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TopBilled

Classic Film Criticism Vol. 2

338 posts in this topic

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*INTERRUPTED MELODY (1955)*

 

MGM has gone to a lot of trouble to obtain the rights to film Marjorie Lawrence's story. Miss Lawrence is a renowned Australian opera star known for her struggle against polio. Undoubtedly, her life serves as an inspiration to many. And it's a shame that this production doesn't do it justice.

 

Eleanor Parker is very believable conveying the dramatic aspects of Lawrence's disability, though the singing is obviously dubbed. The vocals for the musical numbers are in fact provided by Eileen Farrell. So, why has MGM gone to all this trouble? Why not just make the picture with Jeanette MacDonald or Kathryn Grayson?

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*ONCE UPON A HONEYMOON (1942)*

 

Ginger Rogers finds herself in a frothy mix of comedy and drama set in war-time Europe. Her leading man is Cary Grant, the supreme example of polish and sophistication. But Miss Rogers' character hails from a lower-class background, and she seems to be immersed in a world that is far from the way it must have initially appeared to her. Not only is she impersonating someone of distinction and higher class, she must also take on the role of being an all-American woman representing her country abroad.

 

If this isn't enough to confuse the audience, there is a scene where Rogers gets coy with an undercover agent, trying on different regional American accents. While this occurs, a more serious underlying drama unfolds, involving some Jewish citizens fleeing their oppressive government with a phony passport. As the film begins to change tone, we begin to glimpse the many moods of Ginger Rogers' characters.

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*BEHAVE YOURSELF! (1951)*

 

Farley Granger and Shelley Winters form an unlikely couple in this screwball caper. The script was supposedly written in four days, and quite frankly, it shows. But there are some genuinely uproarious moments, most of them involving William Demarest as a homicide chief. Hans Conreid appears in a heavy British accent, but he isn't nearly as funny as Demarest, though he certainly tries to be.

 

In fact, they all try to be funny in this offering from RKO, perhaps a bit too much. The energy, though, is good, and there is an adorable pooch named Archie whose presence is central to the plot. Near the end of the film, Granger bites Archie in an attempt to elicit laughs, proving there is such a thing as bad taste in movies. Obviously, Granger's character does not see the value in behaving himself.

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*KITTY (1946)*

 

Director Mitchell Leisen's skill with art design, his precise handling of actors, and an attention to detail are quite obvious. What is also obvious is that the picture's sets and furniture have that grandiose William Hearst feel to it. Later, I was not surprised to find out that Leisen had indeed borrowed items from Hearst . But the most ornate piece of set d?cor is probably Paulette Goddard. She and costar Ray Milland are, as the saying goes, never better.

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*PERSONAL PROPERTY (1937)*

 

Jean Harlow received a ring from beau William Powell when this film was in production. She wears it at nearly every turn, except during the dishwashing scene. Harlow's wearing of the ring and incorporating it into the actions of the character she's playing seems very significant to me. It's a personal validation of who she is and what she's worth. There is a moment where Robert Taylor asks her in the film about her plans to marry, and it is clear that when replying, Harlow is not the character in the story, but her real self, commenting on her own plans to marry Powell. Unfortunately, that did not happen, but we know that she had been given not only a ring, but the gift of real love. And it's great to watch that in this film.

 

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I hope you don't mind people replying in this thread, TopBilled. I was just catching up on your reviews. Well done as usual. Wasn't Personal Property a post-code remake of sorts of "Man in Possession"? Not sure about that. Some of these films I've seen, some I've not had the chance to view yet.

 

In some other thread you posted a just plain brilliant analysis of 1947's "Unfaithful". You mentioned that it was more than just a remake of "The Letter". You said that those films (both 1929 and 1940 versions) distanced the audience from the characters by making the characters rich people living in an exotic location. This movie made the people the folks next door and brought the situation home to the audience to a level to which they could more relate and sympathize. I just wanted to commend you for that analysis. Very good work.

 

In another post you said you were thinking about posting a picture of yourself when you concluded this thread and that people would be surprised at your age. It takes maturity to write such reviews, so I would only be surprised if you are a very young person.

 

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Thank you, calvin. You made my day/week with your kind words!

 

Yes, PERSONAL PROPERTY is a remake. Robert Montgomery and Charlotte Greenwood starred in the earlier film version at MGM.

 

I think I will post my picture in August, when this thread will conclude. :)

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*HERE COMES THE GROOM (1951)*

 

A new and improved Jane Wyman appears in this picture with Bing Crosby. She is no longer the violated waif in JOHNNY BELINDA, but a self-confident woman who knows how to have fun clowning and singing. Check out the moment where she visits Crosby in the guesthouse and proceeds to fall flat on her face in that larger-than-life dress! And she's sweet in the scenes with the kids, too. But in case we forget that she's also a serious dramatic actress, there are moments of toughness between her and costar Alexis Smith. The film is a treat for a Wyman fan who enjoys watching the actress prove her versatility time and again, not that she ever had to. We knew about her talent for quite some time now.

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*THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION (1943)*

 

Virginia Weidler, who usually gives decent performances in her pictures, seems to be at her least convincing in this narcissistic MGM romp about a teen (Weidler) who disrupts the lives of movie stars with her best friend (Jean Porter) for just one more autograph, please! Clark Gable does not appear in this confection, because he's off at war. But countless other MGM contract players have been drafted into service, such as Lana Turner, Greer Garson, and Walter Pidgeon, to mention a few.

 

Weidler can be forgiven for being at that awkward stage of life known as adolescence, though someone has tried to glamorize her a bit too much in order to be taken seriously as an average American girl in this picture. But what is most distressing is that she has received direction in THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION that allows her to run the gamut from silly to sillier. And to say she is over-acting on occasion is putting it mildly. Secondary star Porter is not much better, and at times her Texas accent seems to rub off on Weidler, who hails from Eagle Rock, California.

 

Several noteworthy character actors are present, but their talents are largely wasted. Agnes Moorhead as an out-dated governess has probably her most thankless role ever, and is permitted to shriek like Fanny Amberson in one of her other pictures. Edward Arnold, as Pop, tries valiantly but seems almost grandfatherly.

 

There are several subplots, some more entertaining than others. But this writer was distracted by the fact that some of the stories were recycled from other MGM films, as were some of the sets. The kitchen and the dining room seem to have been left over from THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA, an earlier Weidler production.

 

Speaking of Weidler, how come her character doesn't recognize the fact that the actors playing her family are also under contract to MGM? And how come Weidler's character doesn?t realize that Weidler herself is an MGM actress? I guess that would mean she would have to ask herself for her own autograph, and then there wouldn't be much need to haunt hotels and cruise the streets until Mr. Gable returns to town.

 

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*CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA (1954)*

 

The use of outdoor photography may be most suited to the western genre. CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA is a lush Technicolor western from RKO that displays the gorgeous scenery of Glacier National Park.

 

In this picture, Barbara Stanwyck demonstrates her range as an authoritative ranch owner. Savage natives? Rough cowboys? They all have plenty to fear when Miss Stanwyck is around.

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> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}th-551.jpg

> *THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION (1943)*

>

> Virginia Weidler, who usually gives decent performances in her pictures, seems to be at her least convincing in this narcissistic MGM romp about a teen (Weidler) who disrupts the lives of movie stars with her best friend (Jean Porter) for just one more autograph, please! Clark Gable does not appear in this confection, because he's off at war. But countless other MGM contract players have been drafted into service, such as Lana Turner, Greer Garson, and Walter Pidgeon, to mention a few.

>

> Weidler can be forgiven for being at that awkward stage of life known as adolescence, though someone has tried to glamorize her a bit too much in order to be taken seriously as an average American girl in this picture. But what is most distressing is that she has received direction in THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION that allows her to run the gamut from silly to sillier. And to say she is over-acting on occasion is putting it mildly. Secondary star Porter is not much better, and at times her Texas accent seems to rub off on Weidler, who hails from Eagle Rock, California.

>

> Several noteworthy character actors are present, but their talents are largely wasted. Agnes Moorhead as an out-dated governess has probably her most thankless role ever, and is permitted to shriek like Fanny Amberson in one of her other pictures. Edward Arnold, as Pop, tries valiantly but seems almost grandfatherly.

>

> There are several subplots, some more entertaining than others. But this writer was distracted by the fact that some of the stories were recycled from other MGM films, as were some of the sets. The kitchen and the dining room seem to have been left over from THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA, an earlier Weidler production.

>

> Speaking of Weidler, how come her character doesn't recognize the fact that the actors playing her family are also under contract to MGM? And how come Weidler's character doesnt realize that Weidler herself is an MGM actress? I guess that would mean she would have to ask herself for her own autograph, and then there wouldn't be much need to haunt hotels and cruise the streets until Mr. Gable returns to town.

>

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Ouch. While I certainly didn'tt find it to be a stellar effort, I certainly did find it to be a more pleasant outing than you did. As far direction goes, this was also Edward Buzzell who would tone Virginia down in BEST FOOT FORWARD to the point where she almost disappeared from parts of the film, at least when compared to her exhuberant castmates.

 

I haven't seen much of Jean Porter's work but she strikes me as an actress with only one speed. It worked a lot better later in CRY DANGER than it did here. Still, I kind of liked their Lucy/Ethel thing a lot better than I liked any other part of the film and would not have minded seeing them work again with a better script than this one.

 

I think we discussed Moorhead privately last week and I now realize that they already had a better person to play this busybody governess in the cast, Sara Haden.

 

I read another reviewer last year who made a similar point about Weidler concerning her chasing MGM stars, but I don't think that individual was being as tongue-in-cheek as you were. The reveiewer said she couldn't believe that anyone who had held her own with Hepburn and Grant could get excited by Walter Pidgeon.

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These last two films of hers are what probably ended her movie career. If she had been able to keep playing those salt-of-the-earth tough girls, I think she would have developed into a dependable character actress and had many more years on film and in television. Instead, they have given her the glam-girl treatment, and it backfires. It is rather unfair to put her into the same league with Lana Turner and Donna Reed. She was a different kind of actress with much different talents.

 

In the Take Five column on the Your Favorites forum, I am going to recommend JOHNNY DOUGHBOY. That was Jane Withers' first film at Republic, and I could easily see Weidler doing a bang-up job with it. Withers transitioned to more grown-up roles at another studio, but Weidler, unfortunately, did not. Despite an image makeover, she was simply not able to compete with other ingenues of her day.

 

As for THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION, it's high concept and cute to an extent. But there is a large amount of implausible action occurring, and it gets bogged down in its own syrupy sweetness. I do agree that Sara Haden would have been much better in Moorehead's role.

 

Cary Grant was not under contract to MGM; but Katharine Hepburn certainly was at the time this picture was produced.

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*ROUGHLY SPEAKING (1945)*

 

ROUGHLY SPEAKING is a Warner Brothers picture that has a feel-good quality to it. And in some ways it functions as propaganda, convincing the average viewer that life is full of ups and downs and that she can muster the courage to continue, despite the odds.

 

Rosalind Russell is the star of this film, and her character learns the hard way about men-marriage-and-love. Jack Carson is the big lug she identifies as her main squeeze. Their undeniable chemistry leads one to wonder why they hadn't been paired on screen before.

 

Not so delicately but roughly speaking the script could have withstood some revisions. There is an amusing vacuum cleaner demonstration scene, but some of the comic episodes do not exactly lead anywhere. The action could have been tightened, with more of a nod to the theme. And just what is the theme? That a woman can find love again? Or that her family must brace for difficulty and war?

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What I'm reading here is a sound take on why Weidler didn't have a productive late teen young adult career.

 

Yes, "she was simply not able to compete with other ingenues of her day". She just didn't have the talents of, say, a Garland or Durbin or the looks of a Turner or Reed.

 

But as you noted she might of been able to because a character actor, say in the mode of Eve Arden.

 

 

 

 

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Or, if Weidler had done as Withers did, she could have been an 'ingenue' at a lesser studio, like Republic or Monogram. Her film career did not have to end when it did.

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*THE SUN ALSO RISES (1957)*

 

The actors seem right for these roles, as if they were born to play them. As a result, each character vividly comes to life on screen. Ava Gardner is at her sexiest; Tyrone Power displays his perennial boyish charm; Mel Ferrer infuses his part with the perfect amount of creepiness; Eddie Albert provides some nice comic relief; and Errol Flynn steals the show as an incorrigible drunk. But more importantly than these characterizations is how the film captures the spirit of Hemingway's writing. It depicts the wanderlust, the excitement and the philosophy of an interesting group of expatriates and their interwoven destinies. When they all go off in separate directions near the end of the picture, the viewer can't help but feel melancholy that their time together is over.

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*I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944)*

 

David Selznick produces an unusual picture starring Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten and a teenaged Shirley Temple about the casualties of war on the home front. It is all very subtle and understated, and the filmmakers are not afraid to present a dark subject about a soldier experiencing traumatic stress disorder. This fact is even more significant considering the story has been produced during the war, with patriotism at its most fervent. There are some beautiful holiday scenes in this movie and the two lead characters are given a truly romantic storyline. Ultimately, it is an uplifting picture. I recommend seeing it.

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*LADY BY CHOICE (1934)*

 

Carole Lombard has a good role as a fan dancer in LADY BY CHOICE. She plays a gal that adopts an old woman (May Robson) to improve both their images. The two actresses work very well together. The relationship seems real, even if the set-up is a bit hokey. They are affectionate and they bicker, just like family. The film moves at a quick pace, and none of it seems belabored. The point being made about how women of different generations look out for one another is done in an entertaining way.

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*DESK SET (1957)*

 

Some very naturalistic acting by the leads enlivens this offering. Gig Young once again plays the romantic runner-up, this time to Spencer Tracy vying for Katharine Hepburn. The story seems to be ahead of its time, reminding the audience that machines are not supposed to be a substitute for the human touch but instead make it possible for the human being to be more efficient-- in business, if not always in love.

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*ALL MY SONS (1948)*

 

Edward G. Robinson fills the role of Joe Keller perfectly in the adaptation of ALL MY SONS, which was a hit on Broadway. In this film he is not a gangster, but he is still on the wrong side of the law in a melodramatic story about a businessman that cuts costs and is responsible for the death of his son and others. Because Robinson is so good in this film, I was able to overlook the fact that Burt Lancaster does not seem to physically resemble him, as his biological offspring should. (Costar Howard Duff looks more physically similar to Robinson.)

 

What I really liked was the repetitive dialogue, which seems rather poetic, and the fact that Joe Keller is in continual denial about his misdeeds. People obviously do act this way, when they have to repress a painful truth.

 

In many ways, this film plays like a high-grade soap opera, and it is interesting to watch the two separate story strands (the defective war equipment & the missing son) integrate into one cohesive whole. The final scene where Robinson goes up the stairs and says that all the boys that died in the war were all his sons is probably one of the finest moments the actor has on film. It is not overwrought as one might expect but a masterful delivery of eloquence and despair.

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*GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE (1955)*

 

Some issues in education have changed since the 1950s while others have essentially stayed the same. I think especially in some school settings, the kids really lack a level of respect-- for the school staff and for themselves. It cannot do any great harm to be reminded of the purer values and lessons taught by this motion picture.

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*ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937)*

 

ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL is noted for Deanna Durbin's ability to sing and act. What a shame that most young female stars today cannot do either.

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ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937)

 

ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL is noted for Deanna Durbin's ability to sing and act. What a shame that most young female stars today cannot do either.

 

Very real crying scene proved she was going to be special.

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*CONSPIRATOR (1949)*

 

CONSPIRATOR gives us MGM's first on-screen pairing of Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor. The story is rife with political intrigue. It benefits from on-location filming in Europe, a somewhat suspenseful cold war plot, and top-notch studio production values. However, doesn't the ing?nue seem a bit too young to play a wife? In the story, she is meant to be 18 (but is actually 16 in real life); and Mr. Taylor's character is said to be 31 (but he is 37). At more than twice her age, he is old enough to be her father; and yet, this glaring fact is barely even mentioned and hardly a story point. One supposes that this is what is known in the film business as either suspension of disbelief or dramatic license. It certainly couldn't be a case of miscasting, could it?

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*MISS SADIE THOMPSON (1954)*

 

Rita Hayworth may very well give one of her best dramatic performances in MISS SADIE THOMPSON. She is paired with two very different actors: Jose Ferrer and Aldo Ray. Some of the music seems to be badly dubbed-- in particular, the song Rita sings to the kids at the beginning of the film. And the production code may have hampered the ending, since the suicide of Ferrer's character seems to happen so suddenly, giving the impression that some key scenes were left on the editing room floor to appease the censors.

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