Monday, October 28, 2013

Time for a Blog Break

My dear blog readers, I have decided to take a break from blogging.  While I had originally intended to highlight Vivien Leigh and Burt Lancaster in the remaining two months of the year, I'm finding that I am severely burned out and in need of some time away.  I had hoped to get through October, so as not to abandon Montgomery Clift (whom I adore) during "his" month, but I've found that even my love for Monty does not trump my desire to take a step back.

The main reason for this decision is that I want to spend less time online.  The saying used to be that no one would get to the end of his life and say, "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." Now, I think, no one will say, "I wish I'd spent more time online."  In fact, my guess is, we'll be more likely to say, "I wish I had spent less time online and more time doing the things I used to love doing before the internet invaded my life."  At any rate, that's what I want to do.

In addition to wanting to disengage from the computer, I've come to realize that since I have to take notes in order to accurately review a film, watching movies has ceased to be a joy and, instead, has become a burden.  Thus, I have determined a break is in order.  I expect to be back in January, but with the very scaled-back posting schedule of two or three posts a month.

In the meantime, I want to thank you for being faithful readers of my blog.  Thank you for allowing me to share my love of classic films with you these past 32 months.

Blessings to all of you!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Montgomery Clift!!

Happy 93rd birthday to one of my dearly loved all-time favorite actors...the incredibly talented, positively beautiful Montgomery Clift.  (October 17, 1920 - July 23, 1966)

Mr. Clift came into my life through Red River.  Our family had recently gotten into classic films, and my son was interested in watching some John Wayne flicks.  We checked our local library, and one of the DVD's they had was Red River.  I had never even heard of Montgomery Clift prior to then, and I had no idea what to expect.  Wow!  My first viewing of him nearly took my breath away.  I found him to be about the most handsome man I had ever seen (even in the scenes where he needed a shave)---ranking right up there with Rock Hudson and Tyrone Power.  But he wasn't just a beautiful face---on the contrary, he was terrific in his role and more than held his own with the formidable Duke.  Completely smitten, I went on a quest to see more of Clift's works, which brought several 4 and 5-star films into my life, including my all-time favorite Hitchcock film (I Confess) and my all-time favorite movie period (A Place in the Sun).

Sadly, Mr. Clift's life ended much too soon, and his film career consisted of only 17 titles.  I have seen 16 of them, and I expect to catch that final one fairly soon---it's been in some sort of "wait" status in my Classic Flix queue for several months now, so, surely, my time ought to be arising soon. However, there is a bittersweetness to catching this final film (and given that it is The Defector, it really is Monty's final film); yes, I will have watched the entire filmography of this extremely talented and very beloved actor, but once I've seen that film, I'm done.  There will never be another Monty Clift film to discover, and that is a very sad thought indeed.

In March of last year, I took part in a blogging event which paid homage to stars who left us too soon (before the age of 50), and Mr. Clift was the star I chose to honor.  It is my most-visited blog post (with over 5,000 page views) and the one of which I am the most proud.  I feel that if Monty was able to read that post, he would feel honored and loved.  I am not going to restate here all that I wrote in that post, but I'd love to have you read my from-the-heart tribute. (HERE)

So, here's to you, Mr. Montgomery Clift, on your 93rd birthday.  You were a completely fantastic actor who always gave a brilliant performance.  I completely adore you and will always count you among my beloveds and all-time favorite actors.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Search (1948)

The Search, from 1948, is a somewhat sentimental post-war drama, directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Montgomery Clift in his second film appearance.  Also starring Wendell Corey, Aline MacMahon, and Ivan Jandl, The Search provided Mr. Clift with his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination.  According to Clift's biography, Monty considered The Search to be "the most fulfilling artistic experience of his life."  (From Montgomery Clift, a Biography, by Patricia Bosworth.)

The movie begins with a trainload of displaced children arriving at a relief center, where they will be temporarily housed while a search is made for their relatives.  Though the intent of the center is to help, many of the children, having previously been herded onto trains and shipped off to concentration camps, are understandably terrified and untrusting.  One little boy in particular, Karel Malek, is so frightened that he actually finds a way to run away, escaping on his own into war-torn Germany.

Ralph "Steve" Stevenson (Monty Clift), an American soldier still stationed in Germany, happens upon the hungry and frightened little boy.

Feeling that the boy shouldn't be wandering around on his own, Steve feeds him and then takes him back to his apartment, with the intent to locate his parents.

Though fearful and untrusting at first, Karel comes to realize that Steve is his friend and wants to help him.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Hannah Malek is combing the relief centers in search of the son from whom she was separated at Auschwitz, hoping against hope that he still lives.

A sweet, mildly heart-tugging film, The Search always gets me misty-eyed. Montgomery Clift is extremely good in this Oscar-nominated role, and his chemistry with the little boy (Ivan Jandl) is terrific. Wanting to be completely prepared for his role, before shooting began, Mr. Clift lived for a time in an army engineer's unit, dressed in army fatigues, and toured U. N. Relief and Rehabilitation camps in Germany. He was totally driven to make his character and the film authentic, which resulted in numerous improvisations of the script and endless battles with the film's producer. In the end, though, the film received unanimous acclaim and Monty, who was pleased with his performance, became one of Hollywood's hottest stars.

A solid 4-star film, The Search is definitely worth watching, and since it is available on DVD, it ought to be fairly easy to track down.  If you are a Montgomery Clift fan, or if you like post-war films, definitely see this.  You're sure to enjoy it.

Happy viewing!!!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

To Stay in the Sun

The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon begins today over at Silver Scenes.  A "wishful thinking" event, this blogathon gives us the chance to do whatever we can imagine with a film. We might make a movie that's never been made, shake-up the cast of a perennial favorite, even use a different director or locale.  In my case, it's about imagining a non-existent scene in my all-time favorite movie. With nearly two dozen participants, this is sure to be a fantastic blogathon. Go HERE to visit all the other entries.

As stated, my addition to this terrific blogathon is a scene I've imagined from my all-time favorite movie, 1951's A Place in the Sun. Starring October's star of the month (and one of my most beloved guys), Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters, this George Stevens film won six Academy Awards (including Best Director for Mr. Stevens) and was nominated for three more.  I absolutely love love love this movie, and no matter how many times I watch it, I always wish it had a different ending than it does.  While I'm not one for spoilers and almost never give any, because of the scene on which my story is based, I will be letting out a bit of the story.  So, if you haven't seen A Place in the Sun, be warned---there are spoilers in this post.

You can read my full synopsis and review of this fantastic movie HERE.  However, for purposes of my imaginary scene, all you need to know is that I see Montgomery Clift's character in a sympathetic light.  While some (make that most) people I know consider George Eastman as no good and rotten to the core, I don't see him that way at all.  Since we're not privy to what is actually going on in George's mind in that very pivotal scene on the lake, I've imagined what he might be thinking.  Of course, my scene---had it actually been a part of the film---would give me the different ending I so desire. When George took the stand in his murder trial and was grilled by none other than beloved Perry Mason in a prosecuting role, these events would have been recalled, proving that Alice's death really was an accident.  While many of y'all may not agree, that is okay, as it seems I often march to the beat of my own drum. So, alone on the planet or not, this is how I see George Eastman.

After a long, hot summer, the early September evening air felt chilly----downright cold even---to George Eastman as he paddled the shabby canoe on the far side of Loon Lake.  A shiver racked George's body, but it wasn’t just the setting sun’s lack of warmth which brought about the shiver.  No, it was much more than that…it was the venomous, coldblooded thoughts coursing through his mind.

Like the proverbial “life flashing before the eyes” final thoughts of a dying man, the pictures flashing through George Eastman’s mind were coming fast and furiously…instantaneously almost…one right on top of the other.  Barely three minutes had passed, but an entire summer’s worth of living had been re-lived in his mind, bringing him to his reason for being on a remote lake just as the sun was setting.

Angela…her exquisite beauty had captivated him from the moment he saw her.  Never had he seen such a stunning creature; truly, she took his breath away.  Yet she hadn’t even noticed him…hadn’t given him the time of day---at first.  God must have been looking with favor upon him, though, because the next time he saw her---at the party at his uncle’s house---she had not only noticed him, but she had talked with him…and danced with him for hours.  By the time the evening ended, George knew there could never be any other woman for him---he was completely, totally, and forever in love with Miss Angela Vickers.

They saw each other again, and to the utter shock of a poor boy such as he, Angela---in all her beauty and wealth---loved him in return.  What he had ever done to be given such a gift, he didn’t know.  All he could do was thank his lucky stars that he was given it.  With Angela by his side and in his arms, life for George promised to be pure bliss.

George’s delirious joy---and the vivid image of Angela’s stunning beauty---was immediately eclipsed by the picture of another face…one which he did not love and, in fact, had come to hate.  He had never loved Alice…not for a minute.  She had been nothing more than a kindhearted person with whom he could spend time.  God knew how lonely he was…how starved for friendship…for someone to talk to.  Moving to California to take a job at his uncle’s factory, George had expected to be welcomed into the family fold…to be a part of their social circle.  Alas, nothing could have been further from what he got.  While his uncle gave him a job at the factory---feeling obligated to, no doubt---friendship with the family was not part of the deal.  They looked at him as the poor relation, and George knew it.  He wasn’t good enough to run in their social circle, so they ignored him….tended to look right through him as if he wasn’t there.  But George was there, and he was desperately lonely.  How he longed for a friend…and Alice offered that friendship.

He had never loved Alice…he had liked her, yes, but he had never loved her, and he had never lied and told her that he did.  So how it was that they ended up in bed together, he was never sure.  Just loneliness, he guessed….loneliness which engulfed both of them.  Things had just gone too far that evening, and he ended up spending the night at her place.  Oh, how he wished he could turn the clock back and relive that night…how he wish he would have walked away from Alice’s apartment before indulging in---as his mother would have said---the sins of the flesh.  It was that one mistake…that one “should never have done it” moment…which was now coming back to haunt him…threatening to rob him of Angela and the happiness he knew with only her.

A new image moved into George’s mind….that of a baby.  He couldn’t believe his one night of passion with Alice had resulted in pregnancy.  And now she was insisting that he marry her…something he did not want to do…something he could not do.   To marry Alice would be to lose Angela forever, and he would just as soon die as be without her.  Angela was his reason for living, his sun, moon, and stars all rolled into one.  To be separated from her would be more torturous than anything he had ever known.  If only there was no baby…if there was no Alice.

No Alice…well, there was a way to remove Alice from his life, and the image of that moved into George’s mind.  He knew Alice couldn’t swim, and it was for that reason that he had come up with the plan to take her out in a canoe.  It was easy...all he had to do was capsize the canoe and Alice would drown.  He would swim to safety…back to Angela.  Alice would die on the far side of Loon Lake, and no one would ever be the wiser…no one would know that it wasn’t an accident…no one would know that George, in fact, had murdered her.

With the word “murder,” the image of his devoutly religious mother came to George’s mind.  She and his late father had devoted their entire lives to the call of God, and they had instilled a knowledge of God’s Word into their son.  Commandment Number 6, “Thou shalt not murder” filled his mind.  It was a sin to kill someone, George knew that.  But, his mind argued, no one would ever know it was murder; they would think it was an accident, and George would be in the clear.   On the heels of that thought came Jeremiah 16:17,  “I am watching them closely, and I see every sin.  They cannot hope to hide from me.”    Someone would know what he had done.  While he might be able to hide the truth from everyone else, and while he might even be able to deceive himself, he could not pull the wool over God’s eyes.  Even now, God could see the evil that was in his heart.  God would always know that he had broken the commandment against killing, and no matter where he went, no matter what he did, he would never be able to hide from God.

Brokenhearted because he knew Angela would be lost to him forever, George realized that he couldn’t go through with his plan…he could not murder Alice.  It was one thing to hide his actions from everyone else, but it was entirely another thing to hide from God.  To stay in the sun---that beautiful, warm, radiant, breathtaking place he knew with Angela---would require him to try to hide from God for the rest of his days, and he knew that such an endeavor was futile.  He would have to leave the sun in order to be able to live with himself.

The image of Angela’s beautiful, beloved face and their time spent together moved once more into George’s mind.  “Goodbye, my darling.  I will always love you” were his final thoughts before Alice stood up in the far side of the dilapidated canoe, causing it to tip precariously to one side and then capsize completely, sending them both into the dark waters of the mountain lake.  By the time George resurfaced, Alice was nowhere to be seen…

If you have never seen A Place in the Sun, I highly, highly, highly recommend it.  It is a 5-star, "love it," "can't get enough of it" film for me.  The story is meaty, intense, and thought-provoking; the acting is fantastic---both Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters received Lead Performer Academy Award nominations for their work here (Monty is spectacular in all of his 17 films, but for me, this is the performance of his career---he is absolutely brilliant); Clift and Elizabeth Taylor are both breathtakingly beautiful; and the chemistry between them is fantastic.  Everything about this film just works perfectly.  And if you throw in my scene, well, you will get the happy ending you long for!