Polishing up some exciting new projects. GREAT OLD MOVIES will return in July, if not sooner!
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Thursday, May 26, 2022
|Victoria Shaw and Cornel Wilde|
Near the Grand Canyon, Deputy Les Martin (Cornel Wilde of The Naked Prey) pursues a pretty if reckless driver, Janice (Victoria Shaw), distracting him from preventing the horrible murder of an unknown man marked for death. As Les and Janice begin a romance, there are other murders as well, and the County Attorney expects action. Sheriff Edwards (Edgar Buchanan of Lust for Gold) may be forced to ask Les to turn in his badge if he doesn't come up with something. Then Janice innocently gives Les a clue to the first dead man's identity, meaning that her family might even be involved ...
Verdict: This movie is no guano! ***.
|Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage|
Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) is separated from her husband, high school sweetheart Charlie (Nicolas Cage of Ghost Rider), due to his adultery. She has mixed emotions about going to her 25-year high school reunion, but her daughter, Beth (Helen Hunt), importunes her to attend. After being crowned queen, Peggy Sue passes out and wakes up a quarter century in the past. She has an adult mind in a teenager's body! Trying to figure out if she's dead or simply going crazy, she has to determine if she wants to make the same mistakes -- such as marrying Charlie -- that she made before.
Verdict: Well-acted and reasonably entertaining, this is still a perfect example of how Hollywood can screw up fantasy-type movies. **1/4.
|Dick Haymes and Vera-Ellen|
Luisa Molina (Vera-Ellen), daughter of Costa Rican Rico (J. Carrol Naish) and American Elsa (Anne Revere), is told that she is to have an arranged marriage to Pepe Castro (Cesar Romero). For his part Pepe is already in love with the brash Celeste (Celeste Holm), and pretends to Luisa and her parents that he is too sickly to dance, sightsee or do much else that she might enjoy, hoping they will cancel the engagement. While Luisa is contemplating this possible union with a low-energy, half-dead spouse, she meets Jeff Stephens (Dick Haymes), who practically sweeps her off her feet during Carnival. Neither Luisa's or Pepe's parents have a clue to what is going on as everyone tries to do the right thing -- but what is it?
Carnival in Costa Rica is, as the title implies, very colorful and full of music, including a few fairly insipid if inoffensive songs by Levanna and Ruby. There isn't much plot beyond what is described in the paragraph above, so the movie sinks or swims on its musical numbers, which are at least energetic if not terribly inspired, and its performances. Everyone in the cast is more than adequate, but I especially enjoyed Anne Revere, sophisticated and stylish as the mother; Romero, who is as charming as ever; and of course the ever-delightful Fritz Feld as a hotel manager who has an amusing scene with the two fathers in question. Dick Haymes' is fine as an actor, and when he opens his mouth out comes one of the smoothest and most attractive voices in popular music. He knows how to put over a song, too (if only the songs had been a bit better). Little red-headed Tommy Ivo plays Luisa's sister even if he doesn't look much like a Costa Rican. Vera-Ellen's dancing is swell, but this could have used an Astaire or Kelly.
Celeste Holm and Cesar Romero
Verdict: A pleasant and perfectly forgettable musical comedy without enough comedy. **1/4.
|Ben Gazzara and Audrey Hepburn|
Thursday, May 12, 2022
|Olivia De Havilland and Richard Burton|
Philip Ashley (Richard Burton of Becket) has been raised by a man whom he has always considered a brother, a father, and best friend, Ambrose Ashley (John Sutton of The Second Face). Now Ambrose has gone off on a vacation from which he never returns. While in Italy, Ambrose met and married an Italian woman with a possibly shady history. Now Ambrose -- who sent strange letters to his cousin, Philip -- is dead, and his widow is coming to visit the estate Philip will inherit. Rachel Ashley (Olivia De Havilland) seems charming, and Philip becomes smitten with her, but he can't shake the feeling that she may not be quite as sympathetic as she seems. That perhaps she was in some way responsible for his beloved cousin's death ...
My Cousin Rachel is based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier, but it is no Rebecca or The Birds, because while Henry Koster is a workmanlike professional he is no Hitchcock. However, if taken more as a romantic drama and not necessarily a suspense film, Rachel is effective and absorbing and has excellent performances. The casting of de Havilland and Burton may seem strange, as they are both representatives of a very different kind of "Hollywood," with Olivia a product of the studio system and Burton an Angry Young Man of the theater. Still, they work together beautifully, and this is certainly a star-making performance for Burton.
|Audrey Dalton with Burton|
Verdict: Not entirely satisfying, perhaps, but entertaining and well-acted. ***.
|Meg Tilly and Jane Fonda|
|Anne Bancroft and Jane Fonda|
The author of this bio, a life-long De Havilland fan, tracked the actress down in Paris, begged to meet and interview her, and even showed up at de Havilland's doorstep without an invitation (eventually she was invited). Normally I'm very wary of bios written by obsessive fans, questioning their objectivity, but to be fair to Ms. Amador, her portrait of the reclusive Miss De. Havilland seems fair and balanced for the most part. The book looks at the actor's youth, her rather quick ascent in Hollywood, her most famous roles (such as Miss Melanie, of course) and movies, and insightfully examines her acting style and approach to different parts -- when De Havilland was less than special she's not afraid to say so. The book also recounts her ultimately successful legal battles with the studio. her famous "feud" with her sister, Joan Fontaine (which actually gets its own chapter), and her marriages and affairs (according to the diva herself, she did not sleep with Errol Flynn although she certainly wanted to).
The portrait that emerges of De Havilland is not without warts, as the lady has often come off as quite affected and too oh-so-proper to be believed. However this book will give the interested reader the basic facts and then some behind the career and life of the actress whose most interesting aspect was her appearances on film in such movies as Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Heiress, Lady in a Cage, The Dark Mirror, and many, many others. Inexplicably Amador supports De Havillamd's foolish, ill-advised and ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against the producers of Feud: Bette and Joan. Admittedly she was portrayed, briefly, by an actress who was nothing like her and she would never have made comments about her sister in public, but that is hardly suit-worthy, and trying to change the laws about public figures would have been opening a can of worms that would have had terrible repercussions for journalists -- and biographers. Amador has added a new chapter after her subject's death that goes on and on and on perhaps a bit too much.
Verdict: Very good read for De Havilland fans and Hollywood observers in general. ***1/2.
|Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills|
Michael Rogers (Hywel Bennett) drives wealthy people across Europe but wants a better life for himself. He greatly admires a piece of property called Gypsy's Acre in a small English village, and dreams of having his dying architect friend, Santonix (Per Oscarsson), design a house for him there. Dreams do come true after Michael meets and falls for Ellie Thomson (Hayley Mills), a lovely young woman who turns out to be an American heiress. Michael is disturbed by the discrepancy in their incomes, but Ellie is determined to marry him, despite her family's and advisors' objections. She is helped in her goal by her friend, Greta (Britt Ekland), who becomes an unwelcome presence in the couple's lives after they tie the knot. Santonix does design a magnificent house for them on the desired property, but events occur which make them feel ill at ease. Then there's a death ...
Endless Night is based on the novel by Agatha Christie, one of the author's personal favorites, and it is a suspenseful and especially well-written book which is told, as in the film version, from the point of view of Michael. Endless Night is quite well-acted by all the participants -- George Sanders adds a touch of class as a deceptively friendly lawyer -- the house is something to see (particularly the inside of it), and the viewer may or may not catch on to the twist that occurs at the finale.
Bennett with George Sanders
|Britt Ekland with Mills|
Verdict: Read the novel instead. **1/2.
|Mark Stevens and June Haver|
Around the turn of the (last) century, song promoter Larry Kelly (Mark Stevens of Time Table) runs into classical composer Alfred Breitenbach ("Cuddles" Sakall) and uses the latter's arias from his unproduced opera to turn them into tin pan alley hits. This he does with the cooperation and encouragement of Breitenbach's daughter, Doris (June Haver), who has a big crush on Larry. While Alfred enjoys the money he makes as "Fred Fisher" -- the name he takes as composer of popular hits -- he is afraid he is bowdlerizing his art and will never be taken seriously as an operatic composer. So he just takes off to rework the opera while Larry, Doris, and his wife, Anna (Charlotte Greenwood) frantically search for him. But famous conductor Gottfried Steiner (Eduard Franz of The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake) has an idea to get the man back ...
|Charlotte Greenwood and Cuddles Sakall|
|The big finale|
Verdict: Pleasant, with a more interesting plot than usual, even if it's completely fabricated. ***.
Thursday, April 28, 2022
|Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway|
|Estelle Parsons and Gene Hackman|
|Cornel Wilde and Anne Bancroft|
In 18th century France Jean Paul (Cornel Wilde) becomes the bonded servant of his hateful uncle the Marquis de St. Malo (George Macready). Jean also falls in love -- and vice versa -- with his cousin Marie (Anne Bancroft). Jean is the rightful heir to the estate and money but there is no proof that his parents, who died at sea, were ever married. Jean figures only money can get him out of his predicament, especially after he is arrested for assaulting his uncle and trying to flee, so he takes off on a treasure hunt in Guatemala with a man named MacDougal (Finlay Currie).
|Wilde with Finlay Currie|
Verdict: Good cast can only do so much with comparatively weak and derivative material. **1/2.
|The cast of House of Gucci|
|Lady Gaga was a determined Patrizia|
Thursday, April 14, 2022
Special projects have caught up with me temporarily. GREAT OLD MOVIES will return in May 2022, if not before.
For those who subscribe by email the posts come with the wrong, outdated email attached at the very bottom. I'm working to correct this. In the meantime you can contact me anytime at email@example.com.
Thursday, March 31, 2022
|Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford|
The first half hour or so of this adaptation of the Broadway musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is delightful -- although it takes too long for someone to finally sing a song -- with Mostel fully in charge of his material along with Silvers, Jack Gilford as Hysterium, Hordern and Jessel, and especially Greene as the captain. But after awhile this farce just becomes a bit labored, and the film completely falls apart with a tasteless scene in the arena and especially a drawn-out slapstick sequence that falls completely flat. Others have noted that the film has a typically sixties attitude towards women: they are either young beauties lusted after by ugly old men or old hags unworthy of consideration. One could also argue that anything having to do with roman slavery is not exactly a great subject for the comedic treatment to begin with. I think the main problem is that this is the type of material that works much, much better on the stage. However, the producers wisely kept on Mostel and Gilford from the Broadway production. Unwisely, because they thought big movie musicals were on their way out, they cut most of Stephen Sondheim's tuneful score. What remains is the lovely "Lovely," sung by Philia; the captain's song as he comes into town and the dirge he sings later on; the spritely "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid;" and the infectious opening number "Comedy Tonight."
|Leon Greene and Zero Mostel|
|Kelli Williams and Stephen Collins|
|Betty on trial: Meredith Baxter|
|Judith Ivey versus Meredith Baxter in court|
|Madeleine Stowe and Ed Harris|
|Harris, Charles Dance, Del Toro|
Thursday, March 17, 2022
|William Haines and Irene Purcell|
Lord Robert Brummel (William Haines) finds lots of female companionship with married women who have no problem cheating on their husbands. His Uncle George (C. Aubrey Smith) thinks his nephew is an overspending mountebank who doesn't know the value of a dollar. For some reason George thinks a match between Bob and equally upper-crust Roxana Hartley (Irene Purcell) would make the perfect union. But before he consents, Robert wants to make sure that Roxana isn't like (to his eye) most other women, and tests her by pretending to be a paid dancer and gigolo.
Just a Gigolo is a mildly amusing comedy that boasts a winning performance by the likable Haines, and an especially notable turn from the equally charming C. Aubrey Smith. Although a trifle off-putting at first, Irene Purcell proves an attractive and capable leading lady. This was her first full-length film and she only appeared in five more. (Ironically, Haines only had five more films to go before his movie career was over.) An interesting aspect of the film is the fury felt by Roxana when she learns of Bob's deception, his gall at testing her morals when he himself is hardly above reproach. The movie gets across the unjustness of the double standard without hitting you over the head with it. Although released in 1931, Just a Gigolo isn't creaky and moves at a fairly fast pace. Charlotte Granville is fun as Roxana's mother, and although Ray Milland is listed in the cast, if you blink you will certainly miss him.
C. Aubrey Smith and Haines
Verdict: A good chance to see Haines, once a top box office attraction, in a sound film. **1/2.
What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? is not a biography of the famous actor and director, but rather a study of his career and an attempt to correct misconceptions about the man that have proliferated both before and after his death. McBride is often successful at this, and sometimes not, and the book -- while well-written and well-researched -- occasionally has a petulant "fan-boy" tone to it. Film buff McBride became acquainted with Welles and was even cast in The Other Side of the Wind as a nerdy film geek (a talented writer, the less said about his acting the better), and spoke and dealt with him on and off over the years. McBride argues against some of the assertions made against Welles, but at other times makes clear that these assertions are often true. Welles clearly was a narcissist, and clearly expected those under his spell to do what he wanted, come hell or highwater. However, McBride argues that Welles was not some corpulent figure of fun but an artist who not only made some successful and brilliant films, but, like a true artist, kept on working right up to the very last minute of his life. McBride dissects many of Welles's lesser-known film projects, and does make it clear that Welles's career did not begin and end with Citizen Kane. One suspects he's just too close to The Other Side of the Wind to see how really bad it is. To his credit, McBride doesn't shy away from examining Welles's flaws, and even goes into the man's ambivalent feelings about his sexuality.
Verdict: Whatever you think of Welles, this is an interesting and thought-provoking read. ***.