Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Too Late for Tears/aka Killer Bait (4 stars)

Too Late for Tears is a 1949 film noir starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, and Dan Duryea, with Arthur Kennedy and Kristine Miller taking on supporting roles.  Re-released in 1955 under the title Killer Bait, this very exciting noir, gets to the action right away.  There's no waiting around for things to happen in this film; from the very first scene, the femme fatale (in the person of Lizabeth Scott) is working her she will do until the final scene.

Enroute to a Hollywood party, Jane and Alan Palmer (Lizabeth Scott and Arthur Kennedy) have an argument, with Jane demanding that they skip the party and just go back home.  As Alan turns the car around on the dark, nearly-isolated highway, an oncoming vehicle comes dangerously close to them, and as it overtakes them, a briefcase is thrown into their backseat.  After discovering that the briefcase is loaded with cash, the Palmers realize the briefcase was inadvertently given to the wrong people and that it was actually meant for another vehicle...a vehicle which is now chasing them down the highway.  Sure the money was probably a blackmail payoff, Alan insists they turn it over to the police; however, Jane, who wants to keep it, convinces Alan to wait a week or so before doing so.  Alan reluctantly agrees, and he checks the briefcase at the train station.  While she tells her husband that if he doesn't think they should keep the money, they won't, in reality, Jane has zero intention of giving the money up...ever.

The next day, a man named Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) pays a visit to the Palmer apartment.  Jane soon discovers that Danny was the intended recipient of the cash and that he had been the one who had chased them down the highway the night before.  Tracking the Palmers through their license plate number, Mr. Fuller demands his cash.   Realizing that Fuller might be of help to her, Jane decides to use him to her advantage.

With Danny as a decoy, Jane kills her husband, then proceeds to play the "worried wife" when he fails to return home that evening.  Jane isn't home free with the money though.  For one thing, she can't seem to locate the claim ticket for the briefcase, and Danny, who never wanted to get caught up in murder, continues to demand his cash.  On top of that, Alan's sister, Kathy (Kristine Miller), and Don Blake, an old Army buddy of Alan's (Don DeFore), have gotten suspicious and are beginning to investigate.

Will Jane play fair with Danny?  Will he play fair with her?  Or will one of them double-cross the other?  Will Kathy and Don get wise to the fact that Alan is dead?  These are the questions which play out in this exciting noir.

Killer Bait is a wonderful, highly entertaining film.  While it's not my favorite noir (Double Indemnity is), it is definitely high on my list of faves.  Dan Duryea, always great in these "sleaze ball" roles, is totally wonderful here.  Actually, I think he's the best thing about this film.  He is appropriately hard, brutal, and commanding...yet he more than meets his match in Lizabeth Scott's femme fatale.   As for Lizabeth Scott, I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of hers.  I would have enjoyed another female lead here---perhaps Rita Hayworth or Lauren Bacall.  Scott worked, though; I just don't overly care for her.  All the other roles were fine, especially Kristine Miller as Alan's sister.  I have never heard of her, but I do think she did a more than adequate job in her role.

This classic noir is easily a 4-star "really like it" film for me, and I highly recommend it.  Since it is out on DVD, it ought to be fairly easy to track down.  Plus, it is available in its entirety on YouTube.  Hope you get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (5 stars)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, from 1967, is a racial issues romantic drama starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine, Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier.  Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, this bold (for its time) film garnered ten Academy Award nominations, coming away with two wins, including a Best Actress statue for Katharine Hepburn.  In celebration of Mr. Poitier's February 20th birthday, I recently enjoyed a first-time viewing of this film.

Joanna Drayton (Katharine Houghton) has arrived home unexpectedly from a trip to Hawaii; as if her earlier-than-planned arrival isn't unsettling enough, the white Joanna has a black man in tow with her...and he's not just any black man.  He is Dr. John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), a man she met ten days ago and whom she intends to marry.  Having been raised by parents who have always loathed racial discrimination, Joanna is sure her parents will welcome John into their lives with open arms.

Surprisingly to Joanna, her parents (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) are speechless at first, and it is not just because of the suddenness of her marriage plans.  Quite honestly, Joanna marrying a black man was something they had never even considered.  While her dad says his concerns are about the difficulties the multi-racial couple will encounter, is it more than that?  Does he really believe in equality as much as he has always claimed?

For his part, John, who has told his parents about the upcoming nuptials over the telephone, intends to inform them of his intended's race via a letter.  However, that plan changes when they decide to make the short flight from Los Angeles to San Franciso in order to meet their future daughter-in-law.  Their reaction is not much different than Joanna's parents' reaction, and as the two families, along with the Drayton's priest friend (played by the delightful Cecil Kellaway), prepare to have dinner together, there are sure to be fireworks.

While John and Joanna are adults and don't need their parents' permission to marry, they do desire to have their blessing.  In fact, John has vowed that unless Mr. and Mrs. Drayton give their approval, the wedding will not take place, as he doesn't want to be responsible for bringing estrangement to their always-close relationship.  How everything works out is the balance of the film.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a wonderful movie and quite bold and ground-breaking for its time.  While the majority of people nowadays have zero problem with inter-racial marriage, audiences of the mid-to-late 1960's were definitely not on that page.  This had to be one of the most controversial films of the decade, and I would imagine that many people were furious at this film's message.

Not only is the subject matter of the film powerful, but so is the acting.  Both Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn received leading actor/actress nominations, and Cecil Kellaway and Beah Richards (who portrayed Sidney Poitier's mother) received supporting actor/actress nominations.  Quite honestly, I'm not sure why Mr. Poitier was overlooked...he was totally fantastic in his role.  In my opinion, though, this really was Spencer Tracy's film (more than Poitier's or Hepburn's), and he's the one I think ought to have come away with the win.  He was beyond sensational in his role.  The expression he had on his face for the majority of the film was priceless.  And, wow, the look in Katharine Hepburn's eyes as Tracy gave his grand speech at the end of the movie was amazing.  Her eyes were glistening with tears, and it was easy to believe that it was her real-life love for Spencer which was spilling forth.  Very touching!!  The score of the film was beautiful as well.

This film is a little heartbreaking to watch because of the knowledge that it was Spencer Tracy's final role; in fact, he passed away just 17 days after filming had been completed.  Yes, he definitely went out on top, but seeing him so old and so close to death makes the film a bit sad for me.

One final one point, Sidney Poitier says to his father, "Dad, you think of yourself as a colored man.  I think of myself as a man."  I've said this before and I'll say it again, every single Sidney Poitier film I've seen, he is defined by his race.  Instead of simply portraying a man, he has always portrayed a black man, a man whose race is the overwhelming focus of the movie.  I wonder if he ever grew weary of those kinds of roles.  I wonder if he ever wished he could, like his character said, "just be a man."

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is out on DVD, so it should be very easy to track down.  Additionally, it is on the TCM schedule for Saturday, May 12th.  I hope you get a chance to see it, because I think it is a definite must-see film.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

It Happened One Night (5 stars)

In honor of the Academy Awards, last night saw me having my own little Oscar party, which included a viewing of the adorable 1934 romantic comedy It Happened One Night. Starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and directed by Frank Capra, It Happened One Night cleaned up at that year's Oscars, taking home the Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing awards.  This delightful film is easily one of my five favorite films of both stars, and with it being Clark's birthday month as well as the Academy Awards, last night was the perfect time to enjoy this film again.

Socialite Ellie Andrews (Colbert) has made a marriage her father does not approve of and which he intends to have annulled.  Accustomed to controlling Ellie's life, the wealthy Mr. Andrews has taken his daughter aboard his yacht, where he is trying to talk some sense into her.  Ellie, though, will not back down, and before anyone can stop her, she has jumped overboard and made the short swim to the Miami shore, where she purchases a bus ticket to New York.

On the same New York-bound bus as Ellie is New York newspaper reporter, Peter Warne (Clark Gable), who has just been fired from his job. Vowing to prove to his employer just what a fine newspaperman he is, Peter intends to "wow" his editor with the story of all stories...although just what that is, Peter doesn't know yet.

The first meeting between Peter and Ellie is anything but pleasant, as Ellie takes the seat Peter had intended for himself.  Although they bicker with one another for many miles, eventually things calm down between them; when the bus makes a rest stop and Peter obtains a newspaper, which has a headline story of the missing heiress,  Ellie begs him not to get in touch with her father.  Realizing he has come upon that story of all stories, Peter agrees to keep Ellie's secret and help her get to New York (and husband King Westley) in exchange for an exclusive.  Ellie agrees, and the two of them, with little money in hand, continue to make their way north, trying, all the while, to evade the detectives who are now searching for the missing woman.  Posing as a married couple, they take a room at a motor lodge one evening, a blanket strung across the room serving as "the walls of Jericho" between them.

The closer they get to their destination, the more things change between them, until finally, Ellie doesn't want to reach her husband at all.  She would rather stay with Peter.

What are Peter's feelings, though?   Is he interested in Ellie for more than a story?  Or maybe he has his eye on the reward money her father has offered for information about Ellie's whereabouts?  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

It Happened One Night is a completely adorable, totally delightful film.  Both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert were wonderful in their roles, and the chemistry between them was fabulous.  Really, they ought to have made more films together.  (To my knowledge, they only made two...this one and Boom Town.)  There are several very comical scenes, especially the one in which they are being questioned by some detectives.  With Clark screaming "Quit bawlin'!" at her, Claudette is brushing her hair down over her face to avoid detection, all the while the police are looking on in confusion.  I get a huge kick out of the very dashing Mr. Gable in that scene.  Also hilarious is the hitch-hiking scene, as the know-it-all Mr. Warne demonstrates the different ways of flagging down a ride.  In the end, his thumb isn't nearly as successful as the shapely leg of his companion.

This film is a joy from beginning to end, and I highly recommend it.  Since it's out on DVD, it should be very easy to track down.  Additionally, it is available in its entirely on YouTube.

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Out of the Fog (3 stars)

Out of the Fog, from 1941, is a film noir/gangster drama starring Ida Lupino and John Garfield, with Thomas Mitchell and Eddie Albert taking on supporting roles.  In honor of Ida's February birthday and Mr. Garfield's upcoming March birthday, I decided to celebrate both of them by enjoying a re-watch of this film, which is based on the Irwin Shaw play The Gentle People.  I think this is one of Garfield's nastiest roles, and, wow, was he sensational.

Arrogant, cocky, and brutal, racketeer Harold Goff (John Garfield) makes his living extorting money from the residents of a small fishing community.  Calling himself the fishermen's protector, Goff demands a weekly payment from each man, and those that cannot---or will not---pay, suffer the consequences, generally in the form of a destroyed boat, but sometimes in the form of a beating.  Rarely does anyone stand up to Goff, but Jonah Goodwin (Thomas Mitchell) is determined to do so.  However, Jonah's bravado is short-lived as he and his partner are bullied into signing a loan contract.  Telling Goff that he will never live to be an old man, Jonah is determined to beat Goff at his own game.

Meanwhile, Jonah's daughter, Stella (Ida Lupino), hates her boring, same-old same-old existence.  Wanting riches and excitement, she dumps her "average Joe" boyfriend, George (Eddie Albert), and begins seeing Goff.   Despite Jonah's warnings that Goff is a racketeer, Stella, who finds the man exciting, will not be swayed.  Telling her father that if Goff has a disease, it's one she wants to catch, she makes plans to go away with him.  Jonah, however, will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening.

Does Stella go away with Goff? Does Jonah break free of Goff's extortion?  Does Goff get his comeuppance?   These are the questions that play out through the remainder of this dark, foggy film.

Out of the Fog is an interesting, exciting, well-acted film.  Both Miss Lupino and Mr. Garfield were totally terrific in their roles...Garfield especially.  While he often took on---and excelled at!!---cynical, hardened, anti-hero roles, here he was even nastier and more of a rebel than usual, and I think he was completely sensational.  I really love to see his performance in roles like this.  Thomas Mitchell was equally wonderful in his role.  Rarely have I seen him give such a commanding performance.  With nearly every scene of this film taking place on a thickly shrouded pier, Out of the Fog sets the classic film noir mood.  Oh, and for those who are fans of the Dead End Kids, Leo Gorcey is in a few scenes of this film...and he is his usual wisecracking, disrespectful self.

Out on DVD, I think this film should be quite easy to track down.  Happy viewing!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Each Dawn I Die (5 stars)

Each Dawn I Die is another one of those amazing films from the year 1939.   A gritty prison drama, this film stars James Cagney and George Raft, with Jane Bryan and George Bancroft taking on supporting roles.  This is one of many films which I think showcases the absolute brilliance of Mr. Cagney.  Truly,  he was one incredibly fabulous actor...nearly always turning out an Oscar-worthy performance.  He shines brightly in this does George Raft.  Ah, if only George Raft hadn't turned down some of the roles he turned down!!

Frank Ross (James Cagney), a newspaperman who vows to expose political corruption, breaks a story which reveals the great graft among the city's elected officials.  Though Jesse Hanley, who is running for governor, insists that a retraction be printed, Ross refuses, an act for which the hoodlums intend to make him pay dearly.  Knocking Frank unconscious, the thugs douse him in booze and then put him in a car, which they send careening into a high traffic area.  Three people are killed, and though Frank insists he was framed and was neither drunk nor driving the car, he is found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 1-20 years in the penetentiary.

Entering prison, Frank is confident that his newspaper friends will be able to find evidence which proves his innocence; he is sure that his stay there won't be a long one.  However, things don't go as planned, and when months go by and Frank is no closer to proving his innocence than on day one, he begins to change.  Eventually, as he experiences the brutality of the guards, he begins to think and act like a convict.  His only hope is to throw in his lot with hardened criminal, Stacey (George Raft), a repeat offender with connections on the outside.

With Frank's help, Stacey is sure he can bust out, and after he has done so, he promises to track down those responsible for framing Frank.   But will Stacey, who doesn't care about or trust anyone, give a second thought to Frank's predicament after he has reached freedom?  Will Frank ever be exonerated?    Will those responsible for Frank's imprisonment ever be brought to justice?  Those are the questions that play out in this exciting prison drama.

Each Dawn I Die is a bold and exciting film, and the performances of both James Cagney and George Raft are spectacular.  I loved seeing these "bad boy gangster" actors together in a film; though Mr. Raft had appeared in a couple early 30's Cagney films, this one is the only one in which they shared the lead.  And, wow, what a team they were!!  Their brilliant performances are what take this film from 4 to 5 stars.  Jane Bryan, who portrayed Frank Ross's girlfriend, was quite good in her role as well.

As an aside, I learned from watching a James Cagney biography, that gangster roles were not his favorites; far and away, he preferred his song and dance movies (Yankee Doodle Dandy, Something to Sing About, The West Point Story, etc.) and viewed gangster films as simply a way to pay the bills.  Even though these roles weren't his favorite, though, he still gave them his all and was totally sensational in them.

Out on DVD, Each Dawn I Die should be very easy to track down.  James Cagney and George Raft fans will love it, I'm sure.

Happy viewing!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Manhattan Melodrama (4 stars)

Manhattan Melodrama, from 1934, is a crime drama starring Clark Gable, William Powell, and Myrna Loy.  This film is one I've seen several times, and since it's one of my five favorite Clark Gable films, I decided a re-watch was in order during his birthday month.  Winner of the Academy Award for Best Writing, Manhattan Melodrama also has the distinction of being my absolute favorite of the many Powell/Loy pairings.  While I occasionally consider Evelyn Prentice my favorite of their films, after my most recent viewing of this one, I've changed my mind and swapped the two films around.  (Actually, Manhattan Melodrama is more like 4.5 stars...very close to a "love it!")

Telling the story of two young boys---life-long friends---who grow up on opposing sides of the law, the film begins in 1904, when a pleasure cruise turns deadly. (To learn about the real-life tragedy upon which this scenario is based go HERE.)  Among the many people who lose their lives in the tragedy are the parents of Jim Wade and the mother of Blackie Gallagher.  Already good friends with one another, the two boys are rescued by a priest and then taken into the home of a man whose young son also perished in the fire.  Although that man soon dies and Jim and Blackie no longer live together as brothers, they remain very dear friends; as the years go by and the boys grow to manhood, Jim (William Powell) becomes a lawyer and vows to fight corruption as a prosecutor,

while Blackie (Clark Gable) travels with a rough crowd and runs a gambling establishment.

Despite their differences, though, the two men remain very close.

As 1920 rolls around, Blackie is having problems with his girlfriend, Elinor (Myrna Loy).  Though she loves him,

 she hates the hoodlums, gambling houses, and graft which fill his life, and she urges him to leave it all behind, which, of course, Blackie has no intention of doing.

One evening, Blackie asks Elinor to meet up with his old friend Jim while he attends to some other business.  Although he promises Elinor he will catch up with her and Jim as soon as possible, Blackie never joins them, leaving Jim and Elinor all to themselves.  Having enjoyed Jim's company, Elinor realizes she does want the kind of life that Blackie will never give her and so breaks off with him; eventually, with Blackie's blessing, she and Jim get married.

As Prosecutor, Jim's job is to clean up the city, and he vows to do so even if it means fighting Blackie and his crowd; therefore, when Blackie is connected to a murder, Jim vows to convict him and see that he gets the death penalty.  Elinor, though, still having a friend's fondness for Blackie and believing that he is innocent, insists that her husband go easy on him.  Will Jim go easy on Blackie?  Will the love and affection he has for his lifelong friend cause him to turn the other cheek as far as the law goes?  Will the ultimatum Elinor has given him cause Jim to go back on his promise to fight corruption?  All these questions play out in the remainder of the film.

(There is alot more to the story, of course, including another murder, a left-behind overcoat, and a possible governorship for Jim; however, I don't want to give away too much by revealing anything more.)

Manhattan Melodrama is an interesting, exciting film, and it makes a great discussion piece.  At one point Myrna Loy's character says to William Powell's, "Do you realize what you are sacrificing for the sake of some principles?"  What a great thought to ponder on...doing right even when it is a sacrifice to do so.

The casting of this film is excellent, as all three stars have great chemistry with one another.  While I have long thought William Powell and Myrna Loy were totally fabulous together, I think both of them have amazing chemistry with Clark Gable in this film.  The three of them, meshing together so perfectly, are definitely what make the film work.  All of them give superb performances; however, for me, the standout performance is Gable's. I think it's one of his very best.  Finally, this film has a few touching moments (for me), and I find myself lightly misty-eyed a few times.  (As an aside...a very young Mickey Rooney portrays Blackie as a boy.)

This must-see film, which I highly recommend, is out on DVD (as part of the William Powell/Myrna Loy Collection), so it should be fairly easy to track down.  I hope you get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Unguarded Hour (3 stars)

The Unguarded Hour, from 1936, is a crime drama of the whodunit kind.  Starring Loretta Young

and Franchot Tone,

this film takes place in England, where Tone's character, Sir Allen Dearden, is slated to become the next attorney general.  Sir Allen and his wife, Lady Helen (Loretta Young), host a formal dance in their home, and a man unknown to both of them crashes his way into the ballroom.  As the stranger dances with Lady Dearden, he lets her know that he has in his possession, love letters which Allen had written to a former mistress; although the letters were written prior to Allen's marriage to Helen, since the woman was married to another man, they could prove damaging to his career.  In order for Helen to get her hands on the love letters and, thus, keep her husband from scandal, the man demands a sum of money; anxious to keep Allen's political hopes alive, Helen meets the man's demands, without ever saying a word to Allen about the situation.

As Helen is making her way back from the money drop-off point, she is aware that a man and a woman are walking towards her on the cliff path, and hoping not to be seen, she hides behind a rock.  Later that day, the newspaper reports that the man had pushed his wife from the cliff and had been charged with murder.  Vehemently denying the accusation, and maintaining that his wife fell from the cliff, the man claims that he passed a woman on the path...a woman who could verify that he was far behind his wife...that he called to her to be careful on the cliffs.  The police don't believe such a witness exists; in fact, they call her a phantom witness.  The case is sent to trial, with none other than Allen Dearden trying it.

Helen is in a panic, for, knowing how much the attorney general appointment means to her husband, she doesn't want to do or say anything which might create a scandal.  She realizes that to tell the truth would totally ruin Allen's career; yet to not tell the truth would send an innocent man to the gallows.  In the midst of Helen's agony of conscience, Allen himself has a dilemma of his own, as the woman to whom he wrote the letters wants to try her hand at blackmail as well.  How everything plays out is the balance of the film.


Although not a spectacular film, The Unguarded Hour is very interesting and enjoyable, though I did feel it dragged just a tiny bit at one point...not enough to cause me to quit watching or to lower the rating, however.  Loretta Young, always so elegant and classy, was definitely so in this role.  Franchot Tone was dashing and handsome...even when wearing the white wig of an English barrister.  They played well off one another and made a delightful couple.

The film is not out on DVD; however, TCM airs it fairly regularly.  I've caught it on there at least twice in the last year.  It may also be on YouTube.  At least I've seen it there before, though I cannot find it now.

Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Portrait in Black (4 stars)

Portrait in Black, from 1960, is a suspenseful, slightly mysterious drama/film noir starring Lana Turner and Anthony Quinn, with Richard Basehart, Sandra Dee, John Saxon, and Lloyd Nolan taking on supporting roles.  (Net Flix categorizes this film as noir; however, it is in color, which most noirs are not.)  With February being Lana's birthday month, I decided a re-watch of this whodunit was in order, and even though I was aware of the surprise ending, I enjoyed the film as much as I did on my first viewing.

Wealthy shipping magnate Matthew Cabot (Lloyd Nolan), a demanding, unkind man, conducts his business from the bedroom of his mansion.  An invalid, Matthew is attended by his doctor, David Rivera (Anthony Quinn), and his attorney, Howard Mason (Richard Basehart), both of whom make regular visits to the Cabot home.  Also attending to Matthew is his beautiful, much-younger wife, Sheila (Lana Turner), and though it would appear that Sheila is devoted to her husband, in actuality, she is in love with and having an affair with Dr. Rivera. 

After having her chauffeur supposedly take her shopping, Sheila rendezvouses with the doctor, who begs her to leave Matthew and run away with him.  Knowing Matthew would never give her a divorce or custody of their young son, Sheila insists she cannot leave, which makes David more determined than ever to leave town himself.  Being near her and wanting her, he says, would make it so easy to pick up a syringe and inject Matthew with something completely untraceable.  With that thought spoken aloud between them igniting the plan into action, David and Sheila plot Matthew's murder, and since Matthew was ill anyway, no one is the wiser when he soon passes away...or so they think.

After Matthew's funeral, David insists that he and Sheila cannot see each other for awhile, so as not to arouse suspicions.  Soon, though, Sheila receives an anonymous letter congratulating her on the success of her murder, and although they realize the need to keep their relationship secret, David and Sheila begin meeting with one another regularly as they try to determine who it is who sent the letter...who it is who knows Matthew's death was not of natural causes.

Could it be Howard Mason?  He has told Sheila he wants to marry her, adding that he usually gets what he wants.  Could it be the chauffeur, who has begun asking if Mrs. Cabot has been upset by her mail?  Could it be the maid, who is also acting very strangely?  Whoever it is, the murderous pair intends to silence that person by committing yet another murder.  How it all plays out is the balance of this exciting film.

Portrait in Black is a very interesting movie, and the twist at the end will totally surprise you; truly, I NEVER saw that coming.  Lana Turner is simply beautiful here, and her wardrobe is stunning.  I know many people think she was a horrible actress, but I, however, am not one of those people.  I think she was a very good actress, and here, in Portrait in Black, I thought she was wonderful and quite believable...a bit melodramatic perhaps, but that was in keeping with her character and her crime...and it's what Lana could do so beautifully.  Anthony Quinn seemed a bit miscast for a romantic role, but he definitely worked.  I felt the chemistry between him and Lana was good---their illicit love seemed real, as did the tension between them when things began to unravel.

The film is out on DVD; I have it as part of a Lana Turner double feature, with Madame of my five favorite movies of all time.  Additionally, it is available in its entirety on YouTube (HERE).   If you like Lana Turner, Sandra Dee (who portrays Dee's stepdaughter, Kathy), surprise endings, or beautiful clothing, I think you will enjoy Portrait in Black.

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Young Man with Ideas (3 stars)

Young Man with Ideas, from 1952, is a lighthearted domestic drama starring Glenn Ford and Ruth Roman, with Nina Foch and Denise Darcel taking on supporting roles.  Though the film is mostly a drama, there are several lighthearted comedic moments as well.

While he works for a prestigious Montana law firm, mild-mannered, unassertive Max Webster (Glenn Ford) is rather the low-man on the totem pole, never receiving recognition or appreciation for all he does.  Irritated by this, Max's wife, Julie (Ruth Roman), urges him to talk to his boss about the possibility of being taken on as a partner.  Things don't go well, however, and Max packs his things and heads to Los Angeles, where he and Julie believe there will be more opportunity for him.

Arriving in Los Angeles, Max, who has little confidence in himself, is worried about his ability to pass the California Bar exam.  In his Bar exam classes, he makes the acquaintance of Joyce (Nina Foch), who suggests that, until he passes the Bar and is a practicing lawyer, he get a job at the collection agency where she works.  Although Julie doesn't believe Max could do that kind of a job, he takes it just to prove he can; it's not a job suited to Max's personality, however, and he ends up being quite the pushover.

 As if the job difficulties aren't enough, the house the Websters are renting previously belonged to a bookie, and their phone is constantly ringing with men wanting to place bets.  Julie jokingly accepts a bet one time, and when that particular horse wins big, the "bookie" is expected to payoff.  Now, in addition to his worries about passing the Bar and collecting past due bills, Max must worry about the mobster who expects him to pay out his winnings.  And with Julie having little to no confidence in him or respect for him, Max's confidence in himself is at an all-time low; if things don't change soon, he may find himself having to put his tail between his legs and run back to his old job in Montana.

While Young Man with Ideas is certainly not a fantastic film, I found it entertaining and enjoyable.  Glenn Ford, I think, is always delightful and fun.  In fact, he's the reason I set my DVR for this film.  Ruth Roman and Nina Foch were fine in their roles.  Nothing spectacular, but completely adequate.  Sheldon Leonard, who is always a scream, portrayed the mobster expecting a payoff.  He was perfect in his role.  Finally, the little girls playing the Webster's daughters were totally adorable.  All these things combined to make a sweet and enjoyable film.

Although this film is not out on DVD, it is available in its entirety on YouTube (HERE).  If you are a Glenn Ford fan, do try to catch it.  I feel sure you will enjoy it.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Teacher's Pet (4 stars)

Teacher's Pet, from 1958, is a delightful romantic comedy starring Clark Gable, Doris Day, and Gig Young.  Since I am loading up on Mr. Gable's films this month in honor of his birthday, a re-watch of this fun movie was an absolute essential.

News reporter Jim Gannon (Gable), who believes on-the-job-training is far superior to a college education, has been invited to give a guest lecture at an evening journalism class.  Completely opposed to women teachers and journalism classes, Jim has no intention of doing such a lecture and, in response, fires off a condescending refusal to Professor Erica Stone (Doris Day).  His supervisor, however, gives him no choice in the matter, so Jim heads off to Miss Stone's classroom, where he is mistakenly assumed to be a new student.

Much to Jim's amazement, the professor is young and pretty...not at all what he had been expecting, and when she reads aloud the letter from Jim Gannon and makes very clear her disdain for him---without knowing he is sitting in her classroom---Jim realizes he cannot tell her who he is.  Taking on the name of Jim Gallagher and telling Professor Stone that he is in the paper business (wallpaper), he enrolls in the class; his writing skills so impress Miss Stone that she suggests he look into a full-time career in the journalism field.

By now interested in the pretty teacher, Jim---as Gannon, not Gallagher---tries to make amends for his boorish letter; Erica, however, still despising the rude newspaperman, refuses to take his calls, causing Jim to continue the charade.   It is journalism student Jim Gallagher who Erica is beginning to fall for...Jim Gallagher who she is kissing.  What will happen when she discovers that Jim Gallagher is really Jim Gannon---a man she despises (a bit of Pillow Talk in this scenario.)?  What happens to Jim when his conscience begins to bother him and he wants to come clean with Erica about his real identity?  And what about Dr. Hugo Pine (Gig Young) and his ongoing presence in Professor Stone's life?

Teacher's Pet is adorable and hilarious and, I think, perfectly cast.  Clark Gable was one of those actors who was equally successful at both comedy and drama, and here near the tail end of his career, he is simply wonderful.  His expressions are priceless---especially during the scene in which his flighty "girlfriend," Peggy, is singing in the nightclub.

Doris Day is her usual sweet, winsome self.  She was "typical Doris" so many times...not the least of which was when Clark kissed her in her office.  Her squeal of "Mr. Gallagher!" reminded me so much of how she responded to Rock Hudson's characters in their three films together.

Speaking of Rock Hudson, Doris and he had simply amazing chemistry; however, her chemistry with Clark Gable here in Teacher's Pet was equally wonderful.  I thought the two of them were completely charming together.  I've seen reviews of this film in which people maintain Gable was too old for this role (he was 57).  I'm not on that page at all.  Doris was 36 here, and I definitely don't think a 21-year age span is too great.  I thought they were both perfectly cast, that they played well off each other, and that they made a delightful couple.

Gig Young was great in his role as well; in fact, he received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for his work here.  He is especially funny in the scene where he is nursing a hangover.

All in all, Teacher's Pet is a wonderfully enjoyable, entertaining movie, which I highly recommend.  The film is out on DVD, so I would imagine it would be pretty easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Hard Way (3 stars)

The Hard Way, from 1942, is a musical drama starring Ida Lupino, Dennis Morgan, and Joan Leslie, with Jack Carson taking on a supporting role.  With February being Ida's birthday month, I've been rather OD'ing on her films lately, and The Hard Way is one of the ones I caught for the first time.

Life is so distressing to Helen Chernen (Ida) that, as the film begins, she jumps into the river, with the hopes of killing herself.  Rescued by some passers-by, Helen is asked why she would want to end her life; in answer, she reflects back on the last several years of her life.

Responsible for her younger sister, Katie (Joan Leslie), ever since the death of their mother several years earlier, Helen chose to marry Sam---a man she doesn't like or respect.  When Sam tells her they cannot afford $8 for a graduation dress for Katie, Helen is most unhappy, and she vows that Katie will amount to something...that she will get out of the dirty, sooty mining town they live in.  Therefore, when Helen discovers that Katie had made the acquaintance of two Vaudeville actors and that one of those actors, Albert Runkel (Jack Carson), was quite complimentary towards Katie, she manipulates and schemes to get Katie included as part of the act.  She is irritated, though, because Katie and Albert decided to get married, and according to Helen, Albert is not a man for a lifetime.

Going on the road with the trio---in essence, to look out for her sister's career---Helen plays up to Albert's partner, Paul Collins (Dennis Morgan), encouraging him to cut down on Albert's part and to increase Katie's. When Paul sees through her and refuses to do that, Helen manipulates once more, this time seeing to it that Paul is pushed from the group.

As the act of Albert and Katie travels to New York, Helen pounds the pavement to line up jobs; in reality, though, the jobs she is securing are for her sister only...not for Albert.  Eventually, Albert is left by the wayside and returns to his act with Paul, as Katie---now using her maiden name---becomes one of the hottest stars in the theatre.   Controlled by Helen, who wants her to break from the unsuccessful Albert, Katie has little time for her husband's calls and visits, a fact which devastates the man and brings him to a crisis point.  And Paul, watching it all play out, accuses Helen of being without heart, blood, or feelings; attracted to Paul, however, she assures him that she could fall in love with someone.  Meanwhile, Katie is finding that although she is wildly successful, there is something missing in her life.

Will Katie figure out what it is she most wants out of life?  Will she return to her husband?  Will Helen realize her drive for success is destroying what she loves most?  These are the questions which play out in the remainder of this interesting film.

Ida Lupino was at her nasty best here in The Hard Way.  Her drive, ambition, and willingness to hurt anyone who got in her way makes her character extremely unlikeable.  That said, though, Ida's portrayal of Helen was spot-on.  Although I enjoy seeing her in "nice girl" roles and even count one of them as my favorite of her films (On Dangerous Ground), I think Ida was at her very best when she was playing nasty.  She is really super here.  (As an aside, I read that this role was first offered to Bette Davis, who turned it down.  Bette (my #1 gal) was also one who excelled when she was being nasty, and I know she would have done an incredible job in this role too; Ida, though, was more than perfect, and I cannot imagine her being improved upon.)

Joan Leslie is sweet and lovely...and she gets an opportunity to "strut her stuff" a bit in this film.  There are a few song and dance numbers.  And speaking of songs, Dennis Morgan, who has the most adorable lopsided smile, does some singing of his own; from what I've learned of Mr. Morgan, he was quite the singer off camera as well...being a part of his church choir for years.  Jack Carson, who I ordinarily don't care for, was really great in his role too.  Although he is mostly thought of as a comedic actor, he did a super job playing dramatic. I found the film a bit touching and even got mildly teary-eyed a couple of times.

This film is out on DVD, so it ought to be fairly easy to track down.  Also, it is available in its entirety on YouTube (HERE).

Happy viewing!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Turner Classic Movies Presents Casablanca 70th Anniversary Event

Coming through on my Facebook feed this morning was the exciting news that Turner Classic Movies, NCM Fathom, and Warner Bros. will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the beloved Academy Award-winning film, Casablanca, by joining forces to bring that beautiful film to the big screen once more.

The event, which will be Wednesday, March 21st, at 7:00 p.m. (local time), is scheduled for dozens of U.S. cities....mine being one of them.  You can bet I will be attending!  The chance to see my #2 movie of all-time on the big screen is rather an awesome thing.

 It has been over a year since I've watched this wonderful film, and I am in dire need of a "fix."  Therefore, I was intending to celebrate "Oscar night" with Casablanca.  Instead, I'll wait a couple more weeks and catch it during this anniversary event.  The delay---along with the silver screen experience---will make my eventual viewing all the more memorable and wonderful.

Anyhow, for more information about this event and to see if a city near you will be part of it, go HERE.  I definitely hope many of you will be able to partake of this wonderful anniversary celebration.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Lodger (4 stars)

The Lodger, from 1944, is a suspenseful drama/mystery starring Merle Oberon, George Sanders, and Laird Cregar.  Set in London during the time of the Jack the Ripper killings, this film is perfect for stormy day or Halloween night viewing.  Although not a horror film by any stretch of the imagination, it definitely has that "scary movie" element to it.

Just after another young woman is killed by "The Ripper," an elderly couple rents their attic rooms to a man named Slade (Laird Cregar).  A strange man, Slade tells them he is as a pathologist, with erratic, late-night hours; therefore, he requests that they think of him not as a guest, but merely a lodger.  Upon moving in, Slade removes all the portraits from the walls of his bedroom, for, as he tells his landlords, it was as though the women's eyes were following him constantly.

The couple's niece, Kitty (Merle Oberon), lives with them, and in due time, Slade makes her acquaintance.  An aspiring actress, Kitty is beautiful and charming, and she seems to ignite something in Slade.  He is greatly interested in the fact that Kitty is a "theatre girl," which prompts Kitty to offer to get him tickets to one of her shows.

As the police continue to search for "The Ripper," they realize that the black bag-carrying man seems to target the young women of the theatre.  Eventually, everyone comes to believe that the man in the attic is the killer.  Is he though?  And is Kitty---a showgirl---safe from "The Ripper?"  Or will she be the man's next victim?  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

This movie was entertaining and mildly suspenseful.  As one who absolutely cannot do frightening films, but who does like a small amount of suspense, I thoroughly enjoyed The Lodger.  I can in all honesty say that "we chickens" can watch this film without having to cover our eyes.  Merle Oberon is lovely here...perhaps the loveliest I have ever seen her.  And Laird!!  He was totally stellar in this role.  Truly, he played his part to absolute perfection.  With his Vincent Price-sounding voice, he was gentle and quiet, yet creepy and menacing all at once.  No one could have played this part better than Mr. Cregar did.  He was Academy Award-worthy here, in my opinion.

This film is out on DVD, so it ought to be fairly easy to track down.  Additionally, it is on the TCM schedule for Tuesday, March 13th at 1:30 a.m.  Try to catch it if you can.

Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Conflict (3 stars)

Conflict, from 1945, is a psychological crime drama starring Humphrey Bogart, Alexis Smith, and Sydney Greenstreet.  This little-known Bogey film, which I caught on TCM a couple years ago when Mr. Bogart was the star of the month, also has a small bit of mystery and suspense to it.

Celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary are Kathy and Richard/Dick Mason...or perhaps not celebrating is more what they are doing.

Unhappily married, the Masons had been bickering with one another only minutes before the party; also, Kathy confronted Dick (Humphrey Bogart) about her suspicions that he is in love with her sister Evelyn (Alexis Smith), a suspicion he confirmed to be true.  Though Evelyn has in no way encouraged him, Dick is sure they could be together if Kathy was out of the picture; with his passion for Evelyn in mind, he devises an elaborate scheme to get rid of his wife.

Traveling to a mountain resort---where Dick is scheduled to meet up with her later---Kathy finds herself on a lonely, desolate stretch of road, where unbeknownst to her, Dick is lying in wait for her.

After killing Kathy, Dick pushes her car off the road and into a deep ravine, where it gets buried beneath a large pile of logs.  With no remorse whatsoever, Dick goes home, sets up his alibi, and begins playing the part of the worried husband.  To nearly everyone, he appears to be anxious and distraught about his missing wife.

Soon, though, Dick is being bombarded with evidence that Kathy is still alive; in fact, he even sees her walking down the street.  When he tries to catch up with her, however, she vanishes.  Is Kathy really alive?  Or is Dick's conscience bothering him?  How it all plays out is the balance of the movie.

Conflict is an interesting, enjoyable film...and quite the change of pace from Humphrey Bogart's usual self-assured gangster roles.  I think he did a great job portraying a man who is beginning to doubt his own sanity.  He was very believable to me.  Though her character is essential to the plot, Alexis Smith didn't really have much to do here.  Nor did Sydney Greenstreet, who portrays a psychoanalyst.  From beginning to end, the film belongs to Mr. Bogart.

To my knowledge, Conflict is not out on DVD; it is, however, available on VHS.   At one point, it was on YouTube, but I think it may have been taken down, as I cannot find it there anymore.  I do hope you are able to track it down, though, as it is a very solid 3-star film, which Humphrey Bogart fans are sure to enjoy.

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I'll Never Forget You (4 stars)

I'll Never Forget You, from 1951, is a romantic drama starring Tyrone Power and Ann Blyth, with Michael Rennie taking on a supporting role.  This beautiful movie, which features a love not bound by time, is completely perfect for Valentine's Day viewing.

Firmly in the 20th century, American physicist Peter Standish (Tyrone Power) has been doing atomic research at a laboratory in England.  Rather a recluse who doesn't do much socially, Dr. Standish lives in an 18th-century home which had been left to him by a distant relative.  With the exception of electricity and plumbing, the house is virtually as it had been in 1784, and Peter likes it that way.

Through the diary of his long-dead ancestor---also Peter Standish---Dr. Standish discovers that his namesake claimed to be from the future and maintained he could foretell history.  A few days after making that insane-sounding declaration, the man was normal again and went on to marry and have a family.  Dr. Standish comes to believe that he was the man from the future, that he and the 18th-century Peter exchanged places for a time, and he tells his friend Roger (Michael Rennie) that he is going to go back to the 18th century.  Of course, Roger thinks Peter is being fanciful and even suggests that the house isn't good for him. 

Peter does go back in time, though, after being hit by a bolt of lightning.  On the very day the 18th-century Peter Standish arrived in England, current-day Peter is transported there.  From the beginning, everyone thinks he is odd, since he knows things which haven't happened yet, and when he begins to speak of people as though they were dead, everyone begins to fear him.  Eventually, he makes the claim which was in the diary---that he is from the future---a claim which finds Peter sentenced to an asylum.

Though he knows from the diaries Peter will marry Kate, current day Peter falls in love with Helen (Ann Blyth).  Though Helen is engaged to another man, she loves Peter as well and completely believes that he is from the future.

The lovers know they are destined to part, as Peter will be returning to the future, but Helen assures him that their love will be for always...not in her time or his time...but in God's time

(HERE is a link to a 6-minute scene ---the video won't upload properly here on my page.)

I'll Never Forget You is a totally gorgeous movie...everything about it.  The storyline is fascinating.  (I have long been in love with the idea of time travel.)  The love of Helen and Peter is a beautiful, timeless love.  Ann Blyth is stunning, and Ty Power is incredibly handsome; the acting of both is quite good.  The filming is lovely as well---all of the scenes in the past are in color, while the present day events are black and white. All these things combine for a lovely Valentine's Day movie with your sweetheart.

The film is out on DVD, as part of the Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection, so you should be able to track it down.  Also, it is available in its entirety on YouTube (HERE).  Do catch it if you can...especially if you are a fan of beautiful time-travel romances.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Let's Make It Legal (3 stars)

Let's Make It Legal, from 1951, is a romantic comedy starring Claudette Colbert, MacDonald Carey, and Zachary Scott, with Robert Wagner and Barbara Bates taking on supporting roles.  Marilyn Monroe makes a few cameo appearances, for a total of about 3 minutes screen time.

While gambling may not bother some people, it definitely bothers Miriam Halsworth (Claudette Colbert); in fact, it bothers her so much that she is ending her 20-year marriage to Hugh (MacDonald Carey), since he has a penchant for gambling.  As the film begins, Hugh and Miriam's divorce is only hours away from becoming final.

Although Hugh is no longer living in the house with her, Miriam is not alone.  Their daughter, Barbara (Barbara Bates), son-in-law Jerry (Robert Wagner), and baby granddaughter Annabelle reside in the Halsworth home as well.  Though Jerry loves his mother-in-law, he doesn't want to live with her and is constantly trying to convince Barbara that they need a place of their own; however, convinced that her mother needs her and couldn't stand being alone, Barbara refuses to even consider moving out.  Hugh, who never wanted the divorce, would like to get back together with Miriam.  Jerry, too, would like for Miriam to have someone in her life...otherwise, how will his wife ever leave her mother's side?

At this point, millionaire Vic MacFarland (Zachary Scott) arrives in town; a former beau of Miriam's, Vic wants very much to get back into this now-available woman's life, and he begins wining and dining her.  Jerry, of course, is all for any relationship which will get his mother-in-law a husband and, therefore, his wife out of her house.  Hugh, though, who still loves Miriam and is hoping to reconcile with her, isn't going to give up without a fight.  How it all plays out and which man Miriam chooses is the bulk of this fun little film.

Let's Make It Legal is not a spectacular film, and the acting is mediocre at best.  Still, though, it's cute and enjoyable.  Claudette Colbert fans will love seeing her here in 1951.  Always a class act, she is completely lovely and elegant here (as a grandma).   She is 48 in this film, and in my opinion, she looks nearly the same as she did 17 years earlier in Imitation of Life.

Let's Make It Legal is one of Miss Colbert's last films, as after this, she would make only six more. While she would go on to be active in TV, her film career was nearly at an end.

Robert Wagner fans will LOVE seeing him in this, his third credited film.  He's very young here (just 21) and SO incredibly good-looking.

Finally, if any of you are Days of Our Lives fans (which I was from 1976 to about 1997), you will probably have a dejavu moment when you see MacDonald Carey.  You will look at him and think "Oh, that's Dr. Tom Horton."  You might even hear those words "Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives" playing in your mind.  I think he looks exactly the same here in 1951 as he did in the years I watched Days.

For all those reasons, plus the opportunity to see Marilyn Monroe prior to the rise of her star, I recommend Let's Make It Legal.  As I said, it's nothing spectacular, and it is definitely predictable, but I did find it loads of fun.  The film is out on DVD so it should be fairly easy to track down.  Also, it's available in its entirety on YouTube (HERE).

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kitty Foyle (4 stars)

Kitty Foyle, from 1940, is a romantic drama starring Ginger Rogers, with Dennis Morgan and James Craig taking on supporting roles.  One of many films which prove Ginger was far more than just a dancer, Kitty Foyle found Ginger taking home the Best Actress Academy Award for her role.

As the film begins, working-girl Kitty (Ginger), is on the receiving end of a marriage proposal from a man named Mark (James Craig).  When she says "yes," Mark asks her if things are all over with the guy in Philadelphia.  Assuring him that they are, Kitty makes plans to meet Mark at midnight, at which time they will get married.

When Kitty returns to her apartment to pack, however, Wyn Strafford (Dennis Morgan)---the man from Philadelphia---is waiting for her. Telling Kitty there is no life for him without her, he asks her to go to South America with him. Though he will not be getting a divorce and, thus, cannot offer her marriage, Wyn, nevertheless, asks Kitty to accompany him...something she agrees to do. With Kitty's promise to meet him at the ship at midnight, Wyn sets off to make final arrangements.

With two men loving her and expecting her to meet them at midnight, Kitty reflects back on her relationships with them.  Originally a secretary to the socially prominent Wyn, she soon became his wife, a fact which was met with extreme disapproval by his blue blood Philadelphia family.  Eventually, their differing worlds and his family's lack of acceptance drove them apart, and their marriage was annulled.  Needing a fresh start, Kitty relocated to New York, where she met Mark, a kind and humble doctor who loves her and can offer her a future.  Kitty's continuing love for Wyn, though, threatens to ruin her chance for happiness with Mark.  She desperately needs to decide what she wants out of life...and which man can give it to her.

Does Kitty choose to marry Mark?  Or does she choose to sail to South America with Wyn?  The answer will be discovered in the final scene of the film.

Kitty Foyle is an interesting, well-acted film.  The first time I watched it, I really had no idea which man she would choose.  Though, in reality, I ought to have known---after all, this film was made in 1940...a time when standards were different than what they are today.  Keeping that in mind, it is probably no surprise what Kitty's choice winds up being.  Still, though, it is enjoyable to watch it all play out.  Ginger was her usual lovely, delightful self.  Her performance is super---though I'm not entirely convinced it beat that of Joan Fontaine, whose brilliant work in Rebecca landed her an Oscar nomination that year as well.   Dennis Morgan is always fun to watch---he has the most adorable lopsided smile.  He and Ginger had fantastic chemistry together here.  James Craig I'm not familiar with---this is the only film I've seen him in.

Out on DVD, Kitty Foyle should be quite easy to track down.  I think it's a delightful movie and a definite must-see for all Ginger fans.  Try to catch it if you can.

Happy viewing!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Band of Angels (3 stars)

Band of Angels, from 1957, is a Civil War-era romantic drama starring Clark Gable and Yvonne DeCarlo.  Based on the Robert Penn Warren novel of the same name, this Raoul Walsh-directed film features Sidney Poitier and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. in supporting roles.  Having never seen this film before, I decided it was the perfect addition to my Clark Gable birthday month celebration.  Given that it is based on the work of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, has a Civil War setting, stars Clark Gable, and boasts a fantastic director and a Max Steiner score, I had high hopes that Band of Angels might come close to the caliber of Gone with the Wind.  Alas, no...not even close.  While I found it to be an interesting, entertaining film, it didn't do for me what Gone with the Wind does.  I came away from the film only liking it...not loving it; hence, 3 stars.

Not knowing her mother was a slave, Amantha Starr (Yvonne DeCarlo) grows to adulthood believing that she is the privileged daughter of a plantation owner.  Upon her father's untimely death, however, Amantha is shocked to discover that not only is her father's estate completely in debt, but also that she---the daughter of a slave---is considered a slave herself and, therefore, part of the estate's personal property.  As such, she is taken against her will and shipped to New Orleans, where she is to be put on the auction block.

Though another man begins to "inspect" her, local plantation owner, Hamish Bond (Clark Gable) starts the bidding at $5,000, and with the opening bid that high, no one else bids on Amantha. After being told by Amantha that he might buy her, but will never own her, Hamish takes her to his home, where, instead of housing her with the other slaves, she is given a beautiful room in the main house. Thinking that there are strings attached to this treatment, Amantha tells Hamish she would rather go to the slave quarters than to be expected to be his woman.

Hamish, who has his own personal demons from which he's running, keeps his distance and never pushes himself on Amantha. One night during a storm, however, they do get together.

After their night together, Amantha's feelings toward Hamish change. So, too, do his feelings toward her, and he gives her her freedom. By then, loving Hamish, Amantha no longer wants to be free of him. However, when Hamish comes clean and tells her of his slave trader days, Amantha's love for him is put to the test. All this happens just as war is about to break out.

As I said, this film had great potential; however, for some reason which I cannot quite put my finger on, it fell short of my expectations.  I'm not sure why---probably because I was expecting it to be in the same league as Gone with the Wind, and quite honestly, there aren't many films which can compare with that masterpiece.  Gable's and DeCarlo's characters were likeable, and I found myself caring about them.  The musical score was beautiful...the storyline was interesting and historically accurate in many ways.  Clark, handsome and dashing as always, was extremely good in his role, and Miss DeCarlo was lovely and quite believable. With all these positive things going for it, I ought to have loved Band of Angels, but for some reason, I found myself only liking it.

Those who are Clark Gable, Yvonne DeCarlo, Sidney Poitier, or Civil War enthusiasts will probably enjoy seeing this film.  It's definitely entertaining and interesting...just don't expect it to measure up to Gone with the Wind.  The film is out on DVD, so it ought to be fairly easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Defiant Ones (4 stars)

The Defiant Ones, from 1958, is an exciting racial/prison drama starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.  Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, this film was originally supposed to have Marlon Brando in the Tony Curtis role; however, according to what I learned from Robert Osborne, Mr. Poitier was Mr. Kramer's absolute first and only choice for the role of Noah Cullen.  Because Poitier had another commitment at the time, filming had to be delayed; by the time they were ready to begin shooting, Brando was unavailable, so the role went to Tony Curtis, who, I think, did a totally fantastic job.

A truckload of convicts is being transported to a work farm, where the prisoners will work as part of a chain gang.  Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier), a black man serving an 8-year prison sentence for assault and battery, and John Jackson (Tony Curtis), a white man serving a sentence for robbery, are shackled together.  Though the two men completely despise each other, the right arm of Cullen and the left arm of Jackson bind them together; when the truck they are riding in is involved in an accident, the two men make their escape. 

Try as they might, Cullen and Jackson are unable to break the chain binding them to one another; therefore, though each man would prefer to travel in a different direction, they have no choice but to compromise and work together.  Over and over again---as they navigate a fast-moving river, as they climb up from a deep pit, as a lynch mob comes at them, as the lawmen hunting them grow ever-nearer---the two men must put aside their racial differences and support one another.  Eventually, as the men grow to respect each other, a friendship is formed.

This is an amazingly acted film.  Both Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis were wonderful in their roles; in fact, both men received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for their work---a first nomination for each man.  It certainly seems to be that the loss of Marlon Brando was absolutely not a detriment to this film.  It worked beautifully with Tony Curtis in the white man role.

When the credits appear at the beginning of the film, both Curtis and Poitier's names are listed before the film title.  According to Robert Osborne's wonderfully informational snippets, this was the first film of Mr. Poitier's in which that happened.  And it happened at the request of Tony Curtis, who felt that Poitier's contribution to the film was just as great as his own.  Perhaps that seems like a no-brainer to us now; however, back in 1958, with the racial situation being far different, it was probably quite unexpected for Mr. Curtis to have made that request.  I'm glad he did, though, as he was correct---Sidney Poitier was just as much the star of the film as Tony Curtis was.

The Defiant Ones is really an amazing movie---well-acted, well-directed, and featuring the kind of bold storyline to which I tend to gravitate.  I definitely highly recommend it.  Although I'm not entirely certain the film is out on DVD, TCM will be airing it Friday, February 17th, at 2:30 p.m. (EST).

Happy viewing!!