ambitious, social-climbing mother.

Edith manipulates her husband and children in order to satisfy her own drive for power and status.  Since Edith wants a political future for Joe, he throws his hat in the ring for lieutenant governor, despite not having political aspirations himself.  Son Joby's desire to be a musician and to attend Juilliard is put down, and he is sent off to Yale instead.  And when daughter Ann marries someone deemed "unacceptable" to her father's candidacy prospects, the man is bought off and the marriage annulled.

When Joe can no longer live with the ugliness of the political campaign, he withdraws from the race...something which infuriates Edith.  Telling him that he is a failure and that she has wasted her life on him, she proceeds to inform him that she had been unfaithful to him fifteen years earlier.  Edith's words have an affect on Joe...he tells her that his real failure was in not being a better father, in allowing Edith's ambitions to cause him to hurt the ones he loved most.  Feeling that he needs to apologize to Ann for buying off her husband, Joe heads to New York City, where Ann is now living.

Unaware that her father was coming for a visit, Ann is not at home when Joe arrives; however, her roommate, Kate (Suzy Parker) is there, and she and Joe spend the evening talking.   Before long, despite the tremendous disparity in their ages, Joe and Kate are deeply in love.  Can there possibly be a future for them?

This film moved me deeply. Although it took close to 50 minutes to really come together, once it did, there was no stopping it. More than just a tearjerker, this was a sobber (for me). As with Madame X, I was sobbing (not merely weeping) for nearly a half hour in this film. Coop was totally magnificent in his role...emotional and vulnerable in a way I've rarely seen him before. I can't help but wonder if his own years-earlier romance with the half-his-age Patricia Neal made this role deeply personal for him and if that personalness translated into what I think is one of his very best performances. My heart was completely touched by his character. Adding to the movie's emotional tug was my awareness that this was one of Coop's final films. Three years---and a half dozen films---after this, Coop would succumb to cancer, and his wonderful, charismatic presence would grace the silver screen no more.

Suzy Parker, who I have never seen before, was really lovely in her role as Kate, and Geraldine Fitzgerald was spot-on as Joe's overbearing, shrewish wife.  Although at times it didn't seem like the scenes flowed right, I still positively loved this movie.

So, there you have it, with this one film, Madame X must now share its title of "tearjerker of all tearjerkers," and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, though still very beloved, is  now my second favorite Gary Cooper film. 

I don't believe Ten North Frederick is out on DVD, and TCM rarely airs it.  However, it is available on YouTube (in 11 parts), and I highly recommend seeing it.  It's really a beautiful film, and, I think, it features Coop at his absolute finest.

Happy viewing!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Bigamist (4 stars)

With this month being the 30th anniversary of the death of one of my #1's (William Holden) and the 102nd birthday of my other #1 (Robert Ryan), it has been mostly their films I've been watching lately.  However, my friend Victoria recently recommended The Bigamist, so I took a short break from the #1's in order to watch it, and I am so glad I did.  Always drawn to a deep, meaty drama and powerful acting, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

From 1953, The Bigamist stars Joan Fontaine, Ida Lupino, and Edmond O'Brien, with Edmund Gwenn taking on a supporting role.  Lupino also had directorial duties in this film, which begins with Eve and Harry Graham (Fontaine and O'Brien) seeking to adopt a child.  When the adoption case worker, Mr. Jordan (Gwenn), mentions that their backgrounds will need to be fully investigated, Harry seems troubled and anxious, an attitude which greatly concerns Mr. Jordan.  Though he can't put his finger on exactly what it is, something about Mr. Graham troubles him, so Mr. Jordan begins his investigation in earnest.

Since Harry is a traveling salesman and spends much of his time in Los Angeles, Mr. Jordan travels there, to talk to Harry's coworkers in that office.  None of them have anything negative to say about Harry; in fact, they don't know anything about him outside of the office.  Somewhat like an invisible man, Harry just isn't a part of the social scene there in LA.  After the day's work is done, he just seems to vanish, something Mr. Jordan finds a bit peculiar. 

After learning that none of the local hotels have had a Harry Graham registered for months, Mr. Jordan is even more puzzled.   Then, while sitting at Harry's Los Angeles desk, he discovers a letter opener engraved with the name Harrison Graham.  Wondering if Harry and Harrison might be one and the same man, Mr. Jordan searches the phone book for that name and, after finding it, makes a visit to that address.  Lo and behold, it is none other than Harry Graham who answers the door.  Though Harry tries to get rid of Mr. Jordan, before the man leaves, a baby cries, and Harry goes to comfort him.  At that point, Harry's secret is out; no longer able to continue living his double life, he comes clean to Mr. Jordan about how he not only has a child, but also a second wife (Ida Lupino). 

How Harry found himself in this situation, as well as how it is resolved, is the basis of this tragic, touching film.  I found myself really feeling for all three members of this little triangle.  Edmond O'Brien's character isn't a horrible monster, and Ida Lupino's character isn't a trampy homewrecker.  Both characters are played sympathetically and sensitively.  It's a tragic story, in that you know it's a no-win situation.  No matter the outcome, characters you have come to care about are going to get hurt.

I thought the acting of all three leads was very good.  I have come to really like Ida Lupino...while she used to hover at about 15 on my favorite actress list, in recent weeks, she has moved up above 10.  She always puts in a good performance.  Edmond O'Brien played the part of the bigamist with great sensitivity and believability.  I really felt his pain.

Anyhow, I highly recommend The Bigamist.  I've seen it listed on Amazon in DVD Digitally Remastered format, and I know it is also available on VHS.  Plus, it is available in its entirety on YouTube.  Try to catch it if you can.  Happy viewing!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Billy Budd (4 stars)

Billy Budd, based on the Herman Melville novel of the same name, is a 1962 period drama starring the sensational Robert Ryan.  Peter Ustinov, who also directed the film, stars along with Ryan, while the title role introduced newcomer Terence Stamp (in an Oscar-nominated best supporting actor performance).

While on a wartime cruise in 1797, The Avenger, a ship of the British Royal Navy, stops The Rights of Man, a merchant ship bound for the West Indies.  Needing to impress one of that ship's men into naval service, the officers board The Rights of Man and come away with Billy Budd, a young man between 17 and 19 years of age.  A simple boy, Billy cannot read or write, and when he gets nervous, he finds himself stammering, totally unable to speak.

The Master at Arms on The Avenger is John Claggart (Robert Ryan), a man as evil as the day is long.  A cruel and sadistic man, he rules over the crew with viciousness and brutality, finding pleasure in having the men flogged, often for infractions of which they're not even aware.  All the men despise Claggart, a scenario in which he delights. 

Billy Budd, on the other hand, is kind, friendly, and good.  When all the men complain about the master at arms, Billy tells them he is sure that since no man can take pleasure in cruelty, that there must be a reason when someone is flogged or put on report.  Even after Claggart forces a sick man to stand watch, Billy believes he must have had a reason for doing so.

Billy even tries to befriend Claggart while topside one evening, an act which causes the man's hatred towards Billy to increase.  And when Billy refuses to take part in an assassination attempt on the master at arms, his fate is sealed.  The evil in Claggart is so infuriated by the good in Billy that he will stop at nothing to destroy the boy. 

Billy Budd is amazingly acted.  The always-sensational Robert Ryan positively oozes evil in this film. While Ryan often portrayed "bad guys" and did a fantastic job doing so, I find this role to be perhaps his most wicked.  His portrayal of the evil, malevolent Claggart was positively brilliant.  As I've said many times, I do think Robert Ryan was one of the best actors ever and definitely one of the most under-rated. The Billy Budd character is kind, forgiving, caring, honest, trustworthy---the kind of person we wish there were more of in this world. Terence Stamp did a beautiful job as Billy.  Peter Ustinov, who produced, directed, and starred in this film, is quite good in his role as the ship's captain...a man torn between justice and mercy. This is a very thought-provoking movie---is black always black and white always white? Or are there gray areas? Definitely, a good discussion piece. But absolutely NOT a feel-good movie.

The film is out on DVD so it should be quite easy to track down.  Happy viewing!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Toward the Unknown (3 stars)

Toward the Unknown, from 1956, is a post-Korean war drama directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring William Holden, Lloyd Nolan, and Virginia Leith.  It's a Holden film I've never seen before, so when I saw it on the TCM schedule recently, I made it a point to set the DVR. 

Major Lincoln Bond (Holden) arrives at Edwards Air Force Base longing for a second chance.  Having been captured during the Korean War, Linc eventually caved to the pressure.  Fourteen months of brainwashing and mental torture brought him to the breaking point, and he ultimately signed a confession, an action which agonized him so much that he tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists.  Now that the war is over, Linc's reputation within the Air Force is poor.

Linc yearns for a job test-flying; however, the top brass don't know if they can count on him under stress, so he is turned down and given a different job.  Eventually, though, Linc is given a chance, and while on a test flight, something doesn't seem right to him and he makes an emergency landing.  No one else believes there is a problem...they are sure Linc just can't handle stress and that he hit the emotional/mental panic button, just like he caved to the stress in Korea.  With everyone doubting him, Linc begins to doubt himself.  Will he ever get a chance to redeem himself?

In addition to the main storyline, there is also a romantic subplot.  Linc's old girlfriend, Connie (Virginia Leith), from whom he withdrew after Korea, works at Edwards AFB.  She is none other than the girlfriend of the general.  So, while the main storyline, with all the test flights and aeronautical maneuvers, was a bit technical for me, the personal storyline captured my interest and made this film enjoyable for me.

This film is available through Amazon, in DVD remastered format.  I don't really know what that means, but it's there.  If you are a fan of aviation and/or the space program, I'm pretty sure you'll want to see this movie.  Also, if you are a William Holden fan, as I am, you will want to see this.  He's in the most successful years of his career at this point...looking fabulous and acting brilliantly too.

Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apartment for Peggy (3 stars)

Apartment for Peggy, from 1948, is a sweet, slightly sentimental comedy/drama starring Jeanne Crain, William Holden, and Edmund Gwenn.  Though Holden takes second billing, he is actually in the film a bit less than Edmund Gwenn.  In my search for Holden films I've never seen before, I discovered this one on YouTube.

Retired philosophy professor, Henry Barnes (Edmund Gwenn), is planning to commit suicide.  Feeling that life has become repititious and dull and that he is not contributing anything of value to society, Henry has decided that death is his best option.  His intention is to take his life as soon as he has finished writing the book on which he has been endeavor he expects to take approximately three weeks.

After picking up last will and testament forms, Henry heads to a nearby park bench for a time with the birds; before long, though, Henry's speculative moments are interrupted by the arrival of a pregnant young woman.  Introducing herself as Peggy Taylor (Jeanne Crain), the extremely talkative young woman proceeds to join Henry on the bench.  Within minutes she has told him that she and her husband, Jason (William Holden), a university student, are having difficulty finding an apartment.  She also tells Henry that he reminds her of her grandfather, and she begins calling him Pop.  Peggy wonders if Pop knows of any apartments that might be available, which, of course, he does not.  They part ways, with Henry glad to get away from the too-talkative young woman.

Peggy soon discovers that Henry has an empty attic and that he once used it to house a couple of Army veterans.  She is sure the attic will be perfect for her and Jason, so she sets about to convince Henry to rent it to them.  At first, the answer is "no," but when Peggy won't take "no" for an answer, Henry relents, and Jason and Peggy move in.

At first, Henry is very unsettled with having the Taylors in his house, but as time goes on, a close bond is formed.  Henry comes to love Jason and Peggy---and their unborn baby---deeply.  And when Peggy convinces him to give philosophy lectures to her girlfriends, Henry is thrilled.  He now has reasons to want to keep on living.  (This video clip is from the scene in which Henry and Jason attempt to put the baby bathtub together.)

This film is very cute, and it has a great message.  Edmund Gwenn is really very good in this role...crotchety at first, but then completely devoted to the little family in his attic.  Jeanne Crain's character's non-stop chatter in the beginning is slightly annoying, but, still, you grow to love her, because you see the kindness in her heart.  And as for William Holden...well, as I said, he's in the film less than Edmund Gwenn, but as a major Holden fan, I'll take him however and whenever I can.  It's lots of fun seeing him in the roles he had before his star really began to rise.

Anyhow, look for Apartment for Peggy on YouTube (in 10 parts.)  I think it's a very solid 3-star film.  Happy viewing!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Secret Fury (3 stars)

The Secret Fury, from 1950, is a slightly suspenseful romantic drama starring Claudette Colbert and Robert Ryan.  Directed by Mel Ferrer, the film begins at the wedding of of Ellen Ewing (Colbert) and David McLean (Ryan).   When the preacher says the customary, "If anyone knows why this woman and this man should not be wed," words, a man stands up and makes the shocking revelation that Ellen is already married---to a man named Lucien Randall.  Although Ellen is astounded by these words and denies their truth, the man is insistent, even going so far as to claim that he had been best man at the wedding.  A quick phone call to the records department of the county in which he claims the marriage took place reveals that, yes, Ellen Ewing and Lucien Randall were married several months earlier.

Since the preacher won't marry Ellen and David until he's certain he would not be getting involved in bigamy, the ceremony is postponed.  Ellen and David set out to disprove the stranger's words, but things aren't that simple.  Arriving at the home of the Justice of the Peace who supposedly married her, Ellen is shocked to discover that he recognizes her...and that he is calling her Mrs. Randall.  Additionally, it IS her signature on the marriage license. 

Distraught, Ellen assures David that she doesn't even know Lucien Randall and that she couldn't possibly have married him that particular day, as she was nowhere in the vicinity.  David believes Ellen and continues to try to figure out what is going on; however, when they arrive at the local hotel and Ellen is once again greeted as Mrs. Randall---this time by a maid wearing a pin for which she thanks Ellen---Ellen begins to become hysterical.  She begins to wonder if she really did marry Lucien and just doesn't remember doing so.  She wonders if she has amnesia...or if she's losing her mind.

A bit later, Randall is murdered, and Ellen is charged with the crime.  After a complete hysterical breakdown at the trial, Ellen is deemed insane and subsequently institutionalized.  David, however, never stops trying to figure out what is going on.

Did Ellen really marry Lucien Randall?  Does she really not remember doing so?  If she didn't marry him, why does everything point to the fact that she did?  And, finally, did she really kill Randall?  These are the questions that play out in this film.

I enjoyed this movie, but that is mostly because of Robert Ryan.  Had it been another co-star, I'm not sure I would enjoy the film as much.   Although I totally love Ryan and think he is beyond fabulous when he is playing nasty, sometimes, I just like the opportunity to see him in a good-guy role.  His acting was good here, though I think the broad range of his talents is better used in a more complex character.  I thought Claudette Colbert was good as well...a little over the top, but when you're playing an hysterical character, over the top is necessary.  I do think the plot is somewhat unrealistic..I mean, not being sure if you got married or not?  It's a bit farfetched to think a woman wouldn't remember that.  Also, the courtrom scene was a bit tedious.  Still, though, this is a 3-star film for me.  I own it (having recorded it from TCM sometime last year), and I will definitely watch it again.  However, to be honest, Robert Ryan being the co-star is the reason why.

The Secret Fury is not out on DVD, nor is it on YouTube.  TCM airs it every once in awhile, so you could catch it there.  (Or just ask to borrow my copy...I'm happy to share with my classic movie friends.)

Happy viewing!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Bridges at Toko-Ri (5 stars)

With it being Veteran's Day weekend, Grace Kelly's birthday, and the 30th anniversary of William Holden's death, I decided to watch The Bridges at Toko-Ri today.  This film, from 1954, which stars William Holden and features Grace Kelly, Fredric March, and Mickey Rooney in supporting roles, is a very realistic war drama.  Based on the James Michener novel of the same name, it takes place in  November 1952, during the Korean War.

William Holden is Harry Brubaker, a Naval Reservist who had already served in WWII but who is called up for action in Korea.  Not only is he war-weary, but he is resentful of having been called back to duty...he just longs to go home to his wife, Nancy (Grace Kelly), and their two young daughters; however he is also committed to fulfilling his duty as a Reserve officer, so he agrees to an extremely dangerous mission in which a group of American planes will fly over Korea and attempt to bomb some bridges that are very important to the North Koreans.

Before the mission gets underway, however, Admiral Terrant (Fredric March), who has a paternal fondness for Harry, allows him leave, to spend time with his wife and daughters.  All too soon, though, Harry must bid goodbye to his family and take off on the bombing run.  His anxiety level is high, and feeling as though he won't make it home alive, he begins a farewell letter to Nancy.  Noticing Harry's jitteriness, his commander gives him an option to stay grounded, but Harry goes through with the mission.

As always, Bill Holden is great to look at....especially in the dress blues he wears while on leave in Tokyo early in the movie. Oh, and that smile of his!!  Grace Kelly, always the epitome of elegance and beauty, is stunning, and her dresses are incredibly gorgeous.  I, for one, wish we gals still wore dresses like that every day! Although Grace's part in the movie is fairly short, she was perfect in the role...and the chemistry between her and Holden was undeniable.

Mickey Rooney has some great comic relief moments.  Also, there is a funny scene in a Japanese bath house where Harry takes Nancy and the girls. Because bathing there is nude, he had reserved the pool for his family. However, a Japanese family has also booked the pool, and it is quite comical to watch the American family try to maintain their modesty.

The lighthearted moments are few, though, and this IS a war movie...a realistic one at that.  I have seen this film several times, and it never fails to move me.  The acting of William Holden is beyond incredible.  The way he brought Harry Brubaker to life was completely amazing; truly, Harry became very real to me.  I could totally feel his resentment at having to serve again and his anxiety over the upcoming mission.  I think William Holden had many spectacular performances, and this is definitely one of his very best.  Oscar-worthy, in my opinion.  (It is Holden's acting and the powerful, realistic ending that take this film from 4 to 5 stars for me.)

I don't know for sure if this is out on DVD, though I do believe it is on VHS.  Also, TCM airs it on occasion.  Definitely try to catch it.  I think this film is an absolute must-see! 

Happy viewing!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Best Years of Our Lives (5 stars)

The Best Years of Our Lives, the Academy Award winning film from 1946, is our family's annual Veteran's Day movie.  I have to admit, that is a hardship for me.  Oh, not because I don't like it...on the contrary.  I absolutely, totally love this film.  It is easily one of my top ten favorite movies of all time, which means, I really would prefer to watch it more often than once a year; however, to keep it "special," watching it once a year is precisely what I am doing.  (Sort of like keeping It's a Wonderful Life for the once-a-year Christmas night viewing.)  Since today is Veteran's Day, it's time for me to enjoy this beloved film once more, and even though most everyone probably knows it, I'm re-running the review I posted when I first began this blog in February.

The Best Years of Our Lives was the Academy Award winner for best picture in 1946. In fact, it won many Oscars that year, including Fredric March for Best Actor and Harold Russell for Best Supporting Actor and William Wyler for Best Director. It was this movie that shut-down the beloved It's a Wonderful Life in the Oscars that year.

A bit on the long side (about ten minutes shy of three hours), The Best Years of Our Lives is a wonderful movie that explores a problem that was very much in existence in those early days after the second world war....the plight of the war veterans who were returning home to a country that in many ways had gone on without them while they were away. The movie stars Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Harold Russell, and Virginia Mayo.

The movie begins when Al Stevenson (Fredric March), Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), all war veterans from different branches of the service, attempt to find flights home to the hometown they share in common. Unable to find an available commercial flight, they are routed onto a military craft, and lifelong friendships are born as the men get to know one another.

Al is an Army veteran who has been married to Millie (Myrna Loy) for twenty years and has two upper teenage children. Fred, a bomber pilot, had a whirlwind romance and married Marie (Virginia Mayo) only a few short days before leaving for war. And Homer, who joined the Navy fresh out of high school, has two hooks in place of arms, the result of a shipboard tragedy. (I must digress here and say that Harold Russell, who plays Homer, was not a professional actor at all. Rather, like his character, he was a real disabled Navy veteran, who had lost his arms at sea...He actually won two Academy Awards for this role...the best supporting actor and an achievement award as well.)

Anyhow, the men's arrival home is difficult, as life has gone on without them. Al barely recognizes his children, so grown they are. Fred's wife has taken a job and moved out of his parents' home and into an apartment of her own. And when he finally tracks her down, she is none too keen on the fact that he is not a man in uniform anymore. And Homer, painfully aware that his two hooks are disturbing for his family and high school sweetheart to look at, withdraws into himself.

The first night home, Al takes his wife and daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright) to a local bar, where he unexpectedly meets up with his two new friends, Fred and Homer. When Al and Fred end up totally drunk and completely passed out, Millie and Peggy take them back to the Stevenson apartment so they can sleep it off. Peggy puts Fred in her bed, removes his shoes, and heads to the couch. In the middle of the night, however, she is awakened by Fred screaming, as he has a nightmare about a bombing raid. She soothes him, and then they both go back to sleep. In the morning, she drives him to his wife's apartment, and there is a definite connection between them.

Fred's reunion with his wife does not go well. She doesn't like that he now needs to find a civilian job or the fact that he is a man out of uniform. (The uniform was one of the reasons she had wanted to marry him!!) Add to that, she wants to party and be out all the time, including hanging out with other men. When the only job Fred is able to obtain is as a soda jerk at the drugstore where he formerly worked, Marie belittles him.

Al, who is a bank executive, begins to be unsettled with the bank's treatment of war veterans who are applying for loans. When these men, who have faithfully served their country, are denied loans because of insufficient collateral, Al is angered and often attempts to extend loans anyway.

And Homer, feeling like a freak show with his two hooks, is angry all the time. He no longer wants to marry Wilma and completely withdraws from her...and everyone, except for Al and Fred.

To reveal anything more about this movie would spoil your viewing pleasure, so I'll stop here. I hope that I've whet your appetite, that I've made you interested in the characters so that you want to discover how things turn out. I totally love this's on my top 10 list, and although I am an It's a Wonderful Life fan, I am SO in agreement with all the awards The Best Years of Our Lives racked up.

Not only is this film out on DVD, but TCM airs it frequently, so you shouldn't have a problem tracking it down.  I think it's a definite must-see!!  Happy viewing!!

Happy Birthday, Robert Ryan!!

Today is not only Veteran's Day, it is the 102nd birthday of one of my absolute favorite actors---the fabulous Robert Ryan  (November 11, 1909 - July 11, 1973).

Ever since I discovered him in 2008, Ryan has been one of my faves.  For most of that time, he's been in my top 10, coming in at about 6 or 7.  However, the more I have seen of his work, the more impressed I am with him---I sincerely believe Ryan is one of the best actors there has ever been and one of the most underrated actors as well...and I have been saying that for at least the last three years.  Going into my Net Flix account and accessing all the reviews I have written there, I discovered reviews to many Ryan films, and each time, even back then in 2008, I was calling him "brilliant" and "under-rated."  Having seen many more of his films since then, my regard for his acting abilities has only leaps and bounds to be sure.  I have watched over two dozen of his films in the last couple months, and I find his work so totally fantastic that I have moved him to the very top of my favorite actor list. (Yes, Bill Holden now has to share the #1 guy status.)   I am positively crazy about Ryan, and I am making it my goal to see all of his films...even his Westerns...and I'm not really a Western fan.

This fabulous actor often played angry, sadistic, hardened, unlikeable characters, and he did so brilliantly...and totally believably.  Really, I can't think of any other actor who oozed cynicism, cruelty, and/or malevolence as fabulously as Ryan did...Bad Day at Black Rock, House of Bamboo, Caught, Odds Against Tomorrow, Crossfire, Billy Budd, Lonelyhearts, and on and on.  He was spectacular in every single one of those films...his presence was electrifying and completely commanding.  Even though his characters are detested, one cannot help but be mesmerized by Ryan's positively sensational portrayal of them.

And yet, he could also exhibit surprising tenderness, as he did to Ida Lupino's blind character in On Dangerous Ground.

He could pull off softer characters as well...Tender Comrade, Her Twelve Men, The Secret Fury, About Mrs. Leslie. And he was wonderful as an aging boxer in The Set-Up.

And yet, great as Robert Ryan was, he never received the recognition he deserved---in his entire amazing career, he received only one Academy Award nomination...a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role in 1947's Crossfire.  Not receiving more nominations...let alone awards...was a definite oversight on the part of the Academy.

Although Ryan portrayed a bigoted character in several of his films, in actuality, he was a staunch civil rights supporter; therefore, the characters he played were light years away from the man he really was, and he did it completely believably...the sign of a great actor.  It would be easy to portray a character that is exactly like oneself, but to play a character that is totally counter to everything one believes in definitely requires skill and finesse...something Robert Ryan definitely had.

Ernest Borgnine, who worked with Ryan in three films, narrated this short TCM tribute, which I discovered on You Tube.

So, on this, the 102nd birthday of one of my #1 guys, I wanted to be sure to sing his praises.  While Robert Ryan may not be a household name like Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant, I do believe he ought to have been.  He was as capable an actor as any of the more "known" actors.  A viewing of any of his films will bear that out.

Happy viewing!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rachel and the Stranger (4 stars)

Rachel and the Stranger, from 1948, is a sweet little film starring Loretta Young, William Holden, and Robert Mitchum.  It's a film that fits into a number of's a bit of a romantic drama...there are some comedic's also a mild Western.  The setting is on the frontier, sometime in what I would guess is the late 1700's...a time when Shawnee Indian uprisings were common and when indentured servanthood was practiced.

Dave Harvey's (William Holden) wife has recently died, leaving him alone to raise their young son. Having a tough time trying to clear and farm his land, keep up his cabin, and raise the boy the way his late wife would have wanted, Dave dons his Sunday finest and heads to town to get himself a wife.  When the local parson tells Dave about a bondwoman in need of a new home, Dave thinks she would be perfect---he could have someone to cook and clean and school his son, but he wouldn't have to get married.  The parson, however, doesn't see it that way, telling Dave that it would be improper for them to live together without the legality of marriage. So, in short order, Dave marries the bondwoman, Rachel (Loretta Young); however, it's an uncomfortable marriage right from the start...Rachel calls Dave "Mr. Harvey," Dave is cold to Rachel, treating her like nothing more than a servant, and young Davey is resentful of another woman trying to mother him.  Meant to be a marriage in name only, Rachel is given the cabin's only bedroom, while Dave sleeps in the main room.

Though Rachel longs for Dave's love, Dave isn't quite ready to fall in love again.  He's content to let things go on as they are...that is until his guitar-playing friend, Jim Fairways (Robert Mitchum), shows up for an extended visit.  Jim is kind and friendly to Rachel, never treating her like a second-class citizen.  After noticing that Dave doesn't treat Rachel as a man ought to treat a wife, Jim wants Rachel for himself.  He tells Dave that he'll buy out Rachel's bond and then marry her himself.  Suddenly seeing Rachel in a new light, Dave begins to get jealous.

Will love dawn for Rachel and Dave?  Or will Rachel take Jim up on his offer of marriage?  And what about the warring Shawnee?  These are the questions that will play out in the balance of this wonderful film.

Rachel and the Stranger is not out on DVD; however, it is on VHS.  In fact, that is how I first saw it about four years ago (when I had a working VHS player).  I tracked it down through the public library's inter-library loan system.  However, TCM does have it on the schedule for January 6, 2012, at 4:45 p.m., so if you don't have a VHS player or can't track the film down, you can always catch it then.  I do hope you get a chance to see it, though, as it is a sweet film with a great cast.

Happy viewing!!!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Not As a Stranger (4 stars)

Not As a Stranger,  from 1955, is a medical drama starring Robert Mitchum and Olivia deHavilland. The directorial debut of Stanley Kramer, Not As a Stranger features an excellent supporting cast--- Frank Sinatra, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, and Charles Bickford.

 Ambitious, self-righteous Luke Marsh (Robert Mitchum) is attending medical school; however, Luke's financial status isn't the best, and in order to make extra money, he cleans the pathology lab.  Even with that job, though, he is behind on his tuition payments.  A trip to his drunken father gets him nowhere---not only does his dad not have any money for him, but he also tells Luke that he will never be a doctor because brains are not enough...he has to have a heart...and that he does not have.  Luke is aware that should he not come up with the $400 payment, he will be out of school, so he asks one of his instructors and one of his friends for some help.  Still, though, Luke is short, and he is told that he has 30 days in which to make the payment or else he's out.

One of the nurses at the hospital, Christina Hedvigson (Olivia deHavilland), an unsophisticated Swedish girl, invites Luke and his friend Al (Frank Sinatra) to dinner at her apartment.  Through their dinner conversation, Luke discovers that Christina has put into savings half of every paycheck and that she has a sizeable nest egg available to her.  The wheels begin turning, and before long, though he is not attracted to her, Luke begins dating Christina.  (One fun thing about their date---they went to a movie---the Humphrey Bogart/Ava Gardner flick, The Barefoot Contessa.  I always think it's fun to see other classic movies showing up in a classic movie.)  Knowing that Christina loves him, and wanting use of her money, Luke tells Christina he loves her and asks her to marry him.

Because he knows Christina's gauche, unsophisticated ways are not for Luke, Al realizes Luke is marrying her for her money, and he calls him on the carpet for that.  Luke responds that Christina will never know he doesn't love her, and he goes through with the marriage. He seems disgusted on their wedding night, though with himself for marrying a woman he doesn't love, or whether with Christina's lack of sophistication, is not clear.

Able to pay his tuition, Luke completes medical school, all the while being argumentative and arrogant.  He is intolerant of mistakes...he blasts anyone who is not as perfect as he is.  Even one heated argument, he lets her know that he thinks she's stupid.

Eventually, Luke begins practicing with a small-town doctor, and it is there that he begins an affair with a young widow (Gloria Grahame).  Christina, however, has had enough---the cheating, the condescending attitude, the intolerance of anything less than perfection.  She wants nothing more to do with Luke, and it is only afterwards that Luke understands that he, too, is imperfect, that he, too, is capable of making a mistake.

Does Luke ever get down off his high horse and humble himself?  Does Christina take him back?  These are the questions that will play out in this film.

Not As a Stranger is a bit on the long side---over two hours and fifteen minutes---and there were a couple times it dragged a tiny bit. However, that dragging wasn't enough to lower the star rating to a 3.  I thought it was a powerful story, with good acting by both leads, especially Olivia deHavilland.  It was a bit odd hearing her talk with a Swedish accent; and it was even more odd to see her as a platinum blonde.  Another funny thing in this film are the hospital scenes.  Patients smoking in their hospital beds never cease to amuse me.  Definitely, a dated movie in that regard.

Anyhow, I think this film is a very worthwhile couple of hours, so I hope you get a chance to see this.  I'm not certain it's out on DVD, but I do believe it is.  You might also be able to track it down on YouTube (it is sometimes there, sometimes not). Having caught this on TCM a couple years ago, I have it recorded to disc, and I'm always willing to loan my movies to my classic movie friends, so don't hesitate to ask.

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

High Barbaree (3 stars)

High Barbaree, from 1947, is a romantic war-time drama starring Van Johnson and June Allyson, with Thomas Mitchell and Cameron Mitchell taking on supporting roles.  The film begins with navy nurse Nancy Frazier (June Allyson) bidding goodbye to her childhood sweetheart, navy flier Alec Brook (Van Johnson) as he leaves for a bombing run.  When Alec's plane is hit and he is forced to crashland in the ocean, his entire crew, except for his co-pilot Joe (Cameron Mitchell), perishes.

Alec and Joe are in very dire straits---they are in the middle of the massive Pacific Ocean, and no one knows their position.  Their radio is dead, and their water tank has been hit.  So, with little more than a tiny bottle of water and the parachute material, with which they hope to make sails, Alec and Joe attempt to survive until help comes for them...if it ever does.

As Alec and Joe struggle to keep their hopes alive, Alec reminisces about his life.  He tells Joe about Nancy and about High Barbaree, a fabled Pacific island his uncle had spoken about long ago.  A magical, beautiful island, High Barbaree became the root of all Alec's childhood dreams, and as children, he and Nancy had always talked about going there one day.  As Alec checks his crash position, he realizes that High Barbaree ought to be no more than 100 miles from where his plane crashed; he and Joe hope to make it there.  But as Alec flashes back into the past, he begins to wonder if High Barbaree ever existed.  Perhaps it was something his uncle had only made up...perhaps he is just delusional to think he and Joe could find refuge there.

This film alternates between the present situation and many different periods of Alec's life.  It's a sweet and interesting story.  Van Johnson and June Allyson were really great together.  I have to admit, though, I can never watch June Allyson without her famous Jo March words---"Christopher Columbus"---coming to mind.  Just the sound of her voice, and I'm automatically thinking Little Women.  She's always a delight, and I think she is totally lovely here in High Barbaree.  Van Johnson is one of those always-likeable actors.  He seems to talk with a smile in his voice...if that makes sense.  I definitely always enjoy him.

Although High Barbaree is not a fantastic movie, I definitely enjoyed it and will certainly watch it again.  I don't believe it's out on DVD, but TCM shows it periodically so you could catch it there.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Act of Violence (3 stars)

Act of Violence, from 1948, is a mildly suspenseful film noir/drama starring Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, and Janet Leigh.  Directed by Fred Zinnemann, this film features Mary Astor and Phyllis Thaxter in supporting roles.  It's a film that is quick to get to the waiting around for things to start happening.

The film begins as a man with a limp, gun in hand, gets on a bus to Los Angeles.  After arriving and checking into a hotel, said man, Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan, again in an angry man role), rifles through the phone book until he finds the name Frank Enley.

After being honored at a community event, Frank Enley (Van Heflin), a successful contractor with a wife and child, departs for a fishing trip with a friend.  After Frank has left the house, Joe Parkson arrives at Frank's door.  Though Frank's wife Edith (Janet Leigh) has never seen Parkson before, she ends up telling him that Frank has gone fishing at Redwood Lake. 

Joe makes his own way to Redwood Lake, where he rents a boat and rows out to within a few hundred feet of where the marina manager indicated Frank could be found.  Before he can shoot Frank, though, Frank and his friend head back to shore.  When the marina manager asks Frank if his friend found him, and then describes the friend as being a lame man, Frank becomes totally agitated and hightails it back home. 

At home, Frank is even more paranoid and anxious---he closes all the drapes, turns off the lights, double checks the door locks, and refuses to let his wife answer the phone.  And when the doorbell rings, he nearly freaks out.  Frank obviously knows a lame man, and he knows what the lame man wants with him, but at first, he refuses to tell Edith anything.  Eventually, Frank reveals that while in a German prison camp during the war, he betrayed some of his men.  Parkson, one of the men under his command, while not killed as the other men had been, had been injured.  Now he was out for revenge.

As Joe makes contact with Edith, she tries to get him to see that what happened was in the past and that it needs to be left there.  Also trying to get Joe to see that his desire for vengeance is wrong is his girlfriend (Phyllis Thaxter).  But Joe doesn't see it that way...all he can see is that Frank needs to pay for being a traitor to his own men.  So, Joe keeps chasing Frank down...and Frank keeps running.

Does Joe kill Frank?  Or is he finally able to let the past go?  As for Frank, is he able to let go of the past himself and stop running from his mistake?  These are the questions that will play out in the remainder of this film.

While Act of Violence is nothing spectacular, it is an interesting, entertaining film with good acting.  This was actually one of the films in which I began to have respect for Van Heflin.  My first exposure to Heflin was several years ago in 3:10 to Yuma.  It's funny, because while his character in that film (Dan Evans) was bold and courageous, for some reason, I just saw Heflin as rather milque-toasty.  It wasn't until this film and Possessed that I actually began to see him in another light.  I definitely enjoyed him here, and, of course, I love Robert Ryan in roles like this.  He is good and solid always.

This film is out on DVD so it should be quite easy to track down.  Happy viewing!!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Father Is a Bachelor (3 stars)

Father Is a Bachelor, from 1950, is a sweet little romantic comedy starring William Holden and Coleen Gray.  It's a film in which the fabulous Mr. Holden actually plays paternal a bit, and I thought it was alot of fun seeing him in that kind of role.  He does some singing in this film, as his character is a minstrel for a quack doctor; however, it really isn't his voice we're hearing.  Rather, it's the voice of Buddy Clark.

After the phony doctor with whom he travels is arrested, Johnny Rutledge goes off fishing.  While relaxing with his line in the water, Johnny meets a little girl named May who is waiting for her mother to arrive home on the steamship.  As it turns out, though, May's mom and dad were killed in an accident six months earlier, leaving May and her four brothers all alone.  Not wanting to be put in an orphans' home, the oldest brother never told anyone about their parents' deaths, so for the past six months, the children have been trying to cope on their own. 

Although Johnny tells the children he likes being a fisherman and a roamer and that he doesn't want any ties, the children quickly grow attached to him and begin calling him Uncle Johnny.  He keeps telling them he is going to leave, but soon, the children begin to take root in his heart, and his actions belie his words.  He sells his prized watch fob in order to buy a dress for May and food for them all, and when one of the townswomen shows up at the children's home wondering about their parents, Johnny claims to be their next of kin.  In due time, he is even referring to the children as "his kids." 

Of course, the children long for Johnny to marry and settle down with them, and how that happens is what the balance of this sweet film is all about.  The little girl who plays May is totally adorable...she will steal your heart.  And the scene in which Johnny tries to sew a dress for May is quite comical---actually it put me in mind of my own attempts at sewing. 

Father Is a Bachelor is not a spectacular movie, and it is completely predictable, but it's also totally adorable.  It's sweet and cute, and for William Holden fans like me, it is a must-see.  After all, it isn't often we get a chance to see him in this kind of a role.  I don't think the film is out on DVD, nor is it on You Tube or Net Flix; however, TCM airs it periodically, so you could catch it there.  Additionally, I really am willing to loan my movies out, so don't hesitate to ask.

Happy viewing!!