Classic Films on Review
Anthony Adverse (1936)
“Those who are destined to live during times of war and social upheaval are victims of cruel fate ~~ unable to find comfort in the past or peace in the present. They are the spiritual orphans of the world.”
Can I just say how much I hate it when a movie gets off to an interesting start and then one thing gets screwed up for the characters and the movie becomes boring and ridiculously long? What I really cannot stand is when a couple gets pulled apart because of miscommunication or another person… that drives me up a damn wall!!! Then one person in the couple becomes moody and mean and annoying and gives up hope of many things in several ways. This happened in the fourth season of CSI: NY with Danny and Lindsay and I wanted to scream!!! It is such an overused plot and it is so boring and frustrating (thankfully, Danny and Lindsay worked their crap out by the following season but mostly out of necessity). I was all psyched to watchAnthony Adverse because it stars a twenty year old Olivia de Havilland and I want to see some more films with Fredric March. The film started out so well for like the first forty-five – fifty minutes and then just went down the drain and my attention was lost.
It starts out with a man named Marquis Don Luis (Claude Rains) marrying a woman named Maria. Maria cheats on Don while his foot is healing with a man named Denis. Don finds out about the affair and takes his wife away. Denis finds them all at an inn but he dies in a sword fight with Don. A few months later at an inn in the Alps Maria has Denis’s baby but she unfortunately dies. The Don drops the baby off at a home for children where nuns will take care of him. Don tells Maria’s father, John Bonnyfeather, that his daughter died but lies that the baby died.
Ten years later, Anthony (as the boy is named) is handed over to Bonnyfeather as an apprentice. Neither boy nor man know they are related but John sees a shocking resemblance to his daughter in the boy. He cannot give Anthony his last name since his illegitimacy would ruin his business and family name. As Anthony grows up he comes to love the cook’s daughter Angela (Olivia de Havilland). He wants to eventually marry her but one night her father wins the lottery and the family moves away. She tells Anthony that one day they will find each other.
A few years on Anthony and a friend go to the opera and it happens that Angela is in the opera as one of the singers. They marry but the next day Anthony is held up while Angela is waiting to tell him what city to go to meet her. They do not meet again for five years.
In those five years Anthony has traveled all over the place. He travelled to Africa to work off debts for Bonnyfeather and he became a whole other person one who was greedy and nasty to people. Of course he gets a change of heart and moves back to Europe. He finds Angela again, along with their son, in Paris but she has changed: she is well known as Mademoiselle Georges a mistress of Napoleon’s. Anthony can no longer be with Angela and she knows that so she tells him to take their son with him on business- and a new life- to America.
Seriously, I just saved you two hours and fourteen minutes of your life by writing out most of the plot.
When Anthony goes on to Havana and then to Africa the film just gets so slow. Also slowing down the film and being a nuisance is Claude Rains as Don Luis and his evil girlfriend and former helper to Bonnyfeather , Faith. Ugh when those two came on screen I wanted to scream!! Faith was an annoying character from the start and Claude Rains was too fruity and flamboyant for me here.
Fredric March was very good I have no complaints about him or the character for that matter. Olivia de Havilland was beyond adorable. Right from the moment she comes on screen her character is very light splashing water on a bunch of little kids and she just had a big smile on her face. She was such a good actress even at twenty years old she just had immense talent.
Milo Anderson, who would two years later design the costumes forThe Adventures of Robin Hood, designed the costumes for this film. I loved all his costumes for the women they were gorgeous. I love the Empire style from art to furniture to fashion. Olivia de Havilland looked amazing in all her costumes looking stunning in the Empire waist dresses and hairstyle. Even the men’s costumes were excellent even though I am not a fan of men’s fashion from that time period. After seeing his costumes in Robin Hood in brilliant color I was wondering what colors he made the costumes for this film and how nice they would have looked. (As well as studying Art History and classic films I love fashion history it can teach you so much about so many things).
Anthony Adverse is a pretty long dragged out film. The whole thing could have been cut down but I can see where cutting it would have disrupted the story and the flow. I guess in a way I watched it more for Olivia de Havilland and I was let down because her character was barely in it. I also felt let down with the ending after wanting Anthony and Angela to be together again after so many years apart and Angela turns out to be an infamous whore. If you want to see Anthony Adverse go ahead but I warn you you may become bored.
The Birds (1963)
“Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? They said when you got here the whole thing started. Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from! I think you’re evil. EVIL!”
Just like Psycho many people are very familiar with The Birds rather than Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier works. I can remember my brother Joe always renting this film when we were younger (though he claims not to remember but I clearly remember seeing the scene where Melanie gets attacked in the phone booth over and over again) and I thought it was so stupid. Of course I was younger at the time and thought old films were crap and really silly so I just laughed whenever Joe would rent it. I think he thought it funny as well because people were hysterically being attacked by birds. A few years ago when I became interested in Hitchcock and his films I found The Birds used on DVD for a reasonable price that I could not pass up and totally forgetting that my brother used to rent it over and over. When I watched the film again I had a better appreciation for it and for old films and I understood the premise of the stories. I still find The Birds totally hysterical and laugh whenever someone says it is a scary film. I am sure it was when it was first released but today it is silly.
The film is based off a short story of the same title by Daphne du Maurier. The only things the novel and the film have in common are the location in a small seaside town (du Maurier’s location was Cornwall while the film’s was in California), the idea of birds attacking people, and an explosion.
To quickly sum up the story of the film the main character is a woman named Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren). She is a play girl who has gotten into a little bit of trouble but now she is looking for something more meaningful in her life. While in a pet shop a man named Mitch (Rod Taylor) comes in. He plays a trick on her and lets her know that he is a lawyer and does not really care for her. Melanie decides to get back at him by bringing two lovebirds to his house in the small town of Bodega Bay. As soon as she gets there the birds in the town begin acting strange beginning with a gull attacking Melanie. The more she stays there the more aggressive the birds become and their attacks more violent.
As he did with all his films Hitchcock masterfully created a great psychological thriller out of something that surrounds us every day. The director put it perfectly himself when he explained to Truffaut “…if the story had involved vultures, or birds of prey, I might not have wanted it. The basic appeal to me is that it had to do with ordinary, everyday birds.” The birds that were attacking Bodega bay were crows and gulls birds that would never bother anyone and are not known for violence or death. Knowing this bit of trivia it does make you think of birds when you see them. The film is nature turning on humans and that is scary since we know that forces of nature can be violent. Truffaut tells the director “I’m glad you didn’t give a specific reason for the attacks. It is clearly a speculation, a fantasy” to which Hitchcock replied “That’s the way I saw it.” So again he is mixing a fantasy with a reality to create great suspense and entertainment. He also said once that what is not seen or implied is scarier than what is seen because it allows for the viewer to make up their own scary thoughts and ideas of what happened.
“[The viewers] come to the theater and they sit down and say ‘All right. Now, show me!’ And they want to be one jump ahead of the action: ‘I know what’s going to happen.’ So, I have to take up the challenged. ‘Oh you know what’s going to happen. Well, we’ll just see about that.’ With The Birds I made sure that the public would not be able to anticipate from one scene to another.”
As the directors go on to say during the beginning of the film the audience expects the birds are going to attack there are clues and hints but all we know is that the animals are potentially menacing and will cause havoc.
One thing I really liked reading about The Birds was Hitchcock’s little touches of irony: the beginning when Melanie and Mitch first meet in the pet shop he says the her “I’m putting you back in a gilded cage” adding to her characterization of a playgirl. Then later when the gulls attack she is not in a gilded cage but a cage like place all the same in a phone booth of misery. The director said it was a reversal of man being a cage and the birds on the outside. His other touch of irony comes at the end when Mitch’s little sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright) asks if she can take her lovebirds with her lending “an optimistic note to the theme.”
e also adds his little bit of dark humor when Melanie and Mitch are in the café before the large attack on the town. Here he gives the audience a breather from all the drama and tension. Truffaut said it was a bit too long but Hitchcock counters that when an audience is absorbed in a story the scene is short and if they are bored the scene is long.
The four main characters are ok which I think comes from the fact that I am a fan of Hitchcock’s films from the ‘40s and ‘50s when he had all the great classic actors and actresses in them. Tippi Hedren is not horrendous but she was not the greatest. She was definitely one of his prettiest blondes he used in his films. Rod Taylor is not the typical leading male from his earlier film but in this new era he fits. I got a kick out of seeing a thirteen year old Veronica Cartwright as Mitch’s sister Cathy because I am so used to seeing her as the batty lady from the Witches of Eastwick throwing up all the cherry pits and yelling out “whores!” during a church service. Haha. Jessica Tandy played Mitch’s overbearing mother Lydia. I was not impressed with her because I was not sympathetic or impressed with the character. I did however like Hitchcock’s explanation in the scene where the sparrows fly in through the chimney and attack them that he filmed it from Melanie’s point of view which he meant as the audience’s point of view looking at Lydia cracking up.
There are many more interesting behind the scenes stories and reasons for Hitchcock’s direction of The Birds in the book Hitchcock/Truffaut which I highly recommend reading. There were so many interesting things about the film that I could have added but why spoil a good book by giving away all its details.
As I said at the beginning The Birds is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s films along with Psycho that are his most well known and one that everyone has either seen or heard of. It is not one of my favorites of his in the slightest but I appreciate it a little bit more after doing some research on it and learning some of the techniques and ideas he wanted to and did put across to the audience.The Birds is a film to see a few times (and separated by a stretch of time) just because it is a Hitchcock film and because the more you watch it the more you can appreciate it.
Dead End (1937)
Dead End is one of those films where I was not too thrilled with the story but there were moments of really good acting by the main actors. It is a typical 1930s story about the rich versus the poor: how the poor live in not the greatest of conditions and do not know where or when their next meal is going to be and the rich living in beautiful homes and getting whatever they want whenever they want. The film even opens with a few paragraphs how the tenements were built along the river and the rich once they realized the river side was nice property built their complexes right on top of the tenements.
The film has three stories running through it that are brought together. A young woman named Drina (Sylvia Sidney) and her brother Tommy live in a tenement section of a neighborhood. Tommy is constantly getting into trouble with a group of boys (The Dead End Kids) and one day gets into serious trouble where the police are called after him and he has to evade them. Drina knows an architect named Dave (Joel McCrea), he went to college for six year to be an architect but he has not gotten a decent job. The two grew up together and she has had a little thing for him ever since. Dave has been seeing a woman named Fay who once used to live in poverty but got out of it and now lives in the expensive complex. Dave knew a man now called “Baby Face” Martin (Humphrey Bogart). Martin is no good he wanted by the police in several cities. He comes back to his old neighborhood and the boys flock around him in admiration. Dave warns Martin to get out of the neighborhood and leave the boys along. Martin does not listen and towards the end of the film the two men battle it out in a gun fight.
Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, and Humphrey Bogart give great performances. I never saw Sidney in a film when she was younger I am so used to only seeing her as the old lady in Beetle Juice who tells Barbara and Adam they are dead. She was excellent her performance was very moving. Also I found her to be not really pretty but adorable. For some reason I really liked Sidney’s eyes they were pretty. McCrea was just an awesome actor I like anything he is in. His character was supposed to be nice and caring and wanted a better like and you can believe that looking at him… the same can be said for Sidney she was very believable in her role. This was one of Bogart’s early gangster roles which he would become known for. I think I can say this is one of my favorite roles I have seen him in. His character was a bit tragic and I felt so bad for him when he saw his mother he went to her all excited but she did not want to see him. Bogart was amazing in that scene you just feel so bad for him with the incredibly sad face he puts on. You also feel bad for him because he came back to get his girl he loved when he lived in the neighborhood but she does not want to go with him.
To me what brings this film down are all the scenes with The Dead Ends Kids. I mean I understand they were integral to story but I think there was too much time devoted to them. They were in the original stage play so when MGM was making the film they brought the boys on in their stage roles. Had it not been for their too many scenes I would have liked the film a lot more.
Dead End is a film to definitely see once. The story bored me but I did like how all the characters’ stories come together. Joel McCrea, Sylvia Sidney, and Humphrey Bogart’s performances are worth the viewing.
The Animal Kingdom (1932)
“Behold, the bridegroom cometh. And no oil for my lamp, as usual. A foolish virgin me. Oh, foolish anyway.”
The Animal Kingdom is a Pre-Code film I sat through because Myrna Loy is in it. I always look for as many films I can with an actor or actress I like either from the Golden Age or today. Sometimes I find myself liking the films even if the person I like is only in it for five minutes the whole time and sometimes I do not. I found myself in the middle with The Animal Kingdom- on one hand it is very risqué with great dialogue and on the other hand it is boring and many of the actors are boring and too over the top.
Tom Collier (Leslie Howard) is a free spirited book publisher. He has lived his like the way he likes much to his father’s dismay. His father says that he sent Tom to Harvard and he was only there for two years. He then sent his son to Oxford and he traveled to the school from Paris. To top his free spirited living off for many years he lived with a woman named Daisy Sage (Ann Harding) whom he was not married to.
Daisy was gone for three months without notice and in the meantime Tom met a woman named Cecelia “Cee” Henry (Loy) and is now engaged to her. Tom’s father approves of Cee very much because he believes that she can ground his son and get him to settle down to what he sees a proper life. Tom travels into the city to let Daisy know about his engagement. Not knowing that Tom is about to marry Daisy suggests she and him get married and travel down to Mexico where she can paint. Upset and wanting to save them from doing something they will regret Daisy leaves again for another few months.
When Daisy comes back she holds a showing of her work at a gallery. Tom and Cee are invited but she does not really want to go and tempts her husband to stay. When Tom finally sees the show he tells Daisy that her work is not that good to be shown her talent needs more time.
Cee holds a surprise party for Tom and invites Daisy and his other bohemian friends. She does this not out of good feelings and intentions but to show her husband what outcasts his friends are compared to her socially acceptable friends. The friends do not mingle they mainly stick to themselves. Daisy reads Tom’s latest work and lets him know that his work is not good and he is selling out and not writing what he is capable of. During the party Cee talks to her friend Owen about buying Tom’s publishing company. Daisy walks by them and sees the two of them kissing. She cannot take anymore and she and the two other friends leave.
Tom’s receives a huge check from his father. He tells Cee about the check and her true money hungry self comes out. While they are eating dinner in her room he tells her how much the room reminds him of a London brothel meaning that Cee is acting like a prostitute willing to do anything he wants for his money. She promises him anything wants now even unlocking her door and telling him not to take long.
When Tom leaves the room and goes downstairs he tells his butler/friend to take him to the train station to go into the city.
This is a pretty racy film. The two scenes I found the raciest were the ones with Myrna Loy in them (and not just because I am so used to her as the nice “perfect wife”). Tempting Tom to not go to the gallery opening Cee comes down in a negligee. He comments she barely has anything on to which she says he should come and help her dress. He starts kissing her on the chest and says he better not because they will be late. Cee recalls the story of how she found it one time and he liked it. This temptation is what leads Tom not to go to the opening. The last scene with Tom and Cee as I mentioned is really racy especially when he says how much her room reminds him of a brothel. I cannot even tell you how gorgeous and sexy Loy looked when Cee tells Tom as she closes the doors to her room to not take long.
I was not impressed with the acting in this film. Leslie Howard and Ann Harding had been in the stage version of the story. You can definitely tell they were stage actors by the way they spoke their lines and dramatically acted. On the other hand you can totally see that Myrna Loy was strictly a film actress. Howard I am never really impressed with if I see him in a film. Loy had been loaned out to RKO for Cee since apparently Selznick saw her as the only one who could really pull off the role. They were going to go with another actress but the producer felt Loy was prettier and could pull off the role of a seductress. She carried it off flawlessly you can see it in her eyes that her character was money hungry and had a great sexuality underneath. She had those eyes that could either be really sexy or could be really warm and caring in her films.
The Animal Kingdom is an alright film. The story is interesting especially in the aspect that the wife acts more like a mistress than the other woman does. That is a great angle and one I would like to see explored in a film today. The acting is not the greatest but that can be over looked. WatchThe Animal Kingdom for the dialogue alone because for a 1930s Pre-Code film it is some of the raciest I have ever heard from that period.
Bullets or Ballots (1936)
“Well, it’s time you got wise to yourself. Around this town the only reason friends pat you on the back is to find an easy place to break it.”
Bullets or Ballots is a plot that we would now only see on crime shows not movies. For the entire run it felt like I was watching a longer episode of Alias(watered down) or some cop show. This does not mean that I did not like Bullets or Ballots I did but I found it a little slow.
Johnny Blake (Edward G Robinson) is a tough cop. He takes down criminals before they can even look at him mostly because he is very quick and hard with his fists. Johnny is well respected and like by all his fellow cops. He is friends with a woman named Lee Morgan (Joan Blondell) who runs a “numbers game” and a night club.
The police commissioner is killed by a gangster named “Bugs” Fenner (Humphrey Bogart) after he showed a film clip of him and his partner Al Kruger at the movies. The commissioner was a crusader in the fight against crime and the men who Bugs and Al work for did not like that too much. A commissioner, McLaren, takes over but he does not give out any information on how is to take down the gangsters and moral corruptors because he feels that is how they get away with things when they know what the police are doing. Johnny unexpectedly finds himself pushed out of his job.
Since Robinson is the main character and this is after the Production Code was enforced at this time he is a good guy he was only pushed out of his job so he can go undercover and find who is really running the show. Kruger does not suspect anything because Johnny has been giving them rackets to run but Bugs does not trust Johnny. He gives the men the idea to be partners with Lee in her numbers game but they want to push her out and take it over.
Johnny and the police eventually find out who is behind the racket and bring down Bugs in the process. The men who were behind the racket is pretty interesting, not too surprising if you have seen stories like this before but the way they operated was good and how they pulled the strings is good. I also liked how everything Johnny set in motion to happen like Kruger being taken out and he himself getting the top job over Bugs happened.
Alright so not the best review of a film I have ever written but I cannot give too much away and I will admit I was not paying too much attention to it because as I said I feel like I have seen something like this on TV way too many times.
I am not a big fan of Edward G. Robinson, I guess he is part of the reason I really did not pay attention too much. His character I felt would have been more interesting if it had been someone else in the role. Humphrey Bogart and Joan Blondell stole the entire film in one scene they had together. Thank god I found aVIDEO
of it because it is hard to explain. To me it is actually kind of sexy and the only “romantic” scene I have seen with Bogart that I feel he is not awkward in. (to to the 1:51 mark to see).
I cannot complain in any way about the direction by William Keighley he did a great job. I can remember liking several scenes because of the way they were filmed.
Bullets or Ballots is an alright film; it was a major hit for Warner Bros when it was first released. I do like the way the studio got around the Code a little bit by making Johnny go undercover as a gangster but still be the good guy. Robinson had played the bad guy and the Code did not like that anymore they wanted him to be nice. As I said I wish someone else played the role of Johnny Blake I feel they would have been more believable and the character would not have been so boring. The film is a worth a viewing for Joan Blondell and Humphrey Bogart.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
“Men, if you’re willing to fight for our people, I want you!”
The Adventures of Robin Hood was my first Errol Flynn film and my first Olivia de Havilland film. I had heard of this famous classic acting duo but I have never seen them in their own films let alone together. I watched this last year in a Music in Film class I took and I loved it when it was over I considered it one of my favorite films and still do.
The legends of Robin Hood are hundreds of years old originating in the thirteen hundreds. Robin Hood and his Merry Men take from the rich and give to the poor. The main story that everyone knows takes place during the Crusades when King Richard the Lion Hearted left England to fight in the Holy Land. His brother Prince John takes over but he is cruel and corrupt and taxes the English people until they have nothing left. Robin Hood creates much havoc for the prince and his group of Norman friends he is constantly playing tricks on them and capturing their knights.
The Adventures of Robin Hood was written from several stories and variations of Robin Hood. On the Blu Ray special features a literary historian explains how Robin Hood started out as a trickster and how he used to coax people into duels and fights to see if they were worthy enough for his group. This was put into the film in three scenes. The historian also explains how the story of the character changed with the times such as when he needed to be a brave man and stand up to tyranny he was made to do and when he needed to be romantic and in love he was. Maid Marion was introduced during the Romantic Period in the eighteen hundreds she was never in the original stories. I love literature and I find it fascinating how stories are suited to their times so I found this very interesting.
So pretty much in the film Robin Hood is a trickster and he is very smart. He and his men are fiercely loyal to King Richard and want to get rid of Prince John. His arch nemesis in the film is a character named Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). Robin and Sir Guy are the perfect foils because they are both smart and keep one step ahead of the other but no for very long.
Robin falls in love with Maid Marian after he kidnaps her as she was riding with Sir Guy and the Sheriff of Nottingham (who here is the comic relief). At first she is not happy with being the rogue’s prisoner but he shows her what her Norman friends have been doing to the people and she feels awful. They are taken with each other and both fall in love quickly. When Robin is captured and sentenced to death Marian with the help of the Merry Men help him escape.
We all know that King Richard returns and order is returned to Nottingham and England and that Marian and Robin live happily ever after.
From start to finish this film is so enjoyable. I was left feeling to happy and so entertained after seeing this. A commentator on the special features perfectly described the film as a fairytale in Technicolor. There is no way the film would have worked so well had it not been filmed in Technicolor it is what makes the film so much more fantastic.
Also on the special features much is made of the cast. Leonard Maltin says that if you break down the cast and their talents then look at them as a whole it is the perfect movie cast. Many of the supporting cast members were stock character actors who had been in the film industry since the silent era so they were seasoned pros at what they did. Every one of their qualities greatly added to the film they were all so fantastic. He was so cute but I barely recognized him without his pencil thin mustache.
The four man cast members- Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains- deserve so much credit they were flawless in their roles. This was Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s second film together. What always made them work and what made them work especially well in the film was that they were such good actors and they were so beautiful that you could believe Robin Hood and Maid Marian could love each other like they did. As I watched this film the other night I just gushed like an idiot over how adorable de Havilland was and I could not get over the fact that she was twenty-two when she made this film. Errol Flynn was his usual devilishly handsome self and was the personification of Robin Hood. The moment I saw him I thought he was handsome even though he was wearing tights and an awful wig. The guy really did light up the screen and had such a magnetic and charming screen personality. The first time I saw Claude Rains I died laughing he looked so awful and so silly with his wig, fake beard and colorful costumes. I kept thinking of the guy inCasablanca and just laughed so hard. Basil Rathbone was incredible he was such a perfect bad guy. He had the best evil stares and just carried that air of meanness so well.
I still cannot get over the flamboyant costumes designed by Milo Anderson. The first time sitting through this I laughed so hard over the clothing but now watching it they pop out so well and make the film that much more amazing and colorful. Olivia de Havilland worked with Anderson on her costumes she did a lot of research and would then bring her ideas back to him. Anderson liked working with her because she was very nice and helpful. The costumes have a bit of a contemporary feel to them not only with the coloring but the way they were made you can see the little bit of Art Deco influence in them. Also de Havilland’s eyebrows and makeup are contemporary in style.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold created an amazing score and one that is greatly revered today. Korngold did not accept the job at first but once Hitler took over in Eastern Europe he took the job. The story of Robin Hood’s fight against tyranny paralleled the fight in Europe. Korngold’s score is a symphony with a film accompanying it, it is so strong and so full it almost takes on a life of its own. The score is so complex and strong that this complexion and strength even extends into the filler music. The score is also a perfect example of music syncing with the movements of the characters especially in the fight at the end between Robin and Sir Guy it follows their every movement.
There are two directors for this film. William Kieghley was the first director but Warner Bros felt that he was not creating enough action so they turned to Michael Curtiz who was known for making some action film. Flynn got along great Keighley whom he had worked with before but he did not get along with Curtiz whom he also worked with but did not like. Curtiz is one of my favorite directors I like what he did with the film.
The Adventures of Robin Hood is such a great film. It is one of those perfect light happy films that just make my day. There seriously are no flaws with this film it is just utter classic Hollywood perfection. I am so happy that this was both my first Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn film and my first film I had seen of their pairings now. They were so adorable together. I have seen just about every one of their films together and this one is the best. The Adventures of Robin Hood is a classic film definitely not to be missed and should be seen no matter if you love classic films or not
Back Street (1932)
Out of all the Irene Dunne films I have seen Back Street has been her weakest although it was a big hit for Paramount when it was released in 1932. The film is a soap opera in every sense of the word and one that just gets more boring as it progresses. I think it might just be me though I hate stories where a woman loves a man so much that she will do anything for him and not live her own life. The ending put the nail in coffin for me not liking this it was so cheesy.
Dunne plays a woman named Ray Schmidt. Ray lives in Cincinnati with her father, step-mother and step-sister. She is a care free girl who can go out with any man she pleases and does. One day while bringing her friend Kurt to the train station she meets one of his friends a man named Walter Saxel. Ray and Walter begin to see each other even though he is engaged. Walter tells Ray that she must meet his mother and then they can be together instead of him marrying his fiancé. Unfortunately Ray gets held up and never gets to the bandstand where they are supposed to meet in time.
Five years later Ray and Walter meet again in New York. They still love each other and carry on a very long affair. He keeps her comfortable to where she never has to have a job so he can see her whenever he wants. His wife never finds out about the affair but everyone else knows including his children when they are older. Walter tells his son that Ray is the only person in his life that means something very special to him and no one else fulfills a place in his life more than she does and has. In the end his son comes to care for Ray.
Blah…. If I explain anymore I will bore myself all over again. The film is just a total 1930s woman, soap opera film. When I initially started the film I got twenty minutes in before I got bored and turned it off and when I continued it I could barely pay attention. I will say Back Street is interesting in concept but the acting was horrible and I hate saying that because Irene Dunne is amazing. She was not bad she was the only one who acted decently but everyone else was crap. John M. Stahl directed this film and he was known for his women’s films. Like Parnell it is as if he is not directing his actors he did not get the best he could out of them. I am beginning to think the only film the man made that was actually amazing is Leave Her to Heaven where he actually got something out of Gene Tierney because she was nominated for an Academy Award.
Back Street is not one of the best classic films I have ever seen. I felt like I wasted my time watching it and I hate it when that happens no matter what era the movie is from. The film was remade twice (poor Irene Dunne all her films get remade over and over again. No wonder no one knows who she is today) with the 1941 version with Charles Boyer apparently being the best one (the other was made in 1961 with Susan Hayward). Dunne’s version is very hard to find and with a good reason. I suggest watching Back Street only if you really, really like Irene Dunne otherwise just skip it.
“Hate is a very strong emotion.”
Gilda is one of those classic films that gets a lot of hype. It has been endlessly referenced in other films and lives on as Rita Hayworth’s most memorable role. After watching Gilda I definitely see why the film is one of classic Hollywood’s most popular and why men even to this day dream of a woman with the looks and sexiness of the character.
The film is narrated by a guy named Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford). Johnny just won a lot of money by cheating in a game of dice. He almost gets killed by one of the men he beat but another man named Ballin Mundson saves him. Mundson tells Johnny that there is an illegal high-class casino but warns him not to cheat there. Johnny goes to the casino but he does not heed the man’s warning and gets taken away by two men to see their boss. Their boss happens to be Mundson. Johnny talks the man into giving him a job at the casino and as a personal body guard.
Johnny quickly gains his boss’s confidence following him around constantly and almost acting like the man’s slave. He will do anything for his boss. One day Mundson tells Johnny that he will be going away for a week to do business and that the casino will be left to him for the time. When Mundson comes back he surprises Johnny by showing him that he has gotten married and brought his wife home with him. The woman Mundson has married is named Gilda. There is recognition of the other on both their faces. Mundson senses their recognition and hostility towards each other but when asked they both deny they know each other. When they are left alone Johnny and Gilda confront each other and let it be known about their love-hate relationship that ended badly.
Mundson somehow knows about the two of them but he tells Johnny to keep an eye on his wife. Gilda is constantly looking for a good time so she sneaks out with other men. His fierce loyalty to Mundson and knowing how much he loves his wife makes Johnny furious with Gilda making him more abusive. But Gilda knows her romping is making her ex-lover angry so she does it even more and tells him that she hates him so much she is willing to destroy herself to take him down. Mundson keeps repeating that “hate is a very strong emotion” and eventually Johnny and Gilda’s hatred of each other leads to a very passionate embrace and kiss.
Mundson has gotten tied up with Germans and dealings in tungsten. He does not want to give up his shares. He shoots one of the German messengers and fakes his own death to get away leaving Johnny everything. As a punishment to both of them Johnny marries Gilda and practically imprisons her even when she gets away.
After things do go well with the casino and Jonny finds out that Gilda never did half the things he believes she did the two reconcile and apologize for their harsh treatment of each other.
I can definitely see why Gilda is such a popular and much talked about classic film. It has many of the great elements of a Noir with a beautiful femme fatale who men fall had over heels and do bad things out of love for her, illegal activity, and jealous lovers. I liked the film very much however I did not find it as exciting and thrilling as other Noirs I have seen. I found the plot to be a little boring making my attention wander a bit in some parts.
I truly believe much of the hype that carries this film comes from Rita Hayworth. She was beautiful and sexy. Her best scene was her introduction when Ballin takes Johnny into her room and asks if she is decent and she answers as she is flipping her hair over. Hayworth’s striptease as she drunkenly sings “Put the Blame on Mame” to embarrass Johnny is fabulous. The scene is sexy without Hayworth showing too much.
Glenn Ford was ok I have never seen him in a film before this. I could not see him as a tough, gambling man jealously in love with Gilda.
Charles Vidor did a great job with the direction. He got some great shots especially of Johnny and Gilda together. Vidor’s direction was greatly enhanced by Rudolph Mate’s excellent cinematography which set a great tone for the darkness of the relationships.
Gilda is in no doubt a classic Film Noir. Gilda is one of the ultimate femme fatales of the 1940s. Although I found the plot boring in some parts I did enjoy seeing a much talked about classic film. I do find it to be what I call “designer movies” meaning it is one that everyone likes and talks about but it is not that great (I call all of Audrey Hepburn’s films and her “designer”). I would not say that Gilda is a film I could watch over and over again but it is worth seeing at least once.
Black Moon (1934)
If you read any reviews of Black Moon you will most likely read that it falls between White Zombie and I Walked With a Zombie. At the time of this writing I have yet to see White Zombie but I have seen I Walked With a Zombie and certainly is a later take of Black Moon. This film has a very interesting concept and idea but it falls short in many areas and the pacing is a little too fast.
Juanita Perez Lane (Dorothy Burgess) witnessed her parents being killed as a sacrifice on the island of San Christopher when she was very young. She was taken away from the island to the United States for her own protection. Several years later she is married to a man named Stephan (Jack Holt) and has a young daughter Nancy. Although Juanita left the island a long time ago that life is still in her, she still thinks about it and constantly beats on an old island drum in her room. Juanita is cold and distant towards her husband and daughter so Stephan sends her to a psychiatrist. The doctor tells him she has a neurosis that stems back to her childhood.
Juanita wants to visit her childhood home where her uncle still lives. Stephan is not thrilled but he sends along his secretary Gail (Fay Wray) to keep an eye his wife and daughter since he will not be going. He and Gail are having some sort of an affair. She wants to work at another place but he will not let her go (this is one step in some major foreshadowing).
As soon as Juanita, Nancy, Gail, and the nanny arrive on the island the natives are excited and give Juanita a huge homecoming. But now the danger has really set in. Native drums can be heard all day and all night, they wait day and night in a large crowd by the gates, and the nanny is killed for having crossed Juanita’s old nanny who was a native. Juanita’s uncle tells her she must leave the island immediately but she refuses she tells him she does not see any danger in staying. Gail becomes frightened and worried for Nancy sake more than anything else. She and Nancy have become attached since Juanita is so distant and the nanny died. Stephan comes right away but still his wife refuses.
Juanita begins to sneak out at night and come back in the early morning hours. One night she sneaks a poison into Stephan’s drink for him to take as the first step towards making a zombie but not knowing what she did he gives the drink to his daughter. Luckily she is alright but now Stephan is angry and searches for his wife.
Everything is too late for now Juanita has joined the natives in their voodoo ritual. She and the natives over take the house and look for Nancy to sacrifice.
The story had a lot of potential to be really good but fell flat in a lot of places. This is one time where I wish an old film was a little longer and the story explained a lot better. I do not mind a quick paced story as long as it is good but here the quick pacing takes away from the story as well as the characters.
Fay Wray may be second billed but she is barely given anything to do except be the other woman and a play date for the little kid. Also since she is second billed and has had a fling with Stephan you know somehow they have to wind up together. I knew that from their first scene together. I am on a quest to prove to many people I know that Wray was a very good actress that she is not always screaming and over acting in her films and this is one where when she is in a scene she is excellent.
I have never seen Dorothy Burgess in a film or ever heard of her before this. I thought she was pretty good but I would have liked to have seen more of her and her character.
Jack Holt is really nothing to write about. He seemed so much older than Wray and Burgess that his relationships with them were odd. He was really out shined in every way by Wray and Burgess.
The direction is not bad at all there were several excellently filmed scenes especially towards the end and there are sense with mounting tension. Several of the scenes were greatly enhanced by the cinematography which was so awesome most noticeably where Stephan, Gail, Nancy, and the uncle are hiding out in a tower from the natives.
Black Moon is not a bad early zombie film. It does have its weak points but give it some slack since it was made in the 1930s. It may be labeled as a zombie film but there are no zombies like in I Walked With a Zombie. I am guessing because it has to do with voodoo that it is labeled as being one. With constant drumming and danger Black Moon is a very good and entertaining film to sit through
“She knows nothing about international politics, she has the mind of an artist, she sees people as general humanity, not as separate races.”
In 1940 America had not yet entered World War II but that did not stop Hollywood from making films about the Nazis and Hitler and what they were doing to innocent people. In Escape starring Norma Shearer and Robert Taylor, an American man tires desperately to get his German mother out of the country before she is killed.
Emmy Ritter was once a famous German stage actress. Years ago she gave up acting and moved with her German husband to America where they raised their children. After her husband died Emmy traveled back to her homeland to sell her house to make some money. Unfortunately she was arrested by the Nazis because she was harboring “enemies” of the Third Reich in her home in America.
Mark Preysing (Taylor) has come to find his mother after he stopped receiving letters from her a few weeks previous. At the hotel he is staying in and where his mother was last known to be he inquires about her but they claim they know nothing and have not seen her either. After much questioning he finds his mother was brought to a concentration camp.
While walking in a park he meets a young countess named Ruby von Treck (Shearer). Ruby is an American who married into her title and has lived in Germany for years even after her husband died. Mark tries to ask for her help such as who he can turn to for help. She unfortunately cannot help but he thanks her anyway and wants to meet with her again.
Ruby returns home and there we see she is friends with an old German general named Kurt von Kolb (Conrad Veidt). He is not in the army but he is privy to much information. She asks him if he ever knew what happened to Emmy Ritter, innocently enough as if she just so happened to be curious about her at the moment. The general says that she is now in a concentration camp and will be put to death for treason that weekend.
Mark and Ruby meet up again but she does not tell him about his mother. He sees that she is friends with the general and knows many of the Nazi officers. A few nights later Mark runs into a doctor named Henning who was asking if he can send him some American medical journals. Through some talk the doctor reveals that he knows Emmy and has been taking care of her. At the beginning of the film he was talking to Emmy and saying how he admired her as a boy so he feels some sympathy towards the woman and her son. He arranges plans with Mark to get Emmy out of the camp.
Emmy is tensely and cleverly taken out of the camp. Mark reaches out to Ruby for help when his mother needs a place to stay for a day or two so she can recover. Ruby is not happy about Mark being there especially because she knows the general but once she sees all that Mark has done for his mother and how much he loves her she agrees wholeheartedly to help them escape. In the end it is Ruby who sacrifices herself to help Mark and his mother.
When I read a biography on Norma Shearer the author talked about this film saying that Alfred Hitchcock was originally wanted to direct it. The story is perfect Hitchcock material but the director did not want Louis B. Mayer and all the top brass breathing down his neck and micromanaging him so he backed out. Knowing this information I could not help but feel let down and a little disappointed with the direction. Mervyn LeRoy was a great director he shot many beautiful scenes in the film but of course he was not in line with Hitchcock’s ability. There were many scenes that were supposed to be tense and very close, they were tense but not as tense as it could have been under the Master of Suspense.
Robert Taylor as Mark was good but Norma Shearer in her few scenes she had stole the film. Of all the films I have seen of Shearer so far this was her best acted hands down. She was not over dramatic or over the top she was just perfect. The first time I ever heard Shearer speak and saw her act was in a clip from the film where Ruby and Mark first meet. I was right away taken with her speaking voice and how pretty she looked. Ever since I saw that clip I had dying to see this film and I was very taken with how well she did.
Conrad Veidt played his usual evil German soldier self. This is the first time I have ever seen him outside of Casablanca. He was a good actor.
According to IMDB the author of the book Escape was German and she used a pen name to protect her family in Germany and several of the actors changed their name for the same reason. Also according to the site there is not one time where the words “Nazi” or “Germany” is said in the film.
Escape is a very good film but knowing that Hitchcock was originally intended to direct it I found that it fell flat. There were so many scenes that under his direction had the potential to be really suspenseful and tense and just did not meet that potential. At the same time I cannot see Hitchcock directing this film with these actors they did not seem like his kind of actors. Besides it falling flat in some areas Escape is a very good film with a very good story.