TopBilled

TopBilled’s Essentials

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2 hours ago, Jlewis said:

Hopefully none of the "antiques" I post in the short film threads cause panic.

Just a guess-- but I think if it's an older post where the link is already embedded, it's "safe." But some of the newer links are not all being allowed. I received an error message that said something like 'this link is not allowed.' And these were harmless news clips, one geared for kids, about an American hero. So I think TCM or YouTube is putting a stop to embedding some of these links, I don't know why. Fortunately I was still able to include the text so the reader could click on that and still be redirected to YouTube.

 

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Oh that has happened to me too, but I think it has more to do with the person uploading the video on YouTube not wishing it to be shared on other sites. If a video is a problem to this forum, the mods just delete your post altogether. One problem I also find is that videos sometimes get deleted on YouTube, along with the accounts that upload them. Most of these are only online for a couple years and the older your posts are here, the more likely you need to re-check them over time to see what images and videos are still visible.  

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1 hour ago, Jlewis said:

Oh that has happened to me too, but I think it has more to do with the person uploading the video on YouTube not wishing it to be shared on other sites. If a video is a problem to this forum, the mods just delete your post altogether. One problem I also find is that videos sometimes get deleted on YouTube, along with the accounts that upload them. Most of these are only online for a couple years and the older your posts are here, the more likely you need to re-check them over time to see what images and videos are still visible.  

Yes, good points. Your reply makes a lot of sense. 

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Essential: TO HELL AND BACK (1955)

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Audie Murphy's 1949 autobiography served as the basis for a 1955 motion picture from Universal that dramatized his military experiences during WWII. In the opening sequence we learn that his childhood was kind of hellish; his father had run out on his mother and nine kids leaving them in abject poverty. This situation forced Audie to quit school at 12 and take a full time job to help support the Murphy family. By age 16, his mother had died and his younger siblings were sent elsewhere to live. In order to support himself, Audie decided to enlist in the armed services. This was right after Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

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Because of his age, height and weight, Audie was rejected by three branches of the military. He was finally accepted into the Army as an infantryman. After basic training he was sent to North Africa then on to Italy. The film does not waste time getting right into the battle scenes. So immediately we get a sense of the danger young Audie faced. There are some humorous moments where he seems like the last one who will adapt to these conditions; and his fellow soldiers help him through an initial awkward phase. But Audie soon gains confidence and proves himself.

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We get to know the other men in his company, and they come from a variety of backgrounds. What makes these scenes interesting is how Audie the actor plays these scenes as a tribute to his old buddies, most of whom would be killed in battle. You can't help but sense he is trying his best to give the most faithful rendering possible of this story, not for his own personal glory, but to ensure that the other men are honored and come across as heroes in their own right.

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Originally Audie did not want to play himself in the film version of his life story. He had suggested the studio use Tony Curtis; but Universal execs persuaded him to do it instead. Perhaps he had originally felt self-conscious about the idea of playing himself; and in a way it is a bit surreal to see him at the age of 30 portraying scenes from his life from when he was in his teens. However, Audie had retained his youthful looks into the mid-50s, meaning he could still convincingly pass as a teen when the movie was made.

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TO HELL AND BACK was produced in Technicolor and photographed in CinemaScope, which adds to its realism. It is important to see the story in widescreen, to get a sense of how the action on the battlefield affected so many men all at once. It is also important to remember when watching the film that Audie is saying things as he probably originally said them over a decade earlier. The expression in his eyes indicates that this is really an acting performance that is relying entirely on emotion memory to convey the truth about what happened.

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TO HELL AND BACK is directed by Jesse Hibbs and can be watched on DVD.

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TCM frequently shows an Oscar winning short film, Beyond The Line Of Duty (Warner Bros., 1942) featuring Hewitt T. "Shorty" Wheless playing himself in training. It became quite fashionable during that war and afterward to have the soldiers play themselves. I am not surprised Universal-International wanted the real Audie, even though he felt awkward about it... as most of us would.

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Since there are five Saturdays in June, I am taking this week off.

I will be covering stories that reflect LGBT pride:

VICTIM (1961)...9th of June...the theme of this film, about the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain, was revisited last summer on an episode of the British soap EastEnders.

VICTOR VICTORIA (1982)...16th of June...a film school professor thought this should have been Best Picture, not GANDHI.

MAURICE (1987)...23rd of June...Merchant-Ivory's extraordinary version of E.M. Forster's short novel.

JONATHAN (2016)...30th of June...a German film with daring themes and bold performances.

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On 6/2/2018 at 8:33 AM, TopBilled said:

Since there are five Saturdays in June, I am taking this week off.

I will be covering stories that reflect LGBT pride:

VICTIM (1961)...9th of June...the theme of this film, about the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain, was revisited last summer on an episode of the British soap EastEnders.

VICTOR VICTORIA (1982)...16th of June...a film school professor thought this should have been Best Picture, not GANDHI.

MAURICE (1987)...23rd of June...Merchant-Ivory's extraordinary version of E.M. Forster's short novel.

JONATHAN (2016)...30th of June...a German film with daring themes and bold performances.

I'm incredibly disappointed I forgot to put Victor Victoria on my DVR, since I've never seen it. But what I'm catching now (45 minutes in and forward) is great. Thankfully it's on filmstruck so I'll watch it in the next few days.

It's hard for me to consider this movie robbed though when the best contender field also featured TOOTSIE, E.T., and THE VERDICT. Maybe robbed a best picture nomination? GANDHI's best picture wins definitely doesn't date well vs. that field.

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Essential: VICTIM (1961)

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I use creative ways to inventory my films. I had put this one on the same disc as a Jack Palance thriller called MAN IN THE ATTIC. I labeled it A Secret Life. Of course the secrets Palance keeps as Jack the Ripper are hardly like the secrets kept by Dirk Bogarde in VICTIM. Though you could say the lives of both men will unravel if certain indiscretions get 'out.'

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VICTIM did not see a stateside release until 1962 but it premiered in Great Britain a year earlier. As expected the groundbreaking film faced censorship issues. It probably would not have been made if an "A" list actor hadn't agreed to do it. Dirk Bogarde had been a huge star for over a decade, and this was a different kind of project for him. Risky in some ways because of the subject matter. Risky also because Bogarde was a closeted homosexual in real life. In those years it was still a criminal offense to be gay.

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Therefore Bogarde's willingness to take on the lead role in this film is worth commending, even if he had to act "straight" while playing gay. The story's quite simple. He plays a married man named Melville Farr who becomes linked with a known homosexual. Someone's found out about it and they have begun to blackmail him. Eventually he realizes his wife must be told. Sylvia Syms is cast as Laura the wife; and she brings a very sympathetic understanding to her portrayal.

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The scene where he finally confesses the truth is expertly handled. Once everything is out in the open, the plot lends itself to a tidy resolution, where the character's lust for other men is depicted more as a temporary aberration. Melville is not going to leave Laura at the end of the picture and live happily ever after with a lover, like we see in 1982's MAKING LOVE. Instead he will remain faithful to their marriage and they will have changed and grown because of all this.

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During the early 1960s men found to be having sexual relations with other men could be prosecuted. This probably explains why the writers chose to have the character remain married to a woman, and thus he would not go on breaking the law. Homosexuality was not decriminalized in Britain until 1967.

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In the summer of 2017 the British soap opera EastEnders commemorated the occasion when Johnny Carter (Ted Reilly) put a banner up outside his parents' pub to mark the 50th anniversary. Johnny was not compelled to do this until he had become friends with a retiring shop worker named Derek Harkinson (Ian Lavender) who described having been arrested in the 1960s before the law changed. It was a way for one generation of liberated gay men to remind another generation of the strides that had been made and to not take these strides for granted.

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VICTIM is directed by Basil Dearden; it's on Criterion Collection DVD.

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I've seen this one at least twice, having the DVD set of four very good films from that director (even though All Night Long is a trifle dull apart from the great jazz music). You have to do your shopping when either TCM or Barnes & Noble have half price sales for Criterion and select accordingly.

Also filmed in '61 but released '62 is the U.S. produced Advise And Consent which involved a senator committing suicide after being "outed" for his one-time fling in the Korean War. Fortunately Victim doesn't end this way. Yet it doesn't resolve the problem completely either, although it does stress standing up for yourself regardless of what others think. I think of M*A*S*H, released to theaters in January 1970, and its theme song of "Suicide is painless" as the closing to a decade loaded with that over emphasized theme of being gay as a mental illness which can only be cured by "the right woman" or death.

Nonetheless, the release schedule spanning September 1961 through May 1962 can be seen, along with the spring and summer of 1959, as a fruitful period for mainstream films of the U.S. and U.K. at least addressing the topic with some interest. The Children's Hour and Walk On The Wild Side tackled lesbianism. A Taste Of Honey had a positive gay supporting character. I guess we must forgive Sid Davis for making Boys Beware since it was merely a companion piece to Girls Beware and teenage boys were generally not threatened by older women picking them up in cars, so the Los Angeles police supporting his film needed another "danger" to profile. "What Jimmy didn't know was that Ralph was sick; a sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious; a sickness of the mind."

Then it appears that such subjects receded into the background, although not ignored entirely. Usually there would be one minor character here or a mention of "homosexuality" on the soundtrack there. Intriguingly, the late '62 through summer '67 period was dominated by 007, starting with Dr. No. This marked a not so much new, but more forcefully analyzed, theme: aggressive male heterosexuality. Hollywood and the Brits now felt confident to stick to men who bed-hop with as many women as possible (especially by the time of You Only Live Twice). Thus, the industry's battle with the prudes of censorship could be fought over something mass audiences were more comfortable with. Likewise, you saw a rise in the number of topless women in films like Blow-Up.

Then when the novelty of spy sex adventures subsided, the next round began in the latter part of 1967 with Reflections In A Golden Eye, culminating with the Great Coming Out Party of 1968 and '69. Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture despite the number of men loving men shown on screen.

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21 hours ago, Jlewis said:

I've seen this one at least twice, having the DVD set of four very good films from that director (even though All Night Long is a trifle dull apart from the great jazz music). You have to do your shopping when either TCM or Barnes & Noble have half price sales for Criterion and select accordingly.

Also filmed in '61 but released '62 is the U.S. produced Advise And Consent which involved a senator committing suicide after being "outed" for his one-time fling in the Korean War. Fortunately Victim doesn't end this way. Yet it doesn't resolve the problem completely either, although it does stress standing up for yourself regardless of what others think. I think of M*A*S*H, released to theaters in January 1970, and its theme song of "Suicide is painless" as the closing to a decade loaded with that over emphasized theme of being gay as a mental illness which can only be cured by "the right woman" or death.

Nonetheless, the release schedule spanning September 1961 through May 1962 can be seen, along with the spring and summer of 1959, as a fruitful period for mainstream films of the U.S. and U.K. at least addressing the topic with some interest. The Children's Hour and Walk On The Wild Side tackled lesbianism. A Taste Of Honey had a positive gay supporting character. I guess we must forgive Sid Davis for making Boys Beware since it was merely a companion piece to Girls Beware and teenage boys were generally not threatened by older women picking them up in cars, so the Los Angeles police supporting his film needed another "danger" to profile. "What Jimmy didn't know was that Ralph was sick; a sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious; a sickness of the mind."

Then it appears that such subjects receded into the background, although not ignored entirely. Usually there would be one minor character here or a mention of "homosexuality" on the soundtrack there. Intriguingly, the late '62 through summer '67 period was dominated by 007, starting with Dr. No. This marked a not so much new, but more forcefully analyzed, theme: aggressive male heterosexuality. Hollywood and the Brits now felt confident to stick to men who bed-hop with as many women as possible (especially by the time of You Only Live Twice). Thus, the industry's battle with the prudes of censorship could be fought over something mass audiences were more comfortable with. Likewise, you saw a rise in the number of topless women in films like Blow-Up.

Then when the novelty of spy sex adventures subsided, the next round began in the latter part of 1967 with Reflections In A Golden Eye, culminating with the Great Coming Out Party of 1968 and '69. Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture despite the number of men loving men shown on screen.

Thanks JLewis for such a detailed historical overview. Hopefully you'll chime in next weekend when I write about VICTOR VICTORIA...and can give us the historical backdrop of how these themes were covered in the early 1980s.

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I am weird. I admit it. When I look back at movie history in the United States and countries imitating its model, I often see these curious patterns. However, it is likely just me who sees them.

Germany had a big film industry pre-Hitler and it was also surprisingly "gay" in tone with its own Viktor und Viktoria released six months before Nacht der langen Messer (Night of the Long Knives) even though, on the surface, you would not see any connection between the two. Before then, you had Mädchen in Uniform, among others like the decade before Anders als die Andern. Yes, the German cinema had plenty to answer for in the decade leading to fascism. Meanwhile, Hollywood was flooded with many "fey" characters and "alternative" relationships on screen during the latter twenties and early thirties until the Production Code clamped down by July 1934.

When censorship needed to be battled, it was the more respectable heterosexual "sins" that were pushed for. This is why so many were still able to see Howard Hughes' The Outlaw. Even if some of us see some "gay coding" in that one, it is mostly focused on Jane Russell's assets and heterosexuality as its primary theme. There was only an itty bitty concern years earlier about Rhett Butler carrying Scarlet O'Hara up the stairs since she did look happy the following morning. No, that scene would not be cheered today in the #MeToo era.

1953 was a particularly interesting year, at least to me. Five years had passed since Kinsey's first book on male sexuality was published and there was now a lot of nationwide embarrassment and nervousness regarding its success. His second volume on females was attacked ferociously even though it was much tamer in the material presented, mostly due to a new "anti Kinsey" mentality influenced by politics and his too socially liberal views. Simultaneously the Eisenhower administration started their investigation into private lives of government workers since... good grief!... we can't have those kinds of people working in our government since they are more easily blackmailed by communists than those who are "normal". Right? Right?

The middle years of that decade, 1953-1957, resembled the middle years of the following decade when James Bond the Heterosexual King was dominant. (Bond was not so easily blackmailed by Commies since he was... well... you know, normal, if not the kind of man most women would want to stay married to.) While Hollywood was testing the waters a little during the post-war period with a variety of relationships depicted (if ever so slightly), it now decided to battle The Code with strictly heterosexual themes and women's bodies. The Moon Is Blue created a respectable ruckus over the use of the word "virgin". The Catholic Legion of Decency was upset at Baby Doll, but not Warner Brothers. Marilyn Monroe was at her CinemaScope peak and those old calendar poses promoted by Hugh Hefner helped her career instead of hurt it. Italy imported Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida. France imported Brigitte Bardot. While Bardot may have been on a smaller size scale, most ladies' cleavage expanded on screen much like the tail fins coming out of Detroit. Was 3-D really necessary for The French Line starring Jane Russell? Of course, it was!!!! Likewise, SuperScope with Underwater! After Garden Of Eden succeeded with its distribution after a series of court decisions, both the nudist documentary and, by 1959, the Russ Meyer "nudie cutie" had more than just volley balls bouncing. (Male frontal nudity was still taboo until The Raw Ones was released in December 1965.)

When gay themes were tackled in films like Suddenly Last Summer and Compulsion, the emphasis was on death and secrecy. I think the primary reason these films were allowed was because they provided something "adult" that was not allowed on TV. Yet the two Oscar Wilde biopics were a bit different and probably influenced what followed. Victim and the 1961-62 first wave seem to me as a tentative effort to question the status quo. The civil rights movement was starting to become a day-to-day news event so, yes, director Basil Deardon wanted moviegoers to question whether or not homosexuals should be ostracized and harassed by cops like interracial couples and black people entering schools and public establishments. Advise And Consent was ahead of its time in that the gay character's wife is surprisingly understanding and accuses the corrupt politicians for her husband's death instead.

When the second wave began in 1967 and expanded with Boys In The Band, it was again the result of the civil rights movement. Interracial marriage was finally legal, so why not push for other things? In addition, there was now a new market that independent movie makers, if not nervous Hollywood executives, could test.

I should add that many of the earliest porn films to gained respectability tended to be gay themed like Boys In The Sand (different film than Band) which actually got reviewed by Variety, I think. In hind sight, it merely opened the door to the strictly heterosexual Deep Throat which was a mega-blockbuster that it couldn't hold a candle to. A few months ago, I watched two early "classics" from 1972, Wakefield Poole's Bijou and the Mitchell Brothers' Behind The Green Door, back-to-back and saw a lot of similarities in their "arty" pretensions. The heterosexual film is not a good film for the #MeToo era since Marilyn Chambers is literally abducted in that one, contrasting to Bill Harrison being a willing participant in the former. However the heterosexual film was the obvious blockbuster that later lead VHS sales in the eighties, not the gay film. Again... when film producers wanted to battle censorship and really push for profits, the "normal" heterosexuality must be fought for. Radley Metzger's Score was an interesting experiment, but it did get delayed in its release and was soon overshadowed with financially more successful efforts of his that stuck to male/female scenes.

With the 1980s, you had VHS allowing people to see whatever they wanted and whenever they wanted in the privacy of their own home so... yeah... variety became the spice of life in your living room, but not necessarily at the multiplex. One thing I have noticed when watching many movies is how homophobic mainstream films got after Victor/Victoria. I believe this was a key reason why you had an "indy" gay cinema movement at the end of the eighties as a counter reaction. Add this to all of the post-AIDS homophobia in real life, there was an attitude that "if Hollywood stopped making the movies, we will just make them ourselves".

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Thanks. I think there was also the attitude in the 80s that if Hollywood stopped making movies about gay subjects, then the problems with HIV/AIDS could be ignored, since the whole culture was being pushed off screen. 

As for films like CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER and COMPULSION there is a huge degree of ambiguity (especially so in any Tennessee Williams adaptation)...so it is less threatening to imply the characters may be gay or bisexual, since they can still be read as straight, or at least off-center if they can't be read as straight. So none of those films are really giving audiences positive representations of LGBT culture.

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I should apologize for getting too windy above. Yet it is an interesting topic of discussion. Hollywood is about making money first and art second, although a lot of art was created as a result. We can't attack the industry any more than we can attack other business industries for not wanting to lose public favor.

There is a lot of 80s cinema that bothers me though. I did not see Maurice because I knew it was a "gay" film and those kinds I naturally avoided at the time. I really hated Top Gun and questioned why it was even popular. It took me a long time to really "get it". There is an awful lot more Cruise on display than McGillis, but the movie was "safe" for many who didn't feel "safe" because it emphasized a "Take My Breath Away" heterosexual love story. However that song itself is not necessarily about heterosexual love. Check out the lyrics.

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... and it is probably more entertaining that the 1933 German original. Yet the original is still blessed with Anton Walbrook of The Life And Death Of Col. Blimp and The Red Shoes fame.

 

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Essential: VICTOR VICTORIA (1982)

Blake Edwards' gender bending classic is a remake of the German film VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA. It's actually the fourth remake. When the story was first told in 1934 another production was filmed in French at the same time-- GEORGES ET GEORGETTE. The following year British movie makers turned out a version with Jessie Matthews called FIRST A GIRL. Then in 1957 the Germans redid it. Each time it was presented as a musical comedy; and of course, this is how Edwards presents it too.

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With Edwards it becomes more of a period piece. He's cast his wife Julie Andrews in the lead, and again she is shedding the wholesome image she cultivated in the 1960s as Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp. Andrews' professionalism, her skill and her perfectionism give Edwards' picture something extra; and she earned her third Oscar nomination as Best Actress. Edwards was also nominated for an Oscar, for his adaptation; plus costars Robert Preston and Lesley Ann Warren netted Oscar nominations in the supporting performer categories.

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Despite seven total nominations only one Academy Award was bestowed on the picture, for Best Original Song Score. Andrews did earn a Golden Globe for her work. There was no Best Picture nomination. The year's Best Picture Winner was GANDHI. Professor Drew Casper at the USC School of Cinema-Television considered this a huge injustice, feeling VICTOR VICTORIA deserved a nomination and deserved to be named Best Picture. He felt GANDHI was the safer, more politically correct choice for 1982; and he was probably right.

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The cast includes a group of people who had worked together on previous projects. James Garner is on hand as a macho Chicago gangster who falls for Victor/Victoria. He had previously costarred with Julie Andrews in 1964's THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY, where they played an entirely different couple. Meanwhile Robert Preston had acted with Andrews in Edwards' S.O.B. a year earlier and they seem to enjoy their time together; especially during the famous cockroach scene in the restaurant. Oh, and I should also mention they both use the same costume in two separate musical numbers.

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Since it's pride month, we might want to discuss the way Garner's character finds out the object of his affections is really a female. Supposedly Edwards wanted the gangster to fall in love with the impersonator before knowing for sure what his/her gender was. But Edwards claimed he chickened out and inserted a scene where Garner sees Andrews bathing in a hotel bathtub and thus knows she is totally a woman. Without this scene, the plot still has to build to everyone finding out she's not a man in drag, because fraud charges are filed later in the story.

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So eventually the gangster would have found out he was really in love with a female; and even if there had been no fraud charges, he still would have found out he was in love with a female when he went to bed with her for the first time. This was never going to be M BUTTERFLY where the true gender continued to be a mystery. In fact the only mystery is why TCM doesn't air VICTOR VICTORIA more often.

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I have not seen the first 1933 version in its entirety. Just YouTube extracts. Yet I read two reviews and Walbrook, I think, plays Garner’s role and also knows that the lead is a woman early on as well. Yet it would have been interesting if the newer film did get bolder by having a tough guy fall for a guy before realizing the truth. Joe E. Brown in the much earlier SOME LIKE IT HOT, after all, merely stated “nobody’s perfect” as if it was no big deal.

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1 minute ago, Jlewis said:

I have not seen the first 1933 version in its entirety. Just YouTube extracts. Yet I read two reviews and Walbrook, I think, plays Garner’s role and also knows that the lead is a woman early on as well. Yet it would have been interesting if the newer film did get bolder by having a tough guy fall for a guy before realizing the truth. Joe E. Brown in the much earlier SOME LIKE IT HOT, after all, merely stated “nobody’s perfect” as if it was no big deal.

I love how Julie Andrews uses the cigar in several scenes...as if handling that prop is supposed to make her seem so masculine we overlook her fine delicate features as a female.

If this story gets remade again, a more androgynous looking performer will probably play the lead.

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