Thursday, May 31, 2012

W.E. (2011)

“You have no idea how hard it is to live out the greatest romance of the century. And how I will have to be with him always and always and always.”

            The first time I had ever heard about Wallis Simpson was when I was on a hunt for photographs by Cecil Beaton. One of the first photos I came across was Wallis Simpson in a beautiful black dress by the famous Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli (which was a great added bonus I adore the designer). Not too long after my brother rented The King’s Speech which made me interested in researching its story. The story of King Edward and Wallis Simpson is very intriguing and in some ways addicting. My interest in Simpson piqued yet again after I saw the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest fashion exhibit Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations where one display showed a picture of the infamous woman in the lobster dressed Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali designed.
            When I went to see The Artist there was a trailer for the movie W.E. about the Duke and Duchess. This was back in January and ever since I had been dying to see the movie. Yes, I know the movie was directed and even written by Madonna but if you can watch the movie for what it is the story is excellent and the direction and cinematography are perfection.
            Wally Winthrop is a woman living in modern day New York City. She has a husband who makes a lot of money as one of the city’s leading psychologists. He is barely ever home and stays out late into the night or does not come home at all. Wally used to work at Sotheby’s auction house and stops by one day to take a look at their latest auction of the collection of items that were once owned by Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. As she goes through the items she imagines Edward and Wallis together from when they first met.
            The scenes depicting Edward and Wallis together are stunning. The colors are beautiful and the actors portraying the Duke and Duchess were fantastic. I liked seeing how they were both taken with each other from the moment they met. My favorite scene was when they were at a dinner party. Edward was known as David to his close friends and told Wallis to call him so. The dinner party was for a friend who had just come back from America after getting her divorce. The friend seemed to really love David and it showed after he just kept talking to Wallis and ignoring the friend every time she would try to speak to him. The final straw comes when David accidently rips Wallis’s dress and she yells out the name his closest friends use for him and the friend storms out. Well I liked the scene mostly because Wallis mentions the dress is Schiaparelli. One of my favorite quotes was when Wallis says “I’m nothing to look at so I all I can do is dress better than anyone.” And the real Simpson definitely did.
            I liked how the story was mixed between old and new. The best was when Wally would touch something owned by the Duchess and she would imagine what went on when the Duchess touched or worn them. I love doing that whenever I see old artifacts especially with clothing I always try to imagine what the person was like who wore the items and what it was like during that time period.
            One reviewer on IMDB said the main theme of the movie is a about how normal everyday people turn to the celebrities they read about and try to find something they have in common with those celebrities or historical figures in this case. That is close but the rest of the reviewers words were harsh saying that Wally is obsessed with Wallis and that Wally needs to get a life. I think Wally looked to the Duchess because Edward was obsessed with her he loved her and was possessed by her so much that he risked everything and gave up the throne to be with her. Wally’s marriage was falling apart her husband was terrible to her, she was looking to the love Wallis and Edward had for each other that is what she wanted in her life. Wally also saw the other side of this “fairytale”. Everyone only knows what Edward gave up for her but no one ever stops to think what Wallis gave up for him. Wally gave up her job when her husband did not want her to work and he did not see how much that meant to her. My point is this is not a person obsessed with a historical figure it is a person trying to find meaning in her life and she turned to this figure who had to endure so much and eventually came through it all.
            The direction was fantastic. I was so taken with each scene. It is amazing to think this film was made by Madonna. The cinematography was incredible especially for the flashbacks to Wallis and Edward where it was soft and light.
            W.E. was not made to be a strict period piece. It is like watching any sort of biopic there are always going to be some things missing and some things that are not right. W.E. depicts a good enough story to whet your appetite to research the people. I found myself completely taken with the movie and the story I found myself loving it. The story of the Duke and Duchess is a fairytale of sorts but a dark one with obsession and passion. I could have done with more of the historical aspect and less of the modern aspect but as a whole W.E. is a very well made and should be given a chance.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ann Vickers (1933)

“You don't understand, Miss Vickers, that the head of a woman's reformatory must be above reproach!"

If anyone knows Irene Dunne at all today she is most known for her comedies such as Theodora Goes Wild, The Awful Truth, and My Favorite Wife. Irene Dunne started out on the stage and when she came to Hollywood she was thrown in to the most soap opera-ish melodramas ever filmed. Ann Vickers is one of Dunne’s early melodramas from 1933.
            Ann Vickers (Dunne) is an ambitious social worker during The Great War. During a dance she meets a soldier named Lafe Resnick (Bruce Cabot). They hit it off right away and spend his last few days before he is shipped off together. He keeps asking her to marry him but she says her work is more important if he still loves her when he comes home on leave she will marry him.  Ann stays the night with Lafe before he leaves for the front. A few weeks later she finds she is pregnant. Lafe comes back not even telling her he was and they see each other at a restaurant. She tells him she thinks now is a good time for them to get married and he is mad instead of happy. Ann goes down to Havana with a friend and has an abortion. She regrets her what she did very much thinking the baby was a girl and all the things she could have done for her daughter.
            When Ann returns home she heads out west to work as a warden for female prisoners. She is appalled at how the women are treated. Ann goes to the head of the prison but he just brushes her concerns off. Determined to change things she tells him she will bring about change whether he likes it or not. The head warden tricks blackmails her by having someone tell her a male prisoner is drunk then his number two takes a picture of her holding the man making it seem as if they were together. This makes Ann upset but she gets back at them by writing a book about her time in the prison.
            The book brings her instant fame. Ann now heads her own women’s prison where she has done great work. She is even given an honorary doctorate degree in social work. At a party she meets a judge named Barry Dolphin. The judge wrote a review that was placed on the jacket of her book. She tells him that he is the probable reason why her book has been selling so well. Ann likes Barry even though she was warned that he is a womanizer and that he is married to a wife that will not give him a divorce. Also he is currently being brought up on charges for dealings in the stock market.
            Ann and Barry are very happy together. She even has his baby a son they name Matthew even though he is still married. After Barry is sent to jail for six years the board of her women’s prison want her to resign because of the scandal of her being with Barry. Ann does so and fights for Barry to be let out of jail. At home her small apartment three years later Barry surprises her after being let out without parole.
            Yawn, what a boring drama. Thank God Irene Dunne was such a fantastic actress because this was hard to sit through. Dunne could play any sort of role and just make a film so much better and manageable to sit through. Ann is a pre-code character from the beginning. No other actress could have played this type of woman who was strong and determined yet vulnerable and just looking for love better than Dunne. Irene Dunne had such control over her acting and her characters that she was able to add so much depth and emotion to her characters no matter what type of women they were. You really are left feeling for Ann as she falls in love with men who she knows are not right for her but she cannot help it. She was also such a lady and that comes through in the way she carries her actors as well.
            I could not get over the close ups, mirror and face shots in this film they were all so beautifully made. There was a scene where Ann goes to visit Barry while he is in prison and the close up on Irene Dunne’s face was stunning. All the mirror shots were great, I love those kinds of shots for some reason. 

            The other actors were good with what they were given. I was so upset to see Bruce Cabot play a character than dumped Irene Dunne. I like him he will always be the nice guy from King Kong I hate to see him be a mean type of character.
            Ann Vickers is a hard film to find. TCM aired it months ago and I just finally got around to watching it. I say sit through Ann Vickers only if you are an Irene Dunne fan otherwise it is just a really boring melodrama. Although I found the film boring I will say it was a great pre-code and it is one of the best examples of films from that period. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Government Girl (1943)

One of my favorite aspects of the World Wars to learn about was women’s roles during the time periods. It is so interesting to see how women were given the chance to get out of the homes to work and to fill in for the men while they were away. The 1943 film Government Girl starring Olivia de Havilland shows one side of women working during the War in Washington DC. Her character is one of thousands of “government girls” who work for the War Department as secretaries.  
            The film starts out with a man named Ed Browne looking for a room at a hotel in Washington DC. He is new to the city from Detroit where he makes automobiles. All Ed wants is a room where he can sleep. He said he had made a reservation weeks before but no one in the staff seems to be able to find it so Ed is made to stay in the lobby until a room can be found. At the same time a wedding group comes in. Weddings are common occurrences with soldiers having quick weddings before they ship off. Elizabeth “Smokey” Allard (de Havilland) is part of the wedding party, her roommate May is the bride. May loses her ring so Smokey gets down on the ground and crawls for it under the chairs. One of the chairs she crawls under is the one Ed happens to be sitting on. All Smokey tells Ed is that she is looking for the ring and he gets all upset saying he cannot stand how people have been getting married in a rush these days thinking she is the one getting married.
            Finally Ed gets a room but it is the honeymoon suite where May and Joe are supposed to stay. Smokey has a fit pounding on the door and demanding Ed give up the room but he is just as stubborn and will not leave. Smokey and May return to their boarding house which is unfortunately only for women. Whatever move they make is loud and they wake up the whole house. The landlady comes back and has Joe kicked out. Joe leaves his motorcycle in the front and needs it back the next day. Smokey has no idea how to ride and besides she is wearing a skirt. Ed walking down the street literally smacks right into her. He says he rode a motorcycle when he was younger and should still be able to. He makes Smokey get on the back and takes her for the craziest ride through Washington DC! When he pulls in front of the building where Smokey works she is so dizzy and disoriented she has to sit on the steps a few seconds. He asks her if she liked the ride and she gets up gives him a good look and yells “NO!”
            Ed is in Washington DC because his automobile factory in Detroit has been turned into a war production factory like several others in the country. The factory turns out bombers and he becomes the head of the bomber planes unit. Ed gets his own office and Smokey as his own secretary. At first she tells him to get out because she does not know who is and he yells her.
             Ed walks out of his office one day and does not come back for two weeks!! He did not even tell Smokey where he was going. Smokey almost has a nervous breakdown one day when all these men take over the office to work. She runs out of the office without her shoes and slides right into her friend Branch. Apparently Branch really likes Smokey and has been asking her to marry him half kidding and half for real for years. Smokey is hung up on Dana McGuire an ambitious young man. Dana is not good for her he is a womanizer and is not afraid to do anything to get ahead.
            When Ed returns Smokey is beyond pissed at him. Ed wants to give up he does not like the political procedure and just wants to go home to Detroit. He tells Smokey he is too focused on getting things done he does not want to have to worry about political procedure. Smokey helps him out by showing him what to do and how he has to be patient.
            Out of nowhere Dana asks Smokey to marry him. He seems shady from the moment he asks her. Dana uses Smokey to get information about Ed and what they have been doing to bring him in front of a senate hearing. She feels so terrible that she steals the papers and plans to burn them so Ed will not get in trouble. Instead of burning the papers Smokey goes to the hearing and tells the truth and helps Ed to get out trouble with the government and continues to make his bombers.
            The story is a bit rough to sit through because it is a bit boring and just screams America morals and attitudes during the War. I got lost with the story at some points it seemed that some things were not explained too well and some of the story was all over the place.
            Olivia de Havilland was a panic in this film I was hysterical with her throughout the whole thing. She was loaned out to RKO from Warner Bros. for Ingrid Bergman and de Havilland was not happy at all. She was getting upset with the material Warners was giving her and this film just made things worse. De Havilland tried to ruin her character by making bad faces and overacting… well if this was Olivia de Havilland at her worst she still did damn a good job! I do not think the woman knew how to be a bad actress she was just always so fabulous. To me this is one of her funniest and best roles. Her faces were cracking me up especially the one where she yells “NO!” in Ed’s face. My favorite part of the film and possibly one of my favorite scenes de Havilland made was when Smokey and May were asked to do a little undercover work. A senator comes to them to pretend to get drunk to pump a guy with fake information to see if he will pay them for the information. Olivia de Havilland in a drunk scene is possibly one of the funniest things you will ever see!! She was crazy and jumping all over the place which is something you do not see her do very often in her films. The more I see Olivia de Havilland in her few comedies the more I adore her she was so brilliant.
             I must mention how much I loved Olivia de Havilland's costumes. Most them looked great on her and some were a bit too much. The outfits she wore to the office were my favorite they were typical 1940s women's suit jackets and skirts. 
            The rest of the cast sucked. Well I should not say that about Anne Shirley as May she was excellent and very funny. Sonny Tufts gave one of the worst performances as a leading man I have ever seen. I do not know if this was because Tufts was a bad actor or if it was because his character was not written very well. Who knows but I just did not like him or the character. Agnes Moorehead makes an appearance in two scenes as a Washington DC society matron. The character was an airhead it was weird seeing her act as one since I have only ever seen her in serious roles. Harry Davenport aka Dr. Meade from Gone With the Wind is one of the senators at Ed’s hearing… just have to mention a Gone With the Wind reference especially since he had a scene with Olivia de Havilland.
            Government Girl is really not a bad film. I am sure you are thinking to yourself I am just saying it is not too bad because I am such a fan of Olivia de Havilland but I would have told the truth if the film was pure crap even with her in the film. I liked seeing the portrayal of a working girl during World War II. A lot of women took the place of men and became very productive. Smokey was a bit of a tough career girl who would let no one stand in her way and de Havilland did a great job playing this determined young woman that had come about at this time. I also liked how they made Smokey patriotic but not unbearably so which tended to happen to film characters in the 1940s. Government Girl is not available on DVD nor is it available on Youtube. I happened to catch it on TCM. If the channel happens to air Government Girl again definitely sit through it. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Election (1999)

“None of this would have happened if Mr. McAllister hadn't meddled the way he did.” 

            Election was one of those movies that I always wanted to kind of see but avoided at the same time. Weird I know but that is how my mind works and it baffles me as well at times. I finally broke down thirteen years after its release and watched Election. The only reason I ever wanted to sit through it is because of Reese Witherspoon I adore her and she was so cute even as the bitchiest nastiest smart girl to be in a movie.
            The movie is told through four points of view through narratives. Tracy Flick (Witherspoon) begins the movie. She is running for school president unopposed. Tracy gets to school early to set up her table for the other students to sign their names so she can be in the running. Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is a history teacher and he runs the student government. He loves his job teaching his students. The one student he cannot stand is Tracy because she is overly ambitious and has no life whatsoever outside of school.
            Jim sees that the top football player and popular kid Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) is a rut since he shattered his leg and cannot play football that year. He asks Paul if he would like to run for student president against Tracy. Paul agrees to run. This begins Jim’s downfall in both his professional and personal life.
            So I found Election somewhat funny there were scenes that made me laugh but most of the time I was not amused. I just liked how one little event completely through this guy’s life apart and turned his comfortable wife upside down. Reese Witherspoon was hysterical she was the only good thing about the movie. Other than Witherspoon the actors were alright. The ending drove me nuts with jealousy because Jim gets a job as a Museum Educator at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. I am studying to be a Museum Educator I am jealous because he got a job in a museum in New York (my dream is to work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Election is a good comedy it is a movie I would say to watch at least once to say you have seen it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Silent Sundays: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

“Spirits surround us on every side... they have driven me from hearth and home, from wife and child.” 

            With a number of films I have commented on how they have been artistic; artistic in the sense of lighting, background, direction, etc. Well I truly mean a film is artistic in every way for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The film uses the art style of the German Expressionists to create a surreal nightmare and to enhance the psychological nightmare. Expressionism began before World War I and was largely confined to Germany since they were isolated before and after the war. Expressionism was not only widely used as a style of painting but also as a style of film. Themes for these stories were often of madness, insanity, and betrayal. They were not typically romanticized either. These were themes common in their artworks as well. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was one of the first films to use Expressionism to enhance the stories.
            From the beginning of the film until the last few minutes or so the narrative is told in a flashback by a young man named Francis. They are in a wood where spirits are said to wander. The form of a woman walks past Francis and the old man he is sitting with. Francis tells the old man that the woman is a Jane someone he was once betrothed to and tells the story of what has happened to them.
            A carnival comes to the German town where he lives with Jane and his friend Alan. He and Alan are in a friendly competition to see which one of them will marry Jane. They attend the carnival where a new act has opened. The act is called The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In his cabinet is man named Cesar. Cesar is a somnambulist, a sleepwalker who Caligari claims has been in a deep sleeps for years and tell the future. The doctor says that through his many years of sleep Cesar can tell the future. Alan asks Cesar for his future, it is not good the somnambulist tells him that he will not live to see the dawn. The day before the county clerk was murdered and before long Alan becomes the second victim.
            The townspeople suspect the murderer is Cesar. Feeling threatened Caligari sends Cesar to kill Jane. The sleepwalker creeps eerily into Jane’s room that night with a knife. When he sees her sleeping so beautifully he puts the knife down and goes to choke her instead. His plan backfires when Jane wakes up and begins to fight him off. Cesar being stronger picks Jane up and carries her out of the room into the night. Eventually Cesar grows exhausted, puts Jane down and falls over dead.
            When Francis, keeping guard at Caligari’s hut at the carnival, realizes the doctor has tricked him. He and some men go into the hut and see that Caligari has put a dummy in the cabinet. Francis decides to go to the local asylum to see if the doctor is actually a patient there. He finds there is no patient by that name but if he wants he can talk to the head doctor. To his horror the doctor is actually Caligari! Francis has some of the staff search the doctor’s office. They find he has a book about a Caligari from 1093 who traveled with a somnambulist named Cesar and the sleepwalker kill people for him. When the modern Caligari learns that his Cesar has died he goes mad and is tied up.
            Francis finishes his story to one of the greatest twists in a classic film.
            To me the best aspect of the film is the Expressionistic sets. They are claustrophobic in their spacing and odd angles and the shadows were actually drawn onto the material used for the walls. The sets were fantastic at creating an unsteady, suspenseful, and horrifying atmosphere that makes you seems like you are in a carnival funhouse. Even the thick heavy makeup the actors wear added to the scariness.
            With modern “horror” films, or what I like to call slasher porn, there are no scary backgrounds that help to create and set the tone. German Expressionist art was very psychological it reflected the artists’ lives during war and the effects of war. War is a horrible thing it is a nightmare. This art style was used to magnificent effect in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The film’s story is so original for its time. One well known film that was made in the past few years used the same plot but I cannot tell you which one since it will spoil the ending if you have not seen this film yet. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is an excellent silent film and is definitely one that all film lovers and film majors need to see.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rage in Heaven (1941)

Rage in Heaven is one of those classic films that to me had potential to be a well known psychological drama from the early 1940s but only came this close because of one issue. The issue happens to be, unfortunately, Robert Montgomery’s acting. There is not much mystery to the plot it is just interesting to see how Montgomery’s character unravels and brings people along with him and purposely does so.
            Friends Philip Monrell (Robert Montgomery) and Ward Andrews (George Sanders) meet each other for the first time in ages at a hotel in London. Philip invites Ward back to his family home in the country. When the men arrive they are met by Philip’s mother’s new secretary Stella Bergan (Ingrid Bergman). Stella is very pretty and both men are immediately taken with her. The next day she goes out horseback riding with Ward. It is clear that he is in love with her but she says that she does not plan to stay long with Mrs. Monrell she is young and wants to see the world. On the way back Ward finds a kitten in the woods and gives it to Stella.
            When Ward returns back to work in Scotland and Philip makes his move. He confides in Stella that he is nervous about having to run his family’s steel mill and that while he was in Paris he became afraid and went under Ward’s name because Ward is a brave confident person. Insecure he asks Stella that if he were asking as Ward if she loves him and she says that she loves him as Philip. His jealousy is so deep that he kills the cat so he will have no reminder of his friend. 
            Sometime later Philip and Stella get married. Everything seems to go well until Philip begins to become jealous of his friend. He thinks Stella only thinks about Ward and is unhappy being married to him. Stella tells Philip over and over again that she loves him she married him not Ward. Also Philip acts very peculiar at the steel mill- all day he does nothing but work on his crossword puzzle then when Stella comes he has the other board members come into his office and he is unkind to them leaving one of the men who had been with the company for thirty years to resign.
            One night Philip invites Ward over for dinner without telling Stella. He did this purposely to see her reaction when she sees Ward. Philip offers Ward a job as engineer in the mill and Ward accepts. Behind all this Philip has a plan to catch them in whatever act he thinks his wife and friend are doing together. Philip says that he has to go away for a few days leaving Stella and Ward alone together. Ward questions Stella about Philip he knows that something is wrong with his friend. Stella vehemently denies there is anything wrong but the next day she confesses she feels like Philip is trying to kill her love. Ward takes Stella out for dinner at a hotel he used to frequent. Philip walks in and sees them at dinner together.
            A riot occurs at the steel mill causing Philip to become nervous and sick. After he recuperates Ward lets him know that a man died after he fell into molten metal. You can see the light go off in Philip’s head when he hears this. He has Ward take him over to the mill where the molten metal is poured. He plans to kill Ward and almost does but he is still not right and the plan fails. Ward noticed what Philip was trying to do and quits his job.
            Stella begins to fear for herself and for Philip. She now sees what is happening to her husband. One night he puts his hands around her neck as if to choke her. Stella runs to her room, lays in her bed to make as if she is asleep until Philip goes to his room then when all is quiet she quickly packs a few things and runs for her life. Stella goes to London where Ward is. Philip calls at the hotel looking for his wife but Ward tells him that there is no way Stella is going back to him. Ward says that he was offered a job in Dublin and has to be there in the morning when Philip asks him to come to the house so they can talk. Philip convinces Ward to stop by since the house is along the way. Ward does not know that Philip got him the job in Dublin and what his former best friend has in store for him.
            Philip’s plan for Ward works perfectly. Ward is put into jail for something he did not do. Stella feels helpless she can do nothing to help Ward until a doctor from France comes to her. The doctor tells her that two years ago Philip had been in a psychiatric until under the name of Andrews but he escaped. The doctor says that Philip had some disturbing issues that he was the type of man to write his actions down. Luckily Philip kept journals. Stella and the doctor find Philip’s last journal in time to save Ward.
            So this is a suspense story and it really is I liked it I felt tense watching the events unfold. But as I said at the beginning Robert Montgomery did not give a very good performance. He was flat line reading his part. You can totally tell he did not put any effort whatsoever into his role. It is a shame because the character needed some emotion and feeling behind it and Montgomery did none of that whatsoever. Also his performance is a shame because Ingrid Bergman was excellent and so was George Sanders. Both actors made up for Montgomery really. Bergman was still new to Hollywood she had yet to become a superstar. The woman was just so ridiculously talented. I am so used to Sanders playing the slimy bad guy that seeing him as the good guy was surprising but very nice to see. The more I see Sanders the more I like him and see his range.
            I must/have to talk about Ingrid Bergman’s costumes in the film. MGM’s most famous costume designer Adrian made Bergman’s clothes. Ingrid Bergman looked incredible I think this is her best costumed film. In her other films the costumes seem to accentuate how tall and broad she was but in Adrian’s dresses she looked incredible, the clothes looked like they were fitted for her just right she did not look big or broad at all. Adrian was a brilliant and outrageously talented designer and after seeing his dresses for this film I can see why Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and so many other actresses at MGM only wanted to wear Adrian gowns; he made them look so good.
            Rage in Heaven is not a terribly bad film. I really liked it. I just wish Robert Montgomery had put some effort into his role. I do not know why he did not like making this film but unfortunately it shows and takes away from the film a little. Unfortunately, I do believe it is his performance that keeps this film from being better known and that is not fair to Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders since they were great. Besides Montgomery Rage in Heaven has a good story that does keep you in suspense.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Sound of Music (1965)

“I can't seem to stop singing wherever I am. And what's worse, I can't seem to stop saying things - anything and everything I think and feel.” 

            The Sound of Music is a film, much like The Wizard of Oz, that I have been watching ever since I was little. I cannot remember the first time I had seen either films but I just remember them being a part of my childhood. The Sound of Music is one of the most perfect film ever made. No matter your mood it the musical numbers just lift your spirits and put a smile on your face. The story, though based on some facts, is like a fairytale- a young woman wants to become a nun but she is not doing too well at it, she becomes a governess, the children try to chase her away but they soon fall in love with her as well as their strict father, she and the father fall in love and marry, then a problem arises and the new family has to run for their lives, and finally they all live happily ever after.
            Every time I sit through The Sound of Music I watch it with new eyes and ears. A few years ago when the 40th Anniversary Edition was released and my mom bought it I was still watching it as a musical and not paying so much attention to the direction or acting or sets or costumes and such. Before tonight I had not seen this film in years. I babysit for a four year old girl and she is obsessed with the film at the moment so we watched it together. I had such a great time really sitting through The Sound of Music and paying attention to the acting and everything. The musical numbers were just as fantastic as I remembered them. My favorite ones are “I have Confidence”, “Favorite Things”, and “The Lonely Goatherd”.
            The entire cast is perfection. Julie Andrews was wonderful as Maria, she was the character I cannot imagine anyone else playing her (apparently Paramount bought the rights to the story in the 1950s and they wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Maria!! Thank god that never happened!!). Christopher Plummer was so handsome! He completely fit the role of a stern navy captain who ran his house like he did his ships. Andrews and Plummer balanced each other out well- she had this innocent look to her and he was sharp and sarcastic. The children were all great. Most of them being so young they did an incredible job. Eleanor Parker as Baroness Schraeder deserves so much more credit than is given to her. I have never seen Parker outside this role but she was awesome. I love the bite she brought to the character she fit the role.
            . The Sound of Music is such a well made film all around from the music, costumes, sets, actors, director, screenplay, and everything in between. It is one of a few films that I can watch any time and just love the more I see it

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Man Godfrey (1936)

“Godfrey loves me, he put me in the shower!”

            My Man Godfrey is the quintessential 1930s screwball comedy. I cannot think of one thing that is wrong with this film it is a perfect comedy. Nothing is overdone or too much. The dialogue is fantastically witty, quick, and clever.  
            A young woman named Cornelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) walks into the city dump. She is dressed lavishly in diamonds and a beautiful gown. Cornelia comes from a wealthy family and she and her sister Irene (Carole Lombard) are part of a rich man’s version of a scavenger hunt. The person who brings back a Forgotten Man gets the top prize. Cornelia meets Godfrey (William Powell) and offers him five dollars. Godfrey says something to her that scares her and puts her in his place. Irene comes around and she is sweet unlike her sister. She pretty much drags Godfrey along and she wins the hunt. To thank him Irene offers him a job as their butler in the Fifth Ave apartment. As soon as her mother (played by Alice Brady) comes on screen we know Godfrey is for a crazy time.
            The next morning Godfrey meets the Bullock’s maid. She has been with the family for several years and warns Godfrey what he is getting into. Even before he walks up the stairs to bring Mrs. Bullock her drink he sees that Mr. Bullock is friends with the process server who frequents the house after the girls have had too much fun on nights out (this time Cornelia broke some windows). The maid walks in at the same time to inform that a man is in the kitchen looking for his horse Irene stole the previous night and some money she owes him. When Mr. Bullock asks where the horse is the maid points to the living room! Godfrey’s second dose of the family is when he brings Mrs. Bullock her tomato juice. Mrs. Bullock is hysterically hung over from the party. The maid warned Godfrey that Mrs. Bullock says that she sees fairies after a rough night. Sure enough the woman is seeing fairies which are from light reflecting from a glass lamp onto the ceiling. The next room he goes to is Cornelia’s but she screams at him to get out and throws things at him. The last room is Irene’s. Irene is so happy to see Godfrey she kisses him. He freaks out a little and returns downstairs. It seems as though he going to leave but, the maid had put his suitcase, hat and coat by the door, but he is going to stick the family out. He asks the maid what kind of family he is up against and she flatly tells him that she cannot answer some questions.
            As the days and weeks roll on Godfrey sees just how nuts the Bullock family really is. The nuttiness mostly comes from Irene and her mother. Mrs. Bullock spends her time with her protégée Carlo who is a musician. Irene tells Godfrey he is her protégée and wants to help him in whatever he needs. She worships Godfrey with the biggest crush anyone can have for another person. Godfrey ignores Irene but the more he does she gets sulkier and upset and her crush grows even more. So upset about Godfrey not liking her that at a party she announces she is getting engaged to man she does not really like. This is just one of many engagements she has gone through. Also at the party Godfrey runs into an old friend named Tommy Gray. Through Tommy we find out that Godfrey comes from a rich Boston family and attended Harvard. Godfrey tells his old friend that a girl had really broken his heart and he went to end his life by the dump but he saw the men at the barge and became friends with them.
            A few months later Godfrey is still the Bullock’s butler. Irene and Cornelia went to Europe for a few months so Irene could get over her recent broken engagement. She is upset with her butler because he was not as happy as she expected him to be upon her return. Irene confesses to Godfrey that she loves him and he says that he likes her as well but it could never be.
            In the end Godfrey winds up helping the family out in a big way. Irene states that everyone in the world knows that he is love with her except for him and has someone marry them.
            After seeing this film I can finally see why Carole Lombard was known as the Queen of Screwballs. She was hysterical from beginning to end. I read that the character of Irene was supposed to be in her mid-teens and that is how Lombard played her (even though she was around twenty-eight at the time). Her faces alone made me laugh they were so funny. William Powell was just marvelous. He was great at the straight man to all the insanity around him. Powell really is what makes this film he was the calm in the middle of a crazy storm. Alice Brady as Mrs. Bullock was a panic. Mrs. Bullock is the type of character that would drive me nuts in any other film but Brady played her perfectly and all her lines were so subtle and witty. Gail Patrick was beautiful. Cornelia was a spoiled rich girl, the type of character Patrick usually played. The character gets under your skin very very slightly but in the end you can forgive her. I could not get over the fact that Gail Patrick was twenty-five when she made this film—I am the same age I wish I could look like that!
            The best scene in the whole film is when Irene pretends to have one of her fainting spells. Godfrey takes her up to her room and puts her on her bed. As he is looking for some smelling salts on her vanity he sees her sit up then lay quickly back down. Now he is onto her game so he plays back. He picks her up, put her in the shower and turns the water on! Irene jumps up and her parents hear. When the mother comes in Irene proclaims “Godfrey loves me he put me in the shower!” The she jumps all over her room singing out that Godfrey loves her. I was dying laughing through the whole scene. This is when I finally saw Carole Lombard as the Queen of Screwballs.
            My Man Godfrey is one of the best comedies ever made. It is everything that makes 1930s Screwball Comedies the best: the writing is clever, the actors are top notch, the director (in this case Gregory La Cava) keeps excellent pace with the writing and the actors, and it is wrapped up in social commentary without throwing them in the viewer’s face. My Man Godfrey and Screwball films like it, leaves me wishing that comedy films and actors could be this way again where everything about it is just perfect and completely enjoyable.