|Marvel Marceau and Marcel Marceau|
|Chelton, Marceau and Clay|
|Marvel Marceau and Marcel Marceau|
|Chelton, Marceau and Clay|
|Walter Abel and Ann Harding|
Stanley Whit-taker (Dou-glass Dumbrille) is found dead of a gunshot in his office. Although he left a suicide note admitting to embezzlement, the police determine that his death was really a homicide. Whittaker's associate, Jim Trent (Walter Abel of Fired Wife) is put on trial for the murder, but other suspects and interested parties include secretary Paula Young (Ann Harding of When Ladies Meet), bookkeeper Grace Franklin (Margaret Hamilton), office boy Benny Ryan (Billy Benedict), and even Trent's daughter, Constance (Frances Sage), who inexplicably wanted to run off with the much older and not especially attractive Whittaker. During the trial, the truth behind the murder eventually comes out.
The Witness Chair is an entertaining if very minor crime/court-room drama with generally good performances and a tidy if unspectacular screenplay. Ann Harding is as efficient as ever, even if her performance is of the long-suffering, hand-wringing variety. Back in the day, Harding was a major star -- this is a lesser vehicle for her -- but today she is known only to film buffs. Like Kay Francis and others, her films didn't show up on the late show until the days of TCM. Walter Able, a fine actor, was a leading man who later became a supporting player. The prolific Billy Benedict almost steals the film with his comic turn as the office boy, who hopes for a singing career and is annoyed that he gets such a short time in the witness chair. Margaret Hamilton is snappy as the outraged bookkeeper who insists that her boss, Whittaker, was innocent of theft.
William "Billy" Benedict
Verdict: Smooth easy watching if nothing to get excited about. **1/2.
|Doomed lovers: Boyer and Darrieux|
MAYERLING (1936). Director: Anatole Litvak. French-language version with sub-titles.
Rudolph (Charles Boyer), the Crown Prince of Austria, is trapped in a loveless arranged marriage, disagrees with his father's politics and edicts, and spends most of his time carousing and womanizing. Until he espies the pretty young Marie Vetsera (Danielle Darrieux) and the two fall in love. Rudolph tries to have his marriage to the archduchess Stephanie (Yolande Laffon) annulled, but neither the Pope nor his father will allow this. The Emperor finally tells his son that this affair must end within 24 hours. The lovers spend one last fateful night together.
|the real Prince Rudolph in younger days|
Based on a novel, Mayerling -- named for the prince's retreat where the final rendezvous takes place -- is a fictionalized version of the story. There were at least three subsequent versions: The Secret of Mayerling, a French film that delves into the now-discredited theory that the lovers were murdered; a 1957 version with Audrey Hepburn and husband Mel Ferrer; and the 1968 version with Omar Sharif, which includes another lover of the prince's, an actress/possible prostitute that he apparently also tried to impress into a death pact. I have a feeling the real facts about our prince are much more interesting, and perhaps even less savory, than what happens in this movie.
Verdict: If taken with a grain of salt, this is an impressive and well-made romantic picture. ***.
|Chris Noth and Kevin Spacey|
Chris Noth, star of Law and Order, Sex and the City, and others is accused of drunken, inappropriate behavior decades ago and is also dropped from his latest TV series, dropped by his agency, turned on by his wife and former co-stars (who throw him under the bus) and becomes persona non grata in Hollywood.
All of this happened without either gentleman even being given a chance to defend themselves. (Spacey has since been acquitted in one trial and I don't believe there are any criminal charges against him any more.)
Yes, we know guys can act like pigs, especially under the influence of alcohol and drugs, But I've no doubt the "victims" were also under the influence and their memories, after many, many years, are undoubtedly hazy. But in the long run it doesn't matter who's right or who's wrong.
Whatever happened to Innocent Until Proven Guilty?
Neither of these gentlemen have been accused of out and out rape, which would certainly make them unsympathetic, to say the least, if they were guilty. Spacey was excoriated less for what he may have done at a party (or for allegedly groping other "victims") than for coming out years too late just after the charges went public, meaning he was attacked by both gays and homophobes. (And make no mistake -- a large part of what happened to him has to do with homophobia.)
Chris Noth helped some gal get an acting gig on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, but apparently she didn't turn into the next Lady Gaga so somebody has to pay. Noth has become a victim of the originally well-intentioned me-too movement, which has blown up to include virtually any man who even looks at a woman the wrong way. (Former governor Andrew Cuomo was certainly a victim of this.)
Should people be held accountable for alleged sloppy drunken behavior decades later, have their lives and careers utterly destroyed, simply on somebody's say-so, someone who may have an ax to grind, rent to pay, grievances to air, someone who needs both attention and cash, some redress to the "wrongs" they've suffered because their careers didn't amount to cat shit? The alleged victims may claim in lawsuits -- the whole reason for the accusations in the first place -- that their lives were destroyed, but somehow I don't think so. That's just legalese for let's-jack-up-the-bounty.
The horrible thing is this can happen to anyone. Yes, anyone can be accused of supposedly doing something many, many years in the past and before they even have a chance to answer the charges, suddenly their careers are over! There is no fair hearing, no trial, no nothing. To say this is unfair is an understatement. I'm not saying that people shouldn't be held accountable for their actions, but let's not just throw someone into the garbage bin a literal second later!
I hope there are producers out there who will hire both Spacey and Noth for their projects, because it all has to do with talent and not with private lives and unsubstantiated accusations. I've never met either gentleman -- perhaps they are both arrogant and unlikable (another reason for the accusations) --but that doesn't mean they should be wiped out by possibly false and exaggerated allegations.
|Rutherford and real-life husband Stringer Davis|
When one of the board members of a trust that helps to rehabilitate young offenders is blatantly poisoned, Miss Marple (Margaret Rutherford) decides to do her own investigation. With the help of her friend Mr. Stringer (Stringer Davis, married to Rutherford in real life), Miss Marple, wearing Naval uniform, goes into action, confining much of her investigation to the ship where these miscreants are trained. Captain Rhumstone (Lionel Jeffries of First Men in the Moon) isn't at all thrilled by this development, especially when he is forced to give his cabin to the snooping old lady. Other officers, staff -- and suspects -- include Dr. Crump (Nicholas Parsons); Bishop Faulkner (Miles Malleson of The Thief of Bagdad); Lt. Compton (Francis Matthews); matron Alice Fanbraid (Joan Benham); and others. When there are more deaths aboard ship, Marple knows her suspicions are correct, and she also uncovers the reasons behind the killings, but not before a fencing duel with the perpetrator.
|Charles Tingwell with Rutherford|
Verdict: More fun with Miss Marple. ***.