Jlewis

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Everything posted by Jlewis

  1. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Hate to go far off topic on this thread, but it is remarkable how much that video (its flip side being "Everything She Wants"... and poor George just couldn't provide her everything) contrasts with that other holiday song that George participated in that same year of 1984... 1984 was the year of feeding the hungry, a sharp contrast to 1983 being just one big battle over the last remaining Cabbage Patch Doll. I guess this was more in the spirit of A Christmas Carol (with another George, Mister Gee See Scott, starring that year).
  2. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Well... not all are bad. Gremlins, which didn't get aired nearly enough back-in-the-day on the Hallmark Channel even though it boasted as much evergreen and gawdy lights as anything else on that network, did revive in popularity the 1963 chestnut "Christmas, Baby Please Come Home", belted out by Darlene Love as she gets drowned out by Phil Spector's "wall of sound" (and while those frisky furies ran amuck in the movie). Then there's White Christmas providing one of the most memorable duets: Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye singing "Sisters" complete with blue ostrich feathers and the two gazing at each other during the lyrics "... and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man". (Yup, both Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen had their work cut out for them in that one.) Regarding the music in the two Christmas Carol films... I think the music added to "why" Radio City refused to accept the '51 version like it enthusiastically did the '38 one. Below is the opening title sequence, which hardly puts the audience in a festive state of mind. Note that Richard Addinsell's score with Muir Mathieson orchestrating opens like a sinister film noir or horror movie (something Hitchcock would do), then converts into a "Hark the herald angels sing" section more in tune with the '38 version before once again getting all menacing and foreboding shortly before Addinsell and Matheson get credited on screen. The film did very well in the UK because the Brits enjoy a dark edge to the proceedings, but Americans are very sensitive and fussy about such things they hold as "traditional".
  3. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    To be honest, I am not a fan of “holiday” movies. I feel “holidays” are presented too optimistically on screen, too whitewashed when the reality is that these periods can be very dark and depressing for many. This is an aspect I do like about It’s A Wonderful Life despite all of the unnecessary Capra preaching involved. I like Jimmy Stewart attempting suicide in that one even if he is stopped. The Scrooge films are interesting in presenting this darker side as well. I guess my issue with CC ‘38 is that it is too bright. Too much like other happy holiday affairs. Only seen parts of the 1970 version. Saw Billy Murray’s version once back in either ‘89 or ‘90 on vhs and thought it was moderately amusing. Later I thought Groundhog’s Day was better suited to his talents. I have a feeling I would be less impressed with the ‘84 version with George C. Scott today than I was decades ago, but I still felt it was better than the ‘38 version, mostly because it kept the dark elements in. Rewatched the ‘51 version again this week after the ‘38 version. Obviously it is the superior “A” budget version that may have the unfair advantage and is closer to the original despite adding a bit more material not in the original. I also like the two David Lean (not Scrooge but still Dickens) productions of the 1940s that share its post war British Hollywood style. There is something special about that period in British cinema just before television completely took over when music scores were nice and slushy, the cinematography was atmospheric even in black and white (although the Technicolor films on that side of the Atlantic also were quite unique) and so many character actors stood out even in limited roles on screen.
  4. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Then again, SHOW BOAT and LITTLE WOMEN were done for Universal and RKO initially and MGM was trying to ape their versions, much as they did in B&W with a follow-up to Paramount's DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. I cannot lie. I favor the non-MGM versions of that trio. Yet, regarding Dickens, both DAVID COPPERFIELD and A TALE OF TWO CITIES are worthy MGM efforts. Again, I did like parts of A CHRISTMAS CAROL but I was spoiled by seeing the other versions first. Had I seen them all in a different order, maybe I would have a different opinion.
  5. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    I admit that I was spoiled by seeing the '51 and '84 versions before taking on this one a decade or two ago. I did give it a second viewing last week. It is part of a TCM four movie set blessed with some great extras like the delightfully sappy shortie THE CHRISTMAS PARTY (1931) with Jackie Cooper. I should also add that VCI Entertainment's 2011 DVD of the '51 Renown production directed by Brian Desmond Hurst (original title on the film is preserved as SCROOGE, but the DVD cover says A CHRISTMAS CAROL) also has some excellent extras, especially an in-depth documentary spotlighting how then current events like the Festival of England and a political election focusing on welfare reform infiltrated that version. Regarding MGM's version, I did enjoy parts of it if not the whole thing. Like the studio's earlier and superior DAVID COPPERFIELD, Dickens' London recreated on the Culver City backlot looks fairly convincing. Also I like seeing the Lockhart family working together as the Cratchits even though it would have been nice for 13-year old June to have substantial dialogue so she could stand out among the others cast as her parents' children. Best of all is seeing Leo G. Carrol in his pre-Hitchcock days playing Marley's ghost. Both his scene and the flaming plum pudding that almost burns down the Cratchits house did kinda... turn me on. Reginald Owen is a talented actor, but I think all of the lop and chop done with the original source material impact his performance. It was wrong to have him transform from nasty Scrooge to Mister Happy Go Lucky so rapidly. Other versions that stuck closer to the original had his personality transition more gradually and realistically. In addition, Alastair Sim played Scrooge in the '51 version as a very lonely man who suffered some emotional (rather than economic) disappointments in life including the death of his sister paralleling their mother in a scene not part of the story but a good addition to his on screen character. We are only teased a little regarding the past of Owen's Scrooge so we aren't entirely sure why he starts out as so grouchy, apart from a silly snowball hit. Obviously MGM intended their version more for the kiddie matinee than adults (and Lionel Barrymore's trailer for it emphasizes the children aspect, showing Reginald Owen laughing a lot in the previews). I wonder if the criticism that Disney's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and Selznick's THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER received for being too frightening (which, by the way, did not hurt the former's box office at all) may have had some impact on Mayer & Co. toning everything down considerably. While there are no picket fences of the Andy Hardy variety here, everybody still looks squeaky clean and well fed. Gone are the starving children shivering under the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Gone are the greedy seedy ghetto scenes; the part involving the Ghost of Christmas yet-to-come being the most boring of three “journeys”. The Cratchit house looks surprisingly well furnished, making you wonder if this family is suffering as much as they lead on. Even the dead goose Cratchit buys (which isn't shown often in the other versions)... and this he purchases after getting “sacked”... looks so much bigger than the dead turkey Scrooge provides later. Everybody (including Scrooge himself a little too early than I expected) is so relentlessly happy and there is nothing wrong with that had this been redesigned as a musical or comedy. Nothing against Barry MacKay and Lynn Carver, but they were bland as a couple giggling over the ice skidding. Not much that is haunting here either. As a ghost, Ann Rutherford looks more like a fashion model destined for Colliers Magazine (lots of cosmetics on her face even in black & white). One radical difference with other versions (and I can include an earlier and often overlooked 1935 version in the mix as well) is that many scenes here are brightly lit with few shadows present. Although SCROOGE '51 is not necessarily the darkest version, Brian Desmond Hurst and key cameraman C. Pennington-Richards nonetheless supervised it during a period when British film noirs were cresting and, like David Lean's equally beloved Dickens adaptations GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OLIVER TWIST, employed a certain German expressionistic touch that fits the supernatural elements of the story perfectly. The scene when Sim walks quickly in the dark towards the front of the screen and gets lit in a horror pose when he is stopped by the mysterious hand of the “future” ghost (later showing him his grave) reminds me of the much earlier THE LONG VOYAGE HOME where Greg Toland used a lot of dark versus light imagery to emphasize character emotional stress. Not surprisingly, this later version was rejected by Radio City Music Hall which openly embraced the cheery “family friendly” version 13 years earlier. Apparently the '38 version had a very rushed production schedule and many shortcuts were taken to get it released right away. This may account for so much missing in Scrooge's ghostly visits and each of them ending abruptly. Too bad they couldn't have planned it better, considering that MGM boasted a very creative special effects department that was busy working on THE WIZARD OF OZ at this time. This fantasy is ripe for so much cinematic imagination and experimentation. What we get is a rather pedestrian production with not much “wow” factor in the visual department. I am guessing that Walt Disney and his top director Robert Stevenson liked both '38 and '51 versions since they used two of their key players, Reginald Owen and Hermione Bradley (who played Mrs. Cratchit in '51 with more extended scenes than Kathleen Lockhart) for supporting parts in MARY POPPINS. Intriguingly David Tomlinson's role as Mr. Banks is vaguely Scrooge-like as he's more involved with money and work than his own family until the Julie Andrews influence (rather than three ghosts) has its impact. The children, if not their father, do get three adventures paralleling Scrooge's three: the animated sidewalk painting come-to-life, a ceiling tea party with Ed Wynn and the chimney swift dancing. Owen clearly had fun as Admiral Boom, which probably suited him better than Ebenezer since he has a very bombastic and energetic personality to begin with (another reason why his transformation in A CHRISTMAS CAROL may have seemed too abrupt for me). There are quite a few other similarities and most peculiar differences between MARY POPPINS and A CHRISTMAS CAROL that you can see from various angles. Examples include George Banks' “feed the birds” comments resembling Ebenezer's on feeding humans (along with Mr. Dawes Senior discussing “fat birds” much as the dead goose and turkey are discussed) along with the very cane used by Mr. Dawes Senior resembling Tiny Tim's even though he is a very old man who is most Scrooge-like and only dies once while Tim both dies and lives on screen. Like Scrooge, he does elevate in the air once he gets the “man with a wooden leg named Smith” joke, but without having to hold onto a ghost's sleeve.
  6. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    So you got to play Scrooge. I only play him in real life, not on stage. Only I ain't rich like Scrooge. OK... allow me a moment. Everybody stand back...
  7. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Saw the middle one. I could see TCM showing it in the middle of the night for avant garde reasons. Maybe after Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in Trapeze or something. Actually its gay counterpart, Wakefield Poole's Bijou, is much more cinematic and artistically interesting regardless of the interest level and "orientation" of viewers. Not that TCM seems eager to show that one during Pride Month anytime soon. Marilyn Chambers was much more animated in her performance than Bill Harrison and is, therefore, more deserving of Star of the Month.
  8. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Maybe I exaggerated a little. It is not like they added singing vultures imitating the Fab Four or anything like that. The basic story outline is left intact. Waiting a few days will also keep me more subtle.
  9. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    I realize you are discussing Hemingway but I initially was thinking Dickens. Re-watched the '38 film yet to be discussed this week. It has as much in common with Dickens as Disney's animated version of JUNGLE BOOK does with Rudyard Kipling. However I will wait a few days before commenting further... since there is so much to comment.
  10. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Oh I saw that one too. Forgot about it. It was moderately amusing, as many Murray comedies are. Also forgot to mention the Mister Magoo version that has a certain charm of its own. Rewatched the Richard Williams cartoon (with Chuck Jones serving as executive producer) again on YouTube. Most of the animated versions are too short, this one being under a half hour, but it still spooks me in my old age. Love how Marley is presented though.
  11. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Maybe next year you can do an "essentials" on just four or more different cinematic versions of this story. I saw the Henry Winkler TV movie during a repeat broadcast in the 1980s and thought it was an interesting un-Fonzie role for him even though he has expanded his filmography range considerably since. I doubt you would be all that gaga by it since it was, after all, your average TV movie of that week. Then there is Albert Finney in the big bloated "what the Dickens have they done to Scrooge?" musical, which did better at the box office at the time than DARLING LILI. I was a trifle traumatized as a wee tot by Richard Williams' animated version with its sinister graphic designs, but it made history by being the first made-for-TV (but shown in theaters a year later) animated short subject to win an Academy Award. Twelve years later, the Academy got much more strict about such things so that the Disney company had to make sure Mickey's version with Scrooge McDuck was first shown to paying customers at the multi-plex (with a reissue of THE RESCUERS). Unfortunately that effort was in vain. It lost to a goofy claymation version of Ed Koch singing "New York, New York". Haven't seen the Muppets version with Michael Caine in its entirety but I hear it is one of their best feature films.
  12. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Just jumping the gun briefly... I think one reason why the 1951 version is considered by many film historians as better than many others, including this glossy MGM version of 13 years earlier, is because it is darker in tone and matches the original material better. The 1984 TV version starring George C. Scott is also well regarded since it too is rather dark and tries harder to match the original (although that can always be debated with a fine comb). In the late thirties, MGM and "Pops" Mayer wanted their product to be very romantic and glossy. Plus their version was blessed with plenty of promotion by under-contract star Lionel Barrymore, whose enormously popular radio adaptations leading up to it that decade tended to be rather optimistic in tone, pleasing Depression listeners. (Unfortunately he could not play the title role for the screen due to his arthritis.) '51's SCROOGE was ironically considered a flop when United Artists released it in the United States (with the title reverted back to A CHRISTMAS CAROL), but by the 1980s and the Scott version, it had attained a cult status and many, many broadcasts outnumbering the '38 and other versions. (One overlooked version of interest is Henry Winkler playing the lead in a 1979 made-for-TV 1930s set in America version.) From what I gathered online, Charles Dickens visited the Cornish tin mines in early 1843, a few months before writing it, and saw the extreme poverty of child workers a.k.a. "Tiny Tims". (Note "tin", "tiny" and "tim" being close in spelling... coincidence?) He wrote a rather polarizing piece on the topic just before tackling Scrooge. Although Christmas was taboo during certain periods in British history (like under Cromwell), it had been slowly evolving into the major corporate business of today by the 1840s (thanks partly to the Queen Victoria and Prince Albert promoting it in their own way), but Dickens was critical about how this holiday was exposing the "haves" and "have nots" of the early Industrial Revolution when more children were manning dangerous machines in factories than going to school, let alone enjoying toys under a tree.
  13. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Anachronisms are very, very difficult to avoid. Somebody like Micheal Landon didn't worry about such things in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, which had its entire cast sporting blow-dry hair that was so seventies/early eighties poofy. You have to understand that anything set in the past poses challenges and expenses you don't expect. You can only cover so much with "cgi correcting". As time marches on and the past recedes further into the past, even items filmmakers used to take for granted such as vintage cars are becoming scarce. There was an interesting commentary on the use of the early and mid-sixties vehicles used in the Coen brothers' A SERIOUS MAN since they tried harder than others to evoke the era they were depicting. For a simple scene of the main character bumper hitting another, special cushions and a very long shooting day were needed to avoid any denting on the valuable vehicles that the owners renting them out could not stomach. Also it is a challenge whenever showing the inside of a residential home since there is a lot of stuff everyday people did not have many decades ago that are accidentally included in sets without anybody today realizing it until after the film leaves the editing room; the too-modern electrical outlets in the 1955 set REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is one example. However there are some things that I still get bothered by. I personally think music history is so well documented in too many books to count and too many websites online that a certain laziness creeps in when the mistakes I mentioned above take place. If somebody has enough interest to clear copyrights for a soundtrack, they should have enough interest to match the tunes to the times. I am also bothered by biographical mistakes that are done deliberately to increase the cinematic "drama" and make a deceased person more palatable to modern viewers. For example, having "Birdie" meet Lionel in 1934 instead of 1926 in THE KING'S SPEECH so that his success over his speech issues seem more triumphant in a MIRACLE WORKER sort of way. Personally I don't think viewers would think anything less of King George VI if he struggled just as much as many other less "royal" citizens over a longer period of time. It is OK to show how hard it is to overcome a handicap on screen. We don't all have short patience and trigger happy fingers on the remote control. With Woody Allen trying to prove how much "knowledge" his characters have on screen for their time... yes, that can be a sign of arrogance in this case. Simply put, people didn't get as educated back then as today. Even the stars can not hide how much internet surfing they have done while dressed in their period costumes. This is a problem I had with Leonardo's character in TITANIC. He was way too sophisticated for a person of his era. In fact, I think this would be an issue for me when I finally get around to watching CAFE SOCIETY too. The current actors, many sophisticated twenty and thirty somethings brought up on computers, may be lacking a certain innocence required for people living in the 1930s. P.S. note: This silly conversation of mine brings up two other films of interest: ROSEMARY'S BABY, which I referenced in conjunction with MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON as only goofy me would do, and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. These two are classic examples set just two or three years in the past, rather than many decades or a century in the past. (SHAMPOO was set five years, a bit too long.) It was never clear to me as to why it was so necessary to set the earlier film in 1965-66 except that the child of The Beast must have to be born in the 6th month of 1966 in order to qualify for at least some of those gosh-darn-important sixes that the later OMEN movies fussed over even more. Yet there is no denying how much effort Roman Polanski displayed in keeping to his time-frame despite only... ONLY... filming ROSEMARY'S BABY during the latter part of 1967. Yes, a couple of the new '68 cars are viewed in the New York streets and there was no way to block them out in an era before computer digitizing. Yet I am still impressed that he only showed older models close-up, as well as finding the appropriate TIME magazine issues, making references to the Pope's visit and other news details. Likewise, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN covers the Watergate scandal and was ONLY filmed in 1975, but was a tad bit sloppier in hiding the changes in vehicles and other details during the two to three years in question. Nonetheless that is still a good film that would still be more realistic than something that would be made today... four and a half decades later and with far fewer 1970s props available to include in sets.
  14. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Intriguingly THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO was set in the very year he was born with a recreated RKO film that never existed and RADIO DAYS covered his childhood years. The former was a fantasy, so there was more latitude allowed there. I think both of these and ZELIG, which parodied newsreels and PBS biopics, involved more careful planning than this one since they were made when he was younger and more detail conscious. He is getting older and foggier in his memory, y'know. I used to be a big pop music buff so I always noticed how often songs were played in movie time periods too early. The 1980s and early '90s period was especially sloppy in this regard. BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY played 1971's "American Pie" in a scene set in 1968, DIRTY DANCING played Otis Redding's 1967 "Love Man" in 1963, 1927's "My Blue Heaven" is heard in a scene that Jessica Tandy's Ninny says occurred "just after the Great War" in FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, "The Blues in the Night" is just one year too early in the Merchant-Ivory team's otherwise fairly accurate-to-its-period MR. AND MRS. BRIDGE and, well, at least Rob Reiner saved the theme song for STAND BY ME for the end credits and did not use it in any of the 1959 scenes. To be fair, the farther back you go in time with the movies themselves, the worse it gets. I only discovered this after fussing over the eighties and nineties stuff and nitpicking it to death first. THE GLENN MILLER STORY really had his discography all out of wack, but were any of those musical biopics accurate about anything at all? Practically every film made from the 1950s through '70s that was set in the '20s, with the possible exception of SOME LIKE IT HOT, simply played ANYTHING from the '20s regardless of what year it was set; THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE and THE GREAT GATSBY are particularly guilty of this. Then there's FORREST GUMP, a film that should be judged by a whole different criteria. On the plus side, it captures the essence of the times and even gets most of the clothes right. The music is all over the map in this one: see Hanks and his fellow soldiers in 'Nam in 1965 and hear Jimi Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower" three years too early. Also see the November 1969 candlelight march on Washington recreated before the Apollo moon landing and while Lyndon Johnson is mentioned by a character as still being in the White House. However Robert Zemeckis was very smooooooooth by having Tom Hanks' character telling a story... and we all know how stories are altered when told. He also purposely left out all dates shown on screen so we can never be sure. This is the same director who was playing around with time frames in the BACK TO THE FUTURE series, so it is not like we should be surprised. Forrest is simply a twin brother of Marty McFly who is a trifle confused with his time travels. Most famous of the movie-within-a-movie goofs was John Huston's ANNIE's 1933 setting with clips from Garbo's CAMILLE three years too soon. However WORDS AND MUSIC (1948) made the exact same boo-boo in a scene set in the 1920s and that was the same studio that made CAMILLE. Perhaps the original plan was to feature the earlier Nazimova/Rudolph Valentino version but something went wrong in the script department.
  15. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    What I find interesting about nostalgic period pieces is how they reflect the times they were made rather than the times they depict. It goes without saying that the old west looked more realistic in silent westerns of the teens and twenties when the actors and crews actually remembered the old west (and many featured used to work in cattle drives for real before starting this new career in flickers) than in the studio bound thirties through sixties when everybody was clean cut and wearing make up. Likewise TITANIC is way too 1990s-ish in the way the characters perform. Did any respectable lady like Kate give the finger back in 1912? GREASE takes an awful lot of imagination to convince you it was not made in the disco years. That same year’s SUPERMAN did a better job (if still hardly perfect) in recreating the fifties in just one brief sequence involving Glenn Ford. (Don’t get me started on DIRTY DANCING.) Much has been made about Julie Christie looking too Swinging London “Mod” for DR.ZHIVAGO but that adds to its charm. Then again, she was the only character in SHAMPOO who was dressed like she was living in 1968 rather than 1974, the year it was filmed. Just six years saw so many sweeping changes in fashion that they could not hide the obvious. I am sure there were guys who wore their hair like Warren Beatty in 1968, but it wasn’t as commonplace as it was later. In the years 1970-73 (the period that produced the infamous and notorious SUMMER OF ‘42 and THE GREAT GATSBY) there was an explosion of “soft focus” pieces with fogged over camera lens resembling your TV Hallmark commercials. Some like the Italian import THE GARDEN OF FINZI-CONTINIS worked well even if the stars looked way too preppy for the late thirties and early forties, a fault also with THE WAY WE WERE. Yet I love that Nixon Era period of American cinema when the actresses stubbornly refused to change their hair styles just to accommodate earlier fashions of an era when women were less independent and had fewer choices in life. You had a feeling some hairdresser with a blow dryer was just around the corner in every scene. My favorite period piece will always be QUEEN CHRISTINA since it does not try to be anything but MGM and Garbo’s take on 17th century Sweden.
  16. British Instructional Films Ltd., revived company under Associated British Pathé As mentioned in my introductory post here... In 1933, Harry Bruce Woolfe merged his British Instructional Films with Gaumont and took his popular “Secrets of Nature” series with him, changing the name to “Secrets of Life” since British Pathé, his most recent distributor, retained the rights to the original series name. Soon consolidating under a new name of Associated British Pathé, the company reissued many of the pre-1933 titles through the next two decades, often with new soundtracks. Then, around 1945, a decision was made to reboot a second “British Instructional Films” and have new material to offer. The company had already been flourishing with features and documentary shorts, especially their excellent “Pictorials” and newsreel items, so this wasn't an absolute necessity for them. Yet there was a post-war boom in school films and enough were in circulation for a brief period of about five years or so. Since 2011, British Pathé has uploaded the bulk of them for our YouTube viewing pleasure and it is high time I attempted to catalog as many titles as possible despite scant references online. It is interesting to note that over half of these are silent films for classroom movie projectors, including a fascinating series made in conjunction with the London Zoo that was loosely marketed in periodicals as “Nature Studies”. Each of these ran a mere 2-3 minutes and simply showed a familiar mammal or bird close up and in action so that artists learning to draw, animators looking for movement studies and children learning “what is a zebra” could enjoy a good examination without a human lecture or music interfering. While this may not have been the most novel of concepts, it was still a novelty that would successfully be repeated in 1971 by Encyclopædia Britannica Films with Jane & Peter Chermayeff's “Silent Safari” series that did add the animal sounds recorded in the field and, thus, weren't silent. All in black & white, with minutes and seconds indicated by “m” and “s” per YouTube lengths. Directors, if I know them, are indicated in (). Air Journey (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 7m46s / 1947 Made with support of B.O.A.C. Alpine Farm / (silent) 7m33s / 1945 Antelopes / (silent) 3m54s / 1947 Apes (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m44s / 1947 Apple Growing / (silent) 9m32s / 1949 Bears (David Welsh) / 3m3s / 1947 Bison (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m30s / 1947 Blast Furnace / 9m29s / 1949 Books / (silent) 6m28s / 1949 Boots And Shoes (David Welsh) / (silent) 6m39s / 1947 Bricks For Houses / (silent) 4m13s / 1947 Building A House (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 9m36s / 1947 Butter Making (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 10m51s / 1948 Camels / (silent) 4m25s / 1947 (?) Cape Buffaloes (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m17s / 1947 Casting In Iron / 11m43s / 1949 Made with the Council of Ironfoundry Associations and R. & A. Main, Ltd Cement / (silent) 7m15s / 1949 Chalk (David Welsh) / (silent) 8m8s / 1947 The Chameleon / (silent) 2m41s / 1949 Cheese From Milk / (silent) 10m7s / 1948 China Clay / (silent) 10m47s / 1949 Cows (The Cow Family) (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m / 1947 Creatures Of The Rock Pool / (silent) 5m53s / 1949 Cuckoo-Spit Frog Hoppers / (silent) 8m3s / 1947 Deer / (silent) 2m58s / 1947 The Dog Family (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 8m57s / 1947 Drifting / 10m27s / Aug 16, 1949 Covers fishing off the British coast, mostly East Anglia East Anglian Harvests / (silent) 8m30s / 1946 Egypt (Irene Wilson) / (silent) (1R) / 1948 An Egyptian Village (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 8m58s / 1947 Electricity / (silent) 20m / 1949 Elephants / (silent) 3m22s / 1947 (?) The Engine Driver / (silent) 8m29s / 1947 Fibre From Flax / 10m17s / August 16, 1949 Fibres To Fabrics / (silent) 10m42s / 1949 Find A Word No. 1-6 (J. Turner) / (silent) 6 shorts (3m each) / 1947 The Fireman / (silent) 11m7s / 1947 The Forge (David Welsh) / (silent) 4m33s / 1947 Giraffes (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m46s / 1947 The Glass Makers / (silent) 8m7s / 1947 Gold Beating / 5m56s / 1951 Grinding Corn (David Welsh) / (silent) (1R) / 1947 Harvest Time (David Welsh) / (silent) (1R) / 1947 Horses / (silent) 7m25s / 1946 (?) How Cotton is Grown In Egypt / (silent) 8m48s / 1949 How Fibres Are Spun / 10m12s / August 16, 1949 Husky Dogs (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m5s / 1947 Lace Making (J. Monkman) / (silent) 7m35s / 1947 Lions (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m / 1947 Lithography (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 8m29s / 1947 Llamas / (silent) 2m10s / 1947 Maize Harvest (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 3m46s / 1947 Mare And Foal / (silent) 3m2s / 1948 Margarine From Oil / 8m10s / 1949 The Mint (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 8m58s / 1946 Modern Bakery (David Welsh) / (silent) 5m48s / 1947 Modern Dairy / (silent) 6m49s / 1948 Monkeys / (silent) 2m55s / 1947 (?) Newspaper Story / (silent) 13m35s / 1948 Newsprint / (silent) 21m / 1945 Nigeria: Its People And Produce / 10m58s / 1951 Co-produced with J. Bibby & Sons Limited Nile Irrigation / (silent) 10m18s / 1948 Segments reissued: Sakia, The Shaduff & The Archimedean Screw Oil From Nuts / 9m34s / 1947 Oranges / (silent) 8m35s / 1950 Ostriches (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 2m33s / 1947 Owls / (silent) 2m24s / 1947 Pelicans / (silent) 2m30s / 1947 The Pathé site dates this to 1946 (likely filming date) but its release date in The New Era in Home and School is listed as September 1947, being the first of this “Nature Study” series. Penguins (David Welsh) / (silent) 3m / 1947 Port Of London / (silent) 10m38s / 1946 (?) Postcard To Devon / (silent) 10m11s / 1946 The Postman (J. Monkman) / (silent) 10m28s / 1947 Pottery Without A Wheel (David Welsh) / (silent) 9m39s / 1947 School Puppets (V. Brann & lrene Wilson) / (silent) 6m7s / 1947 (?) Science And The Farmer / 10m42s / 1949 Made for J. Bibby & Sons Limited Sea Harvests / 10m29s / 1949 Sea Lions (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m56s / 1947 Seals / (silent) 5m24s / 1948 Sheep And Lambs / (silent) 3m33s / 1948 Shellfish / (silent) 8m11s / 1950 Covers lobster, cockles & oysters Sights Of London / 11m29s / 1951 Silk From Mulberry / (silent) 10m42s / August 16, 1949 Skins From Seals / (silent) 8m36s / 1948 Slates / (silent) 6m7s / 1948 Some Flowering Plants: Dicotyledons / 8m18s / 1950 Some Flowering Plants: Monocotyledons / 6m33s / 1950 Spinning Flax / 10m48s / 1949 Stained Glass / 9m49s / Aug 16, 1949 Stockholm Story / 11m10s / 1951 Strange Sea Creatures / (silent) 9m2s / 1950 Covers turtles, sand worms, electric eel, sea horses & octopus Swan And Cygnets / (silent) 3m20s / 1948 Suez Canal (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 8m9s / 1947 Sugar Cane Harvest (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 3m50s / 1947 Summertime Meadow / (silent) 8m54s / 1946 (?) Summing Up: A Quarterly Chronicle of Current Events No. 1 (Peter Baylis) / 20m approx. / December 1946 Compilation of British Pathé material. The others were released accordingly: No. 2 (April 1947), No. 3 (July 1947), No. 4 (October 1947), No. 5 (December 1947) Tern, Plover & Coot / (silent) 6m8s / 1949 The Thames (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 8m30s / 1947 They Bring You Fish / (silent) 9m37s / 1948 (?) Tigers (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 2m49s / 1947 Timber For Houses / (silent) 8m42s / 1948 Tin Mining / (silent) 10m55s / 1949 Ti t-Mouse The Weaver / (silent) 5m47s / 1949 Tower Bridge / (silent) 4m53s / 1946 Trawling / (silent) 10m14s / Aug 16, 1949 Tree To Paper / (silent) 10m39s / 1949 Underground Journey / 4m26s / 1945 Shows girls on a subway in London Village Bakery / (silent) 5m32s / 1947 Cresswells' Bakery in Braintree, Essex Village Blacksmith (David Welsh) / (silent) 5m10s / 1947 Village Children Of South China / 8m50s / 1951 A Visit To A Farm (Irene Wilson) / (silent) 5m36s / 1947 Weaving Linen (David Welsh) / (silent) 4m30s / 1947 Whaling / (silent) 7m34s / 1948 Filmed off South Africa What Happens Next? Finish The Story No. 1 / 3m / December 1946 (U.S. release for this and the subsequent titles: September 14, 1951) As the title suggests, a partial story is shown and children must guess “what happens next” What Happens Next? Finish The Story No. 2-7 / remaining 6 shorts all 3m each / March 1947 Yaks (Miss H. Dunt) / (silent) 3m10s / 1947 Zebras (Miss H. Hunt) / (silent) 2m40s / 1947 In 1959, an attempt was made to create “Secrets of Nature”, the TV series. Unfortunately just a pilot show was produced:
  17. Going the British route this time with three intertwined companies that have provided some mighty fine shortie material over a cluster of decades. British Instructional Films a.k.a. “BIF” was created by Harry Bruce Woolfe and H.M. Howard in August 1919. Woolfe was the more powerful force of the two, managing his company through its merging with Gaumont British in 1933 until his semi-retirement in 1944. Two major focuses of Woolfe in the early years of his company were the Great War, which he felt disillusioned about and needed psychological therapy from, and Mother Nature, which easily provided therapy from the sound of guns. The former was represented in short films like The Battle Of Jutland as well as feature-length (up to six reels) newsreel compilations like Armageddon (1922), Zeebrugge (1924), Sons Of The Sea (1925), Ypres (1925) and Mons (1926). Yet the latter interest had the biggest impact on the company's fortunes despite being restricted to the 9-11 minute format. Over 30 “Secrets of Nature” one-reelers were in release by February 1923 and these remained a staple of the BIF and later Gaumont-British Instructional library for two decades further, being renamed “Secrets of Life”. Although there were other companies that showed time-lapse flowers blooming and roots penetrating the soil, tadpoles in development, stickleback daddies taking care of baby fish and sundews luring flies to their doom, only this company would make something as offbeat as Mitey Atoms (about cheese mites), microscopic “aquariums” in a wine-glass and Magic Myxies (about whatever they are... alien creatures from outer space?). At least one extinct species was documented for the cameras in Hold All a.k.a. Feeding Time At The Zoo: the thylacine or marsupial Tasmanian “wolf” would never be seen in any zoo after 1936. Apparently Walt Disney was impressed enough to borrow the second umbrella title for his own 1956 True Life Adventure feature; his own series of the post-war forties and fifties used the same tricks of the trade with the only key change being Technicolor. Only a select few later “Secrets of Life” were in Dufaycolor. Apart from that, the only handicap the original series had was no use of electron microscopes and computer technology, only introduced in wildlife and science films tentatively in the 1970s. One reason for their very high quality was the number of professionals fully experienced prior to joining and now at the peak of their skills. For example, Oliver G. Pike was a veteran of bird life films for several other companies since 1907, working at first for Charles Urban's Kineto... a company that also backed more than eighty little reels of Frank Percy Smith (who also made additional all-color reels for Natural Colour Kinematograph). Smith, as the most prolific cameraman for both the “Nature” and “Life” series, even dabbled in stop-motion animation; his Bertie the Bee, a co-star in his 1925 trio of cartoons featuring Archie the Ant, appeared in a few titles as an “expert” on flower pollination. In 1934, Smith collaborated with Mary Field on a book exposing the secrets of Secrets, titled (obviously) The Secrets of Nature. Field took over as director for the series so that Smith could stay focused on his camera work. Keep in mind that there weren't many ladies in such powerful positions in the British and Hollywood film industries at this time. Field was practically second-in-command to executive Woolfe. Even as a recently married woman in 1944, J. Arthur Rank still felt she should be the executive in charge of a company within a company (which I will get into in a bit). Through the twenties and early thirties, both features and shorts of a documentary nature continued to be the BIF bread-and-butter, examples of the longer kind include African “docu-dramas” like Palaver (filmed in Nigeria) and Stark Nature (Sudan). Nelson (1926) marked their first fictional drama featuring all actors and was followed two years later by Shooting Stars, directed by Anthony Asquith. After establishing glossier headquarters in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire during the fall of '28, entertainment features were increased in number to keep another of their key distributors New Era satisfied. By 1930, the bigger British International Pictures had increased its stock in BIF with Pathé also backing them, but the relationship between Woolfe and the new power-house in charge was only tolerated for a few years. In the summer of 1933, Woolfe declared his independence by temporarily forming British Independent Films in an attempt to get back to documentary basics. Then mighty Gaumont gave him a lucrative offer he couldn't refuse. Gaumont was... or shall I say still IS... most famously a French company created by Léon Gaumont (1864-1946) on June 23, 1895. It still produces films today, mostly in Europe, but also with Gaumont International Television operating in the United States. In fact, it holds the distinction for being the oldest movie company still making movies for theaters as well as for smaller screens, older than Hollywood's Paramount and Universal and also older than still chugging away Titanus of Rome and Nordisk of Copenhagen. Only one fellow company started in France can hold the second oldest title: Pathé occasionally produces films even if it is more of a distributor these days, but it was created just one year after Gaumont. Gotta hand it to the French for making companies that last! Gaumont began making films in the United Kingdom in 1898, but the official history of Gaumont British got underway when Isidore Ostrer took control in 1922. (This is where I start covering their pre-British Instructional product on these threads, with just a slight push-back a year or two to accommodate some series. You can read their full filmography in British Film Catalogue: Two Volume Set - The Fiction Film/The Non-Fiction Film edited by Denis Gifford and updated to 1995.) Gaumont-British mostly made feature films and would become an international force in the thirties with Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. A joke made in the Selznick version of A Star Is Born has Janet Gaynor asking if all of the movie studios were located in Hollywood. The response she gets is “all but Gaumont British” since this was the one “outside” company any average movie fan of the thirties could name. Operating now as Gaumont-British Instructional Films, Woolfe and Mary Field continued “Secrets of Nature” under a new logo “Secrets of Life” to avoid legal red-tape. Much of the in-depth analysis of the natural world carried over into man-made ventures like ship building, airplanes, farming and the history of English culture itself. New rising figures of importance during this era included Stuart Legg, J.B. Holmes and Paul Rotha. Perhaps due to the mother company being a British Hollywood factory, great care was put in production polish, with narration, music scores and editing done to make education as entertaining as possible. One curio though: despite Gaumount British making its first Dufaycolor short, Mother of Parliaments, in 1934, only a select few travelogues and nature reels were shot in either that system or Technicolor, unlike rival U.S. companies like MGM's Traveltalks. After Woolfe's retirement, new chief Donald Carter diversified the product further, even opening a new South African unit to accommodate the post-war demand for exotic travels on screen. Children entertainment got a big boost in 1944, a few years after J. Arthur Rank reorganized the General Film Distributors empire that distributed for Gaumont, Gainsborough, Ealing and other prominent companies. He put Mary Field in charge of a special division catering to kiddie matinees and a push into features followed. Bush Christmas (1947), The Adventures Of Dusty Bates (1947, initially a serial), The Little Ballerina (1947), The Lone Climber (1950), The Mysterious Poacher (1950), The Clue Of The Missing Ape (1953), The Gold Express (1955) and Supersonic Saucer (1956) were among the more famous titles. However the shorter films themselves were not overlooked and were brimming with fresh talent both behind and in front of the cameras. Jean Simmons made her debut in Sports Day, filmed in 1944 before super stardom under the wings of David Lean, Lawrence Olivier and Michael Powell. Petula Clark also first appeared in a GB Instructional made the following year, Trouble At Townsend, even if few outside of the UK knew who she was until after their country-by-country “British Invasions” of pop music two decades later and her singing “when you're alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go Downtown”. I will break my golden rule on this forum and add the animated cartoons into the mix here. Rank brought David Hand overseas from Disney to launch a Gaumont British Animation department. Alas... this was a great experiment that didn't last long. After providing animated sequences for the documentaries and making sponsored ad films right after the war, this company enjoyed only a short-lived success with its “Animaland” (featuring characters who would fit in well in Bambi's forest like Ginger Nutt Squirrel, despite his European tufted ears) and the more artistically creative “Musical Paintbox”. The earliest “Animaland” shorts even paid tribute to the series that made their mother company famous: The Cuckoo starts out as a parody on Edgar Chance's 1922 “Secrets of Nature” film covering the live-action bird even if this new character more closely resembles Baby Huey. Sadly the fifties were less kind than the thirties and forties to movie making, with a changing economy, new legislation changes and television taking their toll. The animation staff was the first to go when Rank began some downsizing at the start of the decade. Modest success came in the 16mm field, as this impressive catalog showcases: https://archive.org/details/gb16mmentert1gbeq A few years later, GB Instructional itself became GB “Specialized” Films as it too cut back in production. By the time Donald Carter left to work in Canada, virtually all shorts bearing the GB logo were off shoots of the newsreel division... which itself ended in 1959. However the market for shorts was not dead yet, since Rank Film Distributors continued to back a steady stream of independent travel and human interest reels just as the earlier General Film Distributors had supplemented its GB Instructional product. In fact, the big boss was even prompted to replace his dying newsreel with a very glossy and ambitious all-Eastmancolor weekly called “Look At Life”. This prevented the Rank features from ever getting lonely in theaters during the swinging sixties and, even after they ended, Rank (the company continuing after its founder's death) still released new theatricals and 16mm shorts as late as the 1980s. Below I have arranged everything by series. The dates given are either release dates as described by Gifford (mentioned above) or as trade show presentations (just before theatrical distribution) as listed in vintage Kinematograph Year Books uploaded on the Internet Archive.
  18. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Have not seen this one. Some of those Universal-International westerns are a bit obscure for me since the movie critics I read in my youth like Leonard Maltin and Leslie Halliwell tended to Pooh-Pooh the ones not featuring Jimmy Stewart. Halliwell treats this one as “unusual” but not particularly distinctive. Sounds like the screenplay was a mishmash of a couple earlier western plots.
  19. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    The whole Jean Arthur age issue didn't bother me. We all get bothered by completely different things in the movies we watch. Maybe it is just me. My sister waited until she was in her forties before having kids, even if such a thing wasn't typical of late 19th century farm wives. A bigger issue than the soft-focus photography was the dialogue. At one point, Van Heflin's Joe talks about marrying her young and pretty just a decade ago, which sounds peculiar since both he and Jean look like they have been married two or more decades. Despite its flaws, SHANE is still a reasonably good film with some interesting themes worth examining. George Stevens documented the opening of Dachau as a member of the U.S. Signal Corps and, not surprisingly, the films he made in the decade and a half culminating with THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK reflected the experience with an interesting perspective on death and killing, both human and non-human and especially how children relate to it all. In 1947, he directed the wonderful I REMEMBER MAMA in which the lead (Irene Dunne) makes sure her daughter Katrin (a pre-VERTIGO and DALLAS Barbara Bel Geddes) sees her favorite uncle just after he dies so that, in her words, "you won't be afraid of death". Intriguingly this uncle spent a lot of money saving the lives of children and helping one handicapped boy who was not related to him walk again. Although this very loving Norwegian family living in 1910 San Francisco had a rather "earthly" view of death, it was clear that they were very much against killing in any form. A cat is suffering in pain and they debate on putting him out of his misery. Ultimately they never succeed in their mission, but fortunately there is a very happy ending. In A PLACE IN THE SUN, it is obvious that Montgomery Clift's character (named George like the director) is totally incapable of killing anybody. Nonetheless his wife, played by Shelley Winters, drowns and he must pay the penalty... the death penalty. Also no more Liz Taylor to smooch him. I haven't seen his next feature, SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR, but I think that title speaks for itself. GIANT has some great life and death sequences, often involving non-humans like I REMEMBER MAMA. A beloved horse must be put down because of an injury, in addition to being partially responsible for the death of Luz (Mercedes McCambridge). Later we have that memorable scene of the three children befriending a turkey, only to be traumatized when their pet is served at Thanksgiving. Aside from Luz' death, we also witness another human death, that of "Angel" who was first saved from death as a baby when Liz Taylor's Leslie first found him with James Dean's Jett but later died for his country and is returned in a flag draped coffin. (Sal Mineo played him since Warner Brothers kept making sure his characters kept dying on screen.) Again, a small boy is focused on watching the funeral and yawning because he hasn't quite understood the whole purpose of it yet. Children and animals... While one horse looks uncomfortable doing a key stunt in SHANE, all of the other critters on camera look surprisingly happy. Joey has no bullets in his play gun and can only shout "bang bang" when the elk (wapiti) and mule deer roam about his farm as if they are the family pets. This family only kills when absolutely necessary. I especially like the scene of the mule deer just watching Shane arrive on his horse without any intention of running away until Joey shoos him away. No humans in this movie are violent except the villains who get killed in justice. There is even a big fuss made over a neighbor's pig getting killed as if he too was one of the family pets. Jean Arthur's Marian keeps telling Joey that he shouldn't become too attached to Shane because she knows he will some day have to go away. Why? Because, unlike them, he will eventually kill somebody. Yes, this somebody (Jack Wilson, played by Palance) killed a neighbor and justice had to be served. Yet Shane now has blood on his hands and must leave Joey's life forever because it is not the goal of this family for Joey to use guns with bullets.
  20. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Aside from a few props suggesting the fifties rather than the late 19th century like Jean’s make up and the modern children book used (and curious antlers on the farm that do not look like western American moose or wapiti), my main problem was that there are way too many Brandon face shots. More so than Fay Wray in KING KONG. I only recall a few close ups of Jean Arthur although she didn’t seem too old for me since Van Heflin looked rather tired in many of his scenes. They at least looked compatible as a middle aged couple with a kid. Maybe she had the kid at forty? Yeah... the Alan Ladd attraction of the kid was borderline Sal Mineo even if he is supposedly too young to be thinking of Alan like Sal.
  21. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Regarding the men... unless they are Clark Gable who can keep Claudette Colbert under his authoritative control and remind her who is wearing the pants. I still like that movie even if it too is gradually losing its luster. I know. I am exaggerating a bit here.
  22. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Yes. Capra has many issues with women in his films that is worth psychological analysis. Also the men in his films are often child like and uncomfortable with... women. Cue another film of his that I have referenced twice. Then again, George did manage to lasso the stork in that one once he figured it out. Yet ladies who do not marry and want a career become old maids with glasses working at the library.
  23. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    I am odd in what I see among multiple movies that otherwise have nothing in common. The problem with Capra is that he gets preachy. I used to like his 1946 holiday classic that has been aired to death on tv, largely because of the great performances. Yet it has lost its luster with me over the years and I find it a bit annoying to sit through today. There is way too much sermonizing and opinionated lecturing going on. In that one, Jimmy’s George hardly even thinks for himself with everybody telling him what to do. Maybe this is why Capra liked him as an actor? He obeyed authority figures on screen with little questioning?
  24. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    OK... I am jumping the gun here and you haven't posted your review yet. Maybe you aren't doing this particular film first, but I might as well get into it. Re-watched MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON again last night. Seen it multiple times but it had been a few years. Also watched another chestnut repeat on the previous night after a multiple year break, ROSEMARY'S BABY. Both films share a few striking characteristics in common, both strengths and flaws as you might say. The story core in each is, once you think about it carefully, rather silly. One involves a political battle over a silly dam being built where one wants a silly boys camp. (What? Isn't there enough room in the state for both?) Combined with this is the ruthless tycoon Jim Taylor, swarming-ly played by Eddy Arnold in essentially the same role as Lionel Barrymore in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, buying up an entire state and eager to make a quick buck once the bill passes through Congress. (Actually this part relates very well to modern day Washington D.C. even more so than it did in 1939 because an awful lot of senators today are “bought” and vote only the way they are paid to vote.) Yet Jimmy Stewart's Jefferson is sure making a huge mountain out of a mole hill here. Jean Arthur warns him early on not to exhaust himself as he gets overly excited seeing the sights from his taxi. This eager beaver needs to take a sedative. On the plus side, Claude Rains' John Pain accurately states that Jeff is simple but not stupid, so it takes him far less screen time than Mia Farrow's Rosemary to realize he has been hoodwinked. This brings me to the central plot core in the '68 film that is just as shallow as MR. SMITH. Rosemary is tricked by her husband to have sex with The Beast. Yet is he really Satan, since we don't even know what he looks like? Somehow I think it would be a much bigger world wide “deal” that would require more than just a cocktail party in a cramped NYC apartment celebrating. However there is so much production, cinematography wizardry and a central powerhouse performance involved in each that you easily forget so much of the basic silliness. Frank Capra and Roman Polanski were at the top of their game and really put a lot into these films. I will start with the perfect casting. I love all of the "gee, I didn't realize they were in this film" peekaboos in “support” such as Dub Taylor, William Demarest and Jack Carson among the reporters in the former film and, in the latter film, Patsy Kelly being super grumpy and Hope Summers so icky-icky sweet and controlling that your teeth ache with cavity pain just listening to her. Both directors also successfully contrasted lead personalities here for dramatic effect. Note how neither Claude Rains' Joseph Paine or John Cassavetes' Guy Woodhouse can even look at the always honest and genuine lead star directly. In the former film, Senator Joe is strategically placed several seats down (obviously due to the seating arrangement, but the camera angles and clever editing heighten the effect) while Guy has his face covered in the dramatic climax while standing in the next room as far away from his wife as possible. Polanski was obsessed with showing so many characters cut-off by side doors a.k.a. just in the next room so that you can't see exactly what they are doing. In Capra's film, we see multiple characters entering different rooms as they either change their personalities almost like Superman's cape in a telephone booth or, as in Jefferson's case, having a new spiritual awakening not experienced before (such as his first visit to Lincoln Memorial and the senate room for the first time, with focus put on his facial expressions). Particularly dramatic is the use of light versus dark in both films. What does Jean Arthur's Clarissa say about figures "casting long shadows"? Twice we see Arnold's Taylor in stark silhouette while those thumbling beneath him in cowardly allegiance are brightly lit since they have no place to hide from him even if he himself can easily become a creature of the night. Also shown in stark silhouette is Clarissa breaking through her cynicism to explain to a fallen Jefferson, who is only now shown in the dark for the first and only time because he has fallen into his “dark” side of despair, by telling him that he must bring what Washington needs... genuine honest goodness not tainted by financial greed. In other words, she must pull him out of the dark and bring him back into the light. When the Castevets (very lovable, if seedy, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) officially enter a room from Rosemary's point of view, they walk through a dark hallway so that they are temporarily silhouetted just like Capra's cast members. We are as sensitive as Rosemary as to questioning whether they are operating in the light or dark. In that classic piece of Capra-Corn (which I think are all a bit corny), director Capra knew how passionate Jimmy Stewart was about patriotism and love of the Land of the Free that the whole boy's camp is really not important anyway. It is just a springboard call-to-arms to get the actor all gung-ho. Remember that he wasted no time enlisting the moment the bombs were dropped at Pearl Harbor. Likewise, Roman Polanski knew that Mia Farrow was obsessed with becoming the Mother of all Mothers, loving every child equally no matter what he or she looked like. Even if his eyes weren't “normal” like Guy's. Not that she ever got a good look at her husband's eyes since he was constantly looking way like Senator Joseph Paine, avoiding eye contact. I especially love how fictional Roman (Castevet, played by Blackmer) influences Rosemary by saying “you don't have to join us... just be a mother to him” much as the real Roman (the director) probably said the same to Mia to get her performance. So... yes, both films have their flaws, but I love them both the same.
  25. Jlewis

    TopBilled’s Essentials

    Seen this twice but it has been a while and will have to see it again. George Stevens often had women who were stronger than the men in his films. I am thinking of I Remember Mama and Giant off the top of my head. Well... maybe Hudson and Dean could hold their own against Taylor in the latter but she was still "one tough Texan". Also handled Hepburn in Alice Adams.

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