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Everything posted by cinemaspeak59

  1. cinemaspeak59

    Top Ten Films of...

    I liked Ivy (1947), a gaslight noir starring Joan Fontaine, which aired on TCM a couple years ago. I would like them to show it again.
  2. cinemaspeak59

    Noir Alley

    Nice to see The Letter getting so much love. Bette Davis understood quite well Somerset Maugham’s characters. Some of her best work involved adaptations of Maugham literature: Of Human Bondage and of course The Letter. Maugham's female protagonists were often sexually avaricious, cold and unlikeable. Davis captured the essence of Mrs. Crosbie, a woman for whom Hammond was a sexual addiction: shame at first, followed by a junkie-like anticipation until her next fix. The character’s hair style choice, prim and conventional, concealed her true nature. Bette's expressions, at times blank-faced, carry on the lie this is a dull and passionless English woman. The Letter never gets old. A wonderful film through and through. Eddie Muller almost made the case the first fully realized film noir was not The Maltese Falcon, as film historians claim, including Muller, but the stagey and refined The Letter. And why not? It has the stylistic visuals: inky, high-contrast black & white cinematography (a Warner Bros. hallmark), stark shadows, jagged light, all of which would figure prominently later in what became classic noir.
  3. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Horror

    Island of Lost Souls (1932) Charles Laughton plays the brilliantly diabolical Dr. Moreau in this film adaptation of the H.G. Wells book The Island of Dr. Moreau. With his Mephistopheles goatee, and impish grin, Laughton adroitly alternates between underplaying and ham acting. Dr. Moreau is afflicted with a God complex, and reigns over his island like a deity. Not satisfied with his half-human half-beast creations, the doctor will know he's found the holy grail only when he can get one of his best specimens, a panther woman, to mate with a shipwrecked passenger (Richard Arlen). As Lota the Panther Woman Kathleen Burke brings a powerful sadness to her role. When the man's fiancé, played by the lovely Leila Hyams, arrives on the island looking for him, she sends into a frenzy the hormones of one of the more sexually aggressive beasts. This nice Pre-Code twist adds an air of depravity, and sends Moreau into a state of delirium. Bela Lugosi has a small part as the conscientious leader of a group of slaves Moreau uses to police the island against unwanted outsiders. Paramount's make-up artists did great work in turning all the extras into believable looking hybrids. The Island of Lost Souls is quite relevant given the debate surrounding genetic engineering. Laughton’s three-dimensional Dr. Moreau operates from a conviction that he’s doing good, and finding untapped benefits for humanity.
  4. cinemaspeak59

    101 Gangster Movies You Must See

    I saw a Japanese yakuza film recently that TCM aired. It was called A Colt Is My Passport (1967). It had a cool French New Wave vibe, kind of like Godard meets Melville. I liked the washed out black & white photography, and the airy, open visuals. I want to start seeing more yakuza films.
  5. cinemaspeak59

    Which One Is The Best?

    My favorite is The Blue Angel. But I agree with TopBilled in that there was a chilliness to her persona, rather remote, and a level of self-consciousness that oddly, was not entirely off-putting. Marlene seemed to enjoy teasing her audience. I found Garbo the more sensual of the two. Marlene became more compelling in her later roles, particularly Witness for the Prosecution and Touch of Evil. Either way, she was utterly unique.
  6. cinemaspeak59

    Bebe Daniels--one class act.

    Her work in 42nd Street, one of the best musicals ever, and one I never tire of, is underrated. Her character beautifully evolves from selfish, demanding diva to being part of the team and supporting her fellow performers. This topic is a very nice tribute to Bebe Daniels.
  7. cinemaspeak59

    I Just Watched...

    Cornered reminded me of Murder, My Sweet, from 1944, with the same star and director. The sets were even similar. While the big reveal may have struck some as anti-climactic, I found it honest and not gimmicky. Jack La Rue as Diego is the opposite of his villain roles, particularly The Story of Temple Drake (1933), but he’s still menacing. I look at him and see Sollozzo from The Godfather. They have the same look and persona.
  8. cinemaspeak59

    Thoughts on Robert Siodmak's Hollywood output

    I agree he doesn't get enough recognition. I'm looking forward to seeing Christmas Holiday for the first time. Phantom Lady and The Killers are among the finest examples of noir.
  9. cinemaspeak59


    It would be a treat to see Garbo's pre-Hollywood films.
  10. cinemaspeak59


  11. In chronological order, mine are: 1) 42nd Street (1933) 2) The Gay Divorcee (1934) 3) On the Town (1949) 4) An American in Paris (1951) 5) The Band Wagon (1953) 6) West Side Story (1961) 7) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) 8) Saturday Night Fever (1977) 9) Chicago (2002) 10) La La Land (2016)
  12. cinemaspeak59

    Is "VERTIGO" truly greater then KANE?

    To name a few, I like The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Saboteur, Notorious, and Rope.
  13. cinemaspeak59

    Is "VERTIGO" truly greater then KANE?

    It's tough to beat Citizen Kane. I'm not sure Vertigo is Hitch's best film. It's certainly among his top ten films, probably in his top five. I've read a few scholars mention Notorious as perhaps his best film. I guess it's a testament to Hitch's greatness that there are so many great films to choose from.
  14. cinemaspeak59

    I Just Watched...

    Yeah, it hinted at a nice finale, Maisie marries Ayres's character and they live happily ever after. I guess the film was popular with audiences, so MGM cranked out more of them. The audience didn't care or just assumed it didn't work out and Maisie was back to square one.
  15. cinemaspeak59

    I Just Watched...

    Maisie Was a Lady (1941) is perhaps the best entry in the Maisie franchise. Ann Sothern is perfectly cast as the brassy, smart, and kind-hearted show girl, Maisie Ravier. This film adheres to the familiar path of Maisie slumming in a third-rate venue, trying to scratch out a living while fending off lecherous cads. We find Maisie working in a carnival as The Headless Woman, her head seemingly detached from her body, as spectators look with wonder. Then Lew Ayres, playing a drunk playboy, staggers in, and begins tickling Maisie’s exquisite nylon-clad legs. (Ann Sothern had quite a pair of gams). Maisie tumbles over. The act is ruined. Maisie gets fired. Feeling guilty, Ayres hires Maisie as a maid, where she imposes order over a rich but neglected family. The cast includes Maureen O’Sullivan, and C. Aubrey Smith, whom I can hear speak all day, with that smooth, actorly, refined voice. Here he’s playing a well-meaning butler. O’Sullivan plays Ayres’s lovelorn sister (a complete 180 from her Tarzan films). And Ayres plays an alcoholic who, thanks to Maisie, sobers up, and falls in love with you know who. Being a B movie, this lacks the MGM signature gloss. The images hew toward monochromatic. What’s interesting about the Maisie character is she’s a showgirl with a strict, rather conservative, moral code. But thanks to Ann Sothern’s portrayal, in all the Maisie films I’ve seen, she never comes across as a moralizer. Ann Sothern is a talented comedienne, and fine dramatic actress (Cry Havoc, A Letter to Three Wives), with a rapid-fire delivery and sexiness to boot. I could picture her going toe to toe with Cary Grant in Front Page Woman. She didn’t reach the levels of, say, Carole Lombard, or Claudette Colbert, mostly because Ann starred in B movie screwball comedies. Two good ones are Walking on Air and Smartest Girl in Town, both from 1936, and both co-starring Gene Raymond.
  16. cinemaspeak59

    I Just Watched...

    It would have been nice to see Miriam Hopkins in her element as a seductress.
  17. cinemaspeak59

    1948 - one opinion

    Here are a few more good selections: Force of Evil is a taut gangster picture about the numbers racket, starring John Garfield. And Bicycle Thieves, the great Italian neorealist drama, was released in Italy in 1948, but here in the States in 1949.
  18. cinemaspeak59

    Twenty All Time Great Science Fiction Films

    There are three excellent Sci-fi pictures that come to mind: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Blade Runner (1982), and The Matrix (1999). And while I wouldn't classify it as sci-fi in the strictest sense, since stylistically it has more in common with film noir, Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville, from 1965, about a super computer that bans all human thought, is a film I absolutely love.
  19. cinemaspeak59

    Actors/Actresses in dual roles.....

    In Lady of the Night (1925), Norma Shearer, in an affecting performance, plays a prostitute and an upper-class debutante, and both fall in love with the same man, an inventor. You’re kept guessing as to which Norma he chooses. I recently watched this on TCM.
  20. cinemaspeak59

    Berkeley Square (1933)

    Berkeley Square (1933) is a sublime pre-code that holds up remarkably well. Leslie Howard plays an American who takes possession of a bequeathed estate in London’s Berkeley Square quarter. While at the house, Howard magically connects to the past, and makes the stunning discovery that time happens all at once. (A topic explored by Christopher Nolan in 2014’s Interstellar). A thunder storm serves as the device that transports Howard from 1933 back to 1784, and in the same Berkeley Square house he would one day inherit. Posing as the recently-arrived American cousin his hosts were expecting, Howard frightens those in his presence by the ability to predict the future, and by his odd phrases. They think he's the devil. But Heather Angel’s character, the sister of the woman Howard was slated to marry, sees the truth. Berkeley Square has a lovely staginess to it, and the air of a drawing room comedy of manners, with sumptuous period costumes. (The film is based on a play by the same name). Howard and Angel capture the loneliness and despair of lovers trapped in different worlds. Historical figures like the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Georgina the Duchess of Devonshire make appearances. There's a scene in which Angel stares into Howard's eyes, and sees the future: the great Industrial Revolution, with automobiles, trains, airplanes, electricity, tall buildings. She also sees war and destruction. And rather than being in awe of the modern world, she's horrified that God would condemn mankind to such a monstrous future. It's quite prescient. If someone back in 1933 could have had a peak into the future they, like Heather Angel's character, would probably look past the digital gadgets and be horrified, too. Death and the passage of time blanket the picture. Not all is gloom and doom, however. For Leslie Howard and Heather Angel’s characters, love is spiritual and, hopefully, will live forever.
  21. cinemaspeak59

    Precodes with Katharine Hepburn

    I don't think I've seen A Bill of Divorcement. It certainly looks enticing. I love Pre-Code films.
  22. cinemaspeak59


    The real lovers in Jules and Jim (1962) were Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre).
  23. cinemaspeak59

    Name two Universal films you'd like TCM to air

    There are two noirs I would love to see aired: Christmas Holiday (1944) starring Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly; and Ivy (1947) starring Joan Fontaine.
  24. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Westerns

    Dodge City (1939) is a big, Technicolor extravaganza. Warner Bros. spared no expense in making their mark in the western genre. Errol Flynn plays a former soldier of fortune newly arrived to Dodge City, a town envisioned as the ideal family destination that's become a Mecca of licentiousness, ruled by a smooth-talking murderer (Bruce Cabot), who buys cattle on credit and has his backers killed when they try to collect. Flynn reluctantly becomes Sheriff to clean the place up. Alan Hale as Flynn's sidekick provides a tonic of comic relief. The film has tonal shifts from happy-go-lucky to tragic, and doesn't pause to catch its breath. There are three great action set pieces: a cattle stampede, a saloon brawl that escalates to near-comic proportions, and a spectacular train hijacking sequence, all staged with virtuosity by director Michael Curtiz. Olivia De Havilland plays a well-bred miss who blames Flynn for the death of her brother. But, to no one's surprise, the two end up falling in love. You quickly get past Flynn's posh accent, and with his dashing leading man persona, he makes for a believable cowboy. Ann Sheridan's part as a dance-hall entertainer is terribly underwritten, and barely worth mentioning. The color photography is stunning, even if the themes are black and white. Still, I found Dodge City thoroughly enjoyable. In the film’s introduction, Ben Mankiewicz had as a guest Alan K. Rode, a Michael Curtiz biographer. Mr. Rode said Flynn's agent was opposed to him doing Dodge City because he felt Flynn was not a good fit for a quintessentially American genre as a western. And De Havilland wasn’t happy because she wanted to be working and preparing for Gone with the Wind.
  25. cinemaspeak59

    THe Killers(1946)

    Yes, The Killers is a great noir. The casting was perfect, and a breakout performance by Burt Lancaster.

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