Saturday, July 30, 2011

Little Women (1933)

“If wearing hair up means becoming a lady, I'll wear it down until I'm 100 years old”

            I can remember as a kid always watching the version of Little Women from 1994. I used to watch this movie a lot I can still remember some parts from the movie. Up until a few months ago I never realized that the 1994 version was the third telling of Louisa May Alcott’s story. The first time Alcott’s Civil War era story was brought to the screen was in 1933 starring Katharine Hepburn in the fourth film of her career.
            Little Women tells the story of the four March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (Frances Dee, Hepburn, Jean Parker, and Joan Bennett) and their mother Marmee (spring Byington). Their father, a preacher, is doing his duty fighting in the Civil War. The sisters are all different from each other but they all love each other very much and get along very well. Meg is the calm older sister, Jo is the spirited tomboy full of energy, Beth is shy and quiet, and Amy is outgoing and a very talented artist.
            Before the war the family had money. Without the money they used to have life is a little hard for the sisters but they are each grateful to have each other. Jo and Meg each have a job and even Marmee has one in a shop selling things to soldiers. Jo helps out an old aunt and Meg is a governess. Jo is also a writer and she sells her stories to the newspaper.
            The story of the March sisters is long but along the way they learn about life and love and loss and sacrifice. Jo is the central focus of the story. She is carefree with a great imagination. She is the rock of support for her sisters.
            There are many scenes that I liked. One scene that was very nice is when Marmee reads the girls a letter from their father. After the letter is read they each make a promise to themselves to get over their burdens except for Beth. Jo and Meg miss having the money and the leisure to do what they want and Amy is always getting into trouble but Beth is so shy and so sweet that she does not have any burdens. I loved the scene when Jo is at her aunt’s house and the aunt tells her that she has missed a spot cleaning the railing and cannot go home until the rail is cleaned. Jo takes her dress wipes away a spot and when the aunt is her room she slides the down the railing to complete the dusting!
            The cast is spectacular. The film belongs to Katharine Hepburn as Jo because she is Jo. Hepburn was the tomboy of Hollywood this is probably the only role that she played that was the closest to her in real life. Out the actresses playing the sisters Hepburn was the only one who was not stiff she really gave the role her all. I am not saying the other actresses were not great they really were but compared to Hepburn they were a bit stiff and seemed like they were holding back. I had this film downloaded because it is a Katharine Hepburn film and I had no idea that Frances Dee was in the film until I looked it up. Seeing Dee in the film was a great added bonus. I loved her as Meg… but then again when do I not like her in a film. She was very good next to Hepburn. I have never seen Joan Bennett in a film before and I greatly enjoyed her, she was adorable. Jean Parker I have never even heard of before but she was also good in her role. Apparently in the novel the girls range from sixteen to twelve but in real life Hepburn was twenty-six, Dee was twenty-four, Bennett was twenty-three, and Parker was eighteen.
            George Cukor worked his wonderful magic directing the mostly female cast. This is one of many films Cukor and Hepburn would make together. Cukor knew how to direct women well, in 1939 he excellently directed The Women with Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, and Paulette Goddard. Genius composer Max Steiner created a beautiful score. Walter Plunkett provided the period costumes to perfection.
            I have not read the novel Little Women but I would really like to. I like the story of a strong, loving, close family who through all of life’s ups and downs and heartache the sisters remained close to each other. It reminds me of me and my brothers we are all close and no matter what we all go through in life we are all there for each other. This version has the power to really reach out to the viewers and leave a powerful impression.
            Definitely do not miss out on seeing George Cukor’s version of Little Women. It is a beautiful classic film with a strong female ensemble.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Third Finger, Left Hand (1940)

It has been a while since I have posted about a Myrna Loy film. I recently went on a Myrna Loy binge on Amazon I bought Third Finger, Left Hand and Wife vs. Secretary along with her incredible autobiography Being and Becoming which I finally found for under thirty dollars (actually with shipping and handling it came out to less than twenty). Ever since I saw a clip of Loy from Third Finger, Left Hand (which is posted in this review) I have had to see it. For a while the film was unavailable on DVD and Youtube only had the one part posted. But finally through the Warner Brothers Archive the film has become available on DVD and of course being such a huge Myrna Loy fan I had to have it.
            Loy plays magazine editor Margot Sherwood Merrick. To the world she is Mrs. Merrick who married her husband while in Rio and she rarely sees him because he is always traveling. To herself and her photographer Gus she is just Margot Sherwood an unmarried but very successful magazine editor. Margot pretends to be married in order to avoid advances from the men she works with. She justifies this that if she did not pretend to be married she would have been fired by the jealous wife of the publisher since he is always hitting on his female employees. Only Gus knows she is not married because he writes letters to her pretending to be her husband.
            One day Margot is supposed to be picking up her friend from a ship that has docked in New York. She goes on the ship and finds her friend’s room but the friend is not there. Margot thinks her friend has taken up painting since there are paintings all over the room. An art dealer comes in and he is a little rude so Margot fires back at him and tells him to get out. She finds out the friend left the ship in Havana and the room was given to a painter named Jeff Thompson (Melvyn Douglas). Jeff unhappily meets Margot and tells her he was waiting for two years to get his pictures looked at by the dealer. She promises to fix the whole thing and she does. To thank her Jeff takes her out for dinner.
            Jeff never planned to fall in love with a girl from New York but he finds himself falling in love with Margot. She is even falling for him as well. He delays his train home so he can spend more time with Margot. At dinner one night Margot’s whole charade is blown. She never told Jeff about her scheme but when he finds out from one of her drunken friends who blabs about her “husband”. She does not even tell him the truth that she is not married she just continues with her lie. Margot blows the whole thing for herself when Jeff says a friend of his can find her “husband” and she describes a man in the restaurant and he notices.
            The next day Jeff has Margot’s “marriage” checked out. Of course we know as the viewer she is not really married. He decides to get back at Margot by going to her house pretending to be her long lost husband. They both drive each other crazy trying to one up the other in annoyance. Margot has enough and she lets her attorney friend Philip know about her situation. Philip is in love with Margot he wants the whole matter to go away so he can marry her. He comes up with the plan that Margot and Jeff should go to Niagara Falls to get married and wait a few days for a divorce. Neither one of them likes the idea but they do it.
            This being a 1940s romantic comedy no matter how mad Margot and Jeff may be with each other they cannot get the other off their mind and you can guess the ending.
            Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas were great together. In the films I have seen with Melvyn Douglas he was very good at meshing with his female stars. To me it seems that he was able to go back and forth with his leading ladies with the same amount of wit and energy they were giving him (I do not know how to put Douglas’s pairings any better so I apologize for any confusion). Loy was so good as always. I liked how Margot did not really back down to Jeff which Loy was great at portraying because she always had that attitude or brought it to her characters. Neither one of the lead characters really backed down with each other even Douglas played that aspect well too. It is great to see that Loy got top billing since she was either second or third billed most of the time. With MGM I sometimes find their supporting cast members/characters to be too much but here I felt they were just right and not too over the top.
            MGM added a nice little touch with a bit of the music: since they had a huge success with The Wizard of Oz the previous year and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was a big song in one scene you can hear the composer for the score added the music for the song in. They even have Loy humming it in another part.
            So here is the clip of Myrna Loy from the film that made me really want to see:

If you are a Loy fan and know her other roles pretty well I dare you not to laugh at that clip. In her autobiography Loy said her inspiration for this scene was her good friend Jean Harlow. After Margot pulls this whole scene before the fade out she plays with her gun pulling out into a string.
            Third Finger, Left Hand is a cute film. The story is predictable but it is fun to watch Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas kind of battle each other wit for wit and annoyance for annoyance. Loy and Douglas became good friends in real life on this set and you can see they were friends by the way they acted in their scenes together. I think Loy and Douglas’s chemistry add a lot to the film and without that chemistry (even if it was other actors playing the parts) it would have been boring.
            Third Finger, Left Hand is worth a viewing. As I said it is currently on DVD and if you would like to view it now go to this awesome site: Film Classics

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Heartbeat (1946)

Of all the Ginger Rogers films I have seen I have generally like them all. Heartbeat I can say is the only film of Rogers’s that I did not like. She plays an eighteen year old girl (yes eighteen when she was thirty-five years in 1946!!!), Arlette, who has run away from her boarding school in France. Arlette has entered a school for pickpocketers where she receives room and board. On her first pickpocket assignment she messes up and gets caught by an ambassador (Adolphe Menjou). The ambassador sees that she was a good pickpocketer and gives her an assignment or more like a bribe: she has to come to a party with him to pickpocket from someone or he turns her over to the police.
            At the party Arlette has to pickpocket a young handsome diplomat named Roland Latour. She begins to fall in love with the diplomat. Arlette does her job and keeps Roland from getting in trouble with the ambassador. Roland is completely in love with Arlette but when she gets in trouble with the pickpocket school she runs to his house and he becomes annoyed with her.
            But as in all “love” stories the two main characters wind up together at the end.
            I was so bored with Heartbeat. I seriously could not get over the fact that Ginger Rogers was playing an eighteen year old when she was thirty-five. This is what Rogers looked like when she was nineteen years old:
                                             And this is this is a promotional picture from the film:
Yeah a bit of a difference.
 I was not into the story I felt that it was not well written nor was it well acted. Rogers was not too bad but she was not at her best and neither was Menjou and I always like his performances. The actor who played Roland Latour was never really popular and not in too many films. I did not like him at all.
            I guess if you would really like give Heartbeat a try. I believe it is on Youtube right now because it is public domain (I have it in a one hundred pack of classic films).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

“How can all these things happen to just one person?”

            Bringing Baby Up is one of the ultimate Screwball comedies. The story is hysterically funny and with some of the best comedic dialogue ever written. The comedy never ends right from the beginning. You are either laughing, blushing, or smacking your palm to your forehead (or all three and at the same time) the characters are silly and nervously/skittishly energetic.
            David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a zoologist with the most excitement in his life being the finding of a piece from a dinosaur so the prehistoric animal can be wholly put back together. His is engaged to Alice Swallow who just sees their marriage as a business arrangement and says that he must dedicate his whole life to his work with nothing interfering. They are to marry the following day.
            David goes to play golf with a man named Alexander Peabody. He represents a Mrs. Carlton Random who is thinking about giving the museum David works a million dollars. While golfing David meets a very flighty and nutty young woman named Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn). She thinks David’s ball is his and plays it and she also thinks his car is hers. That night David goes to a restaurant to talk to Mr. Peabody again and explain about the golf game. Unfortunately Susan is there as well and she just complicates David’s life again.
            The next day David receives his bone that will complete his dinosaur as well as a phone call from Susan. She tells him to come over that she has just been sent a real leopard! She trips while on the phone and David thinks the leopard has gotten to her so she plays it up and pretends the animal is attacking her. When David arrives at Susan’s place she is fine and the leopard is in her bathroom. She reads a letter from her brother Mark (who sent the animal from Brazil where he is hunting) explaining that the leopard’s name is Baby, he is tame and “’He's three years old, gentle as a kitten, and likes dogs.’ I wonder whether Mark means that he eats dogs or is fond of them?” David has had enough and walks out but Susan along with Baby follow him. Susan talks to David outside telling him that she just needs his help bringing Baby to her aunt’s house in Connecticut. He agrees just to get the woman out of his hair so he cannot be annoyed by her and get married.

            Well, the trip becomes more than David can handle. Susan drives him nuts, his bone gets stolen by her aunt’s dog George, and Baby gets loose in the town and both zoologist and crazy woman go on a night hunt for the leopard with the search ending with them both going to jail.
            If I explain anymore it may get confusing and I do not want to ruin any of it because all the shenanigans Susan gets David in are so funny.
            I adore Katharine Hepburn as Susan. After seeing her in so many dramas seeing her in a comedy is great. I think this was my first Hepburn film and I am so glad it was because while I do like her dramas she had an excellent touch for comedy (I do not believe I would have liked her so much had I seen her in a drama first). It is no wonder Hepburn was named the number actress of all time by AFI, she could really do it all.  Cary Grant is a panic. I love him in comedies I actually prefer him in Screwball comedies than drama. He knew how to play a frazzled but kind of together character to perfection. Grant did so many little things like body movements and facial expressions that brought a lot more to his character and to the film.
            The supporting character actors were also really good. In this point in her career Katharine Hepburn never made a comedy so RKO filled the film with comedic actors to help her out. I do not think she needed much help but with their skill at comedy they all made the film so much funnier.
            Howard Hawks as always deserves so much praise as a director. He had such a great knack for getting so much great work from his actors. He knew how to make great comedies and capture so many sly little touches that if noticed add so much more to a scene. Hawks made smart comedies that have remained funny after so many years.
            I remember the first time I watched Bringing Up Baby on TCM when they were airing some of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn’s films they made together. I had to see this because Cary Grant was in it. I was not really into Katharine Hepburn at the time but after this I became a fan. The next day I took my friend out to a DVD store with me and bought the film in a pack of Katharine Hepburn films released by TCM. I made my friend watch it with me that day and she was laughing so hard throughout the entire thing. I watched all the other films in the pack and I realized and saw the immense talent Katharine Hepburn had she could literally play any type of role and be amazing.
            I guarantee if you have a silly sense of humor you will be laughing during the whole running of Bringing Up Baby. The film is available on DVD in the TCM pack I have or individually and I highly suggest seeing it… my advice is just to buy the DVD if you see it in a store you will not be sorry.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)

“I wonder if there'll be another time as good as this.”

            I love to watch films that are based off books. Usually what happens I will watch the film first and then read the book. Also usually I can tell if the book will be good by watching the film (my case in points Rebecca, Gone with the Wind, Laura). Let me just say I will never give Ernest Hemmingway a chance because I find the films based on his books to be boring (well maybe besides The Killers which was based off one of his short stories) and such was the case with The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
            The plot of the story is Henry Street (Gregory Peck) has been severely wounded while hunting on an African safari. As he waits for help with his wife Helen (Susan Hayward) he begins to feverishly flashback to the first love of his life. Cynthia (Ava Gardner) has haunted his memory for many years. They met in Paris before the war and it was love at first site for Henry.
            Henry and Cynthia marry but he is restless after he writes and publishes his novel. He constantly wants to travel so he can gain material for his books. Henry’s constant need to travel takes a grave toll on Cynthia and their relationship and they split.
            A few years later he meets a young countess but she cannot fill the void left by Cynthia. Henry found his former wife’s address in Spain and he writes to her. When she writes back the countess who is his fiancée sees the letter and gets mad. She knows that Henry does not really love her. Henry leaves the south of France where he has been living and heads to Spain to fight in their civil war with hopes of possibly finding Cynthia.
            He does find Cynthia she is an ambulance driver. But when they see each other it is for the last time. The ambulance she was driving is hit by a bomb. Henry finds her and does not want to let her go but as he goes with the stretcher he is shot in leg for disobeying orders. His last view of the love of his life is of her desperately reaching out to him.
            Henry spends the next few years wandering around Paris. He follows women around he thinks look like his lost love. One of the women he follows is Helen. They run into each other at a different time and that is when they get together. Henry has become a drunk running around with women.
            Now in the jungle Henry realizes that he is not the failure he thinks he is with his novels and through Helen’s devotion he also realizes that he really loves her. He also now has the will to fight to stay alive until help comes.
            I thought the film was going along great at the beginning and then it hit the middle and the end and it went to pieces. I have to give a lot of praise to Ava Gardner because I thought she was excellent and that her scenes were some of her best acting I have seen of her so far. Gardner is so beautiful that you can believe someone who loved her (either in the movies or in real life) could never get over her and it made her character and Henry’s haunting memory of her so believable. Gregory Peck was good he was not fantastic. I love Peck I think he is a great actor but maybe it was the character I did not enjoy him at all. Susan Hayward was as always fabulous. No film ever suffers horribly (unless it is The Conqueror) when she is in it. I was such a doof the whole time I was thinking “I wish Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward made another film together they could be so good in another film with different material” then my brain clicked and I remembered they were in David and Bathsheba together and I own it…. go me and watching movies at one in the morning.
            The Snows of Kilimanjaro is definitely not one of the greatest films I have sat through. I hate it when I find a film starting off pretty well and then by the middle it just bombs and becomes a hassle to sit through. I found watching the film unrestored more fun that paying attention to the story. If you are really interested give The Snows of Kilimanjaro a chance mostly for the cast.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An American in Paris (1951)

“Maybe Paris has a way of making people forget.”
“Paris? No. Not this city. It's too real and too beautiful to ever let you forget anything”

            Goodness I am on a musical kick lately first with Annie Get Your Gun then The Band Wagon and now An American in Paris. Usually I watch musicals when I am in a foul and need something to cheer me up but I have not been in any sort of foul mood or been stressed. Hmmmm… maybe I am still trying to get Insidious out of my mind haha (nah it is not that I got that out of my head a while ago). I do not know what my deal is with musicals lately but I am having so much fun watching them. Today I was in the mood for An American in Paris which I know the reason why which I will explain in a bit.
            Gene Kelly plays an American artist named Jerry Mulligan living in France. He enjoys what he does even though he knows he will never make enough money as an artist. He lives above a small café with a concert pianist named Adam Cook (Oscar Levant) living across the way who is also an American.
            One afternoon on the corner where he sells his paintings Jerry meets a young rich woman named Milo “as in Venus de” Roberts (Nina Foch). She likes Jerry paintings and buys them all. She invites him back to her place and tells him that she would like to be his sponsor by talking to all the right people and one day holding an exhibition of his work. Jerry does not see the harm in it and he agrees. That night he takes Milo out to small but very crowded night club that he can pay for. As the audience we learn that Milo has a thing for helping out and falling for men who are aspiring artist of any kind.

            At the night club Jerry sees a beautiful young girl (Leslie Caron) much to Milo’s annoyance. As they are sitting with Milo’s friends he cannot help but stare at this girl who he found out through eavesdropping her name is Lise. Jerry walks over to the table pretending that he and Lise know each other and asks her to dance. She cannot get over the fact that this man who she does not know at all just came by and scooped her up to dance. When the dance is over he asks for her number, she gives the wrong one but the person whom she is with gives the correct one.
            Jerry is very persistent with calling Lise and even stops by the perfume shop she works at. His charm and persistence work and she agrees to meet with him for a date. The two hit it off very well and they begin to see each other.
            An odd situation arises when Adam finds out that his friend Henri (Georges Guetary) is engaged to Lise and that Jerry is in love with Lise as well. Jerry and Henri know each other and are friendly but they have no idea that they are in love with the same girl… that is not until they are both at a party one night and Henri just happens to see Lise and Jerry hug and kiss one more time before she is to go away with him to America.
            This is one of the many films my mom- excuse me, Santa- bought me for Christmas that I had never seen before. The Christmas I given this film I was also given Gigi… I guess my mom/Santa thought this would put my butt in gear with really cracking down on studying French. I love watching An American in Paris and Gigi because I can brush up on some basic French since je parle français un peu. I get excited when I can understand a few words or a conversation in the film but the French that Gene Kelly and some of the other actors speak is very basic (fun fact: Gene Kelly was a law major and a French minor when he attended college).
            I love the story and I really like the cast. Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron were perfect dance partners. This was Caron’s first film and got the part of Lise because Kelly and his wife had seen her in a ballet when they were in Paris and he remembered her. It was a good thing he remembered her because Cyd Charisse was supposed to be Lise originally but she became pregnant and had to back out. I love Charisse but Caron was perfect and she along with Guetary added the authentic French element to the film.
            There are some incredible dances in the film. My favorite is the “American in Paris” number. It is like thirteen minutes long but it is so colorful and beautiful. My favorite part of the dance is when Jerry and Lise go to the Lautrec exhibit and they are the paintings come to life. I like Lautrec and it is so cool to see his paintings in action. The best touch was seeing the figure of the woman with the green face from his Moulin Rouge painting. It is awesome to see how they made the effect of green on the woman’s face in the film. I got excited as I always do when I know a piece of art work.

        Now the reason why I was in the mood to watch An American in Paris was because I saw my uncle, my grandpa’s brother, yesterday and he loves this film and the music to it. Every time I mention this film in front of my uncle or my grandpa I always hear about how when they were younger my uncle would play this record all the time. My grandpa likes to say in so many words when he would hear the  “An American in Paris” song that he used to have it coming out of his ass along with “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”. My grandpa also likes to tell me about all the times he would walk into the room he shared with my uncle when they were little and my uncle would have his records all over the place even on my grandpa’s bed and my grandpa would walk in the room, jump on his bed and crack a record.
            An American in Paris is one of MGM’s greatest musicals. It was under the Arthur Freed production unit and directed by Vincente Minnelli. You know you are watching an MGM musical because of the amazing direction, production, dancing, sets, and the amazing costumes from the dancing ones to the regular ones. MGM musicals have a fantastic way of lifting you of a rut or inspiring you making you want to be a singer/dancer. An American in Paris is a beautiful, happy love story wrapped up in a fun entertaining musical.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hold Back the Dawn (1941)

“You needn't be afraid, Miss Brown. Not a bit. You see, we are like ... two trains, halted for a moment at the same station. But we're going in different directions. We can't change our course, any more than we can hold back the dawn.”

            I am always a sucker for films with my favorite actors or actresses. I will watch any film by anyone I like. Hold Back the Dawn had a big bonus because it included two actresses I greatly admire Olivia de Havilland and Paulette Goddard. As the film progressed I found it to be a great story of wanting a better life and the want to live life.
            The film starts off with Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer) looking to get into Paramount Studios (can you guess which studio released the film?) to talk to a director. He bypasses some officials and finds the director. Georges knows the director from the Riviera so he asks the director if he could tell him his story so that it could be used for a movie. From here the film is told through flashbacks.
            Georges traveled to Mexico so he could get a visa into the United States. The US Immigrations Office has a quota of how many people from certain countries can enter the US. Georges is Romanian and is told he will have to wait four or five years to enter the country. This is a big blow to him but there is nothing he can do.
            At a bar one night his friend Anita (Paulette Goddard) finds him. She and Georges used to run around Europe scamming people out of money. They both still have feelings for each other as each seems to turn up the heat in their conversation. Anita had once been living in Mexico and at the same hotel as Georges until she met an American, married him, and then divorced him, and now she is an American citizen. She plants the idea of marrying an American woman into his head and now Georges is on the prowl. The time could not be more perfect with Americans coming to celebrate the Fourth of July.
            In the morning as he is walking along the sidewalk a kid from a car throws a firecracker out the window and startles him. The kid is in a car full of boys being driven by a young woman who is their teacher. She tells the boy to apologize but then Georges gets rude because he is upset with everyone coming through the border so easily when he can’t. She then tries to drive off in a huff but hits the car in front of her instead. The whole day Georges is putting the moves and being charming to a women he found alone at a bull fight. By the end of the day he finds out she has a husband who was in the car all day.
            On his way back to the hotel he runs into the woman who was driving the car. She has is in a garage trying to get the car fixed with the boys running around like animals. He goes over to see how she is doing and she is all frazzled. He finds out her name is Emmy Brown (de Havilland) and she is a teacher from Azusa, California and all she wanted to do was show her class a fiesta and teach them about the Mexican culture. The car will not be ready until the morning and Emmy and the students will have to sleep at the hotel.
            After he gets Emmy settled downstairs Georges goes up to his room and waiting for him is Anita. She has gotten the room next to his. She tells him that once he can get in America they can be together again and go to New York to scam people and that she will give him anything. He takes her ring planning to ask Emmy to marry him. In the early morning hours he pretty much plays a trick on the naïve young school teacher by asking her to marry him saying that he is lonely and that she has brought him happiness. She agrees because she wants to live her life she does not want to be lonely anymore.
            The teacher and the gigolo marry. Georges has to wait four weeks until his visa clears to enter the US. Emmy brings her students back and in the mean time they write letters to each other. Georges and Anita spend time together planning what they will do once they are together again. He tells his partner that he will only take a half hour to break things off with Emmy by telling her she is nice and that the marriage will not work out. As they walk out of a café he sees across the street at the hotel that Emmy’s car is in the front.
            Emmy is in his room with a whole bunch of things. She is so excited to be married and really loves Georges. The head immigration officer has been cracking down on foreigners marrying Americans just to get into the States so Georges suggests to Emmy that they go away anywhere for a few days and have a real honeymoon.
            On the impromptu trip Georges begins to really fall in love with Emmy. He sees that she is from a small town where nothing really happens and how this quick marriage has really added something to her life. She is so excited to be married and truly in love with him and he feels bad that he is just marrying her to use her. When they get back to the hotel after their trip he tells Anita their plan is off he wants to stay with his wife. Angry, Anita tells Emmy the whole truth.
            Emmy is called down to be questioned about Georges by the immigrations officer. She tells the officer that it was she who asked Georges to marry her and that they are very happy together. The officer is miffed over the whole thing but he lets it go. Emmy leaves Georges angry but she still loves him.
            On the way home something happens to Emmy and when Georges hears about it he risks his visa by driving to her.
            This is a love story made in 1941 of course it is going to end happy.
            The cast was excellent all the way down to the featured players. Olivia de Havilland was all kinds of fantastic and adorable. She was nominated for her first Academy Award for Hold Back the Dawn but was very unfortunately beaten out by her sister Joan Fontaine for her performance in Suspicion. Now I adore Fontaine almost as much as de Havilland (in fact I knew who Joan was before Olivia and would not have heard of Olivia without knowing her sister) but Suspicion was terrible she should not have even been considered for any sort of award let alone an Oscar. I think Fontaine won just because she was snubbed the year before for her performance in Rebecca that she should have won and the Academy felt bad. If I had been de Havilland I would have been really pissed off I lost out to one of the worst dramatic film performances ever. Paulette Goddard was just awesome the woman is so underrated as an actress she was so versatile. Anita was such a bitch and Goddard played it wonderfully. Up to this point I have only seen Goddard in comedies not something dramatic like this and she just nailed it. Charles Boyer was very good. Underneath you can see that his character really loved Emmy and truly felt bad for what he was doing to her. Boyer was very good at playing emotions and showing them.
            The story was well written by Billy Wilder and Charlie Brackett. It reminded me a bit of Casablanca where people were desperate to immigrate to America for a better life. One lady was so desperate for her baby to be born in America that she lied to some guards at the gate saying that she had an appointment with the immigration official and she had her baby in his office on US soil so that it would be an American citizen (yes I know Casablanca was made two years after Hold Back the Dawn). You are left unable to feel bad for Georges wanting to get into the US and taking advantage of Emmy the way he did. Sure he was going to do not so great things once he hooked up with Anita but he had that sense of desperation but he also did redeem himself but really falling in love with Emmy.
            Hold Back the Dawn is a good film. The performances are all very well done by the entire cast and the story was well written. At some points I found it a bit tedious to sit through I felt some parts dragged. My favorite scene was between Paulette Goddard and Olivia de Havilland I was so hoping they would have a scene together just because I like them both so much. Olivia de Havilland alone is worth sitting through the film, there is a reason she is one of the ultimate classic actresses and this is one of her many fantastic films which proves it.
            Catch Hold Back the Dawn on Youtube in full or if TCM airs it. The film is currently unavailable on DVD.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Arthur (2011)

“You're running from yourself Arthur.”
“I wish I was, because I'd let me get away.”

            I have never seen the original Arthur. I think I tried sitting through it once when I was younger and I just remember thinking the guy was an idiot and that I could barely understand him. I do plan to eventually watch the original movie but for now I have seen the remake/reboot.
            For those of you who do not know the story of Arthur it is about a man who is a billionaire and he is drunk who enjoys his life to the fullest. This version has the same concept but of course it is modernized. Arthur (Russell Brand) is a young thirty year old also with an alcohol problem. His mother runs a major corporation which makes them billionaires. Arthur runs around New York City doing anything he pleases. The cops all know his name since he is always in trouble. He sleeps with whomever he wants because of his money.
            Arthur’s mother has had enough of him embarrassing her and the company. She gives him an ultimatum to marry a young business girl who she works with named Susan (Jennifer Garner) or lose all his money and he has to get himself a job and make his own money. Susan is an overly ambitious person who only wants to marry Arthur so that she can run the company someday. She and Arthur dated once and she holds a grudge that he dumped her. Well to be fair the woman is nuts and she is also used to getting what she wants.
            Unfortunately for Arthur he has met a girl he actually really cares for. He meets Naomi (Greta Gerwig) as she is giving an illegal tour of Grand Central. He likes her sweetness and her frankness. His mother does not want to hear any of it and neither does his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren). There is nothing wrong with Naomi it is just that she comes from a blue collar family from Queens and she just gets by money wise.
            I am sure you can guess who Arthur ends up with and that he also goes through something life changing and profound which makes him want to clean up his act.
            The only reason I even sat through Arthur (as well as buy it) was for Jennifer Garner. I am a HUGE fan of hers. I was really happy to see her in something she has not been in a movie for a while. I thought she was fantastic playing Susan who was such a bitch! I always find Garner to be awesome in anything she is because she is so versatile. Russell Brand I can live without. If was not for the fact that Jennifer Garner was in the movie I never would have sat through it. Brand to me is not a good actor and after a while he gets on my nerves. Helen Mirren was wonderful as Hobson. Her British-ness was such a great touch to a very British nanny. Greta Gerwig I had never seen in a movie before and she was adorable and a good actress. It kind of feels like she is out to be the next Zooey Deschanel, there are some scenes where it looked like she was trying to be the other actress (which will never happen because ZD is too awesome for words).  
            Arthur is a cute movie. Despite the fact that Russell Brand was playing the title character I found him to be perfect and I really liked the cast. Give Arthur a try it has some very funny scenes and lines. Now I really want to sit through the original more to see how much funnier it is compared to this one.
Arthur (2011) Publicity Still

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finishing School (1934)

“You're supposed to do exactly as you please in this old ladies home for nice young gals. Just don't get caught, that's all”

            The first time I ever watched Finishing School was when TCM had Ginger Rogers as the actress of the month back in March. I always know when I love a film because I am left thinking about it and looking all over the place for pictures of it and seeing if I can find it on DVD. With Finishing School I was left with a great admiration for an actress I had never seen before and wanting it on DVD so bad that I hyped it up for myself.
            Virginia Radcliff (Frances Dee) is sent to Crocket Hall, a finishing school for girls. The headmistress lays down strict rules which Virginia fully plans on following until she meets her wisecracking, rule breaking roommate Cecilia “Pony” Ferris (Ginger Rogers). Pony’s friends at the school- Ruth and Madeline- follow her around like she is the coolest thing ever. Virginia really does not know any better because she has been sheltered by her overbearing mother (Billie Burke). She winds up getting into some trouble in class one day for passing a note but she never reveals who wrote it.

            The girls are not allowed to go to New York City without an escort. One weekend Pony hires an actress to pass off as her aunt and she takes Ruth, Madeline and Virginia into the city to stay at a hotel and party. Virginia feels like she is ready to let loose, she even goes so far as to tell Pony “I always wanted to get tight, you know see how it feels” (gotta love pre-code Hollywood for lines like this). The guy Pony hooks Virginia up with is no good he gets means with her when they are both drunk and he will not leave her alone. Luckily the waiter cleaning the room hears the scuffle and he saves Virginia from being hurt. The waiter’s name is Ralph McFarland (or “Mac” as Virginia calls him). Mac is very nice and Virginia takes to him right away. He takes her back to Crocket Hall where the headmistress is none too pleased.

            As time goes by Virginia and Mac see each other here and there when she can get into the city with the school. She invites him to tea one Sunday at the school. When the headmistress sees that Mac is just a regular guy working his way through medical school and not a rich “proper” type she kicks him out. She even goes so far as to throw away his letters he writes to Virginia.
            The headmistress tells Virginia that because of her “actions” and “misbehavior” she is not allowed to go home for Christmas which her mother also agrees to. Her mother sends her a fur coat worth $2,500 and her father sends her $1,000 to do whatever she wants. She is totally unfazed like both gifts are nothing because she does not care for them. All of a sudden she hears something against the window and when she turns around it is Mac tapping on the window. Pony got in touch with him and told him that Virginia has had to stay in the school for the holiday. He tells her that he has written her letters which she tells him she never got them otherwise she would have written back.
            Virginia takes Mac over to the boathouse where they can be alone without anyone seeing them. Mac gives her a handkerchief with her name stitched into it. She begins to cry because she really cares for the gift and for him and she is beginning to think that the headmistress is right that she is not right. Mac comforts her and as the two kiss the camera pans to the window then to their footprints in the snow.

            After that nothing goes exactly right for Virginia. She has to get in touch with Mac but it seems the headmistress really has it out for her and will not let her do anything. Pony gets in touch with Mac and tells him to get to the school as soon as he can. He gets to Crocket Hall just in time for Virginia to see him from the balcony she is standing on.

            So this is a pre-code film. This was released in the year the Code was enforced but was made the year before. What makes Finishing School a lovely pre-code film is not the fact that Pony is a bad influence and never punished it is for the fact that Virginia, the main character, winds up pregnant and is not punished for her “sin”. It is never said that she is pregnant but the fact she does not feel well and is a bit jumpy with nerves towards the end and she needs to get in touch with Mac and when they see each other at the end he says they are going to get married you know she definitely is.
            As I said at the beginning I watched this because Ginger Rogers was in it. She is in the film for like ten minutes total if that but she has some really witty lines. She tells one of the girls in a scene “Will you keep your nose out of other people’s business and take it in your room and wipe it” (haha). Before this I had never seen Frances Dee in a film or even heard of her name. I was so taken with how unbelievably gorgeous she was. All I kept thinking was Dee looks like an actress that could be around today and how beautiful she looked. I like Dee as an actress I have seen her in several films since this and I enjoy her very much. She was excellent in this film from being an innocent, naïve girl to playing a bit of heavy drama at the end

I am so used to seeing Bruce Cabot as the macho Jack Driscoll from King Kong who tells Fay Wray that a ship and the jungle is no place for a woman that seeing him as the caring Ralph McFarland was actually adorable. Billie Burke will just always be Glinda the Good Witch to me. This was the first time I had ever seen outside of her Wizard of Oz role. Like Dee I have seen Burke in several other roles besides this (and Glinda) and she played the same kind of scatterbrained character in them.
            In the credits Crockett Hall is given characterization as “The Snob.” The title is very fitting. The rules are so strict and the headmistress and teachers are so not caring and snobbish. Virginia’s mother went to the school which is why she sent Virginia. All the mother and the headmistress care about is reputation. The mother does not want Virginia to see Mac because he works as a waiter even though he is an intern studying to be a children’s doctor and the headmistress is only concerned about the school’s reputation for girls who behave and go with rich young men. At the end of the film when Virginia needs an ally and someone to help her Pony is the only one who cares and is willing to help because she hates the school herself.
            Finishing School is not an earth shattering, life changing film but it is a film where the performances especially by Frances Dee are fantastic. I will admit that I had hyped this film up for myself for so long that I was afraid that when I watched the film again on DVD that I was going to find myself saying “really I liked it this much?” but I never did. I loved it just as much as the first time I saw it. Finishing School is definitely a film and a pre-code worth watching.

I would like to give a HUGE thank you to Courtney from The Golden Age of Hollywood website for making the awesome screencaps for me to use for this post.