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TopBilled’s Essentials


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I am probably just being nitpicky here. After I posted that, I re-thought about the O'Sullivan/Nolan relationship. I know of many marriages resembling that one.

 

Yet I do feel that even O'Sullivan is doing a bit too much "acting", much like most of the others. Then again, that may be the point. They are a theatrical family.

 

I really did like Carrie Fisher too. She should have been cast as a sister since she blends better than the others do with each other. Poor Sam Waterson! My guess is that he went into this one shortly after The Killing Fields.

Sam Waterson, whom I do love, doesn't even get a screen credit for this film.

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Essential: BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984)

 

There’s a lot going on in this film, and even after two viewings, I’m not sure I even appreciate all the nuances in Woody Allen’s BROADWAY DANNY ROSE. It’s a charming tale of show biz shenanigans– a frenetic mixture of stage acts and the mob– that would be expanded upon in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY. Here the focus is on a beleaguered talent agent out of his depth when it comes to solving the romantic problems of his biggest client, a nightclub singer named Lou Canova.

 

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Lou is played by musician Nick Apollo Forte, who so far has only appeared in this one movie. It’s appropriate in a way, since Lou should be someone with enough talent to become a huge star but someone for whom major success eludes him. Maybe Forte’s own agent is as hapless as Danny. Regardless of all that, what makes the scenes work is the way Danny coaches him, which to some extent, is probably Allen coaching Forte through the moviemaking process. So their relationship has a lot of truth on screen.

 

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Also making the scenes come to life is Allen’s real-life partner Mia Farrow. She plays a gangster’s moll named Tina who has been sleeping with Lou. Somehow Danny gets in the middle of this potentially hazardous triangle, and in the process (because they spend so much time together), he develops a strange attachment to Tina. He realizes their special bond long before Tina does, and this sets up a nice resolution when she reaches the same conclusion. Many critics of the day, including Roger Ebert, lavished praise on Farrow for her performance in this picture. And I agree, she’s simply fantastic.

 

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Also adding to the fun are cameos from comedy stars who interact with Allen in various segments. Ex-wife Louise Lasser has an uncredited bit at the beginning as his secretary. And there are three scenes which feature Milton Berle. Berle is playing himself, and the plot involves Danny trying to get him to use Lou for a TV special. In the meantime, there are other comics in scenes at a deli– they function as the story’s ‘greek chorus.’ They comment on the action and narrate the different scrapes Danny encounters in his dealings with Berle, Lou, Tina and the local mafia.

 

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Reviewers on the IMDb have rated the film highly, with many saying the production benefits from strong acting and crisp black-and-white cinematography. With other Allen-Farrow collaborations, we have a pseudo-realistic look at life in which they usually play themselves (like HANNAH AND HER SISTERS or HUSBANDS AND WIVES). But in this movie, they are portraying characters that seem quite a bit different from who they are. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

 

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BROADWAY DANNY ROSE can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

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Theme for February 2017: Classic love stories


 


Saturday February 4, 2017


LOVE AFFAIR (1939), starring Irene Dunne & Charles Boyer. Studio/production company: RKO. Source: Amazon Prime.


 


Saturday February 11, 2017


LOVE LETTERS (1945), starring Jennifer Jones & Joseph Cotten. Studio/production company: Paramount. Source: home video collection.


 


Saturday February 18, 2017


THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (1949), starring Ann Todd & Trevor Howard. Studio/production company: Universal. Source: home video collection.


 


Saturday February 25, 2017


ROMEO AND JULIET (1968), starring Leonard Whiting & Olivia Hussey. Studio/production company: Paramount. Source: Amazon.


 


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Humorously I had mentioned Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats The Soul in an earlier list. Of course, your choices are more appropriate. Yet... sometime later in the year, I would love to read your commentary on Fassbinder's other most famous film, Fox and His Friends (Faustrecht der Freihei). I had only seen parts of it in the past, but finally got the Criterion DVD on sale recently. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, despite its depressing ending. It is definitely NOT a romantic picture, but a "looking for love in all the wrong places" picture. Ha ha! You do see the word "Darling" pop up frequently in the English subtitles, but it is never said with any affection. Maybe you can include it in a month devoted romances-gone-wrong or movies about desperate people constantly suffering?

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Humorously I had mentioned Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats The Soul in an earlier list. Of course, your choices are more appropriate. Yet... sometime later in the year, I would love to read your commentary on Fassbinder's other most famous film, Fox and His Friends (Faustrecht der Freihei). I had only seen parts of it in the past, but finally got the Criterion DVD on sale recently. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, despite its depressing ending. It is definitely NOT a romantic picture, but a "looking for love in all the wrong places" picture. Ha ha! You do see the word "Darling" pop up frequently in the English subtitles, but it is never said with any affection. Maybe you can include it in a month devoted romances-gone-wrong or movies about desperate people constantly suffering?

 

Sounds like it would work for a theme about LGBT-related films, or a theme on German cinema.

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OK... I don't want to high-jack your thread discussing a movie you haven't profiled, but I will be concise here. Did you see that particular one? I am sure you have read about it since it is a very famous title listed in multiple movie books.

 

"LGBT-related" is an interesting term you use. Some movies like Brokeback Mountain are about "being" LGBT because you see the characters struggle against prejudice by "heteronormal" (a.k.a. they see themselves as normal) people. They are the minority dealing with the majority. This movie is different except in one brief moment: Eugen persuades Franz ("Fox", Fassbinder's character) to use his own money to get both a much fancier apartment because they are being evicted by the landlord who is against guys shacking together. However it isn't entirely clear if Eugen is even telling Franz the truth because he is taking advantage of him in a number of ways. Also many other movies show landlords against their tenants sharing apartments with partners of the opposite gender as well, such as one scene in 42nd Street as an example.

 

Overall, male/male relationships are taken for granted as just... relationships... no different than male/female. Even Eugen's parents are OK with their son having a boyfriend and are not analyzing him like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn with their daughter's interracial relationship in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. The Moroccan Holiday Inn has no problem with the boyfriends sharing a room, although strangely they have a problem with them picking up a Moroccan (played by El Hedi ben Salem, the star in the earlier Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) and not because he is a hustler but because he is the wrong race. Thus, the movie is technically not "about" the LGBT even though 1975 audiences were still not yet accustomed to seeing guys kissing and sharing beds on screen, all shown rather chastely in comparison to what you usually see in male/female relationship pictures. In fact, most of the full frontal nudity (yes, there is some) is in a bath house scene where nobody touches each other.

 

Instead this movie is really about working class people being unsuccessful "fitting in" with cultured bourgeois and the lead character experiencing constant misfortune like Job in the Old Testament. He, of course, is often the cause of many problems because he doesn't think things through. Humorously, in the opening scenes, he plays a "headless" character in a carnival. He is not as street-wise as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion and My Fair Lady and winds up the loser rather than the winner, which intriguingly reminded ME of the unfortunate Leonard and Jackie Bast in Howard's End, both who were sexually involved with people above their classes but not enjoying any of the wealth that came with it. Not to mention, the Basts were just as out of place at a fancy wedding just as Franz/Fox is in fancy restaurants his wealthy boyfriend favors.

 

Oh... I think you would enjoy this one if you haven't seen it. There is so much thematic "stuff" for you to get your teeth into. Ha ha! (In any case, I don't want to distract you. Carry on with the month of romantic movies.)

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Oh... I think you would enjoy this one if you haven't seen it. There is so much thematic "stuff" for you to get your teeth into. Ha ha! (In any case, I don't want to distract you. Carry on with the month of romantic movies.)

 

Thanks for the suggestions. I do enjoy films that have layers and can be looked at in different ways.

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Essential: LOVE AFFAIR (1939)

 

For a month of films focusing on classic stories of the heart, I could think of no finer motion picture to start with than Leo McCarey’s 1939 version of LOVE AFFAIR. He would go on to direct the remake almost twenty years later– but the original seems to be a real favorite with viewers and probably is the definitive one.

 

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Irene Dunne and her leading man, Charles Boyer, cited LOVE AFFAIR as their personal best, and both were in a lot of classic films. They costarred in another production a few months later when they were featured in a romance drama at Universal, probably meant to cash in on the success of the first pairing; and then Columbia teamed them up for a romantic comedy. But as good as their other collaborations might be, it’s the special magic they share in McCarey’s picture that everyone remembers.

 

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The characters they portray meet rather casually on board a luxury liner heading for America. They each have significant careers, and they have other romantic commitments. So they aren’t looking for love. During the cruise they get to know one other and develop a warm friendship. There’s a stopover at a port where Boyer gets off to see his grandmother. He bumps into Dunne outside the ship, and she decides to go with him. They only have four hours, and they will make a little adventure out of it.

 

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Madame Maria Ouspenskaya is cast as the grandmother, and she’s charming. She has only 12 minutes of screen time but does such a spectacular job, she would wind up nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar. (Dunne was also nominated for her lead role, and altogether the film earned six nominations in various categories.) The segment where the couple visits Ouspenskaya takes the story in a new direction. They go to a little chapel to pray, and it is clear they are friends who feel there is something more between them now– as though a higher power has ordained it.

 

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I won’t spoil the plot anymore. It wouldn’t be fair if someone reading this hasn’t seen the film yet. But the beauty of these early scenes deepens as the story unfolds. There are some melodramatic contrivances when they arrive in New York. For awhile, it looks as though their love is not meant to be. But of course, we know their hearts have to overcome any possible obstacles. The ending is truly satisfying. There’s a reason it’s been remade, and why other films reference it. That's because it’s an affair for the ages.

 

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LOVE AFFAIR can be streamed on Amazon Prime. Also, it will air on TCM on February 15, 2017.

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More lovable than she was in Dodsworth obviously.

 


 

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Madame Maria Ouspenskaya is cast as the grandmother, and she’s charming. She has only 12 minutes of screen time but does such a spectacular job, she would wind up nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar. (Dunne was also nominated for her lead role, and altogether the film earned six nominations in various categories.) The segment where the couple visits Ouspenskaya takes the story in a new direction. They go to a little chapel to pray, and it is clear they are friends who feel there is something more between them now– as though a higher power has ordained it.

 

 

 

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More lovable than she was in Dodsworth obviously.

 

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Yes, a totally different type of character. She isn't in the chapel, so her 12 minutes of screen time is more like 10 minutes if we subtract the chapel scene. I wonder if that's a record for the least amount of screen time for a nominee.

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We also have Judi Dench in Shakespeare In Love. Yet maybe that Oscar was technically for her costume "modeling".

 

Re: Madame Ouspenskaya-- it had been about a year since I had seen LOVE AFFAIR. And it's funny how one's memory works. I could have sworn the segment when they got off the boat and visited with her at the villa was at least a half hour, like a full third of the movie. But when I re-watched it a few days ago, I realized it's a much shorter segment. But she's such a tremendous character actress, making so much of so little, that she sort of looms over the rest of the movie. At the end, he tells Dunne that his grandmother died and gives her something the grandmother wanted her to have. It almost feels like the old woman's spirit is hovering nearby, making sure they reunite.

 

Another good performance by her is the role she has in BEYOND TOMORROW, where she is once again guiding a romantic couple, played by Richard Carlson and Jean Parker. But that time she has help from Charles Winninger, Harry Carey and C. Aubrey Smith. 

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Re: Madame Ouspenskaya-- it had been about a year since I had seen LOVE AFFAIR. And it's funny how one's memory works. I could have sworn the segment when they got off the boat and visited with her at the villa was at least a half hour, like a full third of the movie. But when I re-watched it a few days ago, I realized it's a much shorter segment. But she's such a tremendous character actress, making so much of so little, that she sort of looms over the rest of the movie. At the end, he tells Dunne that his grandmother died and gives her something the grandmother wanted her to have. It almost feels like the old woman's spirit is hovering nearby, making sure they reunite.

 

Another good performance by her is the role she has in BEYOND TOMORROW, where she is once again guiding a romantic couple, played by Richard Carlson and Jean Parker. But that time she has help from Charles Winninger, Harry Carey and C. Aubrey Smith. 

Madame Ouspenskaya is also very effective in "The Rains Came".

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Madame Ouspenskaya is also very effective in "The Rains Came".

 

Yes, that's another one. She's also wonderful in two Republic Pictures she made after the war-- as a patroness of the arts in I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU and as an old world grandmother out west in WYOMING.

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Essential: LOVE LETTERS (1945)

 

A lot can be said for romantic films of the 1940s, especially ones made at the end of the war. In this Paramount classic, the focus is on a soldier’s ability to readjust to life on the home front. It features two of David Selznick’s stars (and probably a lot of his input). Joseph Cotten plays the soldier who is thrust into an uncertain future when he goes back to England after international battles end.

 

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Of course he quickly discovers there are newer types of battles, and they rage inside his heart. He is deeply connected to Victoria Morland (Jennifer Jones), a girl he was writing letters to while he was away. In a clever psychological reworking of Rostand’s ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ screenwriter Ayn Rand shows us Cotten has written the letters on behalf of another, less poetic, war buddy. When Cotten goes home, he learns the buddy died but not until after he had married Victoria. All did not go well in the marriage, because the other man was a phony, not the one she had fallen in love with while Cotten was pouring out his innermost feelings from somewhere in Italy.

 

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Rand’s script relies on more than one coincidence to bring it all together. After Cotten has been mustered out, he goes to a party and meets a girl named Singleton. She just so happens to be the widowed Victoria, but she became an amnesiac when her husband was fatally stabbed. We learn in a very skillfully photographed flashback how she went on trial and was found guilty, though she had no recollection of the killing or about herself. At first Cotten doesn’t know Singleton is the girl who received his letters, and then when he does find out, it becomes a matter of her realizing who she is and how her whole being is connected with his. Before we get to the resolution, she is prone to fits of hysteria.

 

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Critics of the day were not too kind to the film, but audiences loved it. It became a huge hit for the studio and its stars. Jennifer Jones, on the heels of her Oscar triumph for SONG OF BERNADETTE, received another nomination. In particular Bosley Crowther found fault with her performance, calling it fatuous (silly or contrived). I would agree with Crowther to a point, but only when Jones is trying to show the girlish innocence of the character. I think the dramatic scenes, where she has to summon more adult courage and a wiser perspective, are exemplary. Cotten for his part is fairly solid, though I don’t think he totally invests himself in the material. Cecil Kellaway does an outstanding job as the caretaker of the house; and so does Ann Richards who plays a well-meaning friend of the couple.

 

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While it is not a perfect film, it succeeds in combining the more terrifying elements of post-war readjustment– not only for the men who are returning, but also the women they return to. Both main characters in the story have a duality that puts them on a mutual path of healing. Like Rostand’s Cyrano, the mask has to come off and love has to be followed to the letter.

 

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LOVE LETTERS was directed by William Dieterle and is scheduled to air on TCM on April 7th.

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Only saw it once ages ago and I do agree with your opinions. It is flawed but interesting as a relic of its era. I struggle a bit seeing Cotten "romantic" due to so many typecast roles in dramas and crime situations, not to mention all of his radio work in serious material (Suspense included).

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