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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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TopBilled’s Essentials


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#1 TopBilled

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Posted 18 February 2017 - 11:18 AM

Essential: THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (1949)

 

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Some performances are so good they’re nothing less than masterful. Claude Rains gives such a performance in this film. It’s something that works on more than one level– as an actor connecting with an audience; as an actor following through on what the director and screenwriter intends; and as an actor to be watched by other actors (to see how it can be done).
 

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The film shares thematic similarities with David Lean’s earlier romance drama BRIEF ENCOUNTER. Both productions feature Trevor Howard as the “ideal” lover. Here he’s the heart’s desire of a woman played by Ann Todd (Lean’s real life wife), but she is married to Rains. It’s a triangle with all the usual complications, but it’s not one with a predetermined outcome. Nor is it one that automatically suggests Howard and Todd are the central focus, while Rains is made to play the jealous husband in the background. In fact, it is very much Rains’ picture, with the other two contemplating each other in ways that their fantasy may have a profound, real effect on Rains. Eric Ambler’s screenplay, based on a story by H.G. Wells, makes them all human and Rains just as much a part of the action and the outcome as he should be.
 

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There are several flashbacks that recount the story of how Todd knows Howard, revealing why she may have loved Howard or thought she loved him, but really loves Rains more. Rains is put through torturous paces when finds himself turning to mush around his potentially adulterous wife– a kind of sentimentality and devotion he assumed he was beyond. But while things may seem to spin out of control, there is a smoothness and an assuredness that these are adults who can figure it all out in the end.
 

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Though the film does lead to a sensible romantic conclusion, it keeps pulling us back into a fantasy world with Todd’s character. Her daydreams and her friendship with Howard always seem to signify more, as if she’s on the cusp of experiencing something greater and deeper. By the time she realizes what a mess she’s made of everything– how she’s put her marriage to Rains in jeopardy as well as Howard’s marriage to his wife– she tries to do what is right for each person concerned. In the process, she reaches a near-tragic point, where she is brought back to reality by what she really wanted and needed from the start.
 

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THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS airs occasionally on TCM.


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#2 TopBilled

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 11:45 AM

I will be reviewing my thirty-second essential tomorrow.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-9-45-43-am.png

 

Check back.


"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#3 TopBilled

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 06:23 PM

Incidentally I don't think any future remakes of LOVE AFFAIR should discard the religious/spiritual aspects. It should remain central to the love story.

 

What I would change, however, is I would cast the kids with non-professional actors and coach them. I think it would play better if these were actually poor children who can sing well but not in a showy/show biz sort of way. It should be genuine and real-- so when the actress does the scene with them, we get a very human almost semi-documentary feel like she is reaching out to encourage their talent. I believe that would still keep it sweet without being too cutesy. 


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#4 Jlewis

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 04:59 PM

It has been a long time since I saw the '94 version (which wasn't that great apart from the great Kate in her bit role), but you can see how the window shot of the Empire State was repeated in a key scene in this trailer.

 


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#5 TopBilled

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 04:46 PM

Although Leo McCarey did a great job remaking his own film scene by scene with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, I feel that black and white suits this story much better than color and CinemaScope, especially since TCM aired a Museum of Modern Art print that was vastly superior than so many public domain prints (even if there were plenty of scratches that could have been digitally fixed). RKO could easily import shots from the many older RKO-Pathé travelogues (and they had a plenty of material stretching the decades through their Pathé material) more successfully with studio created shots of Madeira. (Only MGM's Jimmy FitzPatrick had it covered in Technicolor one year prior to this time.) Also the matte work looked quite realistic in the scenes of the pair leaving grandmother and her waving at them from the distance. The sets of her house and garden are pretty much the same in both films almost as if they were recycled, but they appear more realistic in monochrome. Can't place my finger on why exactly. Despite how many great CinemaScope travelogues 20th Century Fox was putting out in the fifties that could be incorporated in many of their features (like Three Coins In the Fountain and Love Is a Many Splendored Thing), An Affair To Remember feels rather stage-bound.

 

If I had a chance to remake it, I'd do it in sepia-- at least the first part. The chapel scene would practically look gold. Then when she has the accident, I'd go to black and white with very dark lighting to show how close she's come to death. I'd start to brighten it when she sees him at the theater. And the eventual reconciliation I'd really lighten the scenes, almost have the images washed out in white to signify the heavenly theme. There's a lot that could be done with it visually in a remake, even if mostly filmed on a stage. 

 

Another thing I like about the story is that every time something happens to one of them, it then happens to the other. So they are in a way mirror reflections of each other (each other's souls). I would use reflections such as the shot of the building in the glass door, and have them in front of mirrors a bit more. I think when she's devastated by the accident she would be examining herself anyway in front of mirrors to see how much she's changed. The story could be presented very psychologically to tie in with the spiritual aspects. Quite similar to a Sirk melodrama.


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#6 Jlewis

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 04:39 PM

It is the phase you are going through. The religious aspect, that is. Ha ha! So was everybody in 1939 too, with war clouds on the horizon.

 

Although Leo McCarey did a great job remaking his own film scene by scene with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, I feel that black and white suits this story much better than color and CinemaScope, especially since TCM aired a Museum of Modern Art print that was vastly superior than so many public domain prints (even if there were plenty of scratches that could have been digitally fixed). RKO could easily import shots from the many older RKO-Pathé travelogues (and they had a plenty of material stretching the decades through their Pathé material) more successfully with studio created shots of Madeira. (Only MGM's Jimmy FitzPatrick had it covered in Technicolor one year prior to this time.) Also the matte work looked quite realistic in the scenes of the pair leaving grandmother and her waving at them from the distance. The sets of her house and garden are pretty much the same in both films almost as if they were recycled, but they appear more realistic in monochrome. Can't place my finger on why exactly. Despite how many great CinemaScope travelogues 20th Century Fox was putting out in the fifties that could be incorporated in many of their features (like Three Coins In the Fountain and Love Is a Many Splendored Thing), An Affair To Remember feels rather stage-bound.



#7 TopBilled

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 03:56 PM

The movie is also quite religious in tone, compared to other non De Mille films of that decade. The whole "nearest thing to heaven" line relating to the Empire State echoes how they first "fell in love" inside grandma's chapel and she does the sign of the cross, while he is a bit more awkward imitating her. After all, he hadn't acknowledged his religious side since he was an altar boy.

 

The only parts that date a bit for me are the nauseatingly cute kids, although they aren't as icky as An Affair to Remember. One plus is that 1930s-40s films are interracial in children's groupings, unlike 1950s Mickey Mouse Club whiter-than-Wonder-Bread. The "Our Gang" series made racial mixing acceptable for two decades, but things became a trifle more segregated post-war despite progress by Stanley Kramer and Sidney Poiter.

 

I like the religious tone of it; it appeals to me. The kids are very cute and I am sure audiences in 1939 thought so too. Schmaltz in a good way.


"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#8 Jlewis

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 02:01 PM

I watched LOVE AFFAIR again. There's a wonderful shot where she reads in the newspaper he didn't marry the other woman (meaning he's free to be with her) and she steps out on to the balcony-- as the door slowly swings open we see a reflection of the Empire State building in the glass, signifying the pre-arranged meeting place for them. These artistic touches, along with Irene Dunne's sensitive acting, really help to put this film over.

 

I like that scene. Also HE gets a companion shot while working on the billboard painting, only the camera just moves to the Empire State instead of just being reflected in a window. That scene reminded me of several other movies, but the only one I can think of, off hand, is dreamy Janet Leigh in Bye Bye Birdie leaning on a doorway and no reflection there. This is after she and Dick Van Dyke "consummate" their relationship after he rescued her from the Turks Men Club.

 

Lots of Empire background shots in The Lost Weekend preceding that movie as well.

 

The movie is also quite religious in tone, compared to other non De Mille films of that decade. The whole "nearest thing to heaven" line relating to the Empire State echoes how they first "fell in love" inside grandma's chapel and she does the sign of the cross, while he is a bit more awkward imitating her. After all, he hadn't acknowledged his religious side since he was an altar boy.

 

The only parts that date a bit for me are the nauseatingly cute kids, although they aren't as icky as An Affair to Remember. One plus is that 1930s-40s films are interracial in children's groupings, unlike 1950s Mickey Mouse Club whiter-than-Wonder-Bread. The "Our Gang" series made racial mixing acceptable for two decades, but things became a trifle more segregated post-war despite progress by Stanley Kramer and Sidney Poiter.


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#9 TopBilled

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 01:43 PM

I watched LOVE AFFAIR again. There's a wonderful shot where she reads in the newspaper he didn't marry the other woman (meaning he's free to be with her) and she steps out on to the balcony-- as the door slowly swings open we see a reflection of the Empire State building in the glass, signifying the pre-arranged meeting place for them. These artistic touches, along with Irene Dunne's sensitive acting, really help to put this film over.


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#10 Jlewis

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 04:45 PM

You'll have to remind us of Love Letters later. Ha ha!

 

Initially I posted that I had no clue when that one was being aired. Then I read your post below and saw it for April.


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#11 TopBilled

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 04:07 PM

TCM is airing Love Affair tonight (9:45 Eastern Standard Time). Yes, this is the 1939 version without Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr or The Beatty couple.

 

Thanks for the reminder, Jlewis!


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#12 Jlewis

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 04:01 PM

TCM is airing Love Affair tonight (9:45 Eastern Standard Time). Yes, this is the 1939 version without Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr or The Beatty couple.


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#13 Jlewis

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Posted 11 February 2017 - 12:40 PM

Only saw it once ages ago and I do agree with your opinions. It is flawed but interesting as a relic of its era. I struggle a bit seeing Cotten "romantic" due to so many typecast roles in dramas and crime situations, not to mention all of his radio work in serious material (Suspense included).


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#14 TopBilled

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Posted 11 February 2017 - 11:50 AM

Essential: LOVE LETTERS (1945)

 

A lot can be said for romantic films of the 1940s, especially ones made at the end of the war. In this Paramount classic, the focus is on a soldier’s ability to readjust to life on the home front. It features two of David Selznick’s stars (and probably a lot of his input). Joseph Cotten plays the soldier who is thrust into an uncertain future when he goes back to England after international battles end.
 

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Of course he quickly discovers there are newer types of battles, and they rage inside his heart. He is deeply connected to Victoria Morland (Jennifer Jones), a girl he was writing letters to while he was away. In a clever psychological reworking of Rostand’s ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ screenwriter Ayn Rand shows us Cotten has written the letters on behalf of another, less poetic, war buddy. When Cotten goes home, he learns the buddy died but not until after he had married Victoria. All did not go well in the marriage, because the other man was a phony, not the one she had fallen in love with while Cotten was pouring out his innermost feelings from somewhere in Italy.
 

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Rand’s script relies on more than one coincidence to bring it all together. After Cotten has been mustered out, he goes to a party and meets a girl named Singleton. She just so happens to be the widowed Victoria, but she became an amnesiac when her husband was fatally stabbed. We learn in a very skillfully photographed flashback how she went on trial and was found guilty, though she had no recollection of the killing or about herself. At first Cotten doesn’t know Singleton is the girl who received his letters, and then when he does find out, it becomes a matter of her realizing who she is and how her whole being is connected with his. Before we get to the resolution, she is prone to fits of hysteria.
 

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Critics of the day were not too kind to the film, but audiences loved it. It became a huge hit for the studio and its stars. Jennifer Jones, on the heels of her Oscar triumph for SONG OF BERNADETTE, received another nomination. In particular Bosley Crowther found fault with her performance, calling it fatuous (silly or contrived). I would agree with Crowther to a point, but only when Jones is trying to show the girlish innocence of the character. I think the dramatic scenes, where she has to summon more adult courage and a wiser perspective, are exemplary. Cotten for his part is fairly solid, though I don’t think he totally invests himself in the material. Cecil Kellaway does an outstanding job as the caretaker of the house; and so does Ann Richards who plays a well-meaning friend of the couple.
 

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While it is not a perfect film, it succeeds in combining the more terrifying elements of post-war readjustment– not only for the men who are returning, but also the women they return to. Both main characters in the story have a duality that puts them on a mutual path of healing. Like Rostand’s Cyrano, the mask has to come off and love has to be followed to the letter.
 

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LOVE LETTERS was directed by William Dieterle and is scheduled to air on TCM on April 7th.


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#15 TopBilled

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Posted 10 February 2017 - 01:45 PM

I will be reviewing my thirty-first essential tomorrow.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-11-32-22-am.jp

 

Check back.


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#16 TopBilled

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 05:59 PM

Madame Ouspenskaya is also very effective in "The Rains Came".

 

Yes, that's another one. She's also wonderful in two Republic Pictures she made after the war-- as a patroness of the arts in I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU and as an old world grandmother out west in WYOMING.


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#17 rayban

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 05:14 PM

Re: Madame Ouspenskaya-- it had been about a year since I had seen LOVE AFFAIR. And it's funny how one's memory works. I could have sworn the segment when they got off the boat and visited with her at the villa was at least a half hour, like a full third of the movie. But when I re-watched it a few days ago, I realized it's a much shorter segment. But she's such a tremendous character actress, making so much of so little, that she sort of looms over the rest of the movie. At the end, he tells Dunne that his grandmother died and gives her something the grandmother wanted her to have. It almost feels like the old woman's spirit is hovering nearby, making sure they reunite.

 

Another good performance by her is the role she has in BEYOND TOMORROW, where she is once again guiding a romantic couple, played by Richard Carlson and Jean Parker. But that time she has help from Charles Winninger, Harry Carey and C. Aubrey Smith. 

Madame Ouspenskaya is also very effective in "The Rains Came".


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"I was born the day she kissed me.  I died the day she left me.  I lived a few weeks while she loved me." - Humphrey Bogart in "In A Lonely Place".


#18 TopBilled

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 02:02 PM

... but she couldn't save Lon Chaney Jr. from becoming The Wolf Man. 

 

No. She couldn't help that poor soul!


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.


#19 Jlewis

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 12:19 PM

... but she couldn't save Lon Chaney Jr. from becoming The Wolf Man. :(


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#20 TopBilled

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 12:13 PM

We also have Judi Dench in Shakespeare In Love. Yet maybe that Oscar was technically for her costume "modeling".

 

Re: Madame Ouspenskaya-- it had been about a year since I had seen LOVE AFFAIR. And it's funny how one's memory works. I could have sworn the segment when they got off the boat and visited with her at the villa was at least a half hour, like a full third of the movie. But when I re-watched it a few days ago, I realized it's a much shorter segment. But she's such a tremendous character actress, making so much of so little, that she sort of looms over the rest of the movie. At the end, he tells Dunne that his grandmother died and gives her something the grandmother wanted her to have. It almost feels like the old woman's spirit is hovering nearby, making sure they reunite.

 

Another good performance by her is the role she has in BEYOND TOMORROW, where she is once again guiding a romantic couple, played by Richard Carlson and Jean Parker. But that time she has help from Charles Winninger, Harry Carey and C. Aubrey Smith. 


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"Since I have no past, I have no future. Only the moment, only now. So we can enjoy it without obligations or regrets."-- Jennifer Jones to Joseph Cotten in LOVE LETTERS.





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