Monday, November 19, 2012

Three Smart Girls (1936)

This was a delightful, pleasant surprise.  The three titular girls are living with their mother in Switzerland when they learn that their father, whom they haven’t seen in ten years, is getting remarried in New York.  They sail to America in the hopes of breaking off the engagement and reuniting their parents.  Like any romantic comedy, misunderstandings lead to amusing situations, but it’s a very sweet and clever movie.  I found my self laughing out loud several times.  I’d love to see it again.

48 to go…

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Razor's Edge (1946)

Director Edmund Goulding’s The Razor’s Edge is a well-made, but ultimately forgettable film on the résumés of celebrities known for other projects.  Guilding isn't well-known, but he also directed the Bette Davis film Dark Victory and the best picture winner Grand Hotel.

It’s based on the novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham (better known for Of Human Bondage) and follows the unrequited relationship of Isabel (Gene Tierney, better known for Laura and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) and Larry (Tyrone Power, better know for Witness for the Prosecution and The Mask of Zorro).  Larry’s search for greater meaning in life makes him appear to be a poor layabout to those in Isabel’s socialite world.  Isabel can’t get him out of her head even when she marries someone else and doesn't see Larry for a decade.

What did catch my attention was the performance of a mutual friend who loses her husband and child in an accident.  It was Anne Baxter in her Oscar winning performance, though she is better known as Eve in All About Eve.

49 to go…

Friday, September 21, 2012

Crossfire (1947)

This is a short (85 minute), fairly straightforward mystery involving soldiers who may or may not have been involved with the murder of a man they met in a bar on the previous evening.  Robert Mitchum has quite a bit of screen time as the soldier who is friends with the primary suspect, but wants to make sure his pal has time to get his story straight before the police track him down.

It lacks any real suspense, but does include a line I loved.  While interrogating a woman of ill-repute (played by the beautiful Gloria Grahame, best known as Violet in It’s a Wonderful Life) about the whereabouts of one of the soldiers earlier that night, she is very uncooperative and feigning confusion says, “tonight’s a long time ago.”

The best part about this movie is its not-so-subtle statement on Anti-Semitism, an interesting topic considering it was up for best picture against Gentleman’s Agreement.  Here’s a monologue I transcribed that resonates strongly today.  A police officer is explaining how it may now be Jews, but it used to be the Irish who bore the brunt of racism and discrimination and tomorrow it will someone else.  He is talking about his Irish grandfather:

“He thought of himself as just another man living in America… Fear and hatred of all Irish Catholics had developed and spread like a terrible disease.  He saw that he wasn’t an American anymore.  He was a dirty Irish Mick.  A priest lover.  A spy from Rome.  A foreigner trying to rob men of jobs.  He didn’t understand.”

The officer then tells how his father was attacked and killed in a bar the night after helping defend his local parish priest who was being attacked in the street and finishes by saying, “Hating is always the same.  Always senseless.  One day it kill Irish Catholics, the next day Jews.  The next day Protestants.  The next day Quakers.  It’s hard to stop.”

Indeed it is.

50 to go…

Monday, July 23, 2012

Battleground (1949)

Okay, I got lazy for awhile there.  I have watched a few others since my last post, but can't remember now which ones, but I promise the jump in the total is legit - especially as I'm doing this for me, not you.  :)  We also had another 9 best picture nominees from the 2011 class.  I saw most of them in the theater and finally caught up with the rest on DVD.  But on to Battleground!

This is a very solid war movie that creates a cast of flawed and uncertain soldiers who find themselves surrounded during the Battle of the Bulge.  I found it startlingly realistic for coming out just five years after the war.  Though maybe that's the time when we can be the most honest sometimes.  The film doesn't strive to turn them into larger than life heroes, but portrays them as real men who would rather be back home.

No big name stars, but the cast does include Ricardo Montalban (Khan!) and James Whitmore who is best known (to me anyway) as Brooks, the elderly librarian in The Shawshank Redemption.

As a piece of storytelling, it’s a bit clunky, with no real arc or any particular protagonist to follow.  It does, however, work as a feel-good, but not sappy, piece of post WWII Americana.

51 to go...