The musical was dead by the time 1933 came around, and 42nd Street came around and brought it back. And with that, the 30’s into the very early 40’s became pretty much the greatest time to make a musical (see Swing Time, Holiday Inn, Wizard of Oz, Meet Me In St. Louis, etc. ect.).
With some great song and dance numbers, a phenomenal visual twist and some wonderful direction by Lloyd Bacon, 42nd Street is an absolute joy to watch.
The movie is about director Julian Marsh putting on one last show for money. Or before he dies at least. What goes on behind the scenes (or stage) forms the backbone of the movie, until we get to a wonderful ending in where they perform 20 minutes worth of numbers, which are Shuffle Off To Buffalo, You’re Beginning To Be a Habit With Me, Young and Healthy, and of course, 42nd Street.
Being a pre-code, you get plenty of racy shots, scandalous actions, and some pretty witty dialogue. Take, for example, the beautiful Miss Ginger Rogers:
“I really had a charming Summer in Dover, my dear,” she says.
“Yes, but don’t you find Sir George impossible at times?” her friend asks.
“Get a load of Minnie the Mountaineer,” another woman says to Ginger, in which she replies with:
“It must have been tough on your mother not having any children.”
Costumes and set design may not have been a highlight (as they tended to be in other 30’s movies) but some very ironic direction covered that up. The movie is a preparation for a stage show, about what went on behind the stage, yet every act in the last 20 minutes was made like it was preparing itself to be part of a movie.
And some might find the plot for the play they perform problematic. That ain’t the point though. Let yourself get sucked into those numbers and those wonderful visuals, and you’ll begin to understand what the point of that play was.
Think about it. The Great Depression. The musical was a dying genre, and Warner Bros. goes and spends $439,000 on a musical. And off of tickets that were worth as low as 10 cents and as high as 50 cents, it made more than $2.5 million. Incredible, isn’t it?
I watched this movie within the same 12 hour time span and laughed at all the same jokes and picked up a new appreciation for the picture on the second viewing. I noticed things that I didn’t notice the first time around. I had a better understanding of everything that went on. And I just plain enjoyed it. Trouble in Paradise is funny, touching, and sophisticated.
Directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch, the picture stars Gaston Monescu (played by Herbert Marshall) as a thief who meets the love of his life…in another thief, Lily (Miriam Hopkins). They plan to steal, like the thieves they are, from rich business head Colet (Kay Francis) but things go awry with their plans when Monescu falls in love.(?)
This is a pre-code movie, and how sneaky and subtle they were! Even in the opening credits, they try to joke around with sex and jokes along those lines. It starts with two words on a title: “Trouble in…” and then a picture of a bed. It takes another couple of seconds for them to put, in big letters, the word “Paradise”. In another sequence, Colet and Monescu are embracing and saying how much time they have for love: “Weeks…months…years” and each time, the camera switches to another object until they reach the bed, and a silhouette of them can be seen on it just as they say “years”.
But it’s not at all in your face. Lubitsch takes the source material with wit. There are great lines, both plain or tinged with double entendres. It’s an ultimate cocktail of screwball mixups and situations infused with the highest form of wit.
And it has a great cast of supporting characters in Edward Everett Horton and Charles Ruggles, who try their hardest to win the love of Miss Colet…but failing attempt after attempt. “Positively tonsils!”
I always thought the 30’s were a fantastic period, if not the best, for the Classic Hollywood age. From set design to costumes to posters to stars to script, productions are the fanciest and most well thought out things. They are beautiful in every aspect.
I looked over my reviews just a few minutes ago and found out that I wrote my review for Swingtime on May 21st. That was almost two months ago. And, with that in mind, I haven’t enjoyed a movie (that wasn’t noir) this much since Swingtime. Sure, I gave pictures like The Longest Day four stars. But, Libeled Lady is gold.
Just look at the billing. You can’t get much better than that. Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy. Enough stars to match the ratings it should be get.
Haggerty (Tracy), on his wedding night to his fiance Gladys (Harlow) had accidentally printed a false story about one of the richest gals in the country; Connie Allenbury (Loy). She’s about to make a case of libel for $5 Million dollars…unless Haggerty can make that story he printed come true. He recruits Bill Chandler (Powell) to romance Connie while being legally married to Gladys in order to screw everybody over and save his company.
Maybe my summary isn’t very good at getting things across, but just sit down and watch the movie. The misfires, the mistakes, the confusion, and the miscommunication all add up to be one of the most frantic, funny, and downright enjoyable screwball comedies I’ve seen.
I think the picture belongs to William Powell. Everyone turned in great performances; but the picture rests on Powell’s shoulders, and he more than delivers. His chemistry with every character and big supporting player is witty and convincing and is enough to sell the movie. It’s because of him that every ridiculous turn and misfortune works out in the end.
Especially commendable is Harlow and their chemistry, which I thought was the best of the bunch, with the chemistry between Powell and Tracy coming in a close second. The acting in their scenes switches faster than Katherine Hepburn can speak (credit to my sister who gave me that line).
And it’s funny. It’s incredibly funny. The situations are so predictable. But what made it great was that we still laughed at it. There weren’t many surprises, true, but the execution nevertheless was phenomenal. We still enjoyed ourselves to no end and laughed all the way to closing because it was just that great.
Winner of 7 Oscars at the 1946 Academy Awards (it beat Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra, and It’s A Wonderful Life), including Best Director (Wyler), Best Actor (March), and Best Picture, the Best Years of Our Lives is a love letter to all the veterans who fought in the war.
Perfectly released (perfectly, as in 1946, the year most veterans returned to American shores) and just plain beautiful are the words that I feel are best to describe the picture. Starring Dana Andrews (who was really cheated out of that Best Actor Oscar), Frederich March (winner), Myrna Loy, Harold Russell (an untrained actor who won TWO Oscars that night), Teresa Wright, and Virginia Mayo, and directed by William Wyler (winner).
Fred Derry (Andrews, my favorite role he was in), Al Stephenson (March), and Homer Parrish (Russell) are returning home to their friends and family, their wives, children, girlfriends, whoever it concerns really. Only to find that while they were away, everything has changed without them. They struggle to get back within the steps of their normal lives, but, as one Virgina Mayo asks later in the film, are “the best years of our lives gone?”
Fred returns to a loveless marriage, a party girl who doesn’t care for a soda jerk on a paycheck of $32.50 a week. Al comes back to his family, but he can’t help but feel that his family has grown up and moved on without him. Homer has lost his hands and pushes everyone close to him as far away as emotionally possible. He can’t stand their pity, even with his own overflowing.
If anything bothered me at all, it was with Homer Parrish. Harold Russell, the actor, really did lose his hands in the war, and Wyler cast him. Every tear on screen is a tear he cried without acting, but his character is trying to push the pity of his family away, while pumping in his own self-pity into every scene he’s in.
Yet again, this is a three hour picture, but it does justice to all the people who suffered in there and more. It is very American, a picture that applies to everyone today as it did back in 1946. It’s long, but that’s not to stop you. It’s a drama, but it isn’t overly dramatic. These characters are ordinary, in average everyday life problems, boosted by the change the world has gone through.
To quote Roger Ebert, “The homefront is also not without its casualties.”
In keeping up with my favorite war films, and not having enough time to do so yesterday, I’ve decided to follow up with more recommendations of some of my favorites (apart from what I wrote yesterday).
The Great Escape (1963) is obviously up there (though, with all due respect, I prefer Bridge on the River Kwai) if you know me. I’m a huge Steve McQueen fan, and with the all star cast (which includes James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough, etc.) and fantastic director John Sturges (the Magnificent Seven), you really can’t go wrong.
It tells the semi-true story of mostly American POW’s who are trapped in a German prison camp. Their goal is to waste as much time, manpower, and resources of the Nazis in a breakout attempt. You’d think that escaping would be the number one goal, but it isn’t.
The movie is about three hours long, as are all great war movies it seems (Saving Private Ryan, Bridge on the River Kwai, the Longest Day, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Patton, etc.). In those three hours, it can get repetitive and somewhat anti-climactic, but there are just some wonderful moments that you can’t not enjoy it.
Steve McQueen’s ride through the country and the escape itself come to mind immediately, and while it’s historically inaccurate and very long, it is nevertheless one of the most enjoyable POW movies I’ve seen.
Somewhat cheated at the Oscars, I feel at least. The picture turned McQueen into an overnight star, and should have at least gotten a best art-direction, best director, and best actor nod, along with the obvious Best Picture.
In honor of Memorial Day, I decided to watch 1962’s World War II epic, The Longest Day. It’s definitely long, and it’s definitely enjoyable to watch, with an ensemble cast, great recreations of the battles, and a gigantic scope of all of D-Day from every side of the participants.
The story concerns many real life soldiers and officers portrayed by an all-star cast (John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, etc.) in one of the most popularized battle of the war, D-Day. It is multilingual, portraying many of the countries in the battle from their different languages.
The script doesn’t really go in depth with these soldiers, rather, it goes into the entire scope of the battle. There are some inconsistencies, though it is still incredibly enjoyable to watch. The highlight? A tracking shot of the French running through the streets of Ouistreham into heavy Axis fire.
I enjoyed the picture a lot. It drew me in and let the three hours slide by like it was literally nothing, even without an incredibly compelling adventure before them. We know the ending of the story and how the battle turns out, but that doesn’t detract from anything.
Fred meets Ginger in a cute misunderstanding, Fred starts dancing with Ginger, Ginger falls in love with Fred, Ginger confuses Fred with someone else, thinking he’s some sort of cheating, lying snob, but then they dance some more, clear up the misunderstanding, and love each other again.
This is the normal plot for the Fred and Ginger movies (or so far the ones that I’ve seen). I saw The Gay Divorcee first. It was pleasant, but the entire thing didn’t exactly catch me. I saw Top Hat and wasn’t exactly crazy about it either, possibly because the mix up was carried out longer than necessary in my opinion and the feathers didn’t seem to help either. But when I thought that would be the case in Swing Time…I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
I thought it would be another “yell at the screen until they get together” farce for me, but I sat patiently through this one, and when I saw the first dance scene, I was sold. The songs, including the Oscar winning “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Never Gonna Dance” were tunes that haven’t left my head and the dancing was so incredibly well done, but I won’t dare touch upon that because it’s Fred and Ginger we’re talking about.
What I also loved about all the Fred and Ginger movies was the production design. The costumes are phenomenal (feathers Fred! Feathers!), the sets are gorgeous, everything is meant to be loved here.
It’s romantic and funny and had the wit that Top Hat seemed to have missed out on. It’s lovely and will make the viewer feel incredibly happy, and, is probably my favorite musical at the moment.
Here we are folks, the true best picture winner of 1997, the true Oscar sweeper, one of my all time favorite noirs and one of my all time favorite movies: L.A. Confidential.
Three cops, Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce), Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) and Bud White (Russell Crowe) get caught up in the murder of six victims in a cafe by an unknown murderer (or murderers?) and try to untangle a complicated web of double crossing, murder, drugs, and smut in order to find out who is corrupting the government and taking over LA’s crime scene in 1953.
In my opinion, everything in this movie is brilliant. The characters are what drew me to liking the entire thing; everyone has their good points (Bud White and his crusade to save women from wife beaters) and their bad points (Exley’s vicious ambition); and every single person has their own sick, obsessed brand of justice.
The plotting is dense; there’s information let out in every scene and literally everything adds up in the end. There are not plot holes, no flaws in logic, no inconsistencies, and any questions can be answered literally by just watching it again.
Have you ever had a movie that makes your heart pound even after you’re done watching it? Well, this, to me, is one of those movies.
From the “French Hitchcock”, Henri-Georges Clouzot (who directed Les Diabolique) comes the Wages of Fear, about four men who are desperate to get out of their dirt poor south American country. In comes a greedy American oil company that employs these no names to transport nitroglycerin (which can explode at any time with enough pressure) across 300 miles of rocky road and mountainous terrain.
If there’s any complaint to be had, it’s the beginning. It literally takes an hour to build up to the time they get on the road, and while I think a good deal of it is unnecessary, the wait is well worth it. Once they get on the road, it is an absolute, non-stop, white-knuckle thrill ride with an ironic twist. The characters aren’t exactly likable, and Vera Clouzot (magnificent in Les Diabolique) is a piece of furniture here, with no character and no reason to be on screen except to be insulted by the people there. Thankfully, she’s not there for long.
It’s dark, incredibly cruel, suspenseful, and even anti-American in some parts, but that doesn’t take away from the experience of having a few tons of nitroglycerin in your back pocket and having to go across a lake of oil to get to the next checkpoint.
Film noir. I can give you so many reasons why I love everything about the world, and this is probably one of the best reasons.
Out of the Past is a 1947 picture starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas. It is considered the “archetypal film noir” (though, to me, Double Indemnity steals the title) because of it’s extremely convoluted plot, corruptible lead, hard-boiled dialogue, multiple crimes and double crosses, shadowy cinematography, and probably one of the best femme fatales of the time period.
Jane Greer is probably the reason why I enjoyed this so much. To me, while Double Indemnity is the classic example of a perfect film noir, Kathy Moffet takes the prize over Phyllis Dietrichson and Brigid O’Shaughnessy.
Jacques Tourneur’s direction is spotless, Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas give in perfect performances and the script is very clever. Overly confusing, but that only gives more of a reason to watch it a few times over.
My Man Godfrey (1936) is a screwball romantic comedy starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. Irene (Lombard) gives Godfrey (Powell) a job “buttling” for the upper class during the depression.
Its obvious how satirical it is by making fun of how much time the upper class socialites have and what they tend to do with it. It pokes fun at money and social problems of the upper class, and what makes it funny are the screwball antics and wonderful script. Lombard and Powell, divorced three years earlier, made the picture together. Nominated for six Oscars (NOT including Best Picture, shame shame).
I guess I’m trying to get a bit fancier with my recommendations, using nine pictures instead of one, huh?
Well, after about two days of sitting through the nearly four hour long epic biblical tale “Ben-Hur”, I can only say that it is nothing but entertainment from the time the credits introduce everyone to the big “The end”, when everything comes together. I cannot tell you through my crappy recommendations just how absolutely amazing the picture was, and I’m slightly afraid that everything I say—if you care to read this that is—will be just on how great it is and how much I enjoyed it. So I will try to stray away.
Put simply, this is probably one of the most entertaining movies that I’ve ever seen. Of the relatively few that I’ve seen, that is, so take my word with a grain of salt.
The story concerns one Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince brought to Rome to see his childhood friend Marsala, only to find out that Marsala, a tribune, has traded his loyalty to his friends for power and ambition. Marsala tries to persuade Judah to give the names of Jewish rebels for execution, but Judah resists, flees, and is imprisoned for what Marsala believes will quiet whatever rebels there may be.
At the same time, a parallel story is being told in the form of Jesus Christ, where Judah meets him in crucial parts of the story.
Everything about this movie is almost perfect. Charlton Heston gives in a powerhouse performance, which is expected of course, especially coming from one of the most honored directors in history, Mr. William Wyler, who is known for extracting the absolute best performances from his actors (I mean, seriously, Bette Davis was fantastic in The Letter, Dana Andrews deserved an Oscar for the Best Years of Our Lives, Ruth Chatterton was phenomenal in Dodsworth, etc. etc.).
The set design, the costumes, the score, and the lovely story are at the heart of it, and though it is remembered for its Chariot scene, the one that I’ll remember the most is Ben-Hur’s first meeting with Jesus and his last meeting at the cross.
Shot in 1959, made on a budget of 15 million dollars and grossing four times that amount at the box office, and if that wasn’t enough, going on to win a record breaking eleven Oscars, Ben-Hur is epic in pretty much every aspect; its budget, its running time, its sets, and yes, epic in terms of how much you’ll enjoy it.
I love Buster Keaton. I love his comedy, his movies, his acting. Almost everything.
Our Hospitality is a darkly funny movie, which starts off as more of a dramatic picture and seems more of a serious role for Mr. Keaton, but isn’t completely. It has moments of hilarious slapstick (particularly when he’s about to leave the house and starts to play with the dog).
The movie is about a feud between the McKay’s and the Canfield’s over the death of their family members at each others hands. Keaton plays a boy who is sent to take over his family estate and encounters these people on the way. Throughout the movie, he is trying to stay alive and inside the Canfield house without getting shot, and leads to quite a few of amusing moments.
Like, for instance, when he’s about to go out of the house at the end of the first day. He looks around the house, shakes one of the son’s, shakes the father’s hand, shakes the other son’s hand, shakes his sweetheart’s hand, shakes the father’s hand again, and then tosses his hat under the seat, saying how he can’t find it, and then starts to make the dog jump through circles he made with his arm, and as he goes to the door and looks back, you can see the family reaching into their vest pockets to shoot him as soon as he leaves the building.
Sorry for all the love for the Thin Man on everybody’s dash, but, as for my opinion, it is wonderful.
Fantastically witty William Powell (in an Oscar nominated performance, well deserved) and gorgeous Myrna Loy star as Nick and Nora Charles, upper class socialites who drink constantly and exchange some very clever banter. Their chemistry isamazing.
Together they solve the mystery of Clyde Wynant, a man gone missing and accused of bumping off several other people for which he had the perfect motive to carry out. The action carries out with some very amusing situations and lines (Like, for instance, “Would you put that gun away? My wife doesn’t mind but I’m a very timid fellow.”)
Given B movie treatment but nominated for four Oscars (Best Actor, Director, Writer and Picture, for which it lost all four to It Happened One Night), The Thin Man is an exciting, well acted and very funny.
Screw what other people say, William Powell and Myrna Loy were definitely married in real life.