Thursday, October 29, 2020
Thursday, October 15, 2020
|Dana Andrews and Merle Oberon|
Now here's a strange one. Wealthy Catherine (Merle Oberon of A Song to Remember) goes slumming in a nightclub one evening with friends, and is attracted to, and fascinated by, a talented composer, Dan (Dana Andrews), who is also sort of slumming as a piano player. Cathy is initiially distressed to realize that Dan is blind, but decides he needs a patron -- but how to get past his depression and indifference. She hits upon the incredibly tasteless idea of pretending to be blind herself, assuming a new identity and even renting a different apartment from her fancier digs. She is able to inspire Dan to finish his concerto, and in her true identity sponsors him in a competition. Now he has the money to get his eyes operated on, but will he forget all about the blind gal who helped him once he can see the world in all its glory -- including the real Catherine? She wants him to love her as the comparatively drab but steadfast and loving blind girl, not as the glamorous doyenne of the social register.
|James Bond? Hoagy Carmichael|
|A resplendent Merle Oberon|
Verdict: You either go with the flow or think "you've got to be kidding me!" **1/2.
|Ronald Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck|
Sierra Nevada Jones (Barbara Stanwyck), her father, "Pop" (Morris Ankrum), and their friend Nat (Chubby Johnson) are about to stake their claim to the land when a stampede sends all of their cattle running amok, killing the old man and nearly killing the others. A loathsome polecat named McCord (Gene Evans) is in cahoots with an Indian named Natchakoa (Anthony Caruso), who started the stampede. Natchakoa hopes to take control of a tribe of Blackfoot Indians away from his father Red Lance and hated brother, Colorados (Lance Fuller), who is too sympathetic to whites, including Sierra, whom he tries to help. Then there's the mysterious Farrell (Ronald Reagan), who works for McCord but seems to be looking out for Sierra. Rounding out the cast of characters is Starfire (Yvette Duquay), an Indian maiden who is jealous of Colorados' attentions to Sierra. Naturally nothing good can come of all this.
|Stanwyck, Lance Fuller, Chubby Johnson|
Verdict: Babs in the saddle -- sore. **1/4.
|Russell Nype and Janet Blair|
|George Gaynes and Janet Blair|
A young wife and mother (Margaret Sullavan) discovers she has inoperable cancer and tries to arrange for another woman -- a co-worker of her husband's -- to take over when she's gone. This sounds like very depressing subject matter, but while the movie is very moving, it's also uplifting due to the artistry of Sullavan, whose performance is compelling, affecting and restrained yet believable. Although you of course know the outcome from the first, the story is still unpredictable. Howard Koch's fine screenplay transcends soap opera, and the supporting performers (Wendell Corey as the husband, Viveca Lindfors as the co-worker who falls in love with him) are also excellent. The raw graphic treatment that you would see in a film of this subject today is avoided, but at the same time, Sullavan does not get more glamorous as her health worsens. Some might find the final scene a bit pat, but it works for this movie, and avoids a morbid air. Very worthwhile. This is "adult" material in the best sense of the word.
Verdict: Great. ***1/2.
|Finn Wittrock wtih Zellweger|
With her finances in a shambles and her addictions getting the better of her, Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger of Down with Love) is importuned to give a series of concerts in London. As a girl Garland was given pills by the studio to keep her weight down, among other reasons, and she's come to rely on them to get her through the day and night. She wants custody of her smaller children, Lorna and Joey, but ex-husband Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell of Hercules) thinks they would be much better off with him. Her new husband, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) tries to get her a deal that might make her financially secure, but will her bad reputation put paid to that as well?
Loosely based on the stage play End of the Rainbow, this new movie is much more sympathetic than the play, which presented a burlesque of Garland's later years. It doesn't whitewash her, but it does make an attempt to understand her better. This is certainly helped by Zellweger's Oscar-winning performance, as she clearly studied Garland and the lessons paid off. The biggest problem with the film is that Zellweger does her own singing. She has a voice, but she is no Garland, although she mimics Garland's style and approach to a song very capably. The other performances, including those named as well as Jessie Buckley as her handler, Rosalind; Darci Shaw as young Judy; and others, are all quite good. Of course the movie has to include an adoring gay couple as well as other scenes that rely on dramatic license. The ending is contrived but moving.
Judy got some serious hate from viewers. Most of this hate came from obsessive Judy-fans who will not be satisfied with anyone other than the real Garland, but for that you have to rely on her old movies and recordings. If you are interested in seeing and hearing the real Garland I would recommend the CD Judy at Carnegie Hall and the film A Child is Waiting.
Verdict: No masterpiece by any means but an entertaining look at a great entertainer with an outstanding lead performance. ***.
Thursday, October 1, 2020
|Catherine Spaak and Rod Taylor|
The beautiful and stately St. Gregory's hotel in New Orleans is in danger of shutting its doors forever. The owner, Warren Trent (Melvyn Douglas), is fielding two offers, the most aggressive of which comes from Curtis O'Keefe (Kevin McCarthy) who isn't above playing a few dirty tricks, such as using his girlfriend, Jeanne (Catherine Spaak), to get information from the hotel manager, Peter McDermott (Rod Taylor of The Liquidator). While this is going on there is a thief (Karl Malden) loose in the hotel, and a Count (Michael Rennie) and Countess (Merle Oberon) are being blackmailed by the house dick (Richard Conte) because they ran over a child in their expensive car.
Hotel is basically sixties schlock, devoid of deep characterization or any meaning whatsoever. At one point, when a dignified black couple is turned away at the desk of the St. Gregory according to the hotel's long-standing racist policy and their unproven fear that it will cost them clientele, it looks as if there might be something of substance to say. But everyone seems much more upset at what bad publicity will do to their coffers than their unfair and dated policy toward "Negroes." It's a case of "this is bad for the hotel" as opposed to "this is just plain bad." Peter may not be a racist but his employer definitely is.
Kevin McCarthy and Taylor
|Michael Rennie and Merle Oberon|
Verdict: Watch Grand Hotel instead. **1/2.
|Edward G. Robinson|
Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson of Barbary Coast) is a cashier for a large company, as well as a part-time painter, and is married to a harridan, Adele (Rosalind Ivan), who is still obsessed with her late husband. One evening he intercedes when he sees a young woman, Kitty (Joan Bennett of The Man Who Reclaimed His Head), being slapped around by a guy and she befriends him. He doesn't realize that the abusive fellow, Johnny (Dan Duryea), is Kitty's boyfriend, and he importunes her to take advantage of the situation when they both wrongly surmise that Cross is rich. Before long Cross is stealing from his company, and things get worse after that ...
|Dan Duryea and Joan Bennett|
Verdict: Absorbing and well-made, beautifully-acted melodrama. ***1/2.
When cameraman Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) is knocked over by Cleveland Braves player Boom Boom Jackson (Ron Rich) during a football game, his brother-in-law, Whiplash Willie (Walter Matthau), importunes him to pretend his injuries are far worse than they really are for a huge cash payout. At first Harry is appalled by the very suggestion, but when Willie intimates that Harry's ex-wife, Sandy (Judi West), may come back to him out of sympathy, he agrees. Meanwhile a very guilty Boom Boom, who practically becomes Harry's servant, finds his own life spiraling out of control. Yet Harry's essential humanity may put paid to Willie's audacious and avaricious plan.
Verdict: Imperfect at times, but a very entertaining black comedy with outstanding performances. ***1/2.
|Theodore von Eltz and Alan Hale|
John Ross (William V. Mong) has been the lawyer to a wealthy woman for many years. When this woman dies, Ross is set to inherit most of the money, but his young associate, Wayne Winters (Theodore von Eltz), wants in on the action. To stymie Ross' plans he digs up two supposed heirs to the estate from an early marriage -- embezzler Charlie Moore (Arthur Hoyt) and dead-common Tessie (Marie Prevost) who has pretensions of class -- and then there's also Max Stager (Alan Hale) who claims he is the father of the dead woman's daughter. Ross has two daughters: Corinne (Marian Marsh of Svengali), who is in love with Wayne, and Nina (Gloria Shea) who is engaged to Jerry Trent (Lyman Williams of Damaged Lives). One of them is actually adopted and is Stager's daughter. It's anyone's idea who, if anyone, will wind up with the money if assorted secrets get out.
|Marie Prevost with von Eltz|
Verdict: Passable melodrama but nothing more. **.