Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gigi (1958)

“This story is about a little girl. It could be about any one of those little girls playing there. But it isn't. It's about one in particular. Her name is Gigi.”

            Gigi is considered the last great musical MGM released. It is in the tradition of their greatest musicals from decades past with its extravagant sets, elaborate costumes, and excellent songs and score.
            The beginning of the film is narrated by Honoré Lachille (Maurice Chevalier). He lets us know that the story will be about a young girl named Gigi (Leslie Caron). As soon as we meet Gigi we know she is not like other girls. She is a young, free spirited girl. Her grandmother and aunt try to teach her to be a proper young lady with good manners. Gigi wants nothing to do with the lessons her aunt gives but she just goes with the motions.  
            Honoré’s nephew Gaston (Louis Jourdan) likes to come to visit Gigi and her grandmother because they are not wealthy like him and they do not pretend to be anything different than who they are around him. Gaston is a playboy who has a new woman on his arm every week. His latest woman was caught by him with another man. The woman committed suicide from being so distraught. Gaston decides to go on holiday to the shore to get away from the gossip and prying eyes. He also decides to bring Gigi and her grandmother.
            On holiday Gaston sees that Gigi is not just a cute little girl but a beautiful young woman. The two have a very good time together. The grandmother sees this so she has her sister step up her lessons with Gigi to make her more proper so Gaston will take care of her… as in make her one of his mistresses.
            Gigi at first does not want to go ahead with the arrangements made for her but she comes to realize that she is in love with him and she would rather be miserable with him than without him. Gaston takes her out but he sees the cute, innocent tomboy is not the person he had fallen in love with. She is proper and acting like a grown woman much like the many others he has been with and he does not like this Gigi.
            Just like in original Cinderella story the poor girl get the man who has everything.
            This is an MGM musical at its best. The songs are catchy and the costumes are visually stunning. Vincente Minnelli captured a Paris of imagination. He shows us the Paris we dream about falling in love in. The songs are not just sung on a soundstage but are actually “performed” and acted throughout the actual city. My favorite scene is when Gaston and Honoré walk into a restaurant where before they entered was talk and music. Once they walk in the music and the talk stops. After a few seconds everyone sings about the gossip they have heard about each man. How perfect is that? People do that all the time, they stop what they are doing when they see someone walking in and start talking about that person.

            Famed photographer Cecil Beaton designed the costumes as well as some of the scenery. He had previously designed the costumes for My Fair Lady. His costumes for the women are very elaborate and flowy. The colors of the costumes are magnificent. I can definitely tell Beaton did his homework on clothing of the late 1800s/early 1900s. I am not entirely sure what scenery Beaton created but the sets for Honoré’s room and the restaurant I loved. The sets are styled in Art Nouveau with the sweeping, delicate curves in the wood and the golden yellows.
            The songs are some of the catchiest from MGM’s musicals. My favorite song is “The Parisians” simply for the fact that Gigi sings that she cannot understand how things could be love and how they are always making love. I occasionally find myself thinking of Gaston singing “It’s a Bore” it is perfect to sum him up he is just bored with doing the same things day in and day out. I guarantee that you will be singing “Thank Heaven” in your head for days. All the lyrics and music written by Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe, and Andre Previn with the orchestration by Conrad Salinger.

            I am not sure how I feel about the cast. Leslie Caron was very good as Gigi she had the perfect look for a young girl who could be a tomboy but in the end look very pretty. I just wish she had had the chance to dance like she did in An American in Paris. You can see in certain scenes she has the body movements of a dancer. Louis Jourdan was ok. Like Caron he had the perfect look for his character. Maurice Chevalier I had never seen in a film before this. I was not impressed with him as an actor or singer the first time around and I still am not impressed (especially after seeing him act and sing Love Me Tonight where he did nothing for me). Casting these three leads was perfect since they were the only real French actors.
            My mom- excuse me, Santa- had bought me Gigi and An American in Paris for Christmas one year. I had never even heard of these films before that time. When I asked her why she got these films for me she told me they were old films and figured that I would enjoy them. I did and do enjoy both films very much. Gigi I enjoy watching for the costumes and sets and the location shots. As far as the story goes I am not too much of a big fan of it as well as the acting but like all MGM musicals it is so much fun to watch.
            I think as a girl I would love to know a rich man who was friends with me at first and enjoyed my company and then we both realized with love each other and we could be in a Paris like the film. Oh how some love stories in films bring my rarely felt/seen/known girlie side out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Payment on Demand (1951)

“Life has stones as well as flowers.

                I am just going to start off by saying Payment on Demand was not my kind of film. I was a bit bored with the plot. Bette Davis plays Joyce Ramsey a very controlling, social climbing woman. Her husband David comes home one night all flustered and tells her that he wants a divorce. Joyce cannot imagine why David would want a divorce but as she starts to flashback through her early years with him we can see the buildup.
            Joyce wanted David to be someone in society. When they were first married David ran a law firm  in a small town with his friend Robert. A man came in looking for someone to be his lawyer in starting a corporation. He was looking for Robert but Joyce working at the desk told him that David would be the one to help. In front of Robert a while later the man told David that if his wife had not suggested him he would have been working with Robert instead. Neither lawyer knew that she had done this and caused a riff between David and Robert. After their second daughter was born David said he wanted to move to the country and open his own firm with Robert. Joyce freaked out yelling at David that she did not want to move out to the middle of nowhere. A few years later Joyce gets them invited to a party with the upper parts of society. The lady holding the party tells Joyce that she is a ruthless woman like herself. There are a few more flashbacks that reveal David’s motives for seeking a divorce.
            At lunch with some of her “friends” one day they tell her they have seen David with another woman. She has a detective follow him and snaps a pictures of David with a woman named Eileen Benson. Joyce uses this to blackmail David when they divorce into giving her more money and other things. He does not want to drag Eileen’s name down and ruin her career at a university. He gives up and gives his ex-wife whatever she wants.
            We start to see that Joyce is lonely and wants companionship. A friend she has not seen in years tells her to be careful now that she is divorced, she might become lonely and seek odd ways of companionship. Joyce takes this to heart and seriously thinks about it.
            Nothing too spectacular about this film in the slightest except for the flashbacks and the sets. The sets are a bit difficult to explain. When a scene comes in we can see through the walls before the lights come on. When the lights come on it is as if the walls have appeared. When the lights go out we can yet again see outside. Some scenes were really good they had the feel of a stage play.
            The cast was alright. Bette Davis was nothing to brag about. The flashback scenes are where she was the best. I only downloaded  Payment on Demand because Frances Dee was in it and she was only in one scene for like two minutes. But let me tell you she was gorgeous. I would have liked to have seen her some more as the other woman. This is the one time I can see why a man would cheat on his wife she was ten time more attractive than Davis.
             When the film was made Howard Hughes was head of RKO (which was the studio the film was released by). There is a scene at an airport and his company logo TWA can be seen on the side of the plane. Hughes did not like the orginal ending of the film (which probably had David and Joyce getting back together) so two days before the film was to be premiered at Radio City Music Hall Hughes ordered the ending to be refilmed and it was edited and spliced together before the premier. I have to say I liked the ending I was happy to see that Joyce and David did not get back together.
            As I said at the beginning Payment on Demand was not my kind of film. I really cannot stand films of any kind dealing with divorce. I feel bad seeing these kinds of film because my parents are still together after twenty-six years. I also just find them a bore it is kind of like the same themes there is the loneliness which is almost always shown from the women’s perspective.  
            Only watch Payment on Demand is you are a Bette Davis completist but other than that it is not worth the time. I was mad when the film was over I felt like I wasted my time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Love Affair (1939)

“It’s the nearest thing to heaven.”

            Even if you have never seen this version of Love Affair you may have definitely seen it somewhere. Ever see Sleepless in Seattle or An Affair to Remember? Then you have definitely seen Love Affair in those two forms just without Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.
            French playboy and painter Michel Marnet (Boyer) and nightclub singer turned working girl Terry McKay (Dunne) are sailing on the SS Napoli. They are sailing back to New York but not together. Terry is sailing for business and Michel is sailing back to his fiancée. They manage to run into each one night. Right away Michel is taken with Terry she is the only woman who has not thrown herself at him and he claims she is the most beautiful woman on the ship. After this meeting they pass their days together. When the ship docks at Madeira Michel takes Terry to see his grandmother. The grandmother and Terry get along very well.

            When the ship docks each of them are to go to their respective lovers. Terry comes up with the idea that if they are still in love with each other in six months they will meet at five o’clock on the one hundred and second floor of the Empire State Building. The months go by neither one can hardly wait for the date.
            The day comes when Terry and Michel are to meet again. Terry cannot wait she tells everyone that she is to be married. When she goes to cross the street she is hit by a car. Michel waits and waits on the one hundred and second floor never knowing the sirens he can hear from high above are taking Terry away from him.
            If you have seen the remakes you know what happens and that yes, the film has a happy ending.
            Irene Dunne deserves nothing but praise. This woman could literally play any role that was given to her and just kick the pants out of it. Love Affair is the first time I have ever seen Dunne in a drama. My expectations were high for Dunne and she met my expectations… which I knew she would she never fails to be anything but amazing. She just played Terry with the perfect amount of believable dignity, pride, courage, and love. Dunne was such a classy woman. Boyer was so smooth and so pleasant to watch. I am so used to seeing him as Gregory Anton in Gaslight where he was such a greedy manipulative slime. He was absolutely wonderful as Michel. He and Dunne had beautiful, believable chemistry that did not make the story just a typical love story but a moving and gorgeous one.
            Leo McCarey directed the film and wrote the story for it. He made a beautiful film. McCarey also directed the remake with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in 1957, An Affair to Remember.
            Love Affair is an excellent film. You know that Michel and Terry will somehow end up together but that does not matter when watching the film what matter and what is so entertaining is watching Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer together. Love Affair is a film that has to be seen by everyone especially if you are a fan of Irene Dunne or you would like to see the original film which spawned so many remakes.
            The film is currently available on YouTube in ten parts and on DVD.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

You Gotta Stay Happy (1948)

“You gotta stay happy, don’t look for trouble.”

            You Gotta Stay Happy is adorable. It is a film where there is that mistaken identity thing going on for a while but everything else surrounding that bit of plot is so funny and amusing. The film is much in the vein of Screwball comedies from the 1930s.
            Joan Fontaine is an heiress named Diana Dillwood. She has been engaged six times but she just cannot make up her mind. Diana is practically forced into marrying a new fiancée by her guardian and her psychiatrist. She goes through with the wedding but she is not looking forward to the honeymoon and especially the wedding night.
            After Diana and now her husband Henry are married they stay at a hotel before they are to leave for their honeymoon. Diana is a ball of nerves and apprehension. She really has no feelings for Henry whatsoever. That night they have a fight and she flees the room and runs into the room next door. Staying in the room is Marvin Payne (James Stewart) a commercial pilot. He previously saw Diana and Henry quarreling in the hallway and tried to be chivalrous and stick up for Diana but Henry just knocked him out.
            Marvin agrees to let Diana stay in his room for the night and he will try to sneak her out in the morning. All the poor guy wants is to get some sleep. He has just flown from California to New York and then has to fly back again in the morning. Diana interrupts him and so do his friend/co-pilot Bullet and the hotel manager with whom he is friendly with. Diana is a bunch of nerves she cannot sleep. She takes three of the sleeping pills that Marvin had on him but she says they are not working. He calls the desk for some more and the pills are really powerful. Unfortunately he forgets to tell her about the pills and she passes out cold!!
            The only way Marvin and Bullet get her out and about is by giving her some strong coffee but that barely works. The two pilots get her out of the hotel by dressing her in a bomber jacket, pants, and a baseball cap. Diana wakes up just when the cab pulls up to the airport. She gets all excited she has an opportunity to get away. Marvin does not really want her to come at first but finally gives in. Bullet takes some people along and Marvin is none too happy but they are paying for their way (they fly a cargo plane not a passenger plane). One of the extra passengers is a man who has just embezzled money from his company along with a blonde woman.
            The plane ride does not go as smoothly as it should. Marvin thinks Diana (or Dottie Blucher as she told him her name was) is the woman along with the embezzler after a detective in Chicago was asking about the guy and a blonde woman. Diana just told him that she was running away from something but not exactly what so his mind is running with the idea that she has stolen money.
            But of course Fontaine and Stewart wind up together at the end. During the film a young bride tells Diana that she fell in love with her husband after just one kiss. Diana says she never felt that and she had kissed many men before. She gets an idea and runs after Marvin. The two kiss and they both enjoyed it.
            I have got to just gush about Joan Fontaine in this film. She was fabulous (and can I just add that I loved her speaking voice for some reason? I was just hanging on to every word she said. I know I’m weird). Fontaine to me is becoming less and less the neurotic emotional messes from Rebecca and Suspicion and more of a well rounded truly talented actress with some wit. The scenes when Diana is passed out cold and the next morning when Marvin tries to wake her up are hilarious she was perfect. She was so cute in one scene when she is walking off the plane. She is shot from behind as if it is Marvin’s point of view of her walking away. Fontaine looks adorable walking away in big clunky boots and baggy pants and jacket and a baseball cap. The scene is just really cute you would have to see it. I am not a really big James Stewart fan, he does not bother me he was a very good actor but there is just something about him, I cannot really say what, that turns me off from him. I liked him and Fontaine together they were an odd pairing but they worked really well together.
            You Gotta Stay Happy is a very cute film from beginning to end. James Stewart and Joan Fontaine as well as the supporting cast add very charm to the film. Not once did I feel the plot of mistaken identity or some of the more outrageous moments with some of the passengers was over done or too silly. I honestly cannot wait to sit through You Gotta Stay Happy again.
            This is definitely a film I suggest seeing. I believe as of right now YouTube has the whole film available to view in parts.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Affectionately Yours (1941)

“Ever since they been married, she squawked at all his foreign assignments.”

            Affectionately Yours is not a good film. I had so many issues with this film it got almost unbearable to sit through.
            Ricky Mayberry (Dennis Morgan) is a foreign correspondent. He is a married man but he plays the field with pretty girls. While he is in Lisbon on assignment he gets a cable telling him his wife has divorced him. Ricky panics and does everything he can to get back going so far as to fake a head injury and a sprained ankle. The lady Ricky was flirting with in Lisbon, Irene Malcolm (Rita Hayworth), travels back with him and kind of makes his life a little difficult.
            Now Ricky’s mission is to get Sue (Merle Oberon) back before she married some guy she had known in high school named Owen Wright (Ralph Bellamy).
 Affectionately Yours
            If I went on any further it would mean remembering the film and I really do not want to do that. Rita Hayworth is the only enjoyable character/actress. I was so mad that Irene did not end up with Ricky. I adore Dennis Morgan he is so adorable and so handsome. He was not too bad but at some points in the film he just got too much. Merle Oberon… the first time I ever watched her in anything was Wuthering Heights. I hated the film because I despised the story. I wanted to see Oberon in another film I figured she is a classic actress who made many films in the Golden Age. I could not believe how annoying and stiff Oberon was. I could not believe that someone like Ricky would ever fight for a woman like her. There was a cute scene when Ricky basically kidnaps Sue and takes her to a pier by a lake where they used to go. He takes her out of the car and Oberon is supposed to be fighting and kicking and I cannot even describe how unbelievable she was.  I cannot blame Oberon for her poor casting though. Jack Warner and his studio were comically challenged they could not put out a good comedy film or get really good actors to be in them. He chose Oberon as the lead and she did not even work no matter how much she threw herself into the role. I have other films with Merle Oberon in them and I am hoping she is better those. Ralph Bellamy just as always played the poor sucker who never gets the girl and here it is the same thing. He annoys me as the perpetual dummy who never wins. Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen play the domestics. It is like whoever cast the film thought it would be fitting to have both of these women together since they also starred in Gone with the Wind. McQueen is another reason why I did not like this film so much. She was so damn annoying!!! Even worse in this film than in GWTW!! She was such a whiny pain in the rear.  
            Now the whole film was not ridiculously awful there were SOME good scenes. When Ricky takes Sue up to the pier he ties her leg up really good so she cannot get out of it and runaway. For a few moments Sue remembers why she loves Ricky and kisses him. In a huff of embarrassment she forgets she has the rope around her ankle and she trips over the pier side falling into the water. Another scene is when Ricky asks Irene to come over as a blind date which Sue thinks she has set up through a lonely hearts type club. The whole scheme is to make Sue so jealous she will want to come back to Ricky. Hayworth was excellent she was totally adorable and very funny. The whole thing worked for a while. Hell, if I was Oberon acting or not I would have been totally jealous of Hayworth she was gorgeous.
            What I found enjoyable other than Hayworth was the musical score. Also had a good time seeing Oberon’s clothing all her dresses were very pretty and low cut.
            Affectionately Yours could have been a good film. The story was really cute if not over used. I feel the film could have been better if Merle Oberon, Ralph Bellamy, and Butterfly McQueen had not been in it. At times Oberon was alright but as I said she was really stiff. The whole film would have been great if Morgan and Hayworth had ended up together but I guess it was good that they did not it made the film different from all the others like it but the two actors were so good together it was a shame for them to not end up with one another. Watch the film only if you like Dennis Morgan or Rita Hayworth other than those two do not even bother. 

Friday, June 24, 2011


“Barb, honey... we're dead. I don't think we have very much to worry about anymore.”

            I can remember watching Beetlejuice all the time when I was little. This is one of my childhood movies. I just recently bought this on DVD and I seriously do not know what took me so long to get it. Watching Beetlejuice again after such a long time it felt like I had just watched it yesterday I remembered all the scenes.
            Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) are a young couple. They live in a very rural area of the Northeast in a house they have lovingly decorated and made their own. When the movie starts they are finally on vacation from work and planning to spend the week in their home working on things and relaxing. Adam wants to run out and Barbara goes with him. On the way home their vacation becomes a prolonged one when their car crashes in to the local river. Next thing they know they are wet and back in their house with no memory of how they got there.
            When they look into a mirror they realize they are dead they drowned when their car went into the river. They are given a guide book on how to live in the afterlife but the book is really confusing. They take a travel to the other side and are told by their advisor Juno (Sylvia Sidney) in order to stay in their house forever they must scare the yuppie hipster New Yorkers that have just moved in. Adam and Barbara have no idea how to scare these people they try the whole sheet thing but that totally backfires. The only person in the family who can really see them in human form is the morbid daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder).
        The couple really does not know how to get these people to leave. There is however this one strange ghoul they have been hearing about named Beetlejuice. To talk to Beetlejuice they have to say his name three times. When Adam and Barbara come face to face with the “bio-exorcist” he is nothing but a disgusting menace.
            Ever since Lydia took the pictures of Adam and Barbara in the sheets her parents have and their friends have been nagging for her to show them the ghost to make them come out. One of their friends reads from the recently deceased book along with other paranormal readings and he gets Barbara and Adam to appear in their human form. Their human forms start to disintegrate. Lydia in desperation runs to Beetlejuice for help to save them. He does but then the troublemaker is sent on his way back to the other side.
            Good God where to even begin on why I love this movie so much. I am such a loser but I actually started tearing up in happiness over seeing the ending when “Jump in the Line” comes on because I remember loving it so much as a kid.
            Watching it now I love the cast. Geen Davis is one of my favorite actresses she was so adorable as Barbara. Alec Baldwin for as much as he is an asshole now he is a good actor and I cannot even believe how handsome he once was (I am so used to seeing him as Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock that it is weird to not see him as a fat man with a really low voice). Catharine O’Hara was such a bitch in this movie but I love her she could really do no wrong in whatever she is in. Winona Ryder was good this was before she went really weird. Michael Keaton amazes me I mean anyone who can pull of this role then do all kinds of serious movies is a very good actor in my book. I never knew who Sylvia Sidney was and I only just noticed her name. It is odd to think she was a classic actress who made films with actors like Cary Grant and James Cagney. I guess in a way I have always loved the cast even when I was little and I just never knew it.
            Tim Burton is a genius. The way his mind works is kind of scary and unusual but that is what makes him so different and stand out from other directors. The world he creates and captures is what really makes Beetlejuice awesome.
        Best scenes of the whole movie:

No explanations are needed they are just awesome. They’re two of my all time favorite scenes from the movies.
            If you have a good sense of humor you will enjoy Beetlejuice if you have been living under a rock for the past twenty-three years and have not seen it. The best thing about the DVD- there are three episodes from the Beetlejuice cartoon in the extras!! Now how many of you remember that cartoon?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Ambassador's Daughter (1956)

“Pride is a wonderful thing but it won’t keep you warm on a cold winter’s night”

            Mistaken identity is probably the most used plot device in classic films. Norman Krasna who wrote, produced, and directed The Ambassador’s Daughter used the mistaken identity plot in some of his previous films. In this film the plot does not get too dragged out and is actually very interesting to see the cast play it out.
            Joan Fiske (Olivia de Havilland) is an American living with her ambassador father in Paris. Whenever important American travelers stay with her and her father Joan takes them around Paris to see the famous sites. The newest guests Joan has to entertain are Senator and Mrs. Cartwright (wonderfully played by Adolphe Menjou and Myrna Loy). When Joan takes Mrs. Cartwright to the Louvre she just goes through the motions she goes into a trance and does not even realize that the Matisse she is talking about is not on the wall but has been loaned out.
            To keep busy Joan is a model for fashion shows. Attending one of the fashion shows she is in, are two American G.I.s Danny Sullivan (John Forsythe) and Al O’Connor on leave in the city for a few days. Danny sees Joan and is totally smitten with her. After the show he asks her on a date. She talks the idea over with her father, the Cartwrights, a General Harvey and her fiancée (who is a prince from a foreign country) what she should do. The senator sees G.I.s as wolves just looking for a good time but the General does not, obviously, agree so they make Joan’s date into an experiment and she is to report back to them. But she is not to tell the soldier that she is an ambassador’s daughter.
            At first Danny thinks Joan is a French girl because she fakes a French accent. But Danny says something that gets her angry and she reveals her true accent. The pair have a great night out on the town. They see each other again the next day. Danny is head over heels in love with Joan and wants to take her back to the States and Joan is very much in love with him as well.
            But of course there needs to be a conflict and a misunderstanding to split the couple apart for them to get together at the end. Joan winds up getting Danny in the end by getting under his pride and not letting go.
            Once I found out that the plot was of mistaken identity my mind was kind of closed off to the film but I had to see it because of the cast. I did not find the story too bad it was different because there was that little bet happening on the side for some amusement. John Forsythe and Olivia de Havilland were so nice to watch together they were very good in the leads. If you want to look at age as a bit of an issue de Havilland was forty playing someone who should have been no older than twenty-six and Forsythe was thirty-eight playing a character who should have been no older than twenty-seven. But both actors looked young and pulled off their characters very well. A cute scene between them was when they were in a club where there were feather dancers. When the one dancer moves her feathers Danny blushes and Joan just laughs over how bad the soldier is blushing and how uncomfortable he is. Myrna Loy and Adolphe Menjou made a nice couple as well. Loy pretends in two parts of the film that she is Joan’s boss for the modeling. At the end she tells a story to Danny that when she first met the senator she thought he was on the Senator’s baseball team and did not find out until they were married that he was an actual senator. She said that she hit him and he hit her back but they have been happily married for years and have three children. Danny hearing the story about how Mrs. Cartwright hit the senator he felt inspired and hit the senator himself thinking the man was Joan’s older man love. After the senator gets hit Loy responds “Oh I should not have told him that story.” There were certain moments in the film where there were flashes of Loy’s old feistiness from her ‘30s films. She was fifty-one years old when the film was released; she looked amazing and still had that biting charm about her.
File:Myrna LOY Mature Adolphe MENJOU Vintage PHOTO.jpg
            One of my favorite parts of the film is when Joan is taking Mrs. Cartwright around the museum and does not even realize the Matisse is missing because she is just going through the motions. That is how I sometimes feel when I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York I pretty much live that in museum and know the European Paintings department and the American Wing storage display like the back of my hand. The way Joan describes a painting with the colors and everything is how I describe paintings and works of art in papers (I hate writing and I hate research and that is all Art History majors do. What the hell was I thinking?!)
         The fashion show Danny and Al attend and Joan models for is Dior. The clothes are classic Dior and so gorgeous. I would have LOVED to have seen a show like that or even to be a model just to say I wore Dior clothing!! After this de Havilland became a long time admirer of the designer and many pieces of her wardrobe were from the designer.
                         The Ambassador’s Daughter is a cute film. The plot is nothing new but with the good cast it is not boring. Yes some parts do drag after all the film is almost two hours long and that to me is dragging out a mistaken identity plot. Watch it for the cast but do not expect the story to be all that fantastic.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Locked Door (1929)

“You won't gain anything by keeping me here!”

            The Locked Door is one of Barbara Stanwyck’s first films and her first talking film. Stanwyck plays a young girl named Ann. She has been taken to a boat twelve miles out to sea where prohibition is nothing but a word by her boss’s son Frank Devereaux. From the moment we see Ann she seems uncomfortable by the whole deal. Frank takes her to their own private room away from all the drunk people dancing in the main room. He locks the door and tries to force Ann to do things she does not want. Luckily for Ann the boat has drifted back into US waters and the police board the ship to arrest everyone. As they are walking off the boat a cameraman gets a picture of them. Frank pays the man for his plate the picture is on.
            Eighteen months later Ann is married to a nice man named Larry Reagan. It is their one year anniversary. Larry’s younger sister Helen tells them that she is seeing someone new and he is coming by. When the man who walks in happens to be Frank Devereaux. Ann is taken totally by surprise. Right away she wants the man out of the house and tells her sister-in-law that she is to no longer see Frank. But of course Helen does not listen and as soon as Frank leaves she packs her things and leaves for the city as well.
            At his apartment Frank prepares for a nice night with Helen. He is also preparing to leave for Havana in the morning to escape a man who wants to kill Frank for being with his wife. Frank makes a “Please, Do Not Disturb” sign to put on the door and orders even his butler not to bother them. There is a knock on the door but it is not Helen who walks in it is Ann. She has come to warn Frank again to stay away. She tells him that she will call her husband. Frank takes out the picture of them from the boat and uses it as blackmail. The phone rings, it is the phone operator telling Frank that Larry is in the lobby wanting to see him. Frank gives Larry the run around by saying he is not home. A Few minutes later the door knocks again. Ann runs upstairs and hides.
            When Frank opens the door Larry bursts in. He left the building but came back in through a side door. Larry came to tell Frank to leave town before he gets killed and also to fight. The two do eventually fight. Frank pulls out his gun and there is a struggle for it. Ann can hear everything going on when all the sudden she hears the gun go off. When the camera pans down to the two men Frank is the one left on the floor. Larry cleans up as much as he can he turns the light off and leaves the do not disturb sign on the front door and locks it.
            When Ann comes down she panics. She can leave but the door is locked. She panics even more because once again she left in a locked room with Frank. To get out she calls the operator pretending that Frank is attacking her by throwing things on the floor even the phone and shooting the gun off. She figures as we do watching her that she will be able to get away on self defense.
            When the police arrive they are convinced that Ann killed Frank out of jealousy because she will not say that she was there to protect Helen’s reputation.
            Since The Locked Door is an early sound film it is not one of the greatest acted film but what it lacks in acting it makes up for in scenery and story. Barbara Stanwyck is not the Barbara Stanwyck we know from her films in the 1930s and 1940s. She is only twenty-two and just starting her long career. Stanwyck felt she did not do a good job in this film especially when she had to cry and act emotional but out of all the actors in the film she is the only one who pulled of a decent job. Rod La Rocque who plays Frank was awful. It was like he memorized his lines by just reading them and that was how he was speaking them. I guess it would be safe to say that everyone in the film was doing theater acting and not film acting. The only one in the whole film who was perfect for the movies was Betty Bronson who plays Helen. Characters and actresses like her would be seen all throughout the 1930s.
            The plot and story of the film is not bad. You feel bad for Ann she is just trying to not let what happened to her happen to her sweet younger sister-in-law. Frank is such a nasty slimy SOB that whatever happened to him you do not feel bad at all. There are some faults with the story and how it progresses but again it is an early talking film. The scenery is typical Art Deco which is just an awesome style.
            The Locked Door is not a bad film. It is an interesting example of how sound was being worked out. I also really liked Stanwyck’s  costumes and hair since I am so used to seeing her most in her later films. There are many reasons to see this film if you are into film history. Sit through The Locked Door if you really like Barbara Stanwyck. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Theodora Goes Wild (1936)

“That adorable young thing is an unholy terror on wheels. There's nothing in the world more deadly than innocence on the manhunt!”

            Theodora Goes Wild is one of the reasons why I love 1930s Screwball Comedy and one of the millions of reasons why Irene Dunne is one of the best actresses to have ever graced Hollywood.
            The small town of Lynnfield is shocked to read sections of a scandalous new book called “The Sinner” by a woman named Caroline Adams in their local newspaper. The literary club, full of old gossipy women with nothing better to do, protest the paper from printing the story. The town’s scions are Theodora Lynn (Dunne) and her aunts Mary and Elsie are three of the women protesting the book. But there is a bit of hesitation and disbelief in what she is saying on Theodora’s face. The paper eventually puts a stop to the printing of the book.
            Jed Waterbury, the publisher of “The Sinner”, sits in his office all happy over the success of the book. His secretary calls him to let him know Ms. Adams has arrived. When he opens the door we get our first glimpse of the notorious Caroline Adams…. Ms. Adams is Theodora Lynn!!! Theodora was the one who wrote the book under the penname. No one besides her publisher and her Uncle John who left his life in Lynnfield and went to live in New York City know that she is Caroline Adams. Theodora is so paranoid about being found out to be the author that she refuses to go on book signings or really promote her book. Jed’s wife Ethel is just dying to meet Caroline Adams so he has her come by the office. Theodora is livid but it is too late for her to be really mad because when Ethel comes to the office the woman does not let her get out of going out to dinner with them.
Picture 46
            Also tagging along and very unwelcome is Michael Grant (Melvyn Douglas) the book’s illustrator. At dinner Theodora loosens up and has a few drinks. Ethel can no longer keep up so Jed takes her home and writer and illustrator are left alone for the night. Michael takes Theodora back to his place but when he goes to get close to her and kiss her she flees the apartment in horror.
Picture 106
            Theodora is now back in Lynnfield and back to her quiet, pure life living with her aunts. Standing outside leaning against their fence is a strange man whistling. The man is Michael; he found her papers with her real name and address on it and followed her to her home. Of course the aunts do not know who Michael is and they immediately do not like him. He pretends to be a gardener looking for work. Theodora takes him in along with a dog he just happened to pick up. The more Theodora gets to know Michael the more she likes him and the more he brings her out of her sheltered life. Finally one night Theodora tells her aunts and their literary club that she is Caroline Adams and that she loves Michael. She tells Michael that she loves him but the next day he is gone.
            Now Theodora goes back to New York and does the same thing to Michael that he did to her because as it turns out Michael is in a stuck situation almost like she is. By the end of the film Theodora’s reputation in her town and in the City is all but gone but without her reputation she was able to do something nice for her friend.
            I can do nothing but praise Irene Dunne. I do not know how the woman had the gas to keep going comically like she did. As soon as Theodora comes out of her shell Dunne just goes a mile a minute and does not let up. The more Theodora comes out of her shell and the crazier her life becomes the funnier the film becomes. Dunne was nominated for an Academy Award for this role and should have won without a problem but she was beaten out by the God-awful Luise Rainier for The Great Ziegfeld. Melvyn Douglas was just as silly as Dunne. I have never seen Douglas in a film before but right from the moment he comes on screen I just liked him a lot. The two of them were a great pair they worked so well together. The scene I liked them in is when Michael is driving Theodora and her aunts nuts by continuously whistling late into the night. She decides to get back at him by playing the piano as loud as she can so he can hear it from the guest house. She starts to sing a nice song while playing the piano and he stops whistling. But as soon as her song is done he turns right around and starts whistling the song. Another really good scene with them is when Theodora newly wild and uninhibited is talking to Michael in his apartment and she is playing his piano. Michael is really mad at her he is yelling at her and she is just all bubbly and happy. She gets up and Michael yells at her to stay at the piano and keep her hands on the keys (just trust me the scene is really funny).
            Theodora Goes Wild is one of the greatest Screwball Comedy films to have ever been made. Everything about it was just perfect. The laughs do not let up for one moment and the acting by Dunne and Douglas is just incredible. The script is witty and hilarious and the direction is flawless. The story about a girl who wrote her book out of rebellion of what her town would not let her enjoy and let loose is great. How many times have you ever felt stuck where you are in your life and just wanted to rebel somehow? Theodora Lynn rebelled in an awesome way (or what I think is).
            Suggested: ABSOLUTELY!!!! Watch Theodora Goes Wild any way you can. It is not available for individual sale but it is in a pack called Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol. 2.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The King's Speech

“If I'm King, where's my power? Can I form a government? Can I levy a tax, declare a war? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority. Why? Because the nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can't speak.”

            The King’s Speech is one of the better movies to have come out within the past few years. It is very well acted, directed, and written.
            Assuming you know your history and you know somewhat of the history of the Royal Family you will know most of the story. If you do not: King George VI came to the throne after his brother King Edward abdicated in order to marry an American woman who was twice divorced. George’s wife is the Queen Mother Elizabeth and her daughter is Queen Elizabeth mother of Prince Charles and grandmother to Princes William and Harry.
            George (or “Bertie” as he is often called) has a very huge obstacle to overcome: he as an almost debilitating stammer. He does not like to speak in public because the more he thinks about his speech the more nervous he gets the more he stammers. All his life he has been seeing speech therapists and specialists but no one has been able to help him. Elizabeth has heard from someone about a man named Lionel Logue who is a speech specialist. She goes to him as a last hope for her husband. She does not immediately tell Lionel who she and her husband are but eventually she has to tell him.
            When George and Lionel first meet it is the beginning of what will become a very long and trying relationship.
            The movie is very well done. The story is so good. I knew what would happen but I was nervous and kind of on an edge for George with all he had to go through and what he was trying to overcome. Colin Firth deserved to win the Academy Award for Best Actor he was so wonderful. He looks like he could have been a king or a royal back in the 1930s and 1940s. Helena Bonham Carter is always amazing even though she was not in the movie a whole lot. It was nice to see that George had strong support and love from his wife. Bonham Carter and Firth made a nice pair. Guy Pearce plays Edward and he is just an awesome actor and so good looking. Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue was perfect.
            The King’s Speech deserved to win the Academy Awards that won. You can tell the care and quality that went into making this movie. The cast down to the supporting actors were perfect. The script was great it mixed struggle and (not so much) drama with a good amount of humor. The King’s Speech is a movie to sit through and watch especially if you like historical based stories or are just looking for a good story.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Love is a Racket (1932)

“Love is just a mental disorder.”

            Love is a Racket is an enjoyable pre-code film. Unlike most pre-code films this film is light, but of course there is a murder and the murderer never gets caught and there is a mystery involved.
            Douglas Fairbanks Jr. plays Jimmy Russell. Jimmy writes for the New York Globe for the theater section called “Up and Down Broadway.” The section is a gossip section for what is happening in the world of theater. With the help of his friends Stan (Lee Tracy) and Sally (Ann Dvorak) as “witnesses” every week they sit at Sardi’s waiting for something to happen or see some Broadway stars so Jimmy can report it.
            Jimmy is currently seeing an aspiring actress named Mary Wodehouse (Frances Dee). He is totally smitten with Mary but she is more interested in her career. One day Mary comes to Jimmy with a problem, she has written checks for stores with no money in the bank for them to clear. Mary needs Jimmy help she figures he might be able to pull to some strings and see if the checks can clear at a later date. When Jimmy goes to some of the stores the employees tell him that the checks have been paid for by a man. The reporter figures it must be a man named Eddie Shaw (Lyle Talbot). Shaw is a gangster who is currently involved in a racket involving bad milk (I am not making this up. The character is head of a racket involving the selling of bad milk) and a reporter friend of Jimmy’s at The Globe is covering it.
            Shaw has been sweet on Mary for some time which is why he paid the bills for her. He is the last person she would ever want to pay for her things. Now the gangster wants the actress to come up to his apartment one night. Mary does not want to go and neither does Jimmy or her Aunt Hattie.
            After receiving a cable that was made to be as if Shaw had sent it from Atlantic City telling Jimmy to come down to work things out, Jimmy is just able to get back to New York in time to get to Shaw’s penthouse before Mary was set to be there. But when Jimmy gets there he sees someone walk out of the penthouse in a hurry and hiding a gun in a flower pot. When he gets inside he sees Shaw dead from a gunshot. Jimmy rearranges the room and plants the dead man’s fingerprints on glasses to make it look like Shaw had been drinking and then he dumps the dead gangster’s body over the balcony to make it look like the man was drunk and fell over.
            The conclusion of the story I liked because it was not what you think would happen in a love story. The killer depending on how you see it is someone you would not expect.     
            Although I liked the story I did not find it that strong and the dialogue is a bit silly at times but it full of great cynicism and sarcasm. The four leads definitely give the story and the dialogue a boost. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was very good as Jimmy. I think Fairbanks Jr. is underrated as an actor. He was perfect as the foolishly in love reporter trying to save his girlfriend. He may not have been handsome or as talented as some of the other leading men during the 1930s but in the films I have seen with him I think he did very well with his leading ladies and the material he was given (the first film I ever saw him in was Having a Wonderful Time with Ginger Rogers and that film was not too great but I liked Fairbanks and his character). Dvorak I do not believe I ever saw her in a film before Love is a Racket. I liked her as Jimmy’s sidekick Sally. At the beginning of the film when Sally is introduced she and Jimmy have a kind of brother-sister relationship but she really likes him. When Jimmy introduces Mary to her she responds “Oh fine. Just a touch of leprosy”. Dvorak was sarcastic and carried it off well. Frances Dee plays Mary. Just looking at Dee you are not surprised that a man like Jimmy would be totally in love with her she is so pretty. One scene where I thought she did a great job is when Jimmy kisses Mary very long and deeply and she falls to the couch and gives a sigh. Tracy gave a great comedic performance as Stan. He had all the funny lines and kept the film light.
            Love is a Racket is a good entertaining, fast paced pre-code film. It was acted very well and the story is a bit different from other pre-codes. For all the film’s entertainment and acting value it is a shame that it is not well known today.
            The film is not available on DVD or on YouTube. If TCM ever airs the film again give it a watch.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lucky Partners (1940)

Good Luck!

            Lucky Partners has a cute premise: a man walking along one morning wishes his neighbor good luck. The two do not know each other he just says the term out of kindness. That day the girl has a lot of luck. Pushing her luck so to speak she plays a sweepstakes but she wants to go in on it with the man just so she knows she is not going crazy.
            The man is David Grant (Ronald Colman). He is a nice charming older man who lives across the street from a book store. He wishes Jean Newton (Ginger Rogers) good luck who just so happens to work in the book shop with her Aunt Lucy (Spring Byington). The deal is if they win Jean takes her half so she can get married to her fiancé Freddie (Jack Carson). David wants to take Jean on a proper honeymoon which will be strictly platonic. He can see that she is not really into the idea of marrying Freddie so he wants to give her a nice time before she just settles.  
            Like most classic Hollywood romantic comedies it is a case of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, then boy loses girl over some misunderstanding, and then before the end boy gets girl back. The film started off well but by the middle when Jean and David go on their platonic honeymoon it gets a bit boring. Colman and Rogers work well together. If you just look at their characters being friends and not really lovers the age difference is not a big deal- Rogers was twenty-nine and just coming off of her films with Fred Astaire and into many of her best films of the forties and Colman was forty-eight years old. The end of the film I found a mess. Somehow all three characters, David, Jean, and Freddie wind up in court. I pretty much hate courtroom scenes in comedies (and almost all films for that matter) because I think they are annoying and sloppy. To end a film and get the characters back in each other’s graces in a courtroom is just not my cup of tea.

            The acting was not that bad. Rogers I felt was holding back. She was cute and as always had perfect facial expressions but there was something missing with her character (maybe there was just something missing with the whole film). Maybe it was the fact that she was supposed to have some kind of feelings towards David. That could even be the problem with Colman and his character. I had never seen Colman in a film before Lucky Partners but I really liked him. He was such a gentleman with a great speaking voice. I have got to say I would love to find a man today who was a gentleman like he was and knew how to be polite with women (can I name this want as the “William Powell Syndrome”? Ever since I started watching The Thin Man and became a fan of Powell I wish I could meet a gentleman like him or any other classic actor similar to him). Jack Carson I can always take or leave him. He was a character actor who usually plays the same kind of tough guy who is being taken for granted and wants to fight someone off. Gone With the Wind fans may get a kick out of seeing Harry Davenport aka Dr. Meade as the judge at the end.
            Lucky Partners is not a bad film. The whole time though with Ginger Rogers I kept thinking of her as Roxie Hart for some reason and that film was not made until the following year in 1941. Especially in the courtroom scene I just wanted her to start chewing her gum and be silly (I probably started thinking of Roxie Hart when Rogers said “certainly” almost like she did in Roxie which never fails to make me laugh hysterically. Also Spring Byinton was in Roxie as well that could also be why). As I said there is something missing with this film. Rogers seemed to be holding back which I felt if she had not that the something that was missing would have been there. The plot is cute at the beginning but it gets lost by the middle.
            Suggestion: watch Lucky Partners if you like Ginger Rogers or Ronald Colman. Other than Rogers and Colman, David might as well have been saying “good luck” to us as the audience as we sit through the film.