Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Cousin Rachel (3 stars)

My Cousin Rachel, from 1952, is a suspenseful romantic drama starring Olivia deHavilland and Richard Burton.  Based on the Daphne duMaurier novel of the same name, this story has elements in common with another of the author's works---Rebecca---namely, a large manor house, the English coast, and a mysterious death.  This film, though, takes place during the early 1800's.

Phillip Ashley (Richard Burton), having lost his parents when he was but a few months old, has lived with his wealthy cousin/guardian, Ambrose, all his life.  Though the two get along extremely well and are more like father and son than cousins, when Phillip reaches his twenties, Ambrose departs coastal England for the warmer temperatures of Italy.  While there, he meets and marries his distant cousin Rachel (Olivia deHavilland), informing Phillip of the marriage through a letter.

Ambrose seems happy enough, but shortly after the first letter, another letter arrives, this one referring to Rachel as "his torment" and indicating that she is trying to kill him.  Concerned, Phillip heads to Florence to see for himself what is going on.  By the time he arrives, though, Ambrose has already died and been buried, and Rachel has left town.  Although Phillip is informed that Ambrose had been suffering from a brain tumor which had resulted in delusional thoughts, he still believes Ambrose had, in fact, been in danger from his wife.  After vowing to Ambrose's grave that he will repay his cousin Rachel, Phillip returns to England.

Not long afterwards, Rachel, who is younger and more beautiful than they expected her to be, makes a visit to the Ashley Estate. As Phillip and Rachel spend time together, Phillip comes to believe that there was absolutely no truth to Ambrose's letters...that they really were the result of a delusional mind...that Rachel had never done his cousin any harm. Completely in love with Rachel, Phillip refuses to believe stories which indicate she is not what she appears to be.

Since Ambrose's will made no allowance for a wife, but left everything to Phillip, could it be that Rachel is stringing him along?  Perhaps she really did murder Ambrose and will, very soon, find a way to get her hands on the estate and murder Phillip as well.  These are the questions that play out in this mildly suspenseful Gothic drama.


My Cousin Rachel is interesting and entertaining, and while not of the same caliber as Rebecca, it is, nevertheless, a very solid 3-star film. Olivia deHavilland gave a superb performance. She really had a broad range of ability, and I have enjoyed discovering that she was far more than simply sugary-sweet Melanie Hamilton. Richard Burton's performance was "so-so" to me. I never---not even for a moment---felt that his love for Rachel was real. He just seemed lukewarm to me, his passion forced; however, despite Burton's less-than-believable performance, I was interested enough in the outcome to keep on watching.

To my knowledge, this film is not out on DVD, but it is available in its entirety on YouTube (above).

Happy viewing!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Human Desire (4 stars)

Human Desire, from 1954, is a film noir directed by Fritz Lang, and starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, and Broderick Crawford.  Complete with such noir staples as the femme fatale and the weak-willed, hormone-driven man who just can't stay away from her, Human Desire is one of the best noirs I've seen in awhile.  I enjoyed every minute of this film.

When he is fired from his job at the local train yard, Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford) convinces his wife, Vicki (Gloria Grahame), to use her connections with an influential businessman to help him get his job back.  Vicki does, and Carl does; however, when Carl realizes that the man and his sexy, much-younger wife have been lovers, his jealousy cannot be contained.  After forcing Vicki to write a note to the man, wherein she promises to visit his train compartment that evening, Carl stabs him to death in said compartment, while Vicki looks on. Getting back to their own compartment undetected will take some doing, so Vicki flirts a bit with Korean War Veteran, Jeff Warren (Glenn Ford), who has recently returned to town after a 3-year absence.

When the dead body is discovered and an investigation begun, for whatever reason, Jeff doesn't reveal to anyone that he ran into Vicki Buckley in the corridor outside the dead man's room.  Of course, Vicki is grateful for Jeff's silence, and the two begin to get close to each other.

Eventually, Jeff and Vicki embark on a passionate affair, but with her husband hanging on to the note declaring her intention to make a visit to the dead man's compartment, Vicki knows she is trapped.  Her only escape is her husband's death---and she will lie, scheme, and seduce to convince Jeff to bring that death to pass. Does Jeff kill Carl?  Does Vicki get her letter back?  These are the questions that play out in this exciting film.

For me, this was an incredibly-directed film---Fritz Lang was in top form here.  Also, because I'm totally in love with passenger trains (it's a 40's thing!), I loved that the setting was primarily a train or train yard.  The setting just added to my enjoyment.  Acting wise, I think Broderick Crawford was very good in his role---he always excelled at portraying a boorish brute of a man.  Glenn Ford was solid and gave a good, though not spectacular, performance. The real star of the film, though, was Gloria Grahame.  She was totally terrific in this role; I have to admit, though, I'm not a huge fan of her.  I'm not sure why her face always seems frozen and why she hardly opens her mouth when she speaks, but those things are always a bit of a distraction for me.  Still, though, she played the sexy vamp perfectly.  All those things combined to make for a very good I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend.

The film is out on DVD and should be quite easy to track down.  Additionally, it's on the TCM schedule for Saturday, March 31, 2012, so you could easily catch it then.

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

That Wonderful Urge (3 stars)

That Wonderful Urge, from 1948, is a fun little romantic comedy starring Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney.  It is a remake of the 1937 film Love Is News, which also stars Power, along with Loretta Young.  I haven't seen the original film, but I am definitely going to put it on my "must watch" list, just to see how much difference there is between the two films.

News reporter Thomas Jefferson Tyler (Power) has been having a field day writing scathing articles about grocery store heiress, Sara Farley (Tierney).  With his stories being tabloid in nature, Tyler has succeeded in raising the ire of the heiress; therefore, when on vacation in Sun Valley, Sara meets a small-town newspaperman who wants to write an article about her in rebuttal to Tyler's stories, she is all too willing to open herself up to him.  What Sara doesn't realize, though, is that the supposed "small-town newspaperman" is none other than Tom Tyler himself, and his real intent is not to refute the previous stories, but to gather more information to expound on them.

Things don't go quite as planned, however, because, after meeting Sara, Tom has second thoughts about putting a negative spin on her.  Additionally, Sara discovers Tom's true identity, and, furious, she decides to get even with him by telling the press that she and Tyler were married while in Sun Valley.  After the story of their "marriage" goes public, Tom finds himself in trouble with his employer and his girlfriend, and though he tries, he cannot get Sara to retract the story.  Eventually, Tom determines that his best bet is to play along like he is her husband---her very hillbilly, goober-eating, embarrassing husband, who is insisting on his marital rights.  Now will Sara back down and recant her story?  Does she even want to?  More importantly, does Tom want her to?

Yes, this film is totally predictable (as most romantic comedies are), but it's definitely cute and loads of fun.  The acting is nothing spectacular, but Tyrone Power is incredibly handsome and Gene Tierney is utterly beautiful, so looking at them both is a delight in itself.  Plus, they were great together, which really made for an enjoyable hour and a half.

The film is out on DVD (with the original 1937 version); plus, it is available in its entirety on YouTube (HERE).  Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Towering Inferno (3 stars)

The Towering Inferno, from 1974, is one of those disaster films which were all the rage in the 70's.  Produced by Irwin Allen, who also created films like The Poseiden Adventure and When Time Ran Out, The Towering Inferno boasts a mega-star cast.  Steve McQueen and Paul Newman get top billing, while William Holden and Faye Dunaway are the second tier of stars.  Also featured in the film are Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Robert Wagner, and Richard Chamberlain, to name just a few. 

Paul Newman is the architect of a building owned by William Holden.  Dubbed the "tallest buildling in the world," Holden's glass tower is 120 stories high, and he has planned a big gala to celebrate its completion.  Early on, there is an explosion in one of the control rooms; however, since no fire is initially spotted, building personnel think the sensors are just malfunctioning, and the party, which is being held on the building's very top floor, goes on as planned.

Firefighter Steve McQueen and his crew arrive in response to the tripped sensors, and although Holden is urged to move the party to a lower floor, he, at first, refuses to do so.  Believing that the building is completely safe and that any electrical malfunction is now under control, he ignores the fireman's order to evacuate.  Not long afterwards, with the party in full swing, one explosion after another occurs, and it's not long before several floors of the building are engulfed in flames, leaving hundreds of people trying to make their way down to safety. 

This is a very interesting, suspenseful film, especially given the fact that we recently observed the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  While those desperately trying to reach safety in the movie were fictional characters, we all know that not so long ago, there were very real people trapped on the upper floors of very real buildings which were ungulfed in flames.  Remembering that made this movie even more realistic.

In addition to the fire/disaster storyline, there were several little subplots going on behind the scenes...namely, Robert Wagner having an affair with his secretary; Fred Astaire (who was 75 at the time) playing a con man, who is trying to romance Jennifer Jones; Richard Chamberlain as the cost-cutting son-in-law of William Holden; a deaf woman with two young children.  In some ways, for me, there was a bit too much going on, and for that reason, I just never really connected with any of the characters. 

The special effects in this film (fire, explosions, etc.) were really spectacular, so much so that I really wasn't aware of any good acting in the film.  That's one of the reasons I prefer the films from the 30's through the 50's---because special effects were almost nil then, the actors and actresses really had to carry a film.  Once special effects came on the scene, they took over, and acting could take a backseat, and since I prefer good acting to elaborate effects, I simply prefer older movies.  The main reason I recorded this film, which I have seen a few times in my life, is because of William Holden.  As a major-huge Holden fan, I want to see as many of his films as possible----even those films from later in his career.

I definitely think The Towering Inferno is an interesting, worthwhile film---a very solid 3 stars; in fact, it actually could have been a 4-star film, but, for me, it was about 45 minutes too long.  With a running time of 164 minutes, the film seemed to drag on occasion---I was ready for it to be over at 2 hours or 2 hours/15 minutes max.  Even so, I watched the whole thing...just was a bit antsy while doing so.

The film is out on DVD and should be fairly easy to track down.  Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Where the Sidewalk Ends (3 stars)

Where the Sidewalk Ends, from 1950, is a film noir directed by Otto Preminger, with Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney taking on starring roles and Gary Merrill in a supporting role.  It's not overly noir---more like a crime/drama---however, Net Flix classifies it as noir, so I'm calling it that too.

Mark Dixon (Andrews) is a police officer with an anger problem.  After the department receives several complaints about his assault on criminals, the officer is warned that he needs to learn to control himself.  One evening, though, while trying to get information from a suspect, Mark punches the man, and the blow ends up proving fatal.  Desperate to cover his crime and pin it on a known crime boss (Gary Merrill), Officer Dixon sets an elaborate scheme into motion.

After first making sure it appears that the dead man has gone out of town, Mark then disposes of the body.  As it turns out, though, taxi driver, Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully)---not the intended mobster---becomes the prime suspect in the case.  Since Jiggs is the father of Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney), the woman with whom Mark has recently become involved, Officer Dixon is forced to decide if he is going to allow Jiggs to take the fall for a crime he himself committed.

This is an interesting, entertaining movie, with Dana Andrews giving his usual solid performance.  Gene Tierney, quite honestly, didn't have much to do.  She's her usual beautiful, charming self, but, really, this was Andrews' film, leaving Tierney as hardly more than eye candy.  Still, though, her character is essential to the plot, and since she and Andrews worked well together, I think Gene fit the bill nicely.  Gary Merrill took well to the slimey, crime boss role; I found him very believable.

The film is out on DVD, and it is available on Net Flix instant viewing.  It's also available in its entirety on YouTube (HERE).   Add to that, Fox Movie Channel has been airing it quite often these past few weeks.  It should be very easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Film Finds of 2011

As I look back over my log of films watched this year, many 5-star movies are on the list.  However, most of those are favorite films that I just enjoy watching over and over again.  There were, though, five new-to-me movies which I added to my 5-star list this year, and I consider them my Film Finds of 2011.  

Middle of the Night---This is a touching romantic drama starring Fredric March and Kim Novak.  It explores the romantic relationship of a middle-aged man and a much younger woman.  The movie is extremely moving, and the acting of both leads is sensational.  Actually, though it's not quite my favorite Fredric March film (The Best Years of Our Lives is), I do think Middle of the Night may be his best performance ever.   (Reviewed HERE)

About Mrs. Leslie---A deeply moving film, this one stars Robert Ryan and Shirley Booth.  It's the story of Vivian Keeler, who falls in love with the unhappily married George Leslie.  This movie is a sobber for me, and as a mega-huge Robert Ryan fan, I love the opportunity to see him shine in a kindly, sympathetic role for a change  (Reviewed HERE)

Ten North Frederick---Starring Gary Cooper and Suzy Parker, this is another moving, sob-inducing romantic drama.  Like Middle of the Night, it explores the May-December romance theme.  One viewing of this movie and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town was toppled from its status as my favorite Gary Cooper film.  (reviewed HERE)

Inferno---A Robert Ryan film I've been yearning to see all year, Inferno finally made its way into my hands about two weeks ago.  After a woman and her lover leave her injured husband (Ryan) to die in a remote desert area, the husband attempts to not only survive, but to make his way back to civilization. (Reviewed HERE)

The King's Speech---Yes, I do, on occasion, watch current movies.  This Academy Award-winning film is totally spectacular.  And Colin Firth, who took home the Best Actor Oscar for his performance, was nothing short of brilliant in his role.

Most of the movies I watch garner 3 or 4 stars---3-star films are those which I enjoyed and found interesting, though I don't necessarily have to watch them again.  4-star films are those which I really enjoyed and definitely want to see again.  5-star films are more difficult to come by (for me).  What makes a film a 5-star film for me?  It's a combination of three things...incredible acting, a deeply moving story which touches my heart and/or brings me to tears, and a powerful or bold dramatic story which I just can't get out of my mind.  (For me, comedy, while entertaining, rarely touches my heart...that's why there are few comedies among my favorite movies.)  Usually, all three of those things have to be working together for me to call a particular film a 5-star film.

Anyhow, while I always enjoy watching my tried-and-true favorite movies over and over again, I also love discovering new 5-star movies.  With a few dozen classic films on my "hoping to track down" list, I am counting on a few of them being 5-star discoveries in the coming year.  What about y'all?  Did 2011 find you discovering any new "totally love it" 5-star films?  I'd love to hear about them if you did.

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wishing You All a Merry Christmas

Wishing all of my dear blog friends your merriest Christmas ever.  May it be a day filled to overflowing with love, laughter, and every good thing.

I won't be posting again until Monday.  While I have done very well at keeping to my goal of doing a movie review every day all through the winter, with the hecticness of the next couple days, I know my computer life needs to take a backseat.  So, although I may have a chance to watch a couple beloved classic films, I won't be writing about them for a few days.

A huge thank you to all of you who faithfully read what I write.  I've loved the feedback and input y'all leave in your comments.  Truly, you all are my friends, and I am thankful for each of you.

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Remember the Night (4 stars)

Remember the Night, from 1940, is a little-known holiday film starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.  This delightful movie, which features Beulah Bondi and Sterling Holloway in supporting roles, is the first of four pairings between Stanwyck and MacMurray. 

Lee Leander (Stanwyck), a compulsive shoplifter, has just been picked up for her third offense.  While she has gotten off easy in the past, since her problem is a habitual one, her case, this time, is sent to trial, with John Sargent (MacMurray) set as the prosecutor.  When Lee's trial is postponed until after the holidays, Sargent, who doesn't want her to have to be in jail at Christmas, bails her out; with nowhere to go, and thinking there were strings attached to the bail-out, Lee shows up at John's apartment just as he is getting ready to go home to Indiana for the holiday.

Upon discovering that Lee, too, is from Indiana, John offers to take her along with him, promising to drop her off on the way to his mom's house and to pick her up on his return.  Lee's reunion with her mom doesn't go well, though, and John ends up inviting her to share Christmas with his family.  As the two spend time together, they begin to fall in love---but with John's prosecution of Lee hanging over their heads, do they have any chance for happiness?

Remember the Night is a very sweet film.  Yes, it's rather predictable, but it is lovely and sentimental and very much worth watching during the Christmas season.  Barbara Stanwyck, who is easily one of my all-time favorite actresses, is really wonderful here. As usual, her character is a bit rough around the edges, but with a heart of gold.  She and Fred MacMurray worked very well together here and had really great chemistry.

This film was released on DVD last year, so you should be able to track it down.  It's also available in its entirety on YouTube (HERE).  I definitely think it's a perfect addition to the holiday viewing schedule. 

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Satan Never Sleeps (3 stars)

Satan Never Sleeps, from 1962, is a Leo McCarey drama starring William Holden and Clifton Webb.  Taking on supporting roles in this film, which is based on a Pearl S. Buck novel, are France Nuyen and Weaver Lee.  The movie is set in Southwest China in November, 1949---before the Communists have taken over the country.

Mission priest, Father O'Banion (William Holden) is on his way to his new assignment at the Lang Fo Mission, where he will replace the retiring priest.  Father O'Banion, who has been delayed for a variety of reasons, is traveling with a teenage girl, Siu Lan (France Nuyen), who claims she is in love with him.  After explaining to Siu Lan that he is not in love with her, he leaves her at another nearby mission house and continues his journey to Lang Fo.

Father Bovard (Clifton Webb), the retiring priest, is irritated at O'Banion's days-late arrival, for he knows the Red Army is on the move, and he wants out before they get in.  With barely any explanations to O'Banion, Bovard hightails it away, but he is unable to get very far before being stopped by the Communists and returned to the mission.  As if not getting out wasn't bad enough, when Father Bovard discovers who the leader of the detaining regiment is, he is devastated and shocked, for it is Ho San (Weaver Lee), a man he believed had been converted to Christianity through the mission.  At one point, Bovard felt Ho San would become a priest and take over the mission. 

Meanwhile, following after the man she loves (Father O'Banion), Siu Lan arrives at Lang Fo, where she takes over as cook---the former cook having deserted the mission in order to become a "comrade."  Telling O'Banion that she loves him and wants to marry him, Siu Lan pursues him relentlessly; the priest, though, determined to be faithful to his vows, does his best to keep her at a distance.

As the Communists takeover more and more of the mission, they put pressure on the aging Father Bovard to denounce his Christian faith, something he refuses to do no matter what the cost.  The two priests must work together to keep their people safe, and how that is accomplished is the bulk of the movie.

Here is the link to the movie trailer on IMDB:  (HERE)

Satan Never Sleeps is a troubling movie, but I think it deals honestly with the situation both missionaries and nationals faced when the Communist takeover of China occurred.  It doesn't make for a feel-good movie, of course, but I do think it's very realistic.  For my Catholic friends, I want to make clear that Father O'Banion is never inappropriate towards Siu Lan.  While she threw herself at him, he was steadfast in his commitment, so don't be concerned that this film will portray the priest in a bad light.  If anything, it portrays both priests as completely devoted servants of their faith.

While William Holden gets top billing here, the real star was Clifton Webb.  He was his usual feisty, ill-natured know, exactly what he does best.  I loved him!  This was his final film, and I think he went out in style, giving a very good performance.  William Holden is good, and the chemistry between him and Webb was fantastic.  It looks like they really enjoyed working together.   Holden is 44 here, and although he is beginning to show his age, he is still incredibly handsome.  He appeared to have fun with this role, often rolling his eyes heavenward or chuckling at the old priest's sarcasm. (Yes, while the movie is a hard-hitting drama, there are a few lighthearted, comical moments.) France Nuyen (the girl playing Siu Lan) is 23 here, but she looks considerably younger---like maybe 15.  I'm not quite sure how old her character was supposed to be, but since she looked so young, her supposed romantic love for the 44 year old Holden seemed a bit unbelievable to me.

Anyhow, I enjoyed Satan Never Sleeps and found it to be a very solid 3-star film.  Clifton Webb fans will enjoy seeing him shine in his final performance; and, of course, William Holden fans (like myself!) ought to like this as well.

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good Sam (5 stars)

Good Sam, from 1948, starring Gary Cooper and Ann Sheridan, is a touching Leo McCarey comedy very much in the same spirit as the beloved "It's a Wonderful Life."  Since Gary Cooper is one of my great loves, I had been doing a search of his filmography a few years ago, and this lovely film was one that really jumped out at me as a must-see.  So, through the fantastic inter-library loan program, I obtained a VHS copy (from a library in Missouri, as I recall), and I totally fell in love with this little-known gem.  I watched it in the middle of the summer, and because there is a holiday theme to it, I kept hoping TCM would put it on their Christmas movie schedule, and after three years of waiting, they have finally done so---this coming Tuesday!! I couldn't be more thrilled!!

Much like It's a Wonderful Life, Good Sam is the story of a man who continually touches the lives of others...and ends up broke and in hot water as a result.  Coop is Sam Clayton, a man who would---and usually does---give the shirt off his back to someone in need.  Sam's wife, Lu (Ann Sheridan), is mildly frustrated by Sam's generosity, for it has kept them from having the money to purchase a home of their own.  When they finally do have enough savings for a down payment, Sam loans some of it to a friend.   With the remaining "house money," Sam buys turkeys for a charity giveaway, with the intent to reimburse himself from donations given.  Only problem is, Sam gets robbed, so there is no money with which to pay himself back, which means he won't be able to close on the house...and with Lu already starting to move their things in, Sam is desperately in need of a little help himself.

This movie is totally delightful...I absolutely love it!  It's a warm and fuzzy story, the kind that leaves you feeling good all over. Coop is his usual handsome, loveable self, and Ann Sheridan is totally fantastic.   The two of them had amazing chemistry together and played fabulously off one another. There is one scene in which Ann gets into a major laughing's quite hysterical to see her going on that long.

I highly recommend adding this movie to your Christmas movie list.  It is on the TCM evening schedule for Tuesday, December 20th.  Check for the time in your area, then set your DVR.  I think this is one you will want to record, as it's not out on DVD and is pretty difficult to track down.  I know I will be recording it to a disc and adding it to my own classic movie library (and, thus, my annual Christmas viewing schedule).

Happy viewing!!

Black Widow (4 stars)

Black Widow, from 1954, is a film noir/drama of the whodunit kind.  Starring Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, and George Raft, it is one of those films that keeps you guessing up until the very end.  It's also one of those films that has enabled me to see Van Heflin in a new light, which is really saying something, since not all that long ago, I really didn't like him (thought him very milque-toasty).  Since seeing this and a half dozen or so other films, though, I really see Mr. Heflin as a romantic leading man.

Van Heflin's role in Black Widow is as play producer Peter Denver.  As the film begins, he is putting his wife, Iris (Gene Tierney), on a plane to visit her ailing mother.  Before departing, Iris reminds Peter that he is expected at Lottie Marin's (Ginger Rogers) party that evening.  Though he doesn't much care for Lottie and really would prefer not to attend the party, Peter knows it is essential that he put in an appearance.  The lead actress in one of Peter's plays, Lottie is quite high maintenance, so Peter knows her ire would be raised if he didn't attend.

Mingling among the guests at Lottie's party, Peter strikes up a conversation with Nancy Ordway, a young aspiring writer.  With completely pure motives and a desire only to be kind, Peter invites Nancy out to eat after the party is over.  The two strike up a very innocent friendship, and very soon, Nancy has convinced Peter to allow her to use his fancy apartment while he is at work.  Saying that her own apartment isn't cheerful for writing and promising to be out of the apartment before Iris returns to town, Nancy obtains Peter's permission to access his place during the day.   Lottie and her husband, Brian, who live in the same apartment building as Peter and Iris, are very aware that Nancy is spending time at Peter's apartment.  They see her coming and going all the time, and they wrongly conclude that she and Peter are involved.

Eventually, Nancy turns up dead in Peter's apartment, and as the case is looked into, it would appear that he was, in fact, very much involved with her...that it wasn't the strictly-friends relationship he maintained it was.
How everything plays out is the balance of this very interesting film.

As I said, Van Heflin was really great in this role.  His acting was solid, and I very much saw him as a romantic leading man.  Gene Tierney, beautiful as always, was definitely underused here.  There wasn't a whole lot for her character to do.  George Raft, who was beginning to show his age (but who still looked extremely good!), was underused as well.  As the police officer investigating the death, he didn't have a whole lot to do either.  Top-billed Ginger Rogers was terrific, as always, but her character was definitely unlikeable, and I didn't really like how she was made up...she seemed harsh to me, but maybe that was in fitting with her character, or maybe it was her age.  (Though she was only in her early 40's here, she just wasn't the beautiful Ginger my husband knows and loves.)

Black Widow is definitely an entertaining viewing experience, especially when watching it for the first time when you don't know how everything is going to play out.  The film is out on DVD and should be quite easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Movies, Part 2

In addition to all the wonderful old classic Christmas movies, here are some of the more current films our family enjoys watching.

The Nativity Story---a viewing of this lovely movie is one of our annual Christmas Eve reminds us of the true reason we are celebrating Christmas.  One of the things I like most about it is the fact that it revolves heavily around Joseph. Usually, Joseph is overlooked in the Christmas story, but as this movie accurately portrays, he was as much a part of the story as Mary, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, and the angels. This movie shows the humanness of both Joseph and Mary.  Very moving!!

The Christmas Card---a mid 2000's Hallmark movie, this is sappy and sweet, but my daughter and I love it.  It's the story of a caring woman, a deployed soldier, and the Christmas card that binds them together.

Christmas Child---this mid 2000's movie is based on the Max Lucado book of the same name.  It's the story of a middle-aged man's search for his birth parents, entwined with the story of a missing baby Jesus from a local nativity scene.

A Charlie Brown Christmas---A dear friend gave a VHS copy of this as a gift to my kids when they were very young, and it has been a part of our Christmas viewing since then.  (Since our VHS player is broken, we've had to track it down on DVD.)  I totally love Linus's classic line towards the end!!!  (Actually, this isn't all that's mid 1960's.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever---this 80's TV-movie, which stars MASH's Loretta Swit, is based on the book of the same name.  It's the funny, but tender and heartwarming, story of what happens when the six rather wild and unruly Herdman children take part in the church's annual Christmas pageant.

Little House on the Prairie Christmas at Plum Creek---this precious episode always brings me to tears. Laura's sacrificial gift to her beloved Ma is so incredibly touching.

The Christmas Box--a 1995 movie starring Richard Thomas and the beautiful Maureen O'Hara, who aged fabulously.  Based on the book of the same name, it's the story of a workaholic dad/husband, who, through a feisty elderly woman, comes to understand what is most important in life.

Since all these movies/shows are current, I feel sure they are all available on DVD and quite easy to track down, so if you're looking for something new and different this holiday season, give one of these movies a try.

Happy viewing, and, of course, Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Inferno (5 stars)

Inferno, from 1953, is an exciting crime/survival drama starring Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming, and William Lundigan.  As everyone already knows, I am totally crazy about the sensational Robert Ryan.  He is, without question, one of my #1 guys, and I am making it a goal to see all of his films...if possible.  This particular film is one that has been on my radar for many months, but given that it's not out on DVD or on YouTube and never seems to be on TCM's schedule, I haven't had a way to catch it...until now, that is.  Through Rare Classic DVD's, I recently obtained this wonderful movie, and with anticipation high, I settled in to watch it last evening....and I absolutely was not disappointed.  Inferno is a totally fabulous movie, and it ranks up there with About Mrs. Leslie as my absolute favorite Robert Ryan film.

Deep in a remote mountainous desert region, millionaire Don Carson (Ryan) suffers a broken leg when he is thrown from a horse.  (We don't see this happening, as the film begins after the fact, but you know it has occurred.)  Leaving Don with a canteen of water, a pistol, and a small amount of food, his wife, Gerry (Rhonda Fleming), and prospective miner, Joe Duncan (William Lundigan), venture out in search of help. 

Really, though, the two, who have recently become lovers, have no intention of getting help...they intend to leave the helpless Don to die in the vast desert.

With a tenacious will to live his only ally, Don attempts to not only survive, but to find his way back to civilization and to make the murderous pair pay for their actions.

 Barely able to walk because of his broken leg and with his canteen nearly empty, Don must call on every ounce of inner strength he possesses to battle against the harsh desert.

Will Don make it out?  Or will Gerry and Joe get away with murder?  These are the questions that play out in this fabulous movie.

This film is very exciting, and, as usual, Robert Ryan is totally fantastic in his role.  He is simply amazing, and that is accomplished, largely, through body language.  Since he is alone in the desert (with no one to talk to), Ryan's words come forth as thoughts.  I am not overly familiar with Rhonda Fleming, having seen her in only two other films, but she was very believable here as the cheating wife...not to mention totally beautiful.  William Lundigan, who I have only seen in good-guy roles, was quite out of character, but he, too, was believable.  The Mojave Desert setting made the film quite realistic to me, as I could actually picture myself in the mountainous desert areas near where I live.  The rugged terrain reminded me of treks we have taken through the Owyhee Desert area of Southwest Idaho/Northern Nevada, and with my vivid imagination, I could easily picture myself as Don Carson, all alone against the elements.

Inferno is a definite must-see movie, especially for Robert Ryan fans.  The man is positively brilliant here.  As I said, though, this is a difficult film to track down.  You might be lucky enough to find it on a local station which shows classic movies...or perhaps one day soon TCM or Fox Movie Channel will air it.  Or, you can do what I did and order it from Rare Classic DVD's (HERE).  I got it for $15...and I am more than satisfied with what I got for my money.

Anyhow, happy viewing!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Movies, Part 1

Our family has many "wouldn't seem like Christmas without it" movies.  In case anyone is looking for some holiday season movie suggestions, here is the list of what we enjoy throughout the month of December.

It's a Wonderful Life---this is my all-time favorite Christmas movie.  It has been our Christmas night tradition for about seven years now.  We pretty much know the movie line for line.  (We used to watch the movie a few times during the year, but for the past four years, we have saved it for Christmas night...somehow it makes it more special to reserve it for once-a-year viewing.)

A Christmas Carol---Charles Dickens's timeless classic.  Our favorite is the 70's version with George C. Scott.

Miracle on 34th Street (classic black and white version, with Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and Natalie Wood)....Now I am going to be totally honest here and tell you that I really don't like this movie and only tolerate it because it is a must-see for my family.  I know I am marching to the beat of my own drum here because most everyone loves this movie, but it just doesn't do it for me.

Christmas in Connecticut---an adorable 1945 romantic comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan.  This is right up near It's a Wonderful Life as my favorite holiday movie.  It is totally charming and delightful.

Holiday Affair---1949 romance starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, and Wendell Corey.  It's rather fun seeing Robert Mitchum in a romantic role.

The Bishop's Wife---from 1947, starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven.  Cary Grant plays an angel who helps David Niven get back to what is most important.

I'll Be Seeing You---touching 1944 romantic drama starring Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten.  I reviewed this film HERE.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue---Heartwarming 1947 flick starring Victor Moore and Don DeFore.  (Reviewed HERE)

White Christmas---such a the Danny Bing.

Remember the Night---1940 romance starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.  The first of four pairings between Stanwyck and MacMurray.  I am in the process of reviewing this one...hope to get it up in a day or so.

Christmas Eve---this is a sentimental 1986 TV movie, starring Loretta Young (who aged beautifully!!!) and Trevor Howard.  I reviewed this film HERE.

This is our list of classic Christmas movies.  I'll be back soon with part 2, which will include the more current fare we enjoy during the holiday season.  So what are some of your "wouldn't be Christmas without it" movies?  And what is your absolute favorite Christmas movie?

As always, thanks for sharing!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Will Kane and Michael Logan...My # 1's

Regular readers of my blog already know that while I enjoy alot of different actors, my real loves are William Holden, Robert Ryan, and Gary Cooper.  Those three guys are my #1's, which is quite evident to all, I'm sure, since I am so often reviewing one of their films or just plain gushing about them.  Gal-wise, Bette Davis is my #1, with Susan Hayward and Barbara Stanwyck following in her footsteps. 

Movie-wise, I've already shared that Now, Voyager has #1 status, with Casablanca, A Place in the Sun, Sunset Boulevard, and Madame X rounding out the top 5.

So far, though, I've never shared with my blog readers which movie characters are my favorites, and I felt it was high-time I did so.  As with my actors, though, I can't decide on just one---I have two favorite movie characters.

First there's Marshal Will beloved Gary Cooper's role in High Noon.  Though High Noon is nowhere near being my favorite Coop film, Will Kane is, without question, my favorite Coop role.  While I totally love his characters in Ten North Frederick and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (my 2 favorite Coop movies),  I love Marshal Kane even more.  Though I'm not a huge fan of Westerns, I have watched several of Coop's, and High Noon is definitely a movie I enjoy.  I'll be generous and call it a 4-star film, though if I'm really not in a Western mood, it can become a 3-star.  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, though, Will Kane is a 5-star character. His willngness to do the right thing---even if he is the only one doing it---showed him to be a man of honor and integrity.  To me, Marshal Kane is THE quintessential Gary Cooper!!

My other favorite movie character, similarly, is a man who is bound and determined to do the right thing, no matter what the cost to himself.  That man is Father Michael Logan, Montgomery Clift's character in Alfred Hitchcock's I Confess (my favorite Hitch film).  As a priest, he had taken a vow to keep in confidence those things told to him in the confessional, and even if it meant his own arrest, Father Logan wasn't going to break that vow.  Again, a man of integrity and commitment.

Though I Confess is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, it is not my favorite Montgomery Clift film...that would be A Place in the Sun.  However, Father Logan IS my favorite Clift character.

Anyhow, although I love many characters in many different movies, when pushed to choose an absolute favorite, these two men are the ones that stand out.  What about y'all?  Who are some of your favorite classic movie characters?  And what is it about them that makes them your favorite?

Thanks for sharing!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

House of Strangers (3 stars)

House of Strangers, from 1949, is a film noir/drama directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and starring Edward G. Robinson, Richard Conte, and my #2 gal, Susan Hayward.  I totally love Miss Hayward and think she was a completely sensational actress, so anytime I see her name among a cast, I make it a point to watch that film.  Therefore, she was the draw here for me, and, I must say, neither she nor the movie disappointed.  Sometimes, it's kind of hard for me to determine if it's 3 or 4 stars, or 4 or 5 stars, so, while I'm giving this film 3 stars, it could possibly garner 4.  (I don't really see House of Strangers as noir, but it's classified that way on a couple of sites.)

The movie, mostly told in flashback through the eyes of Max Monetti (Richard Conte) is the story of the very dysfunctional Monetti family.  The family patriarch is Gino (Edward G. Robinson), who has made it big since immigrating from Italy earlier in the century.  His days living in a one-room house on the backside of a barber shop finally behind him, Gino now owns his own bank and lives in a mansion.  His family consists of a wife and  four adult sons...Joseph, Max, Tony, and Pietro.

Through both ignorance and stubbornness, Gino ran his bank his way.  Instead of adhering to regulations, he loaned money how he chose to; as a result, an audit of his books indicated that he was guilty of mis-application of funds.  When he is indicted, only son Max is willing to stand with him.  Because Gino had been a miserable father, who ridiculed his sons and failed to love them unconditionally, the other three sons detest him.  Only Max is willing to take the fall for him, which he does, and he ends up serving a seven-year prison sentence.  By the end of his sentence, Max has worked up an intense hatred for his brothers.

As the film begins, an angry and bitter Max, now a free man, returns to New York and the family home.  Determined to exact revenge on his brothers, he confronts them. Though his girlfriend, Irene (Susan Hayward), loves him and begs him to forget the past and to move into the future, Max is unwilling to drop the vendetta.  He is determined to make his three brothers pay for the seven years he lost.  Accusing them of abandoning their father and playing a part in sending him to prison, Max vows revenge.

Will Max be able to let go of his hatred and his desire for revenge?  Will he be able to stop the cycle of dysfunction in the family?  Will he be able to accept and return Irene's love?  Those are the questions that play out in this extremely well-acted film.

The acting in this movie was sensational.  Yes, I got the film for Susan Hayward, and she gave her usual wonderful performance; however, Edward G. Robinson and Richard Conte were the real stars of the film.  Eddie G. was spectacular, I thought...even down to the Italian accent.  Richard Conte was wonderful as well.  I've seen him in several movies, and of those, I think this is his absolute best performance.  While none of the characters is overly loveable---and Robinson's character is downright unlikeable---you can't help rooting for Conte's and Hayward's characters...flaws and all.

As I said, I'm not exactly sure if I liked this film or really liked it; I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.  Depending on my mood, it's either 3 stars or 4 stars. The movie is out on DVD, so it should be pretty easy to track down.  It's also available on Net Flix instant viewing, plus Fox Movie Channel airs it fairly regularly.

Happy viewing!!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Les Miserables (5 stars)

One of my ten absolute favorite movies ever is Les Miserables, and I have to be honest and say that I actually prefer the 70's version (which was a made-for-TV movie) over the 30's and 50's versions.  That is a shock of shocks, I know, as I rarely even watch, let alone like and prefer, films made after the mid 60's.  For me to choose the 70's version over the 30's version, which stars one of my top 10 actors (Fredric March) is nearly unbelieveable...but it's true.  I am totally in love with the 1978 adaption of Les Miserables, which stars Richard Jordan and Anthony Perkins.

Being totally honest, I must admit that I have never read Victor Hugo's classic novel, so I really don't know if any of the versions are true to it.  I also must admit that this 70's version is the first one I ever saw.  I rented it from Blockbuster in 2004 (on VHS), and I was so moved by it, that I watched it for three days in a row (until I had to return it).  I then bought the DVD and probably watched it at least a half dozen more times before ever seeing the two earlier versions; therefore, when I finally got around to the earlier versions (in 2007 or 2008), my heart had long since accepted Richard Jordan as Jean Valjean.  While I would like to one day watch the 90's adaption (with Liam Neeson), that hasn't happened yet, so this 70's version remains completely intact on my top 10 list of favorite movies.

I'm pretty sure most eveyone knows the story of Les Miserables, but in the event I'm wrong on that, I'll give a brief summary.  In late-18th century France, Jean Valjean (Richard Jordan) steals a loaf of bread and is sentenced to five years in prison.  Because Jean attempts to break out of prison on two different occasions, additional years are added to his sentence, until he ends up having to serve twenty years.  Before the end of the sentence, though, he does manage to escape, and he sets out to begin a new and honorable life.  Inspector Javert (Anthony Perkins), one of the prison guards, who lives by the absolute letter of the law, makes it his life's work to track Valjean down and return him to matter if it takes decades.  Javert is totally obsessed with re-capturing Valjean, and it is, of course, destined that the paths of the two men will cross again.

As I said, this adaption of Les Miserables, is by far my's easily on my top 10 list and a 5-star film for me.  Here are some of the reasons why:   Anthony Perkins is totally beyond fabulous in the role of Javert. Neither of the other versions had him as devious and cruel as this version, and Perkins played the role to absolute perfection. Additionally, the way they aged him here was truly showed how his obsession had made him ugly through the years. Neither of the other versions aged Javert.  (Charles Laughton portrayed Javert in the 30's film; Robert Newton [who I have never heard of] portrayd him in the 50's version.  While both men were adequate in their roles, neither, in my opinion, came close to doing the brilliant job Perkins did.)

 The repentance scene at the feet of the bishop was very touching in this movie, far more than in the 30's and 50's versions. Valjean was totally broken and sorrowful for his crimes, and that sorrow was very evident in this version.

The escape scene with Cosette was exciting and suspenseful, and neither other version had that scene. (Perhaps it wasn't in the book, but that doesn't matter to me---it made the movie exciting.)

Finally, I thought Richard Jordan's sensitive portrayal of Valjean was wonderful---better than Michael Rennie (50's) or, much as it pains me to say it, Fredric March (30's).  As a huge Fredric March fan, I somehow feel disloyal to him by preferring someone else's portrayal to his, but being brutally honest, I know it's true.  This version---and Richard Jordan's portrayal of Valjean---moved me in a way the earlier versions did not.

This film is out on DVD (as are the earlier versions and the 90's version), so it should be fairly easy to track down.  I'd be interested in hearing everyone's thoughts about this magnificent story.   Which version do you prefer?  Have you even seen this 70's one?  And what about the Liam Neeson version?  Has anyone seen that one?  What did you think?  Please share your thoughts with me.

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Classic Films I Just Don't Get

We all walk to the beat of our own drum on occasion, and my recent From Here to Eternity post really reminded me of that.  One of my friends said in her comment that while most everyone else seems to love From Here to Eternity, that film just doesn't do it for her.  She's seen it once...and that's enough...she never has to see it again.  My 21-year old daughter is in that same camp...she thinks From Here to Eternity is highly over-rated, and she really doesn't care if she ever watches it again.

My daughter's and my friend's comments got me to thinking.  There are plenty of classic films that most everyone else seems to love that just don't do it for me, movies that definitely have me feeling like a "lone ranger," since I'm about the only person on the planet who doesn't like them.  In most cases, I will 2-star those films, but a few of them, I will actually 1-star.  Just for kicks, I thought I would share a few of my "don't like it even if everyone else does" movies with all of you.

Rear Window---I am probably the only person in the world that doesn't like this movie.  Awhile back, I waded through over 200 Net Flix reviews, and I found only one person who gave less than 4 stars to this film (they gave 3)...most people gave it 5 stars.  I do love Thelma Ritter here and, of course, the beautiful Grace Kelly, but that's it.  I don't like the idea of a Peeping Tom being a hero; my son tells me it's the "neighborhood watch" program in action, but, still, I just don't like this one and give it 2 stars.

The Maltese Falcon---Yes, I know this is one of Humphrey Bogart's most iconic roles, but I just could not get into this movie.  I tried it twice, and both times, I found it confusing and difficult to follow.  Plus, I didn't much care for any of the characters.  I'll be generous and go 2 stars on this one.

His Girl Friday---Comedy is not my genre of choice anyway, but I totally hate this movie...the mile-a-minute dialogue was a real turn-off.  One of my 1-star films.

The Thin Man---While Myrna Loy is easily among my top 7 favorite actresses, and while I adore her and William Powell together and think they had amazing chemistry, I don't like this series at all.  I'll be honest, I've only seen three of the films, and I haven't enjoyed any of them.  I kept trying another one, hoping I would get into it, but, alas, after three 2-star (for me) movies, I've decided that The Thin Man is not for me.  I know, I'm one of the few people in the classic movie community who does not like this series. 

On the Waterfront---Yes, I know, this won the Best Picture Academy Award for 1954...Marlon Brando won for Best Actor, and Eva Marie Saint won for Best Supporting Actress, but it didn't work for me, perhaps in part because I'm not a Brando fan.  I'll go with 2 stars on this one.

The African Queen---Another of my 1-star movies.  I absolutely cannot stand this film; additionally, I find it hard to believe that Humphrey Bogart won an Academy Award for his role in it.  (Especially considering that one of his competitors was Montgomery Clift for A Place in the Sun.)  I think Bogey had many wonderful performances, but, for me, this was not one of them.  I know, I know, I'm walking to the beat of my own drum here.  

So what about y'all?  Are there some classic films that everyone else seems to love but which you absolutely cannot get into?  Films that make you feel like the "odd man out" because you seem to be the only one on the entire planet who doesn't like them?  I'd love to know what's on your list.  Please share some of your "can't stand it even if everyone else loves it" movies with me...even if they happen to be some of the movies that are near and dear to my heart.  You won't hurt my feelings by thinking differently than I do...after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so we all aren't going to like (or dislike) the same things.

Happy viewing!!