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Doomed Cargo (1936) aka Seven Sinners - Hitchcock-style British mystery thriller from Gaumont and director Albert de Courville. American P.I. John Harwood (Edmund Lowe) teams up with American insurance investigator Caryl Fenton (Constance Cummings) to try and get to the bottom of a series of murders and train derailments in Europe. Also featuring Felix Aylmer, Thomy Bourdelle, Henry Oscar, Joyce Kennedy, O.B. Clarence, and Allan Jeayes.

I'm not usually a fan of Lowe's, but I liked him here, and he had good chemistry with Cummings. The train aspect is also unusual and makes this a slightly better than average mystery of the period.   (6/10)

Source: TCM.

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"The Da Vinci Code" (2006) in it's entirety, only seen part of it before. Well it was quoted in the film, the mind sees what it wants to.  Guess Dan Brown don't think Jesus could love a woman for her intellect (aka her brains).  Why does the word love always make someone think its sexual in nature when it pertains to a female?

 

The Last Supper reflects the environment De Vinci grew up in which is the Renaissance period. This caused an inaccurate painting regarding its surroundings.  I understand the reasoning of the earlier taboo on "graven images" in that it can send the wrong message even if by accident.  Far as the film goes, everyone loves a good conspiracy.

 

This is the original masterpiece which shows the effects of aging.

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Follow the Fleet (1936) - Fun dance musical romance from RKO and director Mark Sandrich. Bake (Fred Astaire) and Bilge (Randolph Scott) are two US Navy sailors on shore leave in San Francisco. Bake runs into old professional dance partner Sherry (Ginger Rogers), reigniting their old romance, while Bilge meets Sherry's mousy sister Connie (Harriet Hilliard), and they fall for each other. Naturally, complications ensue in between song and dance numbers. Also featuring Astrid Allwyn, Harry Beresford, Lucille Ball, Russell Hicks, Brooks Benedict, Ray Mayer, Tony Martin, and Betty Grable.

The music from Irving Berlin is good, and the dance numbers enjoyable, although I liked the funny "rehearsal" dance bit better than the polished elegant showstopper. I've never seen an episode of Ozzie & Harriet, and I had no idea that I was watching Harriet Nelson (Hilliard) in the sister role, and I thought she was very good. Lucy also gets a few good cracks in, while prominently billed Betty Grable is seen only for a moment during a singing number.  (7/10)

Source: Warner DVD, part of the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Astaire & Rogers Volume 2, with bonus features including a making-of short, and a pair of vintage short subjects.

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2 hours ago, hamradio said:

This caused an inaccurate painting regarding its surroundings.

So they only show six of the disciples instead of all twelve?

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25 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Follow the Fleet (1936)

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I like the Astaire-Rogers musicals though I'm not as much a fan as are many other posters on these boards. The comic support to be found in them, though (Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton, Victor Moore or the priceless Erik Rhodes) is a hoot and a half.

Follow the Fleet, though, has one of my favourite dance numbers of the entire series- Irving Berlin's beautiful Let's Face The Music And Dance. The art deco set, the clever story telling (with even, daringly, a contemplation of suicide by two lost souls!), and, of course, the sheer beauty and elegance of Fred and Ginger in motion make it a sublime joy to behold.

 

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1 minute ago, TomJH said:

I like the Astaire-Rogers musicals though I'm not as much a fan as are many other posters on these boards. The comic support to be found in them, though (Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton, Victor Moore or the priceless Erik Rhodes) is a hoot and a half.

Follow the Fleet, though, has one of my favourite dance numbers of the entire series- Irving Berlin's beautiful Let's Face The Music And Dance. The art deco set, the clever story telling (with even, daringly, a contemplation of suicide by two lost souls!), and, of course, the sheer beauty and elegance of Fred and Ginger in motion make it a sublime joy to behold.

 

I think "Let's Face the Music and Dance" is also the music number that is featured in Pennies From Heaven with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters re-creating Fred and Ginger's dance.  I did not like 'Pennies,' but I love Fred and Ginger.  I haven't seen all ten of their collaborations, but of the ones I've seen, my favorite is Swing Time

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9 minutes ago, speedracer5 said:

I think "Let's Face the Music and Dance" is also the music number that is featured in Pennies From Heaven with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters re-creating Fred and Ginger's dance.  I did not like 'Pennies,' but I love Fred and Ginger.  I haven't seen all ten of their collaborations, but of the ones I've seen, my favorite is Swing Time

It's been a long time since I saw the, from what I can recall of it, depressing Pennies From Heaven. Whatever else you might say about it, it certainly was a "different" musical. I don't recall that Let's Face The Music and Dance is a part of it, but I'll take your word for it, Speedracer. I like Steve Martin very much but if he was trying to emulate Astaire's dancing in the film that takes a lot of balls (not to mention more than a bit of chutzpah).

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33 minutes ago, TomJH said:

I like the Astaire-Rogers musicals though I'm not as much a fan as are many other posters on these boards. The comic support to be found in them, though (Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton, Victor Moore or the priceless Erik Rhodes) is a hoot and a half.

Follow the Fleet, though, has one of my favourite dance numbers of the entire series- Irving Berlin's beautiful Let's Face The Music And Dance.

I love Follow the Fleet and especially the "Let's Face the Music and Dance" number; but, like Speedy, my favorite Astaire and Rodgers film is Swing Time.

A bit of information about Erik Rhodes: He was romantically involved with Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg, who, under the screen name of Julian West, played the lead in the Carl Theodor Dreyer film Vampyr.

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13 minutes ago, TomJH said:

It's been a long time since I saw the, from what I can recall of it, depressing Pennies From Heaven. Whatever else you might say about it, it certainly was a "different" musical. I don't recall that Let's Face The Music and Dance is a part of it, but I'll take your word for it, Speedracer. I like Steve Martin very much but if he was trying to emulate Astaire's dancing in the film that takes a lot of balls (not to mention more than a bit of chutzpah).

 I saw Pennies from Heaven in a movie theater more than 30 years ago.   Steve Martin is someone who "learned" how to dance last week, but Christopher Walken, a thoroughly  professionally-trained dancer, really stole that movie.

I loved watching Christopher Walken tap dance live on SNL.

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46 minutes ago, Fedya said:

So they only show six of the disciples instead of all twelve?

One can only speculate but drawing on how the average person (mostly poor) lived during the time period. 

Not very elegant is it?

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1 hour ago, speedracer5 said:

I think "Let's Face the Music and Dance" is also the music number that is featured in Pennies From Heaven with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters re-creating Fred and Ginger's dance.  I did not like 'Pennies,' but I love Fred and Ginger.  I haven't seen all ten of their collaborations, but of the ones I've seen, my favorite is Swing Time

The only one I can remember having actually seen is Carefree (1938). Although, upon doing some more research, I believe I can confirm that I've also seen Swing Time and Shall We Dance. The Astaire-Rogers movies seem to blur together after a while, or at least that's the way it appears to me. 

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29 minutes ago, NickAndNora34 said:

The Astaire-Rogers movies seem to blur together after a while, or at least that's the way it appears to me. 

I've been rewatching some (The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Swing Time), and watching others for the first time (Flying Down to RioRobertaFollow the Fleet), in the past few weeks, and even in that close proximity, they still blend together. Of the six, I think I like Top Hat and Swing Time the most. I have Shall We Dance and The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle left to watch. I don't have a copy of either Carefree or The Barkleys of Broadway.

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21 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I've been rewatching some (The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Swing Time), and watching others for the first time (Flying Down to RioRobertaFollow the Fleet), in the past few weeks, and even in that close proximity, they still blend together. Of the six, I think I like Top Hat and Swing Time the most. I have Shall We Dance and The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle left to watch. I don't have a copy of either Carefree or The Barkleys of Broadway.

I really like The Barkleys of Broadway (I'd loan you my copy, but we live on completely opposite sides of the country!).  It's Ginger and Fred's tenth and final film together and their only color film.  Originally Fred was supposed to co-star in this film with Judy Garland as their success in Easter Parade made MGM only more keen to re-team Fred and Judy on another film.  However, the studio's tolerance of Judy's erratic behavior (and substance abuse issues) finally reached its breaking point, and Judy was fired. Ginger Rogers was brought on to replace Judy and surely to capitalize on the publicity that could be generated with the re-teaming of Fred and Ginger. 

Supposedly, I don't know if this is true or just legend, after she was fired, Judy sent Ginger a congratulatory bouquet inside of a large shaving mug.  It was well known in Hollywood at the time that Ginger's face had to be lit in a very specific way as to disguise the fact that Ginger's face had a lot of peach fuzz on it.  Judy was definitely being very catty and very passive aggressive, but it's still pretty funny.  I like Ginger Rogers as an actress, but from reading her autobiography, she comes across as being a little full of herself.  

I've seen Flying Down to Rio (with the ridiculous airplane number), Follow the Fleet, The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Swing Time and The Barkleys of Broadway.  I haven't seen Shall We Dance, The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle and Carefree. I agree that Fred and Ginger's films run together (much like The Marx Brothers' films) except for The Barkleys of Broadway, only because it's the only film they have that is in color and the film was made ten years after their last film, so both actors have matured.  I like Swing Time because I like when Fred sings "The Way You Look Tonight" to Ginger while she's washing her hair.  I also like their last song "Never Gonna Dance." 

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The Garden of Allah (1936) - Visually impressive romantic melodrama from United Artists, producer David O. Selznick, and director Richard Boleslawski. Domini (Marlene Dietrich) is a rich woman who has spent many years taking care of her ailing father. When he finally dies, she realizes that she has missed much in her own life, and sets out to North Africa to find herself. Boris (Charles Boyer) is a Trappist monk who has taken vows of poverty and silence, but he can no longer bear the burden of either, and so he heads to North Africa to find himself. The two spiritually conflicted people meet and fall in love, but their sad ending is foretold. Also featuring Basil Rathbone, C. Aubrey Smith, Joseph Schildkraut, Alan Marshal, Henry Brandon, John Carradine, Lucile Watson, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Bonita Granville, and Tilly Losch.

This was a wild mix of beauty and camp that will appeal to some viewers but leave others rolling their eyes in disbelief. I can't recall many films of this period that were as openly spiritual and as concerned with the burdens of the soul, and yet the two leads are among the most vain and superficial of movie stars, both with acting talent, but both better known for their looks than their depth. Dietrich especially looks more like a studio creation than a living human, with her almost comical artificial eyebrows and professional-grade makeup design. 

The movie looks amazing, a word that perhaps gets overused in amateur criticism, but it is most deservedly used here. The color cinematography, coupled with masterly use of shadow and color, and terrific use of locations, create a film that is a joy to behold even if the story and performances may leave you cold. There's a sequence early in the film involving dancer Tilly Losch as a local Arab dancing girl that made me think I had mistakenly started a Maria Montez camp classic (that's a good thing). Schildkraut as a shady Arab, Brandon as his companion, and Carradine as a creepy street person promising psychic readings, are all enjoyable. This earned a pair of Oscar nominations, for Best Assistant Director (Eric Stacey) and Best Music - Score (Max Steiner), and won a special honorary Oscar for the color cinematography (W. Howard Greene & Harold Rosson). Recommended.  (8/10)

Source: South Korean DVD.

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51 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

The Garden of Allah (1936)

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The Garden of Allah is such a visual joy, with some of the most stunning Technicolor of any Hollywood film of the '30s, in my opinion. That, combined with Max Steiner's lovely musical score, definitely makes this film worth a view. There's one particularly impressive shot of a desert caravan of camels disappearing at sunset over a giant sand dune. Steiner's score includes the sound of tiny bells ringing, such as some of the camels may have had, I suppose. Absolutely gorgeous, both visually and aurally. I've replayed that scene in my DVD of the film numerous times.

Unfortunately there's also the chestnut of a story about spiritual longing, and the arch, artificial performances of Boyer and Dietrich that may have more than a few viewers moaning or laughing, depending upon their mood. The Tilly Losch dance sequence, campy but fun, makes one fast forward to a similar one that she would have a decade later at the beginning of Duel in the Sun for the same producer Selznick.

Back in the early '90s, not long before Dietrich's death, I sent her a letter, accompanied by a photo for her to sign. It was a black and white shot from The Garden of Allah. When I received a reply from the lady she sent an autographed photo but had substituted the Garden of Allah pix with another one of her, from Blonde Venus. A lady's vanity, I suppose, for the photo she sent was far more complimentary to the actress than the one I had mailed. Either that or, I suppose, I may have sent the lady a picture from The Garden of Allah that she didn't have in her own collection.

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Go West Young Man (1936) - Agreeable comedy from Paramount Pictures and director Henry Hathaway.Mae West stars as Mavis Arden, one of the biggest movie stars in the business. During a cross-country trip with her manager (Warren William), her car breaks down and she causes an uproar in the small town where she stays until her car can get fixed. To pass the time she starts a flirtation with local mechanic Bud (Randolph Scott). Also featuring Lyle Talbot, Alice Brady, Isabel Jewell, Elizabeth Patterson, Margaret Perry, Etienne Girardot, Maynard Holmes, and Xavier Cugat as himself.

The supporting cast is excellent, and Hathaway is a top-notch director, but the weight of the production falls to West, who doesn't disappoint. Her sexually aggressive movie queen isn't too far removed from her usual persona, and her wisecracks and one-liners abound.   (7/10)

Source: Universal DVD, part of Mae West: The Essential Collection.

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18 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

I've seen Flying Down to Rio (with the ridiculous airplane number), Follow the Fleet, The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Swing Time and The Barkleys of Broadway.  I haven't seen Shall We Dance, The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle and Carefree

You say "Ridiculous", I say "Classic".  ("But it's so fake! They're not sitting on a REAL airplane!")

My first F&G was Shall We Dance, and that one feels like the "definitive" RKO Astaire & Rogers, not just for the use of "Can't Take That away From Me" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off".  The plot involves Fred as a hoofer who changed his name to Russian to dance in the ballet, and when Ginger hears she's working with "the great ballet star Petrov", at first thinks she'll be working with some insufferable Kirov diva.  Leading to the classic scene where Fred heckles her by pretending to be an egotistic Russian-ballet diva, and in the process doing one of the most dead-on intentional imitations of Bela Lugosi before it became cool. 

It's not something you see Fred Astaire doing every day.

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Stranger Danger! I never knew a remake of Fritz Lang's classic "M" (1931) even existed, but luckily I DVR'd it on TCM not knowing that it was in fact a 1951 remake starring David Wayne as the child killer that was so brilliantly portrayed by Peter Lorre in the original.

I have to say the remake is well made, but mostly because of Wayne's basically non-verbal performance and the fact that producer Seymour Nebenzal was only allowed to make it if it almost exactly mirrored the original. That was due to Production Code concern that the movie not include child molestation/rape as part of the plot. In fact, before he hired director Joseph Losey, he asked fellow German ex-pat Douglas Sirk to direct, but Sirk turned the project down because he wanted to do a rewrite. (Losey also wanted to rewrite it, but for the same reasons, couldn't.)

You see the same camera work, the child is approached by a man at a candy machine, but he is only seen in the mirror and from the legs down (very menacing); the killer buys balloons for the girls he kills to pacify them and the balloon is seen floating above the power lines once the child has been killed; a child's  ball that she was bouncing a moment before her death comes rolling into the frame and we know, again, a child has been killed.

The kangaroo court held by the mobsters is almost identical to the original as is the search for the killer in a giant commercial building. The motives are the same; the mob wants to get the child killer because he offends even their criminal senses and because they want good publicity from the police, press and public.

There is one very American element to the remake, however, and that's the use of psychotherapy/psychology that was sweeping the nation around this time (and which continues today). Wayne gives a speech explaining his domineering mother's hatred toward the "evil of men, just men" and his need to be punished not only for his deeds but because he is, simply that, a man.

I thought I would hate this remake but I didn't. Although not as startling and striking as the original, there is still a place for this remake I think in the catalog of American cinema. There are very good character actors as well, including Raymond Burr as a gravel-voiced mob enforcer, Howard Da Silva as a chain-smoking homicide detective, Martin Gabel as the crime boss trying to get all the mileage he can out of catching the killer and Luther Adler as an alcoholic criminal attorney who puts up a defense for Wayne and maybe himself simultaneously.

There is also the cinematography of '50s Los Angeles by Ernest Laszlo that serves as another character in the film--it appears to have been filmed on location and it is eye-opening to see this portrait of the City of Angels. Not looking very angelic.

I would have to say I liked this "M" but it is not as good as the original; maybe it isn't trying to be. Like their German roots the film and the filmmakers seem to be searching for something uniquely American.

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Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936) - Another in the string of "Gold Diggers" musicals from Warner Brothers/First National, director Lloyd Bacon, and dance choreographer/director Busby Berkeley. A group of showgirls, including Norma (Joan Blondell) and Genevieve (Glenda Farrell), grow tired of struggling with poverty, so they set out to change their circumstances. Norma meets insurance salesman Rosmer Peak (Dick Powell), and he gets her a job at his firm. Genevieve falls in with shady theatrical bookkeeper Morty (Osgood Perkins) who's trying to get out from under the debt of theater owner J.J. Hobart (Victor Moore), and who concocts a plan that brings them into contact with Rosmer and Norma. Also featuring Lee Dixon, Charles D. Brown, Rosalind Marquis, Irene Ware, William B. Davidson, and Carole Landis & Jane Wyman among the chorus girls.

The musical format had started to change in cinema by this point. Whereas previous films had largely kept musical numbers confined to the stage on which they were ostensibly being shown to the "audience" within the film's narrative, now more and more songs were being performed out "in the world", with characters breaking out into song while walking down the street or sitting in a park. Berkeley's only major number comes at the very end, an elaborate fantasia that is supposedly being viewed by a theater audience but actual defies all physics of reality. It's interesting to look at, but isn't terribly inspired. Dixon, who I'm unfamiliar with, gets a couple of tap-dancing showcases, including one on a giant rocking chair seat. I enjoyed Moore, and I always welcome Blondell and Farrell, but the movie is only passable. Berkeley earned an Oscar nomination for Best Dance Direction.  (6/10)

Source: Warner DVD, part of the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Busby Berkeley Musicals. The disc includes a live-action color short about the Louisiana Purchase (?!?), a Technicolor Merrie Melodies cartoon, another Merrie Melodies cartoon ("Speaking about the Weather") that is preceded by a disclaimer from the disc makers about the racist content (!!!), and two scenes remaining from the lost 1929 Gold Diggers of Broadway.

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The Golden Arrow (1936) - Mediocre romantic comedy from Warner Brothers/First National and director Alfred E. Green. Johnny Jones (George Brent) is a cynical newspaper reporter assigned to get an interview with reclusive millionaire heiress Daisy Appleby (Bette Davis). When the two meet, there are sparks, but he doesn't want to be a "kept man". Little does he know that Daisy is actually a phony, a promotional gimmick for a cosmetics company acting the part of a glamorous socialite in order to garner headlines and sell facial cream. Also featuring Eugene Pallette, Dick Foran, Carol Hughes, Catherine Doucet, Craig Reynolds, Ivan Lebedeff, Eddie Acuff, E.E. Clive, Henry O'Neill, Mary Treen, and Hobart Cavanaugh.

I liked Brent a little more in this one, but conversely I felt Davis didn't come across as well, as playing fluttery "girlish" roles really wasn't her strong suit. She's not bad, but the material would have been better served with some one else. The finale, involving Davis showing up at a social event with a black eye, much to the smirking amusement of those in attendance, is definitely a sign of the times.  (6/10)

Source: TCM.

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"The Last Rose of Summer" is a highly evocative song that sets the scene in the best film of the year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It is also used (piano version) to great effect in Terence Davies' A Quiet Passion, a film biography of Emily Dickinson. It makes sense that the British director Davies, a poet of images along the lines of John Ford, would make a film about one of our great American poets and that music would play a large part in setting the scenes/montages for his episodic approach. 

A Quiet Passion is a good film with some excellent performances and some, sadly, not so good (the actor playing brother Dickinson is pretty bad). But the movie captures the beauty and sorrow of the severe Calvinist milieu that was the Dickinson home; as well as the glories of the poetry; and above all, the poet's struggle.

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Mudbound, directed by Dee Rees, is a very good film with perhaps a few too many interior monologues. It does however tell a powerful story and possesses one of the most horrifying depictions of racism that I have ever seen on screen. Embodied in the vile "Pappy" character, played by Jonathan Banks, a K K K torture scene features the film's two heroes, one black, one white, in which Jamie, a white man, has to choose whether Ronsel, his black friend, should have his tongue, eyes, or balls removed by the K K K. The alternative would be death for the black man. Despite that, this powerful movie ends on a hopeful note for both characters. Jamie is played by Garrett Headlund, Ronsel by Jason Mitchell.

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Hearts Divided (1936) - History rewritten as romantic musical hokum, from Warner Brothers and director Frank Borzage. The story relates the strange but true tale of the courtship between American Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson (Marion Davies) and Jerome Bonaparte (Dick Powell), the younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte (Claude Rains). Jerome has been sent by his brother to the US to facilitate the Louisiana Purchase to raise funds for the European war effort, but instead he falls for Maryland beauty Patterson. Also featuring Edward Everett Horton, Charlie Ruggles, Arthur Treacher, Henry Stephenson, Clara Blandick, John Larkin, Walter Kingsford, Etienne Girardot, Halliwell Hobbes, Beulah Bondi, Granville Bates, and George Irving as Thomas Jefferson.

The leads look nice and sing some pleasant enough tunes, while the trio of Horton, Ruggles and Treacher make for an amusing if unlikely comic relief chorus. I watched this for Rains, and he makes a good Napoleon, even if he doesn't attempt a French accent. He did have a shirtless bath scene, which is weird. Somehow a shirtless Claude Rains seems wrong. The ending bears no resemblance to reality, and the actual historical story is worth searching out for those interested.  (6/10)

Source: TCM.

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First of all, if you saw this poster..what would you surmise about the film?    Related image

Well, you'd be wrong (and she doesn't even wear this dress in the film..)  I just watched Paula (1952) with Loretta Young in the title role as the wife of a college dean who, after several miscarriages, learns she will never have children.  On her way to a formal event, she accidently hits a little boy (Tommy Retting) on a dark road, and before she can find out if he's okay, a nasty local yokel (Will Wright) shows up, calls her a reckless woman driver and whisks the kid away.  Wright likes the spotlight as 'the guy who saved the orphan', , telling reporters the driver was a drunk society woman, and describing her car. Young is torn between her worry about the boy and concern that any breath of 'scandal' can hurt her hubbie's career.  She volunteers at the hospital, and arranges with her doctor (Alexander Knox) to help him learn to speak again..and she devotes herself to him.  They decide to adopt the boy, and one night Young is dressed for a dinner out..and wearing the same distinctive necklace as the night of the accident.  Little Retting recognizes it..and knows she's the one who hit him.  He tries to tell others, but his speech is still limited..and Young knows he knows.  What does she do? Confess?  Knox knows too, but is aware that Young really loves the boy, and returning him to an orphanage would be a mistake.  Knox's MD character is a bit confusing in the film..he's a friend/obgyn/pseudo psychologist/speech therapist...hmmm.  There's a little twist when Wright shows up at Young's home, ranting about the boy, but a heart warming ending.  Young is fine in her role, Kent Smith as her husband is pretty dull.  I put this a step above the 'woman's pictures' of the time because there is some suspense involved...at one point, Young says to the boy 'you can't tell anyone because you can't talk' in a cool,  almost menacing tone...to scare him or to prod him to try harder? Or both?  Not bad at all...

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The Greatest Showman - I guess this is one of the last films that will ever appear in a theater that opens with the 20th Century Fox logo and the Alfred Newman theme song that won't have the Disney logo appearing before it.

I didn't know anything about P.T. Barnum going into the film other than his name has for more than a century been a synonym for "hokum" and "shameless self-promotion". I have no idea about the actual facts of his life, but I'm going to presume after watching this film that it's a complete re-imagining of events with only the barest connection to anything resembling actual fact (like his name, maybe?). This movie would have you believe that any connection between the name of Barnum and the idea of hokum was slander created by fake news and all the Victorian-era Manhattan snobs who hated him. No, our Barnum is a visionary and a social rights activist whose whole reason for exhibiting his "curiosities" (the word "freaks" is uttered only once in the entire film by a bigoted protester) is to elevate them and provide them dignity they heretofore have never known. With his bearded lady who sings in Mariah Carey-like multi-octave rangers, a little person, conjoined twins, really tall and really fat people, albinos and some performers whom I think are supposed to be extremely ahead of their time transgenders, the whole point of Barnum's show appears to be allowing his troupe to perform extremely generic self-affirmation numbers with endless lyrics about believing in oneself and following one's dreams to ensure that extreme awesomeness will occur in one's future. No one song stands out the whole movie. They all seem like the same song, honestly. The only "normal" performers in the troupe are an African-American brother-sister trapeze act, and the movie shows them being ostracized from polite society like all the rest. Although things are not as hard for any of these folks as one might expect them to be after watching, say, Freaks or The Elephant Man or those circus folk who hide the fleeing couple in Saboteur. Mostly, they have a few bigots yell at them and aren't allowed into fancy parties.

So certainly one disappointment film is that it gives the viewer zero concept of what an actual Barnum circus performance was like. I'm very sure his shows didn't consist of "curiosities" expressing their belief in their own dignity and awesomeness in the faces of the crowd while performing super-synchronized dance numbers that always result in wild audience applause. Even when Barnum tries to woo over the snobs by bringing over a European singer (who ultimately causes some friction with Barnum and his wife), she performs not Victorian-era opera numbers but Celine Dion-style ballads, which that real era would have only produced blank stares from the crowd.

I'm actually okay with revisionist history for artistic effect in film, if it's handled appropriately. Baz Lurhman's gonzo  Moulin Rogue has its anachronistic performances of Madonna, Nirvana and Elton John numbers, but somehow that works, while everything about this film feels phony and contrived. I'm just absolutely certain (admittedly without doing any research) that the real Barnum was not infused with progressive inclusionist ideology a century or more before its time. I'm not saying it's not a good message. It was just an extremely weird context in which to present it.

A few good points: the actress Zendaya (who was also great in Spider-Man: Homecoming) may be a big star of the future, and in spite of myself, I tend to enjoy the performances of her fellow former Disney Channel star Zac Efron. There was a phase in the early career of Tom Cruise where, regardless of what you think of him as an actor, I feel like you have to admire him for choosing to more or less serving an apprenticeship by working with as many great actors of a previous generation as he could. In a few short years, he made movies with Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight, among others. The overall caliber of his elders with whom Efron has been working is certainly not comparable, but he has early in his movie career worked with James Franco, Dwayne Johnson, Seth Rogen, Robert DeNiro and now Hugh Jackman. 

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2 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

There was a phase in the early career of Tom Cruise where, regardless of what you think of him as an actor, I feel like you have to admire him for choosing to more or less serving an apprenticeship by working with as many great actors of a previous generation as he could. In a few short years, he made movies with Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight, among others. 

I will say that for Cruise, the movies that he appeared in with each of these actors certainly helped make him a bit more watchable....his working alongside these legends brought out the best in him, though he still wouldn't make my top 10 (or even 50) list of best actors.

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