Monday, January 30, 2012

Cass Timberlane (3 stars)

Cass Timberlane, from 1947, is a romantic drama starring Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, and Zachary Scott.  Based on the Sinclair Lewis novel of the same name, this is a film which had been on my radar for a few months.  As I have grown in appreciation for Lana Turner, I have been on the lookout for some of her lesser-known films, and this one sounded interesting to me, so I kept hoping TCM would air it...which they did earlier this month.

Widowed Cass Timberlane (Spencer Tracy) serves as a judge in a small Minnesota town. While Judge Timberlane hobnobs with the high-society folks in his town, he is very much a down-to-earth guy and even has friends "on the other side of the tracks."  One of those friends is Ginny (Lana Turner), a woman several years his junior, whose acquaintance he made when she appeared in his courtroom one day.  The friendship between Ginny and Cass (who is nicknamed Tim by Ginny) soon blossoms into romance.

Despite her initial concerns about their societal differences, Ginny agrees to marry the judge.  Of course, the majority of his high-society friends have a problem with Ginny's lack of breeding, but his friend Brad Criley(Zachary Scott) supports him 100%.

Though Tim lavishes all the love in the world on Ginny, she soon finds herself bored with their small-town life and yearning for excitement and action.  Brad, too, desires that kind of life, and before long, he and Ginny find themselves developing feelings for one another.   Will Ginny leave Tim and seek out a more glamourous life with Brad?  For that matter, does Brad---a playboy---have more than a passing interest in Ginny?  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

While this is not a spectacular film, I enjoyed it very much.  I found Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner to be a delightful couple.  I thought they had great chemistry together; however, my daughter---who watched the film with me---did not.  It's funny how two people can look at the exact same thing and come away with totally different perceptions.  The film has great lessons about integrity, forgiveness, and the sacredness of marriage.  It is very definitely a solid, 3-star movie, which I highly recommend.

The film is out on DVD, so I think it ought to be fairly easy to track down.  Happy viewing!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Criss Cross (3 stars)

Criss Cross, from 1949, is an exciting film noir starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne DeCarlo, and Dan Duryea. I recently enjoyed a rewatch of this film in honor of Mr. Duryea's January 23rd birthday. 

After the breakup of his 7-month marriage to Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo), Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) leaves town for awhile.  Needing to get Anna out of his system, he drifted for a time, and then eventually returned to Los Angeles and his former job at an armored truck company.  Anna is never far from Steve's mind, though, and he begins haunting their old hangouts, hoping to run into her.  One evening, he does, and although she had begun seeing gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea) after their divorce, Anna is still very much interested in reconnecting with Steve.  She convinces him that they need to try again to make a go of things, but shortly after saying that, she ends up marrying Slim.

Of course, Steve is destined to run into the now-married Anna, and after she informs him that Slim beats her and that he and his gang are killers, the two fall into an affair; however, with Slim watching Anna's every move, it's not long before he learns of it.  Trying to protect Anna, Steve claims there is nothing going on between them, that they were only together because Steve wanted her to contact Slim about the two of them partnering together in an armored truck robbery.  Now Steve, who is really a good guy at heart, finds himself the "inside man" on a major heist.  Will he go through with it?  And will Anna really leave Slim and run away with Steve after the job is done?

Criss Cross is an interesting, exciting film, with good performances by all.  Dan Duryea oozes nastiness here---he's his usual wonderful, sleazy self.  Burt Lancaster, whose characters I find almost always a bit rough around the edges, was super as the man who wants to be good, but who is drawn to a bad woman.  And Yvonne, she was a stunning beauty in 1949.  The only thing I've ever seen her in is The Munsters, and I would never in a million years have believed she was a beautiful woman.  But she was gorgeous here!!  I was beyond in love with her hairstyle.  Another thing---to my mind, the film offers a surprise ending---truly, I never saw that ending coming!  I love surprise endings like that.

The film is out on DVD and should be quite easy to track down.  If you are a Burt Lancaster, Dan Duryea, Yvonne DeCarlo, or film noir fan, I am sure you will enjoy this one.  Hope you get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Lion (2 stars)

The Lion, from 1962, is an action/adventure film starring William Holden, Trevor Howard, and Capucine, with juvenile actress, Pamela Franklin, in a supporting role.  As a die-hard William Holden fan, I am making it my goal to see as many of his movies as I can, so when I saw that The Lion was making its TCM premiere last night, I excitedly set my DVR.  Alas, I was disappointed; however, I'm not sorry I watched it, and I don't consider it time wasted.  Anytime I have an opportunity to see my beloved Bill Holden in a "new-to-me" film, I consider it time well spent.

Robert Hayward (Holden) and his ex-wife, Christine (Capucine), have been divorced for several years, with Chris having custody of their young daughter, Tina (Pamela Franklin).  While Rob has been living stateside since the divorce, Chris and Tina have been living in Kenya, where Christine's new husband, John Bullit (Trevor Howard), manages a game preserve.  Concerned because of Tina's isolation and her strong attachment to a full-grown lion, Chris requests that Rob make a trip to Africa to judge the situation for himself.

Though Rob at first thinks Tina is bright and well-adjusted, he comes to realize that Chris is right...Tina does, in fact, have an unhealthy attachment to the lion---and he does to her as well, even, in a dramatic moment, choosing Tina over a lioness.  Additionally, Tina is strongly connected to the tribal customs of the local natives, something which greatly concerns her mother.  Rob realizes that Tina needs to be removed from the game preserve and brought to the states to live with him; however, since his connection with his daughter had been severed when she was very young, and she now looks upon Bullit as her father, will Rob be able to convince her to leave Africa and live with him?  Making matters even worse is the fact that Rob violated the natives' tribal laws by saving a man who had been left to die.  And on top of it all is Rob and Chris's realization that they still love each other.  How everything plays out is the balance of the film.

The Lion was filmed entirely on location in East Africa.  William Holden, part-owner in a Kenyan game preserve, had long-wanted to be involved in a film such as this.  Truly, it was his passion, and, in fact, according to Robert Osborne's informational snippets, he is the one who spearheaded the effort to have this film made.  Despite his zeal for the project, though, the film didn't do it for me.  I don't generally do well with animal films...for what are probably obvious reasons.  In this movie, it appeared that Trevor Howard's character was taunting the animals with his vehicle.  Perhaps it was meant to be just playfulness, but it was a turn-off for me.  Also, I didn't feel there was much chemistry between any of the stars---funny because Holden and Capucine were involved with one another at this point in their lives (said Robert Osborne).  I didn't see their off-screen love playing out in the film.

Just because I didn't enjoy this film, though, it doesn't mean others won't love it---especially those with an interest in Africa or safari animals.  (The scenery is stunning, and the animals are completely awesome.) While I don't believe the movie is out on DVD, I am willing to part with my copy.  Given that it was a William Holden film, I assumed I would love it, so I recorded it to disc as I watched it; however, it's not a movie I will ever watch again, so I am happy to send my recorded disc to anyone who wants it.  Please don't hesitate to ask.

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Love Letters (3 stars)

Love Letters, from 1945, is a romantic drama with a bit of a mystery to it.  The film, which stars Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten in the second of their four pairings, features Ann Richards, Cecil Kellaway, and Gladys Cooper in supporting roles.

While serving in Italy during the war, Allen Quinton (Joseph Cotten) finds himself a regular Cyrano de Bergerac as he writes letters for his buddy, Roger Moreland.  Writing to Roger's girl, Victoria, Allen finds himself able to say things he has never been able to say before...not even to his fiance, Helen.

Allen doesn't quite understand it, because he finds himself caring about and falling in love with this woman he has never met; furthermore, each time Victoria writes in return, it is obvious that she is in love with the man in the letters...a man who really doesn't exist, because the "Roger" the letters are supposedly from is completely different from the Roger who is.  Allen, fully aware that Victoria is in love with his words, feels badly about the deception and pledges to write not one letter more.  Not long afterwards, Roger is transferred back to England, and he and Victoria are married. 

Several months later, Allen is injured and sent back to England to recover.  Obsessed with the woman he had written love letters to, Allen does some investigating and discovers that Roger had been murdered about a year prior and that his wife had been found guilty of the crime.  Wanting to find out as much as he can about Victoria, Allen makes the acquaintance of Singleton (Jennifer Jones), a young woman with no memory of her past.  It doesn't take long for Allen to learn that the lovely amnesiac and his beloved Victoria are the same person.

Will Victoria regain her memory?  Will she discover that the writer of the letters was Allen?  Will she realize that it was Allen---not Roger---with whom she fell in love?  These are the questions that play out in the balance of this touching film.

Being totally honest, I have to say that this could have been a 4-star film.  The story is interesting...and also very sweet and tender.  Plus, I always enjoy Joseph Cotten.  Jennifer Jones, however, is the problem for me.  Plain and simple, I don't like her at all.  I'm not sure exactly what it is, probably the whole David Selznick/Robert Walker thing, but I just can't stand her.  For me, she ruins every movie I've ever seen her in (including Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, which stars my #1 man, William Holden).  Because of Miss Jones, this film became a 2-star film; therefore, averaging 4 and 2 stars, I came up with 3.  I kept thinking I wished Gene Tierney had been cast in the part (don't know if it was the right studio for that)...or Ginger Rogers, with whom Joseph Cotten had paired so beautifully the year before in I'll Be Seeing You.  However, with David Selznick the producer of the film, that was simply not going to happen.  If you are a Jennifer Jones fan, though, I think you will love this movie.  It is a film for which she received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.

This film may be difficult to track down, as I don't believe it's out on DVD, nor have I seen it on YouTube.  I caught it on TCM recently, so perhaps they will air it again in the near future.

Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Reckless Moment (3 stars)

The Reckless Moment, from 1949, is a crime drama/film noir starring James Mason and Joan Bennett, with Geraldine Brooks taking on a supporting role.  Directed by Max Opuls, this film made its TCM premiere earlier this month, and given that I've recently fallen in love with the smooth-as-silk voice of Mr. Mason, I was excited to catch it.

Quite upset about the company her teenager daughter, Bea (Geraldine Brooks), is keeping, Lucia Harper (Joan Bennett) pays a visit to one Ted Darby.  Telling him there is nothing she won't do to keep him from her daughter, Lucia offers the man money to stay out of Bea's life.  After Darby expresses interest in such an offer, Lucia is triumphant, for if Bea knows her beau was willing to be bought off, surely she will realize he's a ne'er-do-well.

That evening, Bea sneaks out of the house to rendezvous with Ted, and after he admits that her mother told her the truth---that he would, in fact, take money from her---Bea, furious, strikes at him.  Though Bea's blow doesn't kill Ted, he does end up dying, and both Bea and Lucia believe that Bea killed him.  Terrified, Lucia takes it upon herself to dispose of the body in a nearby swamp.

Although Lucia is confident that she left no trail and that no one will connect her or Bea with Darby's death, she soon finds that she does, in fact, have reason to worry.  Bea had written dozens of love letters to Ted, and the man had used the letters as collateral in an unscrupulous loan; the current holder of the letters---Martin Donnelly (James Mason)---knowing they are incriminating evidence against Bea, is demanding $5,000 from Lucia in order to keep the letters from the police.  With her husband out of town, though, and unable to sign for a loan, Lucia is finding herself unable to meet Donnelly's demands.

Will Donnelly go to the police?  Will Bea or Lucia be implicated in Darby's death?  These are the questions that play out in the balance of this film.  (This video clip is the first of six parts.)

While The Reckless Moment is not a spectacular film, I did find it interesting and enjoyable.  The storyline was exciting and mildly suspenseful and even offered a surprise twist at the end.  And, of course, there's the beautiful voice of James Mason.  All those things work together to make this a very solid 3-star film.

To my knowledge, this film is not out on DVD, so it might be a bit difficult to track down.  It is, however, available in its entirely on YouTube (in 6 parts). 

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If a Man Answers (4 stars)

If a Man Answers, from 1962, is a totally adorable romantic comedy starring real-life couple Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin.  Taking on supporting roles in this sweet little film are John Lund, Micheline Presle, and Cesar Romero.

Socialite Chantal Stacy (Sandra Dee) is out to get a husband, and photographer Eugene Wright (Bobby Darin) is her target.  Eugene, though, insists that he loves bachelorhood and that it is the ideal state for him.  Not to be put off by Eugene's "I'll never settle down" attitude, Chantal gets to work on the man's heart, and before long, Mr. "Marriage Isn't For Me" is standing before the preacher, saying "I do."

Though she and Eugene are married, Chantal feels a bit ignored, so upon the advice of her French mother (Micheline Presle), she sets out to train Eugene to be exactly what she wants him to be.  Using a dog-training manual, Chantal successfully turns her husband into an obedient, loving man.  Of course, no husband wants to be treated like a dog is treated; therefore, when Eugene discovers Chantal's methods, he rebels.  Determined to re-capture Eugene's attention, Chantal puts another of her mother's schemes into action, this time letting him think she is involved with another man.  Eugene isn't a fool, though, and, scheming himself, he turns the tables on Chantal, which leads to some very comical moments. Who wins the game of one-upsmanship will play out in the remainder of the film.

This really is an adorable film, and the chemistry between Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin is fabulous.  While my favorite of the Dee/Darin films is That Funny Feeling (reviewed HERE), If a Man Answers is definitely pure delight.  It's funny and sweet, and the supporting cast is wonderful.  John Lund portrays Chantal's dad, and the interaction between him and Micheline Presle (Chantal's mom) was fantastic.  I loved them about as much as Dee and Darin.  Cesar Romero is loads of fun in his role as well.  And topping it all off are Sandra Dee's gorgeous dresses!  Oh, I wish we gals still dressed like that on a daily basis!

This wonderful film is out on DVD, so it should be quite easy to track down.  Definitely try to catch it if you can; I feel sure you will enjoy every delightful, romantic minute.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dan Duryea!!!

Today is the 105th birthday of one of the best of the "bad guys"...Dan Duryea (January 23, 1907-June 7, 1968).

Dan Duryea, who totally excelled at playing the nasty, is my daughter's favorite of the "bad guy" actors. She once read somewhere that he was known as "the heel with appeal." I definitely agree with that statement, as even when he's playing the heavy, there is something quite appealing about him. From what I've read about him, he was a gentle, kind, likeable man---very definitely light years away from the kinds of men he portrayed on screen.  Additionally, he is defined as a "model husband and father."  His gravestone, which I discovered through the website Find a Grave, bears the inscription, "Our Pop, a man everybody loved." 

Though Mr. Duryea was most often a supporting star in each of his films, he always gave a top-notch performance. My absolute favorite of his films is The Pride of the Yankees, the Gary Cooper flick about Lou Gehrig.  In that film, though, Mr. Duryea was only an extremely minor player; therefore, I will list five other movies of his which I really like..and in which he has much more of a role than he did in that one.

1.  Killer Bait  (a film noir with Lizabeth Scott and Don DeFore---reviewed HERE)

2.  Black Angel (with June Vincent)

3.  The Woman in the Window  (film noir with Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson)

4.  Lady on a Train  (with Deanna Durbin and Ralph Bellamy)

5.  Scarlet Street  (another film noir with Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson)

So, Mr. Dan Duryea, here's to you on your 105th birthday!!  Most definitely, you were "the heel with appeal."  Thanks for being so good at being so bad!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tomorrow Is Another Day (4 stars)

Tomorrow Is Another Day, from 1951, is a surprisingly entertaining crime drama/film noir starring Ruth Roman and Steve Cochran.  I caught this on TCM recently, and I must admit, though it sounded interesting, I really wasn't expecting much.  To be quite honest, since I've never heard the film mentioned, and since neither Ruth Roman or Steve Cochran are mega-stars, I figured it would be a typical "B" movie...mildly interesting, but nothing I would ever want to watch again.  In fact, I was so sure it wouldn't be a "keeper" that I watched the film without recording it to disc.  Wow!  Was I in for a surprise!  This is a VERY good movie, far above the average "B" film; in fact, I easily determined that it's one I want to own, so after watching one time, I went back and watched again, recording it to a disc as I did.

As the film begins, Bill Clark (Steve Cochran) is being released from prison after serving an 18-year sentence for murder.  Incarcerated since the age of fifteen, Bill has spent his entire adult life behind bars; he is warned by the warden that things are not going to be easy on the outside, and within hours of his release, he is experiencing the truth of those words.  Duped by a publicity-hungry reporter, Bill soon finds his picture and story plastered across the front page of the newspaper.  Knowing that he must leave town in order to make a fresh start, Bill heads to New York.

Lonely and wanting to meet someone, Bill visits a dance hall, where, for a dime a dance, he makes the acquaintance of taxi dancer, Kathy Higgins (Ruth Roman).  Despite her lack of interest in him, Bill is taken with Kathy and, wanting to spend more time with her, asks her to show him around New York.  Walking her home one evening, Bill comes face to face with Kathy's ex-boyfriend, police officer George Conover.  When Conover gets rough with Kathy, Bill springs to her defense and strikes at the man, he himself receiving a return punch which renders him unconscious for a time.  As Bill lies on the floor motionless, Kathy picks up a gun and shoots Conover, who then, wounded, makes his way from the apartment.

Upon regaining consciousness, Bill is a bit foggy about the events which took place; therefore, when Kathy tells him he shot Conover, he has no reason to doubt her.  It turns out, as Bill discovers in the next day's newspaper, Conover's wound was fatal; knowing his ex-con status will give him little credibility in a self-defense plea, Bill realizes his only chance is to run...and he does so, with Kathy by his side.

Can Bill escape his past?  Can he escape being charged with a second murder?  Does Kathy ever tell him she---not he---pulled the trigger on Conover?  These are the questions that play out in this very interesting, entertaining film.

Tomorrow Is Another Day is a fabulous film noir.  It also features a surprising amount of romance, which I found very touching.  I really liked Steve Cochran's character.  Unlike the sleazy guys he generally plays (Storm Warning, White Heat, The Best Years of Our Lives), Bill Clark was a likeable guy, one I really cared about and rooted for.  I thought Cochran was quite good in the role.  Ruth Roman spends the first 1/3 of the film as a platinum blonde...definitely a look I've never seen on her before.  Her character is a bit rough around the edges, but she has a good heart, and you can't help rooting for her as well.

This film is out on DVD, so I hope you are able to track it down.  It is definitely worth watching.

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pressure Point (4 stars)

Pressure Point, from 1962, is a hard-hitting racial/prison drama starring Sidney Poitier and Bobby Darin.  As often seemed to be the case, Mr. Poitier finds himself taking on a role in which his skin color is an issue.  Here in Pressure Point, he portrays a psychologist, and as the film begins, he reflects back to 1942, when he was practicing in a federal penetentiary.

A twenty-nine year old man (Bobby Darin), who has been sentenced to three years for sedition, is sent to the doctor because of erratic behavior and difficulty sleeping.  At the initial meeting of the two, the patient's lack of respect for the black doctor is obvious; though the doctor is irritated by the condescending atittude shown him, he is, nonetheless, determined to help the young man.

Feeling there is some deep-rooted reason for the man's aggression, the doctor questions him about his childhood, and a picture of an abusive father is brought forth.  Growing to manhood, the patient embraces the teachings of the Nazi party, giving him a hatred for blacks and Jews...a feeling that has only strengthened over time.  Believing that the purity of the white Christian stock is endangered by Negroes and Jews, he is an adamant believer in all things Nazi.

Will the doctor be able to help?  Will the patient let go of his bigotry and hatred?  These are the questions that play out in this hard-hitting drama.

Having only seen Bobby Darin in light romantic comedies, I was surprised to find how good he was in this kind of role.  I thought he was quite exceptional...really, in my mind, this was more Darin's show than Poitier's.  Yes, Mr. Poitier gave his usual wonderful performance, but I definitely feel Darin stole the show here.    It occurred to me that every Poitier film I've seen has him in a role where his skin color marks him for hatred and/or mocking.  I suppose that is to be expected given that he he made so many films in the late 50's and 60's; I wonder, though, if he ever grew weary of his characters always having to fight against the bigotry? I wonder if he would have enjoyed the chance to make a film where race wasn't an issue?   I suppose he did make films that were less "deep," but I just haven't seen any of those ones.

Unlike many of the racial dramas of that era, the cringe-inducing "n" word wasn't used one time in this film; instead, they used Negro over and over again.  Perhaps that word isn't used much nowadays, but I will certainly take it over the other "n" word.  Still, though, the man's hatred toward blacks and Jews is quite painful to watch.

While I don't believe Pressure Point is out on DVD, it is available in its entirety on YouTube.  HERE is the link if you'd like to watch this well-acted, hard-hitting film.

Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Cary Grant!!!

Today is the 108th birthday of one of the world's most beloved actors---the incredibly dashing and distinguished Cary Grant.  (January 18, 1904-November 29, 1986)

Born in England with the name Archibald Leach, Cary Grant is one of the most iconic names there has ever been.  Even those who do not profess to know much about classic films know who he is. This beloved actor is firmly entrenched on my all-time favorite actor list.  I totally adore him.

My absolute favorite of Mr. Grant's films is Penny Serenade, the beautiful 1941 tearjerker for which he received an Academy Award nomination.  In this lovely film, Cary teams up with Irene Dunne and plays paternal, a role at which I think he excelled. (Reviewed HERE)

Rounding out my five favorite Cary Grant films are:

2.  An Affair to Remember  (with Deborah Kerr---reviewed HERE)

3.  Room for One More  (with then-wife Betsy Drake---reviewed HERE)

4.  In Name Only  (with Carole Lombard)

5.  Notorious (with Ingrid Bergman)

It was nearly impossible to stop with five films; truly, I could have listed another half dozen which I love, but I am forcing myself to list only five.  (Two of those five films are in my top 20 favorite films of all-time!!)  However, I realize these are all dramas and that Cary was quite the comedic actor as well.  Since I far and away prefer drama to comedy, his dramatic films are, obviously, my favorites, but in the name of being fair, I will list a few of his comedies which I adore.

1.  The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer  (with Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple)

2.  Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House  (with Myrna Loy)

3.  Father Goose (with Leslie Caron)

So, Mr. Cary Grant, here's to you on your 108th birthday!  You were a wonderful actor and a gallant gentleman, and you will always be one of my absolute favorites.  Thanks for making so many beautiful movies!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Steel Trap (4 stars)

The Steel Trap, from 1952, is a suspenseful drama starring Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright.  A film which reunited the Shadow of a Doubt stars, The Steel Trap made its TCM premiere last week.  I had been awaiting the airing of this film for a couple years, so I was thrilled to finally have had the opportunity to catch it...and, I must say, I was not disappointed.

Jim Osborne (Joseph Cotten) has worked at his bank job for eleven years, starting as a teller and now finding himself in the position of assistant manager.  Though not fancy, Jim's life is comfortable and happy---wife, daughter, modest home, stable job.  Jim, however, wants more, and he begins to wonder about the possibility of stealing money from the bank's vault.  The more he dwells on the idea, the more convinced he is that he could get away with it, and within a couple days, Jim puts his plan into action.

Having discovered that Brazil had revoked its extradition treaty, Jim knows that Brazil is the destination to which he will go.  His plan is to abscond with $1 million at the close of business on Friday and then be safely in Brazil before the robbery is discovered when the bank opens on Monday.

Of course, Jim's wife, Laurie (Teresa Wright), and his daughter will have to go to Brazil with him, for his intent is to stay there forever.

As fate would have it, nothing goes as Jim plans---Laurie, who thinks they are simply taking a short trip, wants to leave their daughter home with her mother; the passport office is closed when they arrive; they need to take a later flight; and on and on.  Whatever can go wrong, does go wrong, pushing Jim to the point of total franticness and triggering Laurie's awareness that there is something strange going on.

The Steel Trap was definitely an enjoyable viewing experience.  The storyline itself was quite exciting, but adding to the overall suspense was the Dimitri Tiomkin score.  Especially during the scene in the bank vault, the score was utterly perfect!   Joseph Cotten was fantastic in his role.  I could SO feel the anxiety and stress his character was struggling with.  You may be surprised to find Teresa Wright as a blonde in this film.  Having never seen her as anything but a brunette, I was not expecting those blonde tresses.  She looked good, but I really prefer her dark.

To my knowledge, this film is not out on DVD, so it may be hard to catch.  If you can track it down, though, be sure to do so.  It is definitely an exciting, entertaining film.

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lightning Strikes Twice (3 stars)

Lightning Strikes Twice, from 1951, is a suspenseful romantic drama/film noir starring Ruth Roman and Richard Todd.  Despite the fact that I am not overly familiar with either star, when I saw the film's description on the TCM schedule recently, I was intrigued and decided to set my DVR; I was not disappointed.

As the film begins, Richard Trevelyan, henceforth known as Trev (Richard Todd), is about to be executed for the murder of his wife; at the last minute, however, he is given a stay and a new trial.  The re-trial results in a 6/6 indecision, so Trev is freed and, quite secretly, returns to his home, which is near the dude ranch Tumble Moon.

Stage actress Shelley Carnes (Ruth Roman), on the advice of her doctor, is taking a vacation out West and has reservations at the Tumble Moon.  Not being from the area, the only thing she knows of Trevelyan---or the murder case---is what is printed in the local newspaper.

With the ranch being some miles from where the bus left her off, Shelley must drive the remaining distance, and while doing so---on a dark and rainy night---her car gets stuck in the mud of an unpaved road.  Spying a house nearby, Shelley makes her way to the front door and is soon let in by a man---Richard Trevelyan---who is the only person in the house.  After informing Shelley of his identity, Trev lets her know she is welcome to spend the night in the den, which she does.  Though there is a lock on the door, Shelley doesn't use it, allowing Trev to enter the room in the middle of the night, so as to cover her with a blanket.

Though Trev is gone when Shelley wakens in the morning, she cannot help wondering about him.  By the time their paths cross again, Shelley, convinced the man did not kill his wife, longs to help him prove his innocence; Trev, however, tells her to just let it be.  Eventually, Trev and Shelley fall in love and decide to marry; however, on their wedding night, Shelley begins to believe that her husband did, in fact, kill his first wife...a thought that terrifies her and sends her running from him. 

Did Trev really kill his wife?  Was a guilty man mistakenly released from prison?  Does he intend to harm his new wife?  These are the questions that play out in this mildly suspenseful romantic drama.

Lightning Strikes Twice is definitely an interesting, exciting film.  While it isn't a spectacular movie, nor are its stars among my favorites, I, nevertheless, found the film quite enjoyable.  It's one of those films that really keeps you guessing...did he kill his wife?  Is his new wife in danger?  Right up until the very end, you just didn't know.  I've probably only seen Richard Todd in one other film (The Hasty Heart), so I really don't know much about him, but I certainly like him here.  I thought he was very good in his role...and I love his gentle Irish  accent!  I've seen Ruth Roman in only three or four films, so I'm not overly familiar with her either...but I enjoyed here here as well.  I think she and Mr. Todd worked quite well together.

This is, without question, a very solid 3-star film, which I definitely recommend.  Since it is out on DVD, I think it should be fairly easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tomorrow---the World (4 stars)

Tomorrow---the World, from 1944, is a wartime drama which explores the indoctrination of The Hitler Youth.  Starring Fredric March and Betty Field, Tomorrow---the World was originally a Broadway play (in 1943), with Ralph Bellamy and Shirley Booth in the starring roles.  Skippy Homeier, who had the part of the youth on Broadway, reprised his role in the film.  Agnes Moorhead takes on a supporting role in the film.

As the film begins, widower Mike Frame (Fredric March) is preparing to welcome his young nephew, Emil (Skippy Homeier), into his home.  Emil, a German boy nearly twelve years old, is the orphaned son of Mike's sister, Mary, and her husband, Karl  Bruckner, a German resistance supporter, who died in a concentration camp. 

Shortly after arriving at Mike's home, Emil changes his clothes...donning the uniform of The Hitler Youth.  His hatred for all things non-German is soon obvious, as is his disdain for women and Jews.  Shouting "Heil, Hitler," Emil informs Mike that  he is willing to die for his fuhrer.  He further informs Mike that his father, a traitor to The Third Reich, was a coward who committed suicide.  Refusing to listen when Mike attempts to set the record straight, Emil destroys the picture of Bruckner which hangs on the wall in Mike's study. 

While the family continually tries to love Emil and, thereby, remove the Nazi indoctrination from his mind and heart, they are continually thwarted.  The Hitler Youth very successfully programmed the mind of the young boy, and undoing their work may prove to be impossible.  Whether they are able to do so is the basis for the remainder of the film.

This film was powerful and, from what I have learned through a lengthy study of the rise of Nazi Germany, quite accurate in its portrayal of the young German boy.  The Hitler Youth completely sought to control the minds of its young people, often turning them against their own parents.  Although Fredric March gets top billing, the real star of this film is Skippy Homeier.  He was totally fantastic in the role of Emil....down to the clicking of the boots!   Quite honestly, his portrayal was so realistic, I found myself shivering a few times.

Being totally honest, however, I must admit that I have a couple concerns with the film, though they in no way influence me to rate it lower.  First, I found it unrealistic that the Nazi government would have sent one of The Hitler Youth to live in America...even if he had been orphaned.  Why would they have allowed their enemy to have one of their own?  That just didn't ring true to me.  Also, the ending was a bit too pat for me.  I won't say more than that, as I don't want to give away how things turn out; suffice to say, that it seemed quite unrealistic.  Those things aside, however, I still greatly enjoyed this film, which is out on DVD and should be quite easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Something of Value (4 stars)

Something of Value, from 1957, is a hard-hitting political/racial unrest drama starring Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier, with Dana Wynter and Wendy Hiller taking on supporting roles.  It's a film that takes place in Kenya during the 1940's and early 1950's...a time when the East African country was under British rule.

Peter McKenzie (Rock Hudson), a white English colonist, and Kimani (Sidney Poitier), a black native Kenyan, have been raised as brothers.  Since Peter's own mother had died when he was a baby, Kimani's mother, a servant for the McKenzie family, raised the white child.  As a result, Peter and Kimani have played together and been as close as brothers all their lives; however, as the boys grow to adulthood, Peter is told that Kimani is supposed to be his servant, not his equal.  In fact, Peter is told, "Blacks are blacks and not playmates."  Those ideas do not sit well with Peter, and although Kimani tells him they are not friends anymore, but servant and master, Peter responds that he will always be his friend.

Wanting more out of life than to be "head man" to a white man, Kimani leaves his home to join up with a revolutionary group.  Although Kimani would prefer non-violent methods of delivering the native people from the English, the group he has joined insists that independence will only be accomplished with guns and spilled blood.  Eventually, Kimani drinks the vow, which consists of sheep's blood, millet, and earth.  As he drinks, he promises "to steal guns, to never be a Christian, and to drive out all English or kill them."

Of course, Peter's and Kimani's paths are destined to cross again, and with both men having a bond of love for the other, can one of them possibly kill the other?  Or can the war be won peaceably?  These are the questions that play out in this hard-hitting, heartbreaking drama.

While I readily admit I know little about Kenyan history and, therefore, cannot say with certainty that this film is historically accurate, I did, nevertheless, find it to be completely riveting.  Sidney Poitier, who I think is a simply amazing actor, was totally stellar in this role.  He was completely believable, and my heart hurt for him over and over again.  Rock Hudson, I thought, was very good in his role.  Despite the fact that he was portraying an Englishman, yet had no English accent, he was completely believeable to me.  I could simply "blow off" the fact that the accent wasn't right.

Although tame by today's standards, there were a couple of very violent scenes, which really brought tears to my eyes.  The poignant ending, also, brought tears to my eyes.   All in all, I think Something of Value is a wonderful movie, and I highly recommend it.

This film is out on DVD; plus, it is available in its entirely on YouTube (HERE).  Happy viewing!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Crisis (3 stars)

Crisis, from 1950, is a political intrigue/medical drama starring Cary Grant and Jose Ferrer.  This is a Cary Grant film I had never even heard of until I saw it on the TCM schedule last month.  I missed it then, but they happened to air it again earlier this week, so I set the DVR.

While on vacation in an unnamed Latin American country, American surgeon Eugene Ferguson (Grant) and his wife find themselves caught up in the political unrest which has long been brewing.  The country's tyrannical leader, President Farrago (Jose Ferrer), has many enemies...many who want to see him dead or removed from when the man is discovered to have a brain tumor requiring immediate surgery, there is no local physician he trusts to attend to him.  As a result, Farrago's soldiers kidnap Dr. Ferguson and his wife as they are getting ready to depart the country.

Though furious at being detained, Dr. Ferguson stands up to the soldiers and the president himself;  he insists he wants the freedom to come and go...without spies...without any following...and while he is at one of the local bars, he makes the acquaintance of the revolutionary group's leader.  After explaining how the country has endured years of hardship under Farrago's tyranny, he makes no secret of the fact that he wants Dr. Ferguson to botch the operation so that Farrago dies.  But can Ferguson---who as a physician has pledged to save lives---even consider doing such a thing?  And if Ferguson won't willingly do it, is there anything the revolutionaries can do to force his hand?

Since I missed Crisis when it was on TCM back in December, I was thrilled to see it on the schedule again this month.  With high hopes, I settled in to watch it a couple nights ago, and much as it pains me to say it, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed. While I'm giving this film 3 stars, the first 70 minutes were, for me, difficult to get through.  The plot was painfully slow-moving, and I nearly gave up several times; I hung in there, though, and was rewarded with an interesting and exciting final 20 minutes. So, the 3 stars are for those last minutes.

I enjoyed seeing Cary Grant in this kind of role, and I definitely believe all Grant fans will want to see this film.  It is out on DVD, so it ought to be fairly easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No Name on the Bullet (4 stars)

No Name on the Bullet, from 1959, is a western drama starring Audie Murphy, with Charles Drake and Joan Evans taking on supporting roles.  Though classified as a Western, I actually see this a bit more as a psychological drama.  Sure, there are horses, guns, and a Western town, but it doesn't have the long hours on the open range or the Indian wars which I so dislike in the typical Westerns.

John Gant (Audie Murphy) rides into the town of Lordsburg (though no state is mentioned, it's supposed to be somewhere in the Southwest) and checks himself in to the local hotel.  At the very mention of his name, the hotel/barkeeper, along with all the men in the bar, grow quite unsettled, with the barkeeper even hightailing it over to the sheriff's office to announce the news of Gant's presence.  Though Gant is not a wanted man, his reputation as a hired gun is known to all.  Always, Gant will pick a fight with his target, inciting the man to draw on him, making his death shot considered self-defense, not murder.

All the folks of Lordsburg, fearful they are the intended target, are on edge and want Gant out of town; one lone man, however, the local doctor, Luke Canfield (Charles Drake), is willing to give him a chance at first.  Surely, he believes, Gant isn't as bad as his reputation makes him out to be.  His soon-to-be father-in-law, however, is one of the men who wonders if he is Gant's targeted victim.  Also wondering the same thing are several other men, including Thad, the local banker, and Lou, a cowardly man, who had run off with another man's wife.  As Gant calmly and quietly goes about his business, the anxious men grow more unsettled, until finally, a showdown is forced.

This movie was interesting and mildly suspenseful, in that you don't know who the target is.  While it isn't a sensational film, I found it very solid and enjoyable.  I happen to be one of the persons who really likes Audie Murphy...I think he was a very capable actor...and quite underrated.  The more of his films I watch, the more I like him...he is definitely one of the rising stars on my favorite actor list. There's a gentleness to him in most of the movies I've seen; even when he's the heavy (as he is here), he is quiet and well-mannered.

The film is psychological in nature because the quiet deliberateness of the hired gun is all that is necessary to completely unnerve the townsfolk.  His very presence incites the men's greatest fears and makes them wonder what past or present action has brought a death sentence to their door.   Also, the film gives insight into the minds of men who think they are about to be killed.  Does the thought of facing death bring out the best in them?  Or the worst?

Available on DVD and through Net Flix instant viewing, No Name on the Bullet ought to be pretty easy to track down.  Hope you get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!!

NOTE:  A repeated viewing of this film has seen my appreciation for it growing.  Its status has moved from 3-star "like it" to 4-star "really like it."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Paul Henreid!!

Today marks the 104th birthday of the suave, debonair, Austrian-born Paul Henreid (January 10, 1908-March 29, 1992)

While Paul Henreid is not one of my top 20 favorite actors, I definitely do like him.  That European accent of his is totally delightful!  What makes him stand out among all other actors (except for Claude Rains), is the fact that he stars in my two all-time favorite movies---Now, Voyager and Casablanca.

Now, Voyager (reviewed HERE), in which Henreid stars with Bette Davis, is my absolute favorite movie of all-time.  I totally love that movie and try to watch it two or three times a year.  In that film, he has this delightful habit of putting two cigarettes in his mouth, lighting them both, then handing one to Bette's character.  While not a smoker, I find that action totally romantic.  I learned that doing that was a longtime habit Mr. Henreid and his wife, Lisl, had, and although it wasn't part of the script, he just naturally did it.  (Link to a YouTube video of a Now, Voyager scene where he does that...HERE)

Casablanca, in which Henreid is the supporting player to Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, is my #2 movie of all-time.  Interestingly, I saw that movie way back when I was about 19 years old...and I absolutely hated it.  (Not sure how I saw it since my family didn't have cable or a VHS player back in 1980.)  However, when I watched the film as a more mature adult, I totally fell in love with it.

So, on this his 104th birthday, here's to you, Paul Henreid!  You are the common thread in my two most beloved movies!  (Claude Rains is a common thread as well, but it's not his birthday.) Thanks for beautifying my life by being part of those two great films!!

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Eddy Duchin Story (4 stars)

The Eddy Duchin Story, from 1956, is a touching drama based on the life of pianist/bandleader Eddy Duchin.  This film, which stars Tyrone Power in the title role and features Kim Novak as a supporting player, opened my eyes to this amazing pianist, who was a standard name in the 30's and 40's.  Sadly though, Eddy Duchin's fame fell by the wayside through the years; in fact, before my first viewing of this movie three years ago, I had never even heard of him.  After viewing this film, I was inspired to track down some of his music and to learn a bit more about him.

The film begins in the 1920's, when Eddy Duchin arrives in New York in search of a piano gig.  Though he is fresh out of pharmacy college, music is Eddy's passion, and, although initially discouraged by rejection, he does not give up.  One day, he happens to be playing Chopin and socialite Marjorie Oehlrichs (Kim Novak) overhears him.  Impressed, she uses her influence to get Eddy his first engagement, and eventually, Eddy becomes a part of the Reisman Orchestra. 

Eddy's career begins to take off, as does his and Marjorie's relationship.  They marry and are very much in love and quite happy.  However, shortly after the birth of their son, Peter, Marjorie dies, leaving Eddy devastated and broken-hearted...and wanting nothing to do with their child.   The remainder of the film chronicles Eddy's years of avoiding contact with his son, reconnecting with him, and, his own tragic, untimely death of leukemia at the age of 41.

This is a wonderful movie, and it showcases alot of beautiful music.  Just so you know, Tyrone Power did not do his own piano playing...even though the camera did an incredible job making it seem as though he did.  Pianist Carmen Cavallaro was the real musician bringing Eddy's Duchin's music to life.   Tyrone Power, who firmly sits at about #10 on my favorite actor list, was great in this role.  I thought he was fantastic in every scene, but the "Merry Christmas" scene is particularly outstanding.

At nearly 42,  Power was beginning to very slightly show his age here, but he was still completely gorgeous...I especially loved him in the Naval dress blues!!  Sadly, at the time of this film's release, he was only two years away from his own untimely death.  Like Eddy Duchin, Power would be cut down in the prime of life, having a heart attack in November, 1958, during the filming of Solomon and Sheba.

Kim Novak was lovely in her role.  Though I've since seen her in other films, at the time I watched The Eddy Duchin Story for the first time, it was my first exposure to her...and I very much liked her.  Although this film is called a tear-jerker, and I am generally a HUGE sap and cry quite readily, the film only made me misty-eyed a few times.   While there were tears, there were no sobs...I think that's because they always seemed to cut away from too much emotion.

Definitely see this film. It's a beautiful story, and the music is fabulous. You'll probably come away wanting to hear more of Duchin's music.  The film is out on DVD and should be quite easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Walk, Don't Run (3 stars)

Walk, Don't Run, from 1966, is a fun little romantic comedy starring Cary Grant, Samantha Eggar, and Jim Hutton.  This film, which  marks Cary Grant's final film appearance, is a remake of 1943's The More the Merrier (reviewed HERE), with Cary taking on the Charles Coburn character (with a different name and in a different setting.)

Arriving in Tokyo two days earlier than expected, English businessman William Rutland (Cary Grant) is unable to find lodging.  With the '64 Olympics scheduled for the Japanese capital, all hotels are booked, and try as he might, Rutland cannot find accommodations for himself.  While at the British Embassy, he spies a "roommate wanted" sign on a bulletin board, and within minutes, he finds himself at the referenced address.  The apartment belongs to one Christine Easton (Samantha Eggar), who very emphatically tells Mr. Rutland that she is not at all interested in sharing her apartment with a man; however, Rutland won't take "no" for an answer, and he ends up moving in.

The next day, Mr. Rutland makes the acquaintance of an American Olympic athlete, Steve Davis (Jim Hutton), who is also without lodging arrangements since he arrived earlier than expected.  In due time, Rutland has sublet half of his half of the apartment to Davis, and he then takes it upon himself to play cupid for his two roommates...which will take a little doing since Christine is engaged to another.

This film is cute, but, for me, it can't hold a candle to the original. There were a couple scenes common to both films---such as Rutland getting locked out of the apartment when he went to get the milk and him losing his pants while making his bed.  An interesting feature of the film is that Cary Grant's character whistles and hums some familiar tunes--namely, the themes from Charade and An Affair to Remember.

Cary Grant aged fabulously, and though he is in his early 60's here, he looks amazing.  Plus, he is as funny as always.  I didn't much care for the others, though.  Samantha Eggar's counterpart was Jean Arthur, and Jim Hutton's was Joel McCrea, both of whom I like much better than this film's stars.  Perhaps that was part of the reason I didn't like this film nearly as much as I like the original.  There was fabulous chemistry in The More the Merrier...between all three stars, yes, but the chemistry between Coburn and McCrea was incredible.  They played off one another like two little boys; sadly, I did not see that kind of chemistry between Grant and Hutton.

Without question, though, this is a film which no Cary Grant fan will want to miss; after all, it's his final movie appearance.  After viewing this one, however, be sure to watch The More the Merrier so you can compare the two.  The film is out on DVD and should be very easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Private Number (3 stars)

Private Number, from 1936, is a romantic drama starring Robert Taylor and Loretta Young, with Basil Rathbone taking on a supporting role.  Though this is not one of either stars' well-known films, since today is Loretta's birthday, I wanted to highlight one of her lesser-known works.    Both Young and Taylor are extremely young here (she is 23/he is 25) and both are looking quite gorgeous.

Looking for a job, Ellen Neal (Loretta Young) shows up at Winfield Manor, where she had heard there was a housemaid position available.  Although she has had no experience, the butler, Mr. Wroxton (Rathbone), decides to hire her on a one-month trial basis.  An unkind man with ulterior motives and an attraction to Ellen, Wroxton tells her she will be responsible only to him and that one of her duties will be to look after his room.  Luckily for Ellen, Mrs. Winfield takes a liking to her, so she is soon elevated to the position of  personal ladies' maid.

One evening, the Winfields host a lavish party, and their college-age son, Richard/Dick (Robert Taylor), is in attendance.  When he spots Ellen, all dressed up in her finery, he thinks she is one of the party guests and begins dancing with her.  When she tries to tell him who she is, he says it doesn't matter.  Before long, Dick and Ellen are in love with one another, though she maintains that no one can know about their relationship, because their different social standings make the relationship inappropriate.  Dick doesn't see it that way, of course, and insists that he wants to marry her.  However, with one more year of college to go, will he be able to do that?  And what about Ellen?  With Dick now back at school and Wroxton nursing a grudge against her, will she be able to remain at Winfield Manor?

While Private Number is not a sensational film, I, nevertheless, found it to be enjoyable and very solid. Taylor and Young had great chemistry together, and I loved seeing them both in these very young years.  (I've actually seen Loretta even Platinum Blonde.)  They were both totally beautiful here---as they would continue to be throughout their careers.  Oh, and for those who are Basil Rathbone fans, he is in his mid 40's here...and quite handsome.

One thing I found quite comical and/or ironic was a line early in the film when Ellen is on a blind date.  She's talking with her friend Gracie, and Gracie says, "...about as handsome as Gable, and Gable isn't bad."  Loretta's response, "I'll say not."  Given that the previous year had seen her involved with Clark Gable (and bearing his child), I wondered how hard it was to say those words.

Anyhow, Private Number is an enjoyable film, one which I feel sure Loretta Young and Robert Taylor fans will want to see.  While it's not out on DVD,  it is available on YouTube (in several parts).

Happy viewing!!

Happy Birthday, Loretta Young

Today is the birthday of one of my top 25 favorite actresses---the lovely Loretta Young.  (January 6, 1913-August 12, 2000).

This graceful, elegant, Academy Award-winning actress, whose career began as a child in the silent era, comes in between 15 and 20 on my all-time favorite actress list...putting her very solidly in my top 25.

While I enjoy 1947's The Farmer's Daughter, the film for which she won the Best Actress Award, my favorite of Loretta's films is the 1986 made-for-TV movie Christmas Eve (reviewed HERE).  Besides the fact that Miss Young aged beautifully and gracefully and was as lovely at 73 as she was at 23, I just love the tenderness and sentimentality of that film.  In addition to being my favorite Loretta Young movie, it is also one of my all-time favorite Christmas films.

Rounding out my list of 5 favorite Loretta Young films are:

2.  Rachel and the Stranger (with William Holden and Robert Mitchum...reviewed HERE)

3.  The Bishop's Wife (with Cary Grant and David Niven)

4.  Cause for Alarm  (with Barry Sullivan...reviewed HERE)

5.  The Doctor Takes a Wife (with Ray Milland---reviewed HERE)

My maternal grandmother totally loved Loretta Young.  In fact, it was at her request that I watched Christmas Eve back in 1986.  It was Loretta's first film appearance in a couple of decades, and my grandmother was most excited about that, so, although not a classic movie (or classic movie star) fan at the time, I agreed to watch the movie with her...and I totally loved it.

So, Loretta Young, here's to you on your 99th birthday!  You were always such a classy, beautiful lady!  Thanks for making so many great movies!!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

That Funny Feeling (5 stars)

That Funny Feeling, from 1965, is a totally adorable romantic comedy starring Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin.  The third film that the real-life couple made together, That Funny Feeling made its TCM debut earlier this week, and I was positively thrilled to catch it (my very first viewing of this movie and, thus, my first 5-star discovery of 2012).  Easily, it ranks up there with Pillow Talk as a completely delightful romantic comedy and one of my absolute favorites.  I loved every single minute of this film and found myself smiling and laughing the whole way through.

Living as frugally as possible while she tries to get into show business, Joan Howell (Dee) shares a tiny apartment with a friend, while working as a maid on the side.  One of the apartments she cleans belongs to playboy Tom Milford (Darin), a man she has never seen before; shortly after the film begins, Joan is notifed that he is going to be out of town for ten days.

A bit later, a handsome businessman asks Joan for a date, and though the man asks Joan what she does for a living, she doesn't reveal to him that she is a maid, nor does she want him to know she lives in a tiny apartment; therefore, when he insists on seeing her home at the end of the evening, Joan comes up with the idea of calling Milford's apartment her own...after all, he's out of town, so what difference can it make?!  What a surprise to the businessman when he walks Joan to the door of his very own apartment, for he is none other than Tom Milford, whose business trip was cancelled.

At first shocked, Tom isn't quite sure what to do, but since he's convinced Joan is not a thief, he allows the charade to keep on playing out.  Joan settles in and makes the apartment more and more her own, while Tom tries to keep her from discovering that he is, in fact, Mr. Milford.

This film was an absolute delight!  Yes, it's predictable, as most romantic comedies are, but getting there was loads of fun.  Sandra Dee was a total joy to beautiful and sweet and innocent.  I was in love with her wardrobe, especially the bright green dress.

Bobby Darin was handsome and funny.  Together, I thought they were magical....great chemistry between them, which, of course, is to be expected since they were happily married at this point in their careers.

The supporting cast was alot of fun...especially Robert Strauss as a bartender.  Some of his facial expressions were hilarious.  Oh, and finally, Bobby Darin sings the theme song.

For me, That Funny Feeling is easily as wonderful a film as Pillow Talk, which is one of my favorite romantic comedies ever.  I think it's a definite must-see gem of a film, and since it's out on DVD, it should be fairly easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Lost Weekend (5 stars)

The Lost Weekend, from 1945, is a powerful, hard-hitting drama starring Ray Milland, in an Academy Award-winning role.  Directed by the amazing Billy Wilder, who also took home the Oscar for his work, this film boldly looks at the ugly world of alcoholism.  Besides Milland's Best Actor win and Wilder's Best Director win, The Lost Weekend also took home the Best Picture award that year.

Would-be novelist, Don Birnam (Milland), has had a drinking problem for several years, and though he has just gone ten days without a drink, things are about to take a turn for the worse.  His brother Wick and girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman), both of whom feel like they must police Don's every action, are manipulated into leaving Don alone for a few hours.  Since Wick had poured out the contents of the whiskey bottle and since Don has no money, Wick and Helen are sure Don will be fine for the couple hours he is alone.

Don's desperation for a drink, though, is stronger than anything else in his life, and upon discovering the $10 Wick had left for the cleaning woman, he heads out to satisfy his need.  Hitting bars and liquor stores, Don downs one drink after another.  Eventually, after he runs out of money, he resorts to begging, stealing a woman's purse, and hocking his typewriter in order to get the necessary cash for his next drink.  By Don's own admission, he's not a drinker...he's a drunk---and as the truth of that statement plays out, Don may well find his life in jeopardy. (This clip is one of Don's particularly tormenting episodes.)

The Lost Weekend is definitely not a feel-good movie.  On the contrary, it's ugly and painful...and extremely difficult to watch.  However, since I am one who loves a powerful, hard-hitting story, I think this film is a total masterpiece.  Everything about it is absolutely brilliant...Milland's acting, Wilder's direction, the cinematogrpahy, even the haunting, Oscar-nominated score.  Combining all those things, and adding in the boldness of such a story in 1945, this film is easily a 5-star film for me.  I cannot praise it highly enough.  (Movie trailer below)

This film is out on DVD, so it should be quite easy to track down.  Also, it is on the TCM schedule for March 30th, so you could catch it then.

Happy viewing!!

Happy Birthday, Ray Milland!!!

Today is the birthday of one of my top 16 favorite actors---the wonderful Ray Milland.  (January 3, 1907-March 10, 1986)  NOTE:  IMDB has his year of birth listed as 1905, but nearly everywhere else it is listed as 1907.

This Welsh-born actor, who was equally successful at both dramatic and comedic roles, hovers between 12 and 16 on my all-time favorite actor list, putting him very solidly on my top 20 list.  My favorite Milland film is The Lost Weekend, the film for which he won the Best Actor Academy Award.  His work in that movie was really spectacular and very deserving of the Oscar.  (Reviewed HERE)

With considerable effort, I managed to round out my list of 5 favorite Ray Milland films.  (There could easily be at least another five films on the list, but I'm forcing myself to stop at 5.)

2.  Close to My Heart  (with Gene Tierney...reviewed HERE)

3.  The Major and the Minor (with Ginger Rogers...reviewed HERE)

4.  Dial M for Murder (with Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings)

5.  The Doctor Takes a Wife (with Loretta Young---reviewed HERE)

There is a Milland film I'm absolutely dying to see...Something to Live For, in which he stars with Joan Fontaine and Teresa Wright.  This film has been on my want-to-see list for a couple years now, but since it's not out on DVD nor ever on the TCM schedule, I've not yet had a chance to catch it.   Elisa over at Elisa's Classic Films has blogged about it twice recently, so she has my curiosity majorly going wild.  Sure wish TCM would decide to air it.

So, on this, his 105th birthday, here's to you, Ray Milland!!  Thanks for making so many great movies!!

Monday, January 02, 2012

My Foolish Heart (4 stars)

My Foolish Heart, from 1949, is a wartime romantic drama starring Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward.  It is very much a tearjerker as well, so I always have the tissue box handy when I watch this one, which I did yesterday in honor of Dana Andrews' birthday.  The film, which is told primarily in flashback, takes place just before and during the early months of World War II.

Eloise Wengler (Hayward), an unhappily married suburban housewife with a bit of a drinking problem, is on the brink of a divorce.  As the film begins, Eloise's college friend, Mary Jane, whom she hasn't seen in years and from whom she parted company under difficult circumstances, pops by for a visit.  After Mary Jane meets Eloise's young daughter, Ramona, the two women have an argument, wherein Eloise threatens to disclose some information to her husband, something Mary Jane begs her not to do.  Prior to disclosing the information, however, Eloise begins a trip down memory lane and finds herself back in November 1941.

At a dance one evening, Eloise meets Walt Dreiser (Dana Andrews), and the two begin a whirlwind romance.  Although Walt originally expects an easy pick-up and is sorely disappointed when Eloise fails to give herself to him, he, nevertheless, continues to see her.  For her part, Eloise is in love with Walt and yearns for him to love her in return.

As war is declared and Walt is drafted into the Army, he and Eloise have to snatch moments together as they can get them.  It is during one of Walt's brief leaves that their relationship becomes more than action which will ultimately end in tragedy and change not only Eloise's life, but the life of her friend, Mary Jane, as well.

My Foolish Heart is based on a J.D. Salinger story, and from what I have discovered, Mr. Salinger was none too happy with the outcome.  While I'm sorry that he wasn't satisfied with the screen version of his story, I have to say that, for me, this film totally works.  Since I have never read the original story, it actually matters little to me if the film is faithful to it.  Rather, I see Mr. Salinger's story being one thing and the film being another thing entirely.

Susan Hayward, who is my second favorite actress of all-time, gives her usual stellar performance.  While she was 32 here and perhaps a bit too old to be playing the part of a young, innocent college girl, I think she did a great job.  Even if a trifle too old, she was certainly believable.  Dana Andrews, always a solid and above-average performer, is really great here.  I think the two of them worked well together and had great chemistry.  The story itself is touching and brings alot of tears (two things I like in a movie).  Oh, and Robert Keith portrayed Eloise's father, and I thought he was great as well.  Finally, the theme song (of the same name) is quite beautiful (video below).  All in all, a wonderful, highly recommended 4-star movie.

While I don't believe this film is out on DVD, it is on VHS; plus, it is available on Net Flix instant viewing.  Additionally, TCM airs it periodically.  I hope you get a chance to see this one.

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Another Man's Poison (2 stars)

Another Man's Poison, from 1952, is a mystery/drama starring my absolute #1 gal, Bette Davis, and her then-husband Gary Merrill.  This film was made in England, with the Merrills making the trip there at the request of the movie's producer, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.  Directed by Irving Rapper, Another Man's Poison had been on my must-watch list for the past three years, but since I haven't been able to locate it on DVD and since TCM never has it on their schedule, I haven't had the opportunity to catch it...until recently, when I discovered it on YouTube.  Thrilled beyond belief to have finally tracked this movie down, I settled in to watch it with my daughter the other night; however, much as it pains me to say it, both daughter (who also loves the fabulous Bette) and I were extremely disappointed.  (I believe this is the first Bette Davis film I have ever 2-starred.)

Mystery writer Janet Frobisher (Davis) receives an unexpected, unannounced late night visitor---one George Bates (Merrill), who is looking for Frobisher's estranged husband, George Preston.  Bates and Preston had pulled off a robbery together, with Bates being fingered as the shooting suspect, and hoping to clear himself, he is in search of Preston.  Only problem is, Janet killed her husband that very morning. 

Convinced that the answer to his problems is to pose as Preston, Bates disposes of the body and then begins to masquerade as Janet's husband.  The charade is very much against Janet's will, however, as she not only despises Bates, but is also involved with another man.  She is determined to get Bates out of her life for good, and accomplishing that may just prove to be her undoing.

While Another Man's Poison sounds like an extremely interesting film, the plot is painfully slow-moving; also, much as I hate to say it, I found zero chemistry between Davis and Merrill.  While they had sizzled together in All About Eve, that same fire just wasn't anywhere to be found in this film.  Bette, as always, was in top form, but even a fabulous actress can't redeem a bad script or an agonizingly slow-moving plot.  The final four or five minutes, when all the twists and turns play out, is the most interesting part of this film.

As a major-huge Bette Davis fan, I absolutely had to view this movie, and I figure all Davis fans probably feel similarly.  So if you want to give this one a try, HERE is its YouTube link, where you will find the film in its entirety.

Happy viewing!!