Sunday, March 13, 2011

Destry Rides Again, Grade B+

Director George Marshall
Awards: Not that I know of--but it could be said it is deserving of some

Cast: Marlene Dietrich; James Stewart; Mischa Auer; Charles Winninger; Brian Donleay; Allen Jenkins; Warren Hymer; Irene Hervey; Una Merkel; Billy Gilbert; Samuel S Hinds; Jack Carson; Tom Fadden; Virginai Brissac; Edmund MacDonald
Jimmy Stewart stars as Tom Destry, a tough lawman who believe in 'THE LAW' and who doesn't like guns.  His arrival in the town of BOTTLENECK could pose a problem when a saloon owner (Brian Donleay) and a corrupt mayor plan to rob the local cowpokes blind, with the help of crooked waitress "Frenchy" (Marlene Dietrich). 
sez says: this is a wildly entertaining movie, it takes unexpected twist and turns--esp when it comes to the role of women in this community.  There is a scene like no other I have ever seen in an American  western of this era--in which two women get in a knock-down drag-em-out fight in a bar room and it is not little tiff.  It is a full scale bar fight. Wild! ANd in the end, when the men begin shooting it out, the women march in, with brooms and sticks and rakes and put an end to the shooting (men won't shoot at women, evidently) and become the deciding force in the battle.
That "Destry" wants to uphold the law without guns is a progressive concept--but it falls apart when at last shooting is required.  So much for high-minded ideas.
The acting is fun too. I'm not big fan of Dietrich style:  but I can appreciate her role in film and find her fascinating to watch (plus she has a couple really snazzy costumes in this film!) Jimmy Stewart is fun and a perfect casting for Tom Destry.
Really enjoyable all round and recommended

Friday, February 4, 2011

Letter of Introduction, 1938 ( Grade D)

Director John Stah;
Awards? None I know of
Cast: Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, George Murphy, Edgar Bergen, Rita Johnson, Ann Sheridan, Ernest Cossart, Frank Jenks, Eve Arden, Mark Daniels

plot summary: the bastard daughter of famous actor shows up in NY wanting to act...Dad doesn't know of her existence but she has a letter from her mom introducing her to her dad.  Dad is glad to meet her--sort-of--but can't bare to tell the world he is a father of a young woman who is the same age as the woman he is about to marry (his 4th wife).  If people knew his real age it might hurt his career.
So dad/daughter keep their true connection a secret--resulting in lots of rumors about them and --and of course their respective  fiancees misread the relationship and abandon them.  
Eventually dad plans to tell the world he has a wonderful daughter--at an important event-- but he gets drunk and blows it.  He then gets hit by a car and before he can tell the reporters the truth he dies.  The faithful daughter won't tell after he is dead because she doesn't want to sully his name.  there is not a woman in the story who does not live entirely for Her Man

sez says: This movie is as bad as the plot sounds.  I've certainly seen worse movies--but not a whole lot of them.  This is of a TYPE of story that was common in the 1930's-- that is, a story in which a single secret (ie we are father and daughter) is not shared publicly--and it is the central element in the plot that makes the story go.   If the fact that they were father/daughter had been known none of the problems in the story would exist...I really mean NONE at all. These are very hard to watch today becasue the keeping of the 'secret' seems absurd. 

mjc: I just wanted HER to spit it out: "I am his daughter, not his latest".

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dark Victory, 1939 (Grade C+)

Director: Edmund Goulding
Any Awards? On the AFI Top 100 Passion Movies and nominated for academy awards
CAST: Betty Davis; Humphrey Bogart; George Brent; Geraldine Fitzgerald; Ronald Regan; Henry Travers; Cora Witherspoon;  Dorothy Peterson; Virginia Brissac; Charles Richman;  Herbert Rawlinson; Leonard Mudie; Fay Helm
plot summary:  Long Island socialite Judith Traherne (Bette Davis), enjoys her wealth -- and engages in a full life of free-flowing booze, parties galore, and raising thoroughbreds.  But when a horse-jumping accident forces her to come to terms with her failing vision -- she discovers she is mortal.  A handsome doctor (George Brent) discovers that Judith suffers from a potentially fatal brain tumor...things don't go exactly where you expect from there.   
sez says: I sure like the wardrobe --and there were a lot of walk on by people who later became famous...not a great old movie but then, not a bad one either

mjc says -- selfless dying woman lets her husband go off as her eye site dims--a reminder of how terminal illness was treated in the old days... ie: don't talk about it.

Goodbye Mr. Chips, 1939 )Grade C)

Director: Sam Wood
Any Awards?  nominated for and won various academy awards
CAST:  Robert Donat; Greer Garson; Terry Kilburn; John Mills; Paul Henreid: Judith Furse; Lyn Harding
PLOT SUMMARY: This 1939 classic is based on a book by James Hilton. It has been made into movies three times, this being the first. It follows one Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) from his start as an struggling, and only partially successful professor, teaching at the prestigious Brookfield school to, years later, his role as the beloved schoolmaster.  
sez says:  My how British....even so a sweet diverting movie...but no doubt more difficult from us Americans to relate to than it would be for Brits who have had their lives shaped by boarding schools.  
mjc says:  I am not sure but I think this is a glimpse into the British Public School education--its temptations and limitations.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Love Affair, 1939 (Grade C+)

Director: Leo MCarey
Any Awards?  nominated for lots of Academy Awards but I don't thik it won any
Cast: Charles Boyer; Irene Dunn; Maria Oupenskaya; Lee Bowman; Astrid Allwyn; Maurice Moscovitch

PLOT SUMMARY: While on an ocean cruise, strangers Michel Marnet (Charles Boyer) and Terry McKay (Irene Dunne) are instantly taken with each other. Unfortunately, they're both engaged to other people, so they promise to reunite in six months to see if their passion still burns. En route to the reunion, Terry is crippled in a car accident, heightening the drama of this Oscar-nominated romance.

sez says: Playboy falls for a young woman who has promised herself to a rich man..neither love their intended-and they grow increasingly found of each other.  What a sappy swamp this turns into. But to be together they will have to give up the things their rich fiances will provide. The point being that they care for each other more than they want the money. Then she is hit by a car and crippled trying to get to him on the day they planned to meet to confirm their love.  She loves him too much to tell him she is crippled, and to force him into a life of taking care of her. ... oh my, what an over the top gusher this is -- I guess you could do anything during the Great Depression that tried to convince people that what REALLY MATTERED wasn't money...  And what a lot of hooey. I  wonder if stuff like this ended making people feel their real life love interests were not up to snuff. But still well acted and a rather famous movie--do I';ll give it its due -- but wow, what tripe.

mjc says: It is no wonder that the romance NY permeates our culture when movies like this celebrate the streets and the skyline as places for lovers to meet.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Star Is Born, 1937 (Grade B)

-DIRECTOR:  William A Wellman 
Any Awards? Yes, numberous Academy Awards, and AFI Top 100 List 
Cast: Janet Gaynor; Fredric March; Adolphe Menjou 

story (SPOILER ALERT) --young woman in Dakotas does not want to spend her life in dulls-ville.  Grandma slips her the $ to go to Hollywood and follow her dream. With no training but a sweet and pure personality our little miss makes it big.  Her 'big chance' comes via a drunken/famous actor who recognizes in her 'something special' --and eventually, once he agrees to quite drinking, they get married but not before his drinking has destroyed his career.  
She loves him truly--and he loves her truly --and it is all very, very sad. She is now supporting him and so he takes to drinking again.  She is going to give up her career to nurse him--but he can't have that--so he commits suicide.  She is is so down trodden by his death that she is going to give up her career. But in the nick-of-time grandma appears and says something like: "I told you to follow your dreams that you'd have to put up with pain and suffering.  And now it is time to prove your worth and not disappoint your fans", etc.. So our sweet and lovely STAR bravely goes back to work 

Sez says:  We are currently watching ALL the versions of this movie that have been made.  This may well be the best one. It is a lot better than I expected it to be. You can see reviews of the others via a search on the title. 
The story is predictable and past silly in places.  I guess any female that is sweet and nice can be a star even with no training in her field at all.   But it does deal with alcoholism in a more realistic way than anything else I've seen from this era.  And the acting is good. (Grade B)

MJC Says:  Great script via Dorothy Parker and pals..principles did their jobs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pygmalion, 1938, (Grade B-)

Director Leslie Howard and Anthony Asquith
Awards, Numberous Academy Awards in 1939
Cast:  Wendy Hiller; Leslie Howard; Wilifrid Lawson

sez says: the screenplay is by George Bernard Shaw--and it shows, esp toward the end, when Doolittle and Higgins unite.  Shaw's abhorrence of 'middle class morals' holds sway.  We don't very often see adults come together as housemates without marriage as is implied will happen here.  We all know this story.  It is faithfully portrayed -- and the acting is 1st rate. (It is not, like My Fair Lady, the musical, which is the same story with a lot more glitter and with much less of Shaw's philosophical footing).  I found the depiction of the working class to be especially interesting, their morals are not depicted as being better than the middle classes' - -but they are rational in their own right.  And Howard plays Higgins to a tee--a self involved bohemian who is unable to see himself as others see him. He is rude and abrupt and lacks concern about the feelings of others--while he sees himself as caring and needlessly polite.  Fun stuff..but not necessarily a great movie.