Sign in to follow this  
TopBilled

Classic Film Criticism Vol. 2

338 posts in this topic

Primrose Path is one of my personal favorites TopBilled. I liked it much better than Kitty Foyle, for which Ginger got the best actress award.

 

I'm not sure Ginger's character was trying so much to break out of a cycle of poverty as much as she wanted a cycle of normalcy and respectability. Good review though. You've picked several films that I haven't seen such as "The Young Stranger" and "The Happy Time" that sound interesting. I'll have to see if I can find a copy and check them out myself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, calvin, for the encouraging words.

 

I just looked and THE YOUNG STRANGER is coming up on TCM in a few days, on January 29th.

 

PRIMROSE PATH is one of Ginger's best dramatic films in my opinion. She and McCrea had previously starred in an RKO picture called CHANCE AT HEAVEN.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-2173.jpg

*THE STEEL HELMET (1951)*

 

When viewing THE STEEL HELMET, I had to keep reminding myself that this was made and shown to audiences while the Korean War was actually in its earliest stages. Writer-Director Samuel Fuller smartly depicts the relationship of an American soldier and a Korean boy in a non-stereotypical, yet poignant way. Needless to say, it is devastating when the boy is killed in the line of fire.

 

There are some loose ends in this picture, though, that leave the viewer with unanswered questions. For example, it may have helped to know more about what led one of the characters, a conscientious objector, to eventually join the military. Also, viewers would probably like to know what it was like for the black medic to get drafted. His lines regarding segregation and sitting on the back of the bus give us a unique window into another culture. He has come upon foreign land with the hope that civil rights are not only valued back home in the U.S., but also in an Asiatic battlefront threatened by the encroachment of Communism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-2174.jpg

*THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941)*

 

Hollywood has seen fit to dig up Stephen Vincent Benet?s classic story about a farmer who sells his soul to the devil in order to avoid hardship. Overall, the result is very entertaining and retains audience interest.

 

The film owes a debt of gratitude to THE GOOD EARTH, produced a few years earlier, for its field scenes. Despite liking most of the performers that the producers have assembled, it does seem obvious the film might have been better if Orson Welles had been cast in the role of Satan. As it is, Walter Huston does an admirable job, but one can only dream how much more spectacular the results might have been with a macabre turn by Welles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I think if Welles had been in this at all, he would have been better suited as Webster. Nobody would have delivered the high principaled words of Daniel Webster with eloquence better. Huston's "Scratch" gave the character the right amount of pathos the mischievious persona required. Welles might have made Scratch too heavy and incarnate in evil representation instead of the gleefully devious devil he was.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fair enough. But I think Welles could have done both parts better, with his usual aplomb. This film was made at RKO around the time Welles was signed for CITIZEN KANE. They used him as the narrator for 1940's SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. It's too bad they didn't use him for DANIEL WEBSTER.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just re-screened all five seasons of "The Twilight Zone." Must say that I find Burgess Meredith's "Printer's Devil" (1963) to be MUCH better than Huston's "Scratch." While Huston played the charm/comedy throughout, Meredith ever so slowly turned up the nasty without making it obvious -- in a way that makes the viewer feel terribly guilty about liking him in the first place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good comparison. Burgess Meredith was making films for RKO in the late 1930s, so he is someone else they could have hired. I like Walter Huston and respect his talent, but I feel he is chewing the scenery too much and he is just not scary enough. We do not feel threatened when we watch him as Satan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a great temptation to chew scenery with this kind of role and it takes a subdued actor or a strong director in control of a hammy actor to make it work. Welles would have tried to over-act it, too, but at least he would have been scarier. The real problem I have with Huston in this picture is that he is too down-to-earth and ultimately too likable to be taken seriously as the personification of evil.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1gc.png

*MAN OF THE WEST (1958)*

 

Maybe someone can explain the purpose of the other male hostage from the train. He is basically there to step in front of Cooper and take a bullet for him, but why do the outlaws let him stay alive so long? What purpose does he really serve them? It is easy to see they would want the girl, but not the other guy.

 

As for the female hostage, after she is forced to strip, she recedes into the background for a large stretch of the film. There is a classic moment, to be sure, when Gary Cooper's character humiliates Jack Lord's character to get even for what had been done to the girl.

 

The scenes in town toward the end of the picture conveniently manage to get by without having to show a lot of extras or townspeople in the background. As a result, it gives the story and our man of the west a more isolated feel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1judge.png

*TELL IT TO THE JUDGE (1949)*

 

It is not too difficult to see why Bob Cummings is often cast in light comedic fare such as this. His facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission in TELL IT TO THE JUDGE. And there's something hysterical about seeing him dressed as a train attendant, though it would also have been fun to see Cary Grant in that get-up.

 

The only part that drags is the sequence at the lighthouse, which has the film's most unfunny business: something about chopping off the head of a fish. But the film quickly redeems itself, and it reaches its peak with a delightful ski sequence later on. Overall, a fun film with some inspired comic bits by Cummings and costar Rosalind Russell.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Coming Up:

 

NIGHTFALL

DODSWORTH

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

MIDNIGHT

ALL MINE TO GIVE

FIVE STAR FINAL

WINTER MEETING

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-567.jpg

*NIGHTFALL (1957)*

 

NIGHTFALL is an essential film for fans of Aldo Ray. In most of his pictures, Ray is fresh and he's real, though not an overly studied actor like many of his peers. He puts his entire personality into the roles he plays without artifice. When the Columbia honchos cast him with more stage-trained costars (Anne Bancroft, Brian Keith and James Gregory) like they have done in this picture, the result is a truly interesting set of dynamics and interplay.

 

images-656.jpg

 

The story is told mainly in flashback and the pacing is fairly brisk. Several breaks from the action occur with the characters reflecting on what has happened in the recent past and on what is about to happen in the immediate future. The outdoor winter scenes are truly breathtaking, especially the climactic ending where our hero battles a bad guy on a runaway snowplow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-1515.jpg

*DODSWORTH (1936)*

 

Does the story really end with the last scene of this movie? It almost ends with a riddle. For it is merely Mr. Dodsworth's turn to stay abroad with a lover, something his unfaithful wife had already done.

 

For some reason, we expect the Dodsworths to find their way back together and stay together. Viewers will think Mary Astor's character is the more sympathetic woman and that Walter Huston's Mr. Dodsworth has at last found true happiness, but what has happened is that the narrative has switched so that we are watching infidelity from the reverse angle. When you think about it, the filmmakers are presenting a rather tortured love story that is complicated by the new choices that are being presented abroad.

 

images-1612.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images210.jpg

*THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (1947)*

 

Psychological matters overpower this story in spots when the audience is being led to think this is a supposedly light and happy Danny Kaye movie. But in case things get too deep, there is always the realization that the film is presenting a rather simple thesis: get away from an overbearing mother with the girl of your dreams.

 

Some of the daydream sequences are a bit extended and reveal two things. First, that the screenwriters have unleashed their imagination at the expense of a more succinct and tidy plot. And second, that producer Samuel Goldwyn is selling a sort of extravagance that rivals anything MGM ever put out. Perhaps Goldwyn hopes moviegoers will become so mesmerized by his shimmering Technicolor production that they will not care about its obvious faults.

 

This is not a bad film, and indeed, it has many redeeming elements. But it mystifies this writer how Mr. Kaye and costar Virginia Mayo manage to keep their hair, makeup and clothing perfectly intact during a scene that is filmed inches away from a bubble machine. And how is it that the minute we find out Boris Karloff has been cast as the psychoanalyst our greatest fears are about to be confirmed?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-4108.jpg

*MIDNIGHT (1939)*

 

Apparently, Barbara Stanwyck was supposed to play the lead but a scheduling conflict prevented it. One cannot help but think how she would have played the scenes when Eve Peabody wakes up in the suite and finds all those clothes from Barrymore's character. Of course, Claudette Colbert is good and brings an air of sophistication to the part, but she does not come across as hard-pressed as Stanwyck probably would have presented the character.

 

Don Ameche plays a taxicab driver and is the prince charming in this picture. He pulls it off, thanks in large part to the easy rapport he shares with Colbert. Another standout, among a group of top-notch performers, is Mary Astor. But the real scene-stealer is Hedda Hopper as the socialite, Stephanie. Monty Woolley commandeers the laughs in the final sequence as a put-upon judge, but I would have preferred seeing a final shot of the lovers as they were married.

 

images-568.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-4109.jpg

*ALL MINE TO GIVE (1958)*

 

In many ways, this is not a feel-good Hollywood movie. Perhaps this is a film that pastors, rabbis, ministers, priests and other family planning counselors should show young couples before they have children. It's a sobering thought to realize that an unexpected tragedy like the one depicted here could happen. Assuming that relatives will take your kids or that they can be sent back to live with family members in another state or country might not be what happens.

 

The one thing I think the mother could have done in this story was to have the doctor bring other townsfolk to the house to tell them her wish about the kids finding new homes. Again, it's not a cheerful subject, and it makes you wonder what really did happen to these kids (we know one of them grew up to write a story about the experience). Maybe there should have been a sequel, or at least, an epilogue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-4110.jpg

*FIVE STAR FINAL (1931)*

 

FIVE STAR FINAL reminds one about the power of cinema and how film can be used to address a social problem without getting too preachy. Marian Marsh demonstrates a fair amount of skill in this story, and so does Aline MacMahon who turns in a noteworthy performance. Nevertheless, it is Edward G. Robinson's picture all the way, and the actor is simply amazing in his final scene.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1wm.png

*WINTER MEETING (1948)*

 

'Tis the season of Bette Davis in Warners' WINTER MEETING, but pay close attention to Janis Paige who milks a limited role like nobody's business. But the most pleasant treat is the presence of young leading man James Davis. Davis turns in a very heartfelt performance and works very well with the ladies. However, the real star of this effort is Catherine Turney who wrote a stellar script.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-4111.jpg

*THE LONG, HOT SUMMER (1958)*

 

Not quite near the quality of other Jerry Wald productions, I would put MILDRED PIERCE and some of the producer's other melodramas above this picture. But THE LONG HOT SUMMER does have its moments.

 

Notably, the story comes to life thanks to the real-life chemistry of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, blending passion with artistic talents. Still, the whole sumptuous affair tends to get bogged down by Orson Welles' kitschy performance as Will Varner, the southern patriarch who presides over the town and its inhabitants. Welles seems to be punching his scenes up so much that a few of the younger performers, like Tony Franciosa and Richard Anderson, seem to have a hard time keeping their composure. Welles is able to get away with the campiness he exudes in a sinister film noir like THE STRANGER or TOUCH OF EVIL, but here it seems somewhat miscast and out of place.

 

images-570.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not to beat a dead hose too much further, but wouldn't that be much of what the Devil is about? How successful would he BE if he could be seen as evil incarnate right off the bat? All artist's conceptions of Satan as being hideous, repulsive and monsterous are largely images of his character rather than his appearance to man. That Scratch in this movie, played by Huston, comes OFF as "down to Earth and likeable" is what makes Scratch APPEAL to his victims. "He doesn't seem like that bad of a fellow.", one might think, "I'll take his deal". That Huston's Scratch seems to take such GLEE in his victim's misfortunes is indicative enough of his evil. That his portrayal WASN'T cliched is what I found appealing.

 

 

 

Sepiatone

 

Edited by: Sepiatone on Feb 6, 2013 9:30 PM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

As for WALTER MITTY, although there is little, if any, resemblance to this movie and Thurber's short story, the subject matter is intact. An average guy daydreaming a more exciting life. Who CAN'T relate to that?

 

 

I've always liked this movie, but my being a long-time Kaye fan might make me biased. But Kaye's comedy style in this movie is on par with other comic actors of this era. Any Skelton or Hope comedy would have had the same level of comedy, albeit WITHOUT the very good musical numbers provided by Mrs. Kaye. I've always liked "Anatole of Paris" and it's suggestion that it's MYSOGENY that drives the world of women's fashion.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, Kaye benefits from his wife's musical contributions to his films. Unfortunately, Goldwyn would not loan him out, and he only made about one film per year. Meanwhile, Hope and Skelton cranked out substantially more hits at Paramount and MGM, respectively.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-741.jpg

*MA AND PA KETTLE (1949)*

 

Ma and Pa Kettle, portrayed by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride, have become rather popular. Still, one wonders if Betty Macdonald, the Washington-based author who created these characters, hasn't done more harm than good. Her portrayal of farmers as hicks makes them the butt of many jokes in terms of their alleged sloppiness and laziness.

 

Granted, it is a comedy and the situations bring us a great many laughs and fun moments. But Macdonald probably could have written these folks more sensibly and Universal International could have had its scriptwriters show them on screen with more dignity; there is, to be sure, such a thing as good taste. The more realistic scenes occur when the oldest son, Tom (Richard Long), is ashamed of his rural heritage but learns to accept his parents and siblings for who they are. For their part, the Kettles have to realize that they do not exactly fit into a modern world. This is not a joke; it is a sober truth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us