Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Girl from Jones Beach (4 stars)

The Girl from Jones Beach, from 1949, is a romantic comedy starring Ronald Reagan and Virginia Mayo, featuring Eddie Bracken, Henry Travers, Dona Drake, and Florence Bates, in supporting roles.  I enjoyed a re-watch of this very adorable film as part of my beach movie theme this month.

Commerical artist Bob Randolph (Ronald Reagan) has been drawing the "ultimate woman."  Dubbed "The Randolph Girl," she is perfect in every way, and publicity agent Chuck Donovan (Eddie Bracken) has been hired to learn the model's identity and track her down for a television appearance.  Only problem is, as Chuck discovers upon his visit to Bob Randolph's office, there is no "Randolph Girl" least no single girl.  Rather, she is a composite of twelve different women...eyes of one, nose of another, neck of another, ankles of another, etc.  None of the girls know of the others' existence, though; each girl thinks she is the one and only "Randolph Girl."

Since there is no girl and, thus, no one to appear on the television show, Chuck feels life isn't worth living anymore, so he heads to Jones Beach, where he intends to drown himself.  While out in a boat, he scans the shoreline with his binoculars, and to his amazement, he sees her---the spitting image of the Randolph Girl---all wrapped up in one perfect woman; quickly, Chuck lets Bob know that he has discovered the girl.  The lovely beauty is Ruth Wilson (Virginia Mayo), a 6th grade teacher, who wants to be known and appreciated for her intellectual qualities rather than her looks.

With Miss Wilson's aversion to being sought out for her beauty, Bob knows she's not apt to jump at the chance to be his model; instead, he'll need to appeal to her intellectual side first...get to know her...then hopefully convince her to take up the "Randolph Girl" mantle.  Since Ruth also teaches an adult education class for new citizens, Bob decides to pose as a new immigrant and enroll in her class.  So, with a made-up name, an invented country, and an accent which changes by the minute, Bob makes the teacher's acquaintance as a student in her class.  Of course, the two fall in love, but there are definitely complications---Bob isn't who Ruth thinks he is, the twelve models discover Bob's deception, and a snapshot is taken of a swimsuit-clad Ruth, getting her into hot water with the school board.  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

Originally, the female lead was to have gone to Lauren Bacall; however, she refused the part, and it went to Mayo. (Info found through a TCM article...HERE)  While her reason for bowing out is not known, the TCM article makes clear that she and Reagan were political opposites and that she had refused other parts (Stallion Road and, later, Storm Warning) which would have required working with him.  Quite honestly, if political differences were the reason she opted out of the role, I think it's a cop-out.  After all, isn't giving the appearance of getting along with someone you don't like what acting is all about?  Besides that, being on a different political page doesn't mean you can't get on with a person; in fact, my beloved Robert Ryan was about as politically different from me as one can be (as was John Garfield, whom I also quite adore).  People don't have to think the same way I do for me to like them (or count them as a beloved!!) or work with them, so if political differences were Miss Bacall's reason for declining this film, I find that rather sad. Whatever her reason, the role went to Miss Mayo, who, I think, was totally perfect in it.  She's beautiful and perky and loads of fun, and her chemistry with Mr. Reagan was great.  (I know they worked together in another film as well...She's Working Her Way Through College.)  Oh, and just FYI, my beloved William Holden thought differently about Mr. Reagan---they were good friends, and he was the best man at his wedding to Nancy.

The film has a very cute little theme song.

The courtroom scene is quite comical; especially funny is Henry Travers, who portrays the judge.  Though he wants to run a tight ship and keep everyone in line, the sight of the lovely Ruth in a swimsuit just can't help but have an effect on him.

The Girl from Jones Beach is definitely a cute, loads-of-fun film.  Yes, it's predictable, but getting to that predictable ending is totally delightful.  I definitely recommend this film; however, it may be a difficult one to track down.  It is not out on DVD, nor can I find it on YouTube.  It is not currently on the TCM schedule; they do show it fairly regularly, however, so hopefully you can catch it in the next few months.

Happy viewing!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

All This and Heaven Too (4 stars)

All This and Heaven Too, from 1940, is a romantic drama starring Bette Davis and Charles Boyer, with Barbara O'Neill taking on a supporting role.  This film, which I recently watched for the 3rd time in honor of Bette's birthday month, is based on a mid-nineteenth-century scandal in France.  Novelist Rachel Field was descended from the central figure, and it is her novel upon which the film is based.

In 1846, at Miss Haines School for Young Ladies, the new French teacher---Henriette Deluzy (Bette Davis)---has just been introduced to her students.  As the girls begin to gossip amongst themselves and even ask her how to spell the name of a notorious French prison, Miss Deluzy feels defeated and is about to give up her new post.  However, in the end, she decides to share a story with the girls...a story which will show them that life is not always a pretty picture.

After her former governess position has ended, Miss Deluzy travels to Paris, where she will governess for the children of the Duc and Duchesse de Praselin (Charles Boyer and Barbara O'Neill).  The Duc is quite close to the children---3 daughters, ages 8-13, and 1 son, almost 4---and they love him dearly.  The duchesse, on the other hand, is easily exasperated with them and has nearly zero interest in their lives.  Starved for the attention and love of a mother, the children attach very easily to Miss Deluzy, and they thrive under her tutelage and care.

The Duchesse is an emotionally volatile woman, who flies into fits of rage constantly.  Her hatred and anger have driven her husband away, and while the Duc and Duchesse are civil to each other, it's quite obvious that there is no love in their marriage.  In fact, they occupy separate bedrooms---and have done so since before their son's birth.  His children and his government duties are the Duc's only happiness.

As the months go by, Henriette's presence in the home brings a peace which the Duc had all but forgotten existed, and he is extremely grateful for all she has done.  Though he may, in fact, be in love with Henriette, he never oversteps the bounds of their relationship, nor does Henriette behave inappropriately toward him.  The Duchesse, though, deep into another episode of mania, sees Henriette as a thief---out to steal her husband and the affections of her children.  Enraged and extremely jealous, she forces Henriette to leave her employ, an action which infuriates the Duc and brings about the scandal which will follow Henriette to America.  The exact nature of that scandal and how it all plays out is the balance of the film.

All This and Heaven Too is a beautiful and tender movie, one that seems a bit out of the norm for Bette Davis.  She gets a chance to play maternal in this film, and she does it very well.  The chemistry between her and the children is superb. Her character is pure delight---a bit sugary sweet---but delightful nonetheless.  Her performance is, as always, top-notch.

This is the film which allowed me to finally like Charles Boyer.  After having seen him in Gaslight, where he gave what I deem an Oscar-winning performance (for which he was nominated, but didn't win), I just couldn't like him, for in that film he was an evil husband trying to drive wife Ingrid Bergman mad.  He played the part SO well that it clouded my opinion of him---for a couple of years.  It took several movies before I could actually like him and stop seeing him as "a killer."  Here in All This and Heaven Too, I really enjoyed him.

Barbara O'Neill is completely fabulous in her role.  She was nominated for best supporting actress...rightfully so, because she was brilliant!!  The four children are totally precious.  You will love them, especially the little boy.  The oldest girl is played by June Lockhart, and wow, she looks the same here in 1940 as she did playing the mother on Lost in Space in the 1960's.  The youngest daughter is played by the beautiful Ann Todd.  Middle daughter is Virginia Weidler, Katharine Hepburn's younger sister in The Philadelphia Story.  The little boy is Richard Nichols, who you will undoubtedly recognize from a few other films.  He is totally, completely, 100% adorable!!

According to Bette Davis, Larger Than Life, Bette felt that the "fundamental flaw in this film...was that the Duchesse should have been physically repellant rather than a good-looking neurotic.  The motivation for her murder, she felt, was not convincing, but she also thought that, in spite of the novelist's contention that the attraction never went beyond expressions of friendship, the Duc and Henriette had been lovers and that she was guilty of complicity."   Just have to say...I can't believe Bette felt Barbara O'Neill was a good-looking neurotic here.  I didn't find her pretty in the least---her skin was horribly pockmarked, in a way I've never noticed in other movies.  I thought she was rather homely.  As far as being a neurotic, my guess is that the Duchesse had what we now know is bipolar disorder...or else severe hormonal imbalances.

While the film is a bit on the long side (141 minutes), I didn't feel that it dragged.  I enjoyed every minute of it, and I highly recommend it.  Since it's out on DVD, it ought to be fairly easy to track down.   Additionally, it is on the TCM schedule for Wednesday, May 23rd, at 9:30 a.m. (ET).

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dangerous (4 stars)

Dangerous, from 1935, is a romantic drama starring Bette Davis and Franchot Tone.  Featuring Margaret Lindsay in a supporting role, Dangerous is the film which garnered the fabulous Miss Davis her first Best Actress Academy Award.  Additionally, it is the film which, in many ways, was the catalyst for the long-running feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford---Bette and her co-star Franchot Tone were romantically linked during the filming of Dangerous, and Bette was quite in love with him, but he ended up marrying Joan later that year.  We all know that a woman's jealousy and bitterness over a lost love could definitely bring about a years-long feud/rivalry.

Ever since one of her leading men was killed on opening night, stage actress Joyce Heath has been labeled a jinx.  Though formerly wildly successful, the jinx label has Joyce's career in ruins, and now, a shell of what she once was, she has turned to the bottle.  While drinking gin in a cheap bar one night, Joyce is recognized by one of her ardent fans---architect Don Bellows (Franchot Tone); though Joyce really wants to be left alone in her drunkenness, Don proceeds to tell her how moved he was by her performance in Romeo and Juliet.  When Joyce passes out, Don takes her to his home, where she can sleep off the liquor.

With a house in the country---to which he only goes on weekends---Don offers Joyce an invitation to stay for the week.  In the beginning, Joyce drinks first thing in the morning, but by the time Don returns at the end of the week, she has begun to look and feel better.

Though Don's initial intent is to help Joyce rehabilitate her life and, thus, restore her career, things go further than that, and he ends up kissing her.  Eventually, he breaks things off with his fiance, Gail Armitage (Margaret Lindsay), and asks Joyce to marry him.  Additionally,  though Joyce still thinks of herself as a jinx and tries to talk him out of it, Don puts up the money to produce the play which will re-launch her career.

Rehearsals of the play go well, and it is anticipated that the show will be a huge success.  It seems as if life is smiling on Joyce Heath again and that the jinx is broken...but is it?  How everything plays out is the balance of the film.

Dangerous features another fabulous performance by the simply amazing Bette Davis.  The character she portrays---struggling, boozing Joyce Heath---is complex, and it is those types of characters which allow Miss Davis's talent to shine brightly.  Quite simply, I think she is the best dramatic actress of all time...nearly always turning out an Academy Award-winning performance.  Interestingly, though she won the Oscar for her work in Dangerous, Bette is on record (per Robert Osborne's informational snippet) as saying that she didn't feel she deserved the win for this role.  Though she thought her work in Of Human Bondage (for which she wasn't even nominated) the year before was Oscar worthy, she felt 1935's win belonged to Katharine Hepburn for her work in Alice Adams.  Funny, I've seen Alice Adams, and I am absolutely not in agreement with Bette.  I think she was beyond Oscar worthy here in Dangerous and that The Academy chose the right actress for the win.  At any rate, Bette will absolutely not disappoint in this film.

Franchot Tone was kind and endearing.  I really loved his character---a man of integrity and honesty.  There was great chemistry between him and Miss Davis.  It's easy to understand how love of that man could bring to life a years-long feud.  There is a twist in this film---one which I never anticipated---and though I would have liked a different ending, I do think it had the right ending!!

Definitely see this one if you can.  It's newly out on DVD (released last month), so you ought to be able to track it down.

Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Escape from Fort Bravo (4 stars)

Escape from Fort Bravo, from 1953, is a romantic Western adventure film starring William Holden, Eleanor Parker, and John Forsythe.  Directed by John Sturges, this color film features William Demarest, Richard Anderson, and Polly Bergen in supporting roles.

The story begins in 1863, at Fort Bravo...a remote Union prison in Arizona Territory.  One of the soldiers stationed at Fort Bravo is Captain Roper (William Holden).  A hardened, unkind, cynical man, Roper performs his duties with an iron hand.

Given the fort's remote desert location and the local warring Mescalero Indians, escape from the prison is hardly likely; however, when one man does try to escape, Roper, intending to make an example of him and, thus, discourage future break-outs, drags the man back to the fort at the end of a rope.  With Roper's rather inhumane methods, his superior, who doesn't approve of such actions, makes the statement that he's glad he and Roper are on the same army.

The Confederate prisoners, of course, despise Roper and even taunt him by whistling "Dixie" as he walks by.  Captain Marsh (John Forsythe) tells a few of his men that they are waiting for the right time and then they will break out....and the right time soon the person of Carla Forrester (Eleanor Parker).

A friend of Roper's superior's daughter, Carla has come to the fort supposedly for a visit.

However, in actuality, she is engaged to Captain Marsh, and her purpose in being at the fort is to make arrangements with a Confederate sympathizer for guns and transportation of the prisoners.

Additionally, she is to distract Roper---a job which she does perfectly.

Completely smitten with Carla, Roper's emotionless facade begins to crack.

Totally in love with her, he asks her to marry him and to stay on at the fort.  Carla indicates she loves him too...but does she?

Has her playing at love become real?  Or are her kisses and tender words just an act?

What will Roper do when he discovers that several of his prisoners are gone...and that the woman he loves has deceived him?  And what about the Mescaleros?  As they move in for attack, will anyone be able to survive against them...especially in the harsh desert terrain of Arizona?  These are the questions which will play out in the balance of this film. 

William Holden was totally gorgeous at this point in his career!!  He is ruggedly handsome in this film, and he looks fabulous in the Union uniform.

As always, Mr. Holden's acting was super. He definitely could portray the hardened, cynical, unemotional man to the hilt.  Eleanor Parker was lovely, and although it was a bit unrealistic to think that she would have so many gowns with her (she was just visiting the fort), the gowns were stunning. There was great chemistry between Parker and Holden here---definitely passion in their kissing scenes. While I'm not a huge fan of Westerns, there was enough romance in this film to make it enjoyable for me.  The ending was a bit abrupt, though, and could have been better, so although I'm giving 4 stars, it's more like 3.5...still a very solid, enjoyable viewing experience and one which I highly recommend (even to those who don't ordinarily enjoy Westerns).

The film is out on DVD, so it ought to be fairly easy to track down.  Fans of William Holden and Eleanor Parker ought to especially enjoy it.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Picnic (5 stars)

Picnic, from 1955, is a romantic drama starring William Holden and Kim Novak, with Betty Field, Arthur O'Connell, Cliff Robertson, Susan Strasberg, and Rosalind Russell taking on supporting roles.  Winner of the Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Art Direction, Picnic features one of my favorite film scenes of all time---the one scene which I would love to have been a part of myself!!


As the residents of a small Kansas town are preparing for the annual Labor Day picnic, handsome drifter, Hal Carter (William Holden), blows into town on a freight train.  A college buddy of local rich boy, Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), Hal is a braggart and a showoff, and also somewhat of a bad boy, it's not long before he makes an impression on several of the town's women.  First, there's Flo Adams (Betty Field), a divorcee obsessed with getting her daughter, Madge (Kim Novak), married off to Alan Benson.  Much to her mother's disappointment, though, Madge doesn't love Alan and is drawn to the exciting newcomer.

Madge's younger sister, Millie (Susan Strasberg), a bookworm, is accompanied by Hal to the picnic; though he is friendly and kind towards her, his interest is in the more beautiful Madge, which causes Millie heartbreak.

Rosemary Sidney (Rosalind Russell, in a spectacular performance) is the old maid schoolteacher who rents a room at the Owens' home.  Desperate to lose her "spinster status," Rosemary begs local store owner, Howard Bevins (Arthur O'Connell, in an Oscar-nominated supporting performance), to marry her, something he really has no desire to do.  Feeling trapped by her status, and bitter towards those beautiful and youthful, Rosemary lashes out at Hal after he and Madge share a dance at the picnic.  Her actions---which include lies against Hal---stir up the simmering passions of everyone.  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

Picnic is one of those films which really must be viewed through the lens of its time, otherwise, it seems laughable to us.  Today, there are many options open to women, and few women see marriage as the basket in which they must put all their eggs; however, in 1955, this was largely how things were, and we have to remember that before we roll our eyes and shake our heads over Madge and Rosemary's behaviors.

This film is a perfect example of how it is possible to make a very passionate---even sensual---film, without the nudity and graphic sex Hollywood feels compelled to throw our way nowadays.  With the exception of William Holden's bare chest, there is no nudity whatsoever. And there is no graphic sex of any kind---yet the film is incredibly passionate and very sensual.   In fact, I think it's one of the most sensual movies I have ever seen!  William Holden, easily one of the best-looking men to ever appear on screen, is positively gorgeous here.  His character is not comfortable to watch---a complete show-off, he's highly embarrassing; however, Mr. Holden's portrayal of him was spot-on.  I think he did an exceptional job in this role.

Kim Novak is beautiful!! The pink dress she wore for most of the movie is stunning. I cannot understand why women threw away dressing like that on a regular basis!!

The dance scene between Mr. Holden and Miss Novak is amazing---it's sexy, sensual, passionate, and beautiful and is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes!!  In fact, if I could transport myself to one classic movie scene, that dance scene would be it!!

And then there's Rosalind Russell---wow, she was completely incredible!! I wouldn't say she stole the show, but she definitely was beyond brilliant in her role!!  Truly, her performance ought to have landed her an Oscar or at least a nomination...not sure why she didn't receive one.

Out on DVD, Picnic ought to be fairly easy to track down.  Additionally, it is on the TCM schedule for Monday, June 4th, at 3:30 p.m. (ET).  Those who love romantic movies ought to really enjoy this one.

Happy viewing!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, William Holden!!!

Happy 94th birthday to one of my "beloveds,"  my #1 guy---the sensational William Holden!!  (April 17, 1918-November 12, 1981).

Born with the name William Franklin Beadle, Jr., the incredibly talented, fabulously good-looking Mr. Holden is one of my two all-time favorite actors.  I completely adore this man!!   He has occupied #1 status for about three years now (though he shares that status with Robert Ryan).  I have Audrey Hepburn to thank for bringing him into my life, as my introduction to classic movies began with Roman Holiday.  As I sought out more of Miss Hepburn's works, naturally, I discovered Sabrina...which led to my discovery of the gorgeous Mr. Holden.  Completely taken with the incredible smile he flashed several times in that film, I simply had to see more of his works, and as I did, I grew more and more impressed.  He was terrific in nearly every role he took on; I found that he especially excelled when portraying a cynical, angry, troubled, or difficult to get along with man.

Despite how great he was in complex dramatic roles, Mr. Holden also was more than capable in comedic roles.   While I don't generally lean to comedy, I do enjoy several of Holden's comedy films, and the episode of I Love Lucy in which he guest stars is one of the funniest things I have ever seen.  I  have watched it numerous times and never tire of it.

My absolute favorite of Mr. Holden's films also happens to be one of my top 5 favorite movies period---Sunset Boulevard.  Nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his work in Sunset Boulevard, this incredibly talented actor gave perhaps the best performance of his career in that film.  Now to be honest, I think he gave terrific performances in nearly all of his roles---including Stalag 17, the film for which he did receive his Oscar---however, I really believe Sunset Boulevard was the performance of his career and that he ought to have won that year.  That film, which comes in at #4 on my all-time favorite movie list, is reviewed HERE.

Rounding out my list of five favorite William Holden films are:

2.  Stalag 17  (Mr. Holden's Academy Award winning role---reviewed HERE)

3.  Sabrina  (with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn---reviewed HERE)

4.  Bridges at Toko-Ri  (with Grace Kelly and Fredric March---reviewed HERE)

5.  Born Yesterday  (with Judy Holliday and Broderick Crawford---reviewed HERE)

Incidentally, all five of these are 5-star films for me.  I have a couple other 5-star Holden films, so I had to think long and hard before deciding which ones to include here and which ones to put a bit further down the list.

So, Mr. William Holden, here's to you on your 94th birthday.  You were a truly brilliant actor, and I completely adore you.  You will always be one of my #1 guys.  Thanks for bringing so much viewing pleasure to my life with all your wonderful films.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Woman on the Beach (3 stars)

The Woman on the Beach, from 1947, is a romantic drama/film noir starring Joan Bennett, Robert Ryan, and Charles Bickford.   Having not watched one of my beloved Bob Ryan's films since mid-January, I was going into withdrawals and was in desperate need of a "fix," so when I knew I was having a beach theme this month, I decided to do a re-watch of this movie.

At a U.S. Coast Guard Mounted Patrol Station, Lt. Scott Burnett (Ryan) has been having recurring nightmares involving a strange woman and a shipwreck.

  While patrolling the beach on horseback one evening,

Scott comes upon a woman (Joan Bennett) collecting wood near the remains of an old wreck.

Though he's unnerved because both the woman and the wreck remind him of his dream, Scott is, nonetheless, drawn to the woman---whose name is Peggy Butler---and accepts an invitation to her home.

With conversation easy between them, in due time, Peggy and Scott embark on an affair.

Peggy is not an available woman, though;

she is married to Tod Butler (Charles Bickford), a painter who has recently been blinded.  Though the man is cruel and controlling, Peggy, who was responsible for his blindness, stays with him out of guilt.

Paranoid, Scott is certain that Tod can really see and that he knows about the affair Scott and Peggy are having.  After Peggy promises to leave Tod if Scott can prove to her that the blindness is a fake, Scott sets out to substantiate his claim.

Is Tod really blind?  Or can he see?  Will Peggy leave him and find a future with Scott?  These are the questions which play out in the remainder of this film.

Much as I adore Robert Ryan, I have to admit, this film is not one of my favorites.   While Mr. Ryan looks incredible in his Coast Guard uniform, that is about all the film has going for it.

The plot is loaded with holes, and some of the storylines never came together.  I have no idea how Peggy---a non-surgeon---could accidentally cut Tod's optic nerve, and I never understood the connection between Scott's nightmare and the chance meeting with Peggy Butler.  The acting was good---though nothing spectacular; but the characters weren't developed very well.  I'm giving this film 3 stars, but it's more like 2.5.  Since I recorded this from TCM, I own this film and will probably watch it again---but that is only because my beloved Robert Ryan is the male lead.  Apart from Mr. Ryan (and how gorgeous he looks in his uniform!!), I really don't care for The Woman on the Beach at all.

The film is out on DVD, so I would imagine you ought to be able to track it down.

Happy viewing!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Breezy (2 stars)

Breezy, an R-rated film from 1973, is a May-December romantic drama starringWilliam Holden and Kay Lenz.  One of the earliest directorial works of Clint Eastwood, this film was one I recently watched for the first time for my William Holden viewing month.  While I rarely watch post-1965 (or R-rated) films, with my desire to see all the works of my #1 guy, I decided to take a chance on this one---and my decision to pretty much avoid those kinds of films was reconfirmed.

After a night of passion with a young man named Bruno, kind-hearted, guitar-playing "hippie" teenager, Edith "Breezy" Breezerman" (Kay Lenz), hitches a ride into the valley with a middle-aged man.  Frightened by the things the man has said to her, Breezy dashes from his car, while at a stoplight, and races away from him---and right into the life of another middle aged man---divorced real estate agent, Frank Harmon (William Holden).  Although Frank tells her he doesn't pick up hitchhikers, Breezy climbs into his car anyway and proceeds to chatter non-stop as they make their way to town.  Frank, a loner who enjoys his privacy, finds Breezy rather a nuisance, but seeing something in him she likes and trusts, Breezy isn't put off by his initial coldness.

Having left her guitar in the backseat of Frank's car, Breezy makes a visit to his house to pick it up, and though Frank is rude and somewhat unkind, Breezy's warmhearted nature begins to charm him---he feeds her, allows her to use his luxurious walk-in shower, and, at her request, provides her with her first-ever view of the Pacific Ocean.  Before long, Breezy is in love with Frank and has moved in to one of the guestrooms of his home.

Returning home from a party one night, Frank discovers Breezy waiting for him in his bed, asking him to make love with her.  As the two of them embark on a sexual relationship, Frank begins to struggle with the age difference between them---he is mistaken as her father when he takes her clothes shopping, and he is highly embarrassed when he takes Breezy to a movie (Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter, no less!) and runs into friends at the theatre.  Telling his friend he feels like a child molester, Frank determines that the best thing to do is break things off with Breezy.  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

Breezy was a total turn-off to me for a number of reasons.  First and foremost---the nudity.  While such a view is out of sync with most movie-goers nowadays, I am unashamed to admit that I don't prefer nudity in the movies I watch.  I find it completely unnecessary.  Especially when you consider that earlier decades gave us passionate---even sensual---films, and they did so without nudity or graphic sex, you realize that those things are SO unnecessary to make a point.  (A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity, and Picnic being just a few examples of that.)  Sadly, as society's moral standards changed through the 60's and into the 70's, Hollywood's offerings reflected that change, and while a decade earlier, things would have been left to the imagination, by the time Breezy was made, nudity was not only accepted, but expected as well; here in Breezy, there were three or four nude scenes (female), all of which could have been left out.  Instead of adding to the romance or passion, those scenes only made the film trashy to me.

Another turn-off for me was the Holden/Lenz romance.  While I have no problems with May-December romance and even really love other May-December romance movies (Middle of the Night and Ten North Frederick being among my ten favorite movies), this particular older man/younger woman romance was quite unappealing to me.  Breezy was filmed in late 1972, when my beloved Bill was 54 years old; however, much as it pains me to say it since I completely adore this man, he looked to be about ten years older than that.  On the other hand, Kay Lenz, though 19 here, looked much younger...perhaps 15.   For me, a 15 year old girl and a 65 year old man is pushing the envelope, so I just didn't find myself rooting for them.  While he was thought to be her father in one scene, quite honestly, he looked more like her grandfather.  (This film was released when I was 12 years old; even if I had been allowed to see an R-rated movie at that age, I can assure you, I would have been "grossed out" by this relationship.)

Finally, I'm not a fan of "hippie" movies.  I quite hate that time period and the things which go with it.  To be honest,  William Holden---and my desire to see all of his films---is the only reason I chose to watch Breezy.  Had another man had the lead part, I would never have given it even a minute of my time, and it is only my love for Mr. Holden which keeps this film at 2 stars rather than 1. (Mostly because I feel, nudity aside, this film had to be a rather bold and courageous career move for him, and I am rewarding him for that.)

Since I want to have something positive to say about this film, I will acknowledge that the acting of both William Holden and Kay Lenz was very good (as is always the case for Mr. Holden).  Miss Lenz also consistently offered an incredibly bright and beautiful smile. Clint Eastwood's direction was very good, and although I found the love scenes a turn-off and even fast-forwarded through them, they appeared to be filmed well.  William Holden's son, Scott, makes an appearance in the the veterinarian.  Father and son shared a scene together.

Oh, there were two occasions I found myself laughing hysterically.  First, Breezy has just told Frank that smoking was worse for someone his age than for someone younger.  Right after that, she asks him if he is married.  His response, "No.  There's very little call these days for old, decrepit, one-foot-in-the-grave smokers."  Later, she asked him if he thought God was dead, and he responded, "I didn't even know he was sick."  For some reason, those two exchanges quite hit my funny bone, and I giggled hysterically.

Bottom-line---because of the excessive and unnecessary nudity and the early 70's attitude towards free and easy sex, Breezy is not a film I feel comfortable recommending.  However, should you desire to watch it, the film is out on DVD, plus it is available through Net Flix instant viewing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Sisters (3 stars)

The Sisters is a 1938 drama starring the very dashing Errol Flynn and the always-sensational Bette Davis.  Featuring Anita Louise, Jane Bryan, Alan Hale, Donald Crisp, and Ian Hunter in supporting roles, The Sisters begins in Silver Bow, Montana, in 1904.  The nation has just re-elected Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency, and the Elliot family is among those who are enjoying a lavish election-eve ball.

Mr. and Mrs. Elliott (Henry Travers and Beulah Bondi) are the parents of three daughters---Louise (Bette Davis), Helen, (Anita Louise), and Grace (Jane Bryan)---all of whom are of marriageable age.  Oldest daughter, Louise, is involved with the banker's son, Tom; however, since Tom hasn’t popped the question yet, Louise is all eyes when a family friend (Alan Hale) makes his entrance, accompanied by a handsome stranger (Errol Flynn) in town on business.

As Louise is dancing with another man, the good-looking stranger cuts in,

and after introducing himself as Frank Medlin---a newspaperman from San Francisco---he proceeds to sweep Louise off her feet. For the remainder of the evening, Frank's eyes are only for Louise, and Louise's eyes are only for Frank.

By the time they part company several hours later, they are both smitten with each other, causing Frank to stay on in Montana awhile longer.

Telling Louise that he is trying to write a novel but isn’t really getting anywhere with it, Frank admits that he is a bit of a dreamer and has a touch of wanderlust in him. Knowing that, however, doesn’t change Louise’s feelings for Frank; she realizes he is restless and irresponsible and not as ambitious as she and her sisters were brought up to expect, but, still, she loves him and upon his asking, marries him and returns to San Francisco with him.

Though she tries to encourage Frank to get to work on his novel, he just can’t seem to get his act together long enough to be successful. In due time, feeling as though he’s the kind of husband who makes people feel sorry for his wife, Frank starts to drink heavily; upset because he knows Louise’s sisters, who have both recently gotten married to financially stable men, have everything, Frank begins to indulge in self-pity.

Though he wants to be a successful writer...though he longs to be a strong husband…though he loves his dear wife and yearns to be worthy of her love, in the end, Frank desires freedom and the excitement around the next corner even more. Therefore, when he hears a group of men talking about the wonders of world travel, he is absolutely certain that he has finally discovered the life which will bring him happiness; so, penning a short note to Louise, in April 1906, Frank boards a ship and sets sail for the China seas.

While Frank’s ship is sailing away, an earthquake of monumental proportions blasts San Francisco and the wife he left behind. Buildings tumble to the ground…

flames erupt heavenward…

all the world is chaos. Will Louise survive the devastating destruction of that day?  Will Frank find the happiness he is longing for?  And what of Louise's sisters, both of whom have their own marriage troubles?  All of these questions will be played out in the remainder of the film?

While The Sisters is not a favorite Bette Davis film by any means, I did find it enjoyable and interesting.  It's a very solid film, with the usual wonderful acting I've come to expect from my #1 gal.  Her character is strong and resilient...very easy to root for.  Errol Flynn was quite good in his role too, and I thought he and Miss Davis had great chemistry together.  Funny, I've read that they didn't like one another and didn't work well together...I sure didn't pick up on that.  I really thought they were great...I found their love believable.  The supporting cast quite added to my enjoyment of the film.  I liked them all...especially the always-delightful Alan Hale and Lee Patrick, who portrayed Bette's San Francisco neighbor.

This film was released on DVD in late 2011, so I think you should be able to track it down.  Bette and Errol fans will most likely quite enjoy it.

Happy viewing!!