Classic Films on Review
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.
The Pirate (1948)
“I know that underneath that prim exterior there are depths of emotion, romantic longings, unfulfilled dreams.”
The Pirate is one of MGM’s best musicals. When the film was over I immediately wanted to get it on DVD. It is a fun, entertaining film and one of Gene Kelly’s and Judy Garland’s best.
The Pirate takes place in a Spanish Caribbean town. A girl named Manuela (Garland) has been betrothed to the mayor of the town. She does not love him but is doing what her aunt and uncle (well, mostly her aunt) wish. The mayor is rich and very well off he can offer security to her family. Manuela, though, dreams of being a pirate named Macoco aka Mack the Black. She longs to join the famous pirate on his many sea voyages and adventures instead of being sheltered.
Manuela’s dress comes into port and she really wants to meet it since she have never been down there. She begs her aunt to go and her aunt agrees. Down at the port a troupe of entertainers lead by an actor named Serafin (Kelly) have arrived in town for a few performances. Serafin is a lady’s man looking for love. He lays eyes on Manuela and followers her but she does not want anything to do with him. Serafin’s troupe just so happens to put up their stage in front of Manuela’s hotel and that night she cannot sleep so she dresses and rushes down. Serafin notices her in the crowd and decides to hypnotize her with a device he has. As he is hypnotizing her he has her who she really loves hoping it will be him. Manuela says she loves a man named Macoco. After a nice performance from Manuela, Serafin snaps her out and she runs away in shame.
Manuela and her aunt return home but on her wedding day she gets a bit of a surprise. Serafin and his troupe have arrived to perform not knowing that Manuela lives in the town. Serafin is every bit excited and immediately begins to chase his heart’s desire. Manuela’s aunt manages to trap the actor in Manuela’s room and call for the mayor. The mayor is a big man and Serafin is a little intimidated by him at first but then he realizes the mayor is the real Macoco! The mayor becomes nervous begging the actor not to tell anyone. Serafin seizes the opportunity and runs downstairs proclaiming to be Mac the Black to win Manuela’s heart.
Of course things do not go smoothly with this plan in many aspects but Manuela begins to fall for Serafin.
Judy Garland was most definitely at her best here. I like more in The Piratethan I do in The Wizard of Oz. I often find her annoying but here I found her to be so funny and her acting was really good. The part that clinched me loving this film is when Manuela finds out that Serafin is not Macoco. She starts throwing whatever she can get her hands on at him and she is just raging. I was laughing so hard throughout the entire scene I loved it and mostly because Garland was perfect it was a side of her I never saw before. Gene Kelly channeled Douglas Fairbanks from his hair to his mustache right down to the acrobatics. I liked his character of Serafin because he saw that Manuela wanted more, dreamed of more than the life she was living. Kelly was just a mass of boundless energy and as always he was amazing with all his dancing and running around. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly made an excellent pair all their films together are so much fun to watch.
MGM and Vincente Minnelli did a fabulous job creating a fantastic Caribbean town. The film never would have worked as well as it does had it been made in black and white. The blue of the sky and all the colorful costumes are beautiful. Famed set designer Cedric Gibbons created the sets and costume designer Irene made the costumes.
My favorite musical numbers are “Mack the Black” and “Be a Clown.” The rest of the numbers are ok. Gene Kelly’s dance numbers always tend to be a few minutes too long for my attention span.
The Pirate is an adorable musical. Although MGM dominated the musical film genre and released dozens of fantastic musicals in their long history none of them have the charm and all out fun that The Pirate does.
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
“This is the people’s war! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it then! Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right.”
If I could major change my major I would major in film studies with a concentration on 1930s Pre-codes and films made during World War II. Films made during WWII are fascinating to look at today. They teach us so much about the time and what the people went through. Just read the behind the scenes information about certain films and you will be amazed that some of these films were made the way they were. I read about the making of Casablanca and it was incredible because I had never read about films made during WWII, I had no idea how much they reflected the times and how they were used as propaganda. Mrs. Miniver is one of the best films to come out of the 1940s, its story is so moving and touching and one of the best made films I have ever seen.
Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) lives with her family in a small town in the suburb of a coast town in England. She has a husband named Clem (Walter Pidgeon) and three children Vin, Judy, and Toby. The oldest Vin has just come home from college. Kay cannot believe how her son has grown into a man and cannot take her eyes of off him. The next day a young girl named Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright) comes to the house to talk to them about a flower show. Her grandmother has won the flower show and is afraid to lose to a station master who has named his rose the Mrs. Miniver after Kay. Vin does not like her at first but that night at a dance he asked her to dance with him and they fall in love.
At church the next morning a man comes running in telling the vicar that the Germans have invaded Poland and war has been declared. Vin joins the RAF. Eight months later he transferred to a base near the family home. While on leave, goaded by his little brother after he called Vin a coward for not proposing, Vin asks Carol to marry him. Right after he proposes he gets a call that he is needed at the base. Clem also gets a call very early the next morning to report for patrol. His boat is needed to save troops at Dunkirk.
For five days Kay is home by herself left nervous not knowing where her son and husband are or how they are. She goes out in the garden on the fifth day and sees a German soldier on the ground. She kneels down to pick up the gun but the soldier opens his eyes, gets up and starts chasing her to her house. The soldier holds Kay at gunpoint demanding he get her food and a coat. Before the German can leave he faints from the pain in his broken arm. Kay takes the gun away from him and calls the police. A few moments after the police take the soldier away she hears the sound of Clem’s boat pulling up. Vin also comes home that day.
Although their home was damaged during a raid the Miniver’s life is going as well as it could. Vin has married Carol and the rose named after Mrs. Miniver won first prize at a flower show. On the way home from the flower show tragedy unfortunately strikes the family but it is not what you would expect.
I do not even know where to begin to explain how incredible this film was. Everything about it was outrageously well done.
Greer Garson won the Academy Award for her performance and deserved it so much. The scene where the German soldier chases her into her home she was great. The character had to be as quiet and cool as possible and that is exactly what Garson did. You can feel how cool Kay was and feel that underneath she was totally afraid. When Toby comes downstairs after the whole incident and she holds him in her arms she kind of breaks down and we as the audience breathe a sigh of relief with her. Garson and Walter Pidgeon were excellent together this was the second of their eight pairings. They were just great as husband and wife you can believe they were a real couple, they were very good actors with a great friendship off screen.
The supporting cast was ok. Richard Ney who played Vin was annoying and so was the little kid who played Toby. Teresa Wright is never anything to brag about although she won for Best Supporting Actress.
The direction by William Wyler blew me away. His direction along with the cinematography made the film feel at times like a Noir especially when the German soldier is in the house and there is a deep focus on the gun and at the end when Kay and Carol are in the car together. There are so many scenes I liked because they were so well filmed but I would give almost all the film away. Wyler and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg also won an Academy Award.
I found there to be much symbolism in the film. In one scene in a local bar some men are listening to a German broadcasting to the British people that his country will defeat there’s, basically trying to demoralize the Britons. The men know that what the German is saying is a load of crap. At the end of the film when the Miniver family is in church the camera pans up- the roof is missing but despite this people have come to church and the vicar keeps preaching. There are other scenes with much symbolism but again I am not giving them away.
Mrs. Miniver is such a fantastic film. You feel like you have known the characters forever because right off the bat when the film starts they are just very likable. This was the first time a film had won six Academy Awards also including Best Writing/Screenplay. Mrs. Miniver deserved every nomination and every award it won. I enjoyed this film very much especially because after I visited London last summer and learned what the British went through. I have been so used to learning the American side of WWII that learning a European side was so interesting. In some ways I was able to understand the situation of Mrs. Miniver and that made the film much more enjoyable.
Mrs. Miniver is one of the best films to come out of the World War II period. This is a must see for any film lover.
Dodge City (1939)
“Dodge City… rolling in wealth from the great Texas trail-herds… the town that knew no ethics but cash and killing.”
I believe I am beginning to like Westerns when for a long time I vehemently swore against them. I thought them cheesy… and to a certain extent I still do but sometimes I see a Western that has a good story and cast. There was no way I could pass up viewing Dodge City since one, this is the fifth of nine pairings of Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn and two, it was made in the fabulous year of 1939 when over five hundred films were released. De Havilland would star in five films that year including this and Gone With the Wind (this is totally unfair I am the age she was at this time and I feel totally unaccomplished with my life. Just think to be twenty-three years old, starring in one of the greatest films of all time and being nominated for an Academy Award. Yes, this is something I think of jealously at night after watching one of her films). Dodge City has a good story and of course very good acting from the leads as well as the supporting cast.
Wade Hatton (Flynn) and his two friends just helped to build a railroad out to Kansas. The railroad passes through the newly named town of Dodge City. The town is horrible with no morals or ethics and people running manic all over the place. Even on Sundays the streets are not safe. A cattle herder and seller makes the town very dangerous and corrupt. Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) and Wade are old enemies. Surrett is corrupt as the day is long and is not afraid to kill anyone to get what he wants. He and his cronies recently killed a man that wanted his money from them. The man had a wife and young son.
Wade also helps a group of pioneers traveling to Kansas cross the Midwest. One of the travelers is Abbie Irving (de Havilland) and her brother Lee. Lee has been drunk and embarrassing most of the trip. When the travelers stop to rest Lee starts shooting off his gun scaring a herd of buffalo. Wade tells the guy to stop but he will not listen and has no choice once the buffalo start to run to shoot Lee in the knee. The buffalo come storming through the camp and crush Lee to death. Abbie is more than angry with Wade for what she feels he did to her brother.
In Dodge City, Wad befriends the little boy who lost his father. Abbie was taking the boy and a group of children out for a wagon ride one Sunday when a gun fight erupted. The horse got scared and the boy tried to help but they got loose and he was killed. After this incident Wade is no longer reluctant to become the sheriff of Dodge City. He does a fantastic job the streets are safe to walk along and people are now moving back.
The only person keeping Dodge City from being truly safe and sound is Surrett and his gang. Abbie’s life becomes threatened when she and the local newspaper man get dirt on Surrett that can send him away for life.
Knowing that Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland were the stars it is not a shock that they end up together and the final moments of the film they live happily ever after.
I truly enjoyed this western very much. Errol Flynn was a great action star and made a great cowboy. I found it funny that the two stars of the American west were not Americans: Flynn was Australian and de Havilland is British. Flynn made a much better cowboy than any American I have ever seen (well, ok, so no one throws anything at me John Wayne was the ultimate cowboy). De Havilland was adorable in the film. I love seeing her as feisty characters who talk back and get involved. I loved all her costumes too I think this was her best film as far as costumes go and looking good in them from the films I have seen her in as of now.
Bruce Cabot as a bad guy was so weird to see!! I am so used to seeing him as Fay Wray’s rescuer Jack Driscoll in King Kong and the very sweet Mac in Finishing School that seeing him as a bad guy was nuts!
Now the whole time I was watching this film I was going nuts wondering who the guy was who played Yancy one of Surrett’s cronies. His hard face and speech looked and sounded so familiar. Times like these I love having the iPhone and the IMDB app because I found out that the actor’s name was Victor Jory who just so happened to be Joans Wilkerson in Gone With the Wind.
The rest of the supporting cast was great. They brought along much needed funniness and plenty of action.
One of the scenes is fantastic. It is a brawl in a saloon Surrett owns which starts out over men who fought in the Civil War on both sides. The performer on stage sings the Yankee song then a group of men start singing the Confederate song. Pretty soon some punches are being thrown and the whole inside of the saloon comes tumbling down. Everyone goes to jail afterwards and new laws and rules are set forth about drinking, gambling, and fighting.
Michael Curtiz, one of my favorite directors of all time, directed this film. The man made so many different genres of film and I am always impressed with whatever he does.
Dodge City is a great Western film. This put Errol Flynn on the map for making action films and he deserved it. He was not the dirty, slimy, tough as nails cowboy he was a clean, handsome, quiet, and well respected one. Olivia de Havilland was adorable to no end; I can gush all day about how cute she was in her early films. This is one of the films that shows how great Flynn and de Havilland were as a screen couple they really did have so much chemistry between them. Dodge City is a fabulous Western film that when I eventually get it on DVD I will be watching plenty of times over
And in this case the love story did prove to be unhappy, well not really unhappy just not that great. If you ever read about Parnell you will read that it is not one of Clark Gable’s or Myrna Loy’s best films and that it horribly flopped (it cost $1,547,000 and it only grossed $1,576,000 according to IMDB).
Charles Stewart Parnell (Gable) is fighting for Home Rule and independence from England in the British Parliament. Many people see Parnell as a problem and a rebel but to the people of Ireland he is their uncrowned king.
Parnell meets an English woman named Katie O’Shea (Loy). Katie believes in Parnell and what he is fighting for. When he is in trouble and needs a place to stay she lets him stay at her English country home. The two start to fall in love but unfortunately Katie is married to a political man and he will not divorce her until after he is elected and mostly because it would not look good having Parnell in the house at the time people would know Katie was cheating.
Thanks to the hard work of Parnell and his followers Parliament is willing to consider the Home Rule. But everything can come crashing down when Katie’s husband wants to divorce and names Parnell in the separation. Parnell starts to lose followers and respect because he will not defend himself believing that his and Katie’s private lives are nobody’s business. The people feel that if he cannot defend himself how will he ever defend his country.
Soapy, romantic, historic story will a soapy ending.
So yes this is not the best film from the two leads but their acting was not bad. Clark Gable was the all American tough guy playing an Irish man with no accent (well to defend that the studios did not want their stars to play with accents so that is not entirely Gable’s fault) who is in love and he moaps about it. Definitely not the Gable we are used to seeing but his acting was not bad at all he just does not fit in period films. I know I will have things flying in my direction but I really do not think he even fit that well in Gone With the Wind, he was not great in period films. Myrna Loy was the modern, sophisticated, quick witted 1930s woman she was very out of place, like Gable, in a period film. Loy looked weird in the period costumes after seeing her so many times in fabulous Art Deco clothing (she still looked gorgeous though). Loy brings up a great point in her book: people were so used to seeing them as characters like Blackie Norton from Manhattan Melodrama and Nora Charles that there was a bit of an uproar over them playing in a period piece. She says for God’s sake they were actors! But that was the problem back then the studios had them so type casted. Loy also says that she liked this film and she thinks that Gable has one of his most romantic and best scenes in it. Surprisingly Gable and Loy were crowned “King and Queen of Hollywood” the same year in a nationwide poll… well maybe not surprisingly they were always awesome with Parnell just a blip.
I found it so odd that Billie Burke was in this film mostly because the year before Loy played her in The Great Ziegfeld. Burke played Loy’s sister and I do not know if it was awkward because I was thinking of The Great Ziegfeld or if it was because Burke’s character was outrageously annoying (most likely the latter).
Adrian designed the costumes for the film. Even in a period piece his costumes still managed to maintain some kind of modern aspect. He was just a genius all his costumes are wonderful.
I think I definitely have to blame the problem of the film on the director John Stahl. The direction was just not good at all if it had been in the hands of a better director the film would most likely not have bombed as bad. As great as Myrna Loy and Clark Gable are at acting it felt like they dragging along like Stahl was not getting anything out of them. Stahl was known for his weepy women’s films so that is most likely why Gable is a huge pile of fluff. Loy could pull off dramatic roles she did a dozen times but Gable just could not.
Parnell is a boring film no doubt about it and it does have its faults with the casting and the direction but for the most part it is not an awful biographical film. Besides the romantic stuff and making Parnell soft the film is as accurate as MGM could make it. I could definitely see where the audiences of the time were disappointed in the film, I thought to myself if I saw the film in the theaters when it was released I would have been disappointed if I had paid to see it.