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moirafinnie12

Lightning in a Bottle

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British director Stephen Frears ("My Beautiful Launderette", "Dangerous Liasions", "High Fidelity"), was recently asked to name his top five directors. His reply intrigued me. He pointed that he couldn't really name a Top 5, since "People make good films for a while, and then they lose it. Take Preston Sturges--he made five good films in a few years, then it was over. You always wonder. Is today the day it won't work?"

 

Perhaps you agree that this was true about Sturges. Could you cite any actors or directors whose work seems to reflect the accuracy or fallacy of Frears' observation?

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For me, Cary Grant was THE actor who starred in such a string of classics and excellent movies, that it's almost unbelievable!!...other runner ups, are Kate Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart...

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You make a good point about Cary Grant, feaito. Yet, from 1950-1955, Mr. Grant had a string of movies that prompted him to announce his retirement! "Crisis" (1950), "People Will Talk" (1951), "Room for One More" (1952), "Monkey Business" (1952) and "Dream Wife"(1953), while having some entertaining moments, hardly compare to Grant's best work such as "Bringing Up Baby" or "Gunga Din", or "Notorious". Apparently, Cary was actually led to believe that he had lost touch with what audiences wanted to see, and thought that he should quit acting. It took Alfred Hitchcock and "To Catch a Thief" (1955) to bring audiences back to their senses.

 

Grant did a fantastic job managing his own career, but even he had fallow spells such as the fifties.

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I can think also of Ernst Lubitsch: "Forbidden Paradise" (1924), "The Marriage Circle", "Lady Windermere?s Fan" (1925), "Kiss Me Again" (1925)....The patriot, The Student Prince, Love Parade, Monte Carlo, Smiling Lieutenant, Trouble in paradise, design for living, ninotchka, shop around the corner...etc....

 

And well! Hitchcock himself!!!... no need to cite the films..

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Feaito, thanks so much for responding to my query. Lubitsch and Hitchcock are terrific choices for directors whose work was apparently on target at least 95% of the time.

 

Hitchcock's career had some interesting detours that were never audience or critical favorites--"Rope" & "Under Capricorn" are two more 'experimental' works that he created, perhaps for his own reasons, since both had technical aspects that interested him.

 

Another director whose work might easily fall into the '95% category' was William Wyler, though I never cared for some of his later work, such as "The Big Country" and "Ben Hur", (both great technical spectacles to me, but without a heart or an original thought, though I'd never say that about most of Wyler's work. But hey, it's only my observation).

 

A couple of directors who seemed to have wonderful hot streaks, only to "stumble", commercially and artistically later were Joseph Mankiewicz and John Huston. Mankiewicz' classics--"Letter to Three Wives"(1949), "All About Eve"(1950), and "No Way Out"(1950) were probably some of the most entertainingly literate and sophisticated American movies ever, but the same man, some years later, could make some embarrassing work, by comparison, such as "Cleopatra"(1963).

 

Huston's greatest films, "The Maltese Falcon", "Treasure of the Sierra Madre", "Key Largo", "The Asphalt Jungle" and "The African Queen" were eventually followed by some far less successful work such as "The Unforgiven", "Freud" and

"The Bible".

 

Still, Huston's best film may have been one of very last: "The Man Who Would Be King". And Mankiewicz' last film, "The Honey Pot" is very well done, despite some script problems and it deserves an audience (TCM shows it once in a blue moon). Feaito, maybe the real question should be: what's judged a success? A director or actor whose film finds a large audience or one who tells the story best and in his own unique way?

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When you talk about Wyler and his later movies "without a heart"...I immediately think of the opposite, one of Wyler's most heart-felt films, and one of my top-five faves of all time: "Dodsworth" (1936)....for me its THE movie of the 30's....I just love it since I was a kid.... also like very much "The Good Fairy", "These Three", etc...

 

And about what's a success, let's not forget that some movies who weren't successes and even didn't won so much critical appraise on their time...later on, found an big audience and met critical success, like "Bringing Up Baby" for example....whic is a gem.....So now there's another subject....movies which become a "success" not in their time but in another decade....

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feiato - I agree with you about "Dodsworth" - it is one of my favorites as well. Wyler does a terrific job directing, and the screenplay, acting, sets, music, costumes - everything else is brilliant as well.

 

To add to this discussion - one filmmaker that comes to mind is David O. Selznick. Up to "GWTW" he was brilliant - responsible for such classics as "Dinner at Eight," and "Little Women." But except for "Rebecca," no other film made after "GWTW" was as good or even close. And even with "Rebecca" - most if not all of the credit for this classic goes to Hitch. But films like "Duel in the Sun" and the "A Farewell to Arms" remake did not match the quality of his earlier ventures.

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MovieJoe, you and I are usually in sync on everything. But I have just a slight quibble about Selznick losing it after "Rebecca." I've always thought his l944 smash hit, "Since You Went Away" was fabulous. It's also listed on Variety's All-Time Grossing Movies. I also believe he put together yet another movie great, l947's "The Spiral Staircase." But after that, it was all downhill. GWTW really drained him and everyone associated with it of much of their vigor. Vivien Leigh never did anything close to GWTW except for truly depressing "Streetcar Named Desire." I watched it once and that was it. It was horrific to see the fabulous Scarlett turned into a quivering, cowering basketcase.

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patypancake - I forgot all about "Since You Went Away," which is definitely a great film. I never liked "The Spiral Staircase," I couldn't get into it, and I really don't like Dorothy McGuire. Except for "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," her performances were always dull and boring. I really liked "Streetcar," but Vivien did look terrible in it. I think that Jessica Tandy should've gotten the part since she played it on Broadway, but of course she wasn't box office enough to be given such an important role in a film. I don't know what it is about Vivien Leigh, but she looks stunning in "GWTW" - good enough to eat, but in every other film that I've seen her in, I don't find her very appealing.

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I think Vivien Leigh looked appealing enough in Waterloo Bridge, Lady Hamilton (very beautiful in costume clothing), Caesar and Cleopatra...and in Anna Karenina, too.... From "Streetcar" onwards she began looking older than her real age..

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