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JamesStewartFan95

Cringey Moments in Otherwise Good Movies

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Sidney Poitier **** shaming a class of high school girls in To Sir With Love (1967).  As an educator myself, the sexually charged and verbally abusive way he speaks to female minors entrusted to his care is shockingly inappropriate and totally off the mark for how inspirational of a movie it's supposed to be.

Other than that, a movie of considerable merit: a characteristically measured performance by Sidney Poitier (aforementioned scene excepted); a wonderful sense of the atmosphere of working-class swingin' '60s London; an interesting portrayal of racial hostility at a time when British colonialism was collapsing, featuring a provocative inversion of the "white-savior" stereotype; a capable supporting cast including some stand-out youth performances, as well as British character staples like the great Patricia Routledge; and lest we forget, Lulu's iconic theme song!

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On 1/28/2020 at 2:10 PM, Roy Cronin said:

I don't know if this fits in this category, but whenever I watch Gentleman's Agreement I'lm always a bit startled at the frankness of some of the dialogue, particularly Miss Wales (June Havoc) expressing her concern to Phil Green about allowing a certain "type" of Jew to work at the magazine.

I can think of a similar very awkward, uncomfortable scene in the Russian silent film Battleship Potemkin where the Communists are giving a speech about fighting racism and an anti-semite hiding in the crowd just bursts out "Let's kill the Jews!" :wacko: 

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I found the entire plot of Liliom (1934) cringe worthy.  Charles Boyer is a wife beater but she and others love him still.  It was even worse in the beloved remake Carousel (1956) where there is even a song about the character beating his wife.

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Funny coincidence--Just a little while ago, I was posting on another forum about that gratingly straw-man "Nasty bureaucrat" and "Weaselly guy escapes in comic-relief dress" subplot that Peter Jackson grafted out of a clear blue sky (and lingered rather disturbingly on) onto The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies (2014)

epic-fail-hobbit-battle-of-5-armies-8.jp

(Or at least creatively crafted out of one book sentence of what happened to the mayor of the town.)

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If you're an educator, ClassicMovieholic, I'd highly recommend you watch the amazing 1979 opus MALIBU HIGH (if you haven't seen it already).  MALIBU HIGH is "That Which Must Be Watched".  At least once.  

Great lines of dialogue contained herein: 

JILL LANSING (to newly ex-boyfriend Stuart Taylor):  "I thought we had a 'thing' going".

STUART TAYLOR (who broke up with Jill Lansing):  "We had a 'no-thing'!"  :)

Nice!     

Another great scene:  At the end of the movie the music later utilized as the theme music for THE PEOPLE'S COURT in 1981 shows up!  The song is called "THE BIG ONE" by Alan Tew, btw. 

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I ran across a Lloyd Bridges movie title from 1956 called "Wetb*cks" that, according to IMDb, is about transporting people across the Mexican border.  It was written by Edward D. Wood Jr. under the name of Pete LaRoche.  Yikes.

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I can certainly understand why everyone on here would be offended by somel of the examples that have been mentioned on this thread so far, but in all honesty, I have never let them stopped me from being entertained for what they are....entertainment.

If you are going into an old studio-era film with a 21st century mindset, you probably will find something that will irk you a  bit, and even I must admit there have been times I have found myself shaking my head at something in a movie when I see a scene and can't help thinking "that wouldn't fly in today's world!". But I still don't let it spoil my enjoyment of the movie.

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Hmmm...so, "Cringe worthy moments in otherwise good films" you ask?

Well, I was just thinking here that the movie Birth of a Nation has pretty much become synonymous with this very concept, hasn't it?!

(...and I can't think of a better example than that)

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On 2/20/2020 at 9:11 AM, Dargo said:

Hmmm...so, "Cringe worthy moments in otherwise good films" you ask?

Well, I was just thinking here that the movie Birth of a Nation has pretty much become synonymous with this very concept, hasn't it?!

(...and I can't think of a better example than that)

I think it was no less than May Angelou who said of Birth of a Nation, "The filmmaking was perfect...the history was not."

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On 2/20/2020 at 5:43 AM, Bethluvsfilms said:

I can certainly understand why everyone on here would be offended by somel of the examples that have been mentioned on this thread so far, but in all honesty, I have never let them stopped me from being entertained for what they are....entertainment.

If you are going into an old studio-era film with a 21st century mindset, you probably will find something that will irk you a  bit, and even I must admit there have been times I have found myself shaking my head at something in a movie when I see a scene and can't help thinking "that wouldn't fly in today's world!". But I still don't let it spoil my enjoyment of the movie.

I take your point, and heartily concur. Gone With The Wind both book and movie are two of my all-time favorites, so I have a pretty high tolerance for material that today's audiences might deem politically incorrect, and have no problem separating the art from the ideology or understanding things in historical context.

I think what I find off-putting about the moment I described in To Sir With Love is more that it doesn't jive well with the narrative as a whole. Poitier is supposed to be this inspiring teacher figure, but then he goes off on this misogynist, sexualized rant against these underaged schoolgirls, and the contrast with the central theme of the movie and his character arc is jarring. It underscores the film's lofty ideals with a note of hypocrisy, which rather than adding complexity as it might in a different sort of character study, undermines the noble intentions of the filmmakers in this case. It is that which I find "cringey" more than just the dated ideas about gender and sexuality (which I can and do tolerate without batting an eyelash in other films of the classic era).

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The elephant hunt sequence at the beginning of "King Solomon's Mine" (1950)

Paulette Goddard breaking the fourth wall in "The Great Dictator" (1940)

If we're going to be raking Charles Boyer and Gordon MacRae over the coals for "Liliom" and "Carousel" respectively, then we can't let Charles Farrell off the hook since he played the character on the screen first. 

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My film group regularly shows Scandanavian played Charlie Chan movies which I find offensive.  The only decent character is his "modern" son, often played by Keye Luke.

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Sidney Toler

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Werner Oland

Can't watch this, either for the same reason-

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Luise Rainier & Paul Muni in THE GOOD EARTH. Awful.

If you don't find those portrayals offensive, here's the grandaddy of them all:

mickey-rooney-breakfast-at-tiffanys.jpg

In case you don't recognize him...Mickey Rooney in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S.

(I realize these are different cultures represented, but to Hollywood it was all "Asians" or worse)

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5 hours ago, Artemus said:

If we're going to be raking Charles Boyer and Gordon MacRae over the coals for "Liliom" and "Carousel" respectively, then we can't let Charles Farrell off the hook since he played the character on the screen first. 

Farrell's Liliom is a feature-length cringefest. The man is the poster child for "adorkable," but he's WAY out of his depth as a playboy carnie. Charles Boyer in the 1934 version looked like Jean Gabin by comparison.

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7 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

Can't watch this, either for the same reason-

rainer,+luise+&+muni,+paul_good+earth,+t

Luise Rainier & Paul Muni in THE GOOD EARTH. Awful.

Of course I take your point on The Good Earth, and acknowledge that it is justified. The shameless use of "yellowface" was considered acceptable and even artistically innovative at the time, but needless to say, does not age well. It's problematic for all the obvious reasons, not the least of which is the heinous casting discriminating Anna May Wong suffered in vying for the lead role.

That said, I do find myself able to immerse myself in the film in spite of that for its other merits. It's a real epic of the period, and there are some beautifully articulated moments, such as [SPOILERS] when O-Lan has to kill her husband's beloved cow, or the famous scene in which she is swept up into the storming of an aristocratic palace. But I can totally understand why someone wouldn't be able to overlook the very glaring flaw of the casting and makeup. And if I were an Asian person, I might feel differently myself.

In defense of Luise Rainier, however, I saw an interview with her once in which she said she didn't want to do the film with "yellowface" makeup, not for any reasons of racial sensitivity that I'm aware of, but because she felt prosthetics and heavy makeup would distract from the performance. She preferred to act the emotions of the part without the cheesy makeup gimmick. When the producers insisted, she still made an effort to have face-altering makeup applied as minimally as they would allow. She evidently had in mind doing the part more in the spirit of the color-blind casting which is fashionable now in many Shakespeare productions, operas, etc. Of course, it kind of defeats the purpose of color-blind casting if a person of the dominant culture is playing a role that should go to a marginalized actor; To use an obvious example, it works with a black Hamlet, but not with a white Othello. Nonetheless, Rainier deserves a modicum of credit for attempting to resist the trend of yellowface that was very much in vogue then. Even the great Katherine Hepburn got her hands dirty with this.

 

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While "yellowface" casting was always regrettable, I don't find it as offensive as the "Sleep'n'Eat" (the actual credited screen name for actor Willie Best) type of lazy, ignorant stereotypes utilized  frequently for black characters.

And yellowface was nothing new when The Good Earth was released. There's a long history of whites playing Asians going back through the silent era. Lon Chaney was cast as Asians several times, in films like Outside the Law and Mr. Wu. Warner Oland was also well known for playing Asians long before his first Charlie Chan film, including Fu Manchu in a film series starting in 1929.

For some reason, The Good Earth was not as irritating to me as Dragon Seed with Chinese Katharine Hepburn, or Anna and the King of Siam with Rex Harrison and Lee J. Cobb (!!!) cast as Asians.

However, there's no excuse for Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's. It's yet another reason for me to detest his screen work.

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

While "yellowface" casting was always regrettable, I don't find it as offensive as the "Sleep'n'Eat" (the actual credited screen name for actor Willie Best) type of lazy, ignorant stereotypes utilized  frequently for black characters.

And yellowface was nothing new when The Good Earth was released. There's a long history of whites playing Asians going back through the silent era. Lon Chaney was cast as Asians several times, in films like Outside the Law and Mr. Wu. Warner Oland was also well known for playing Asians long before his first Charlie Chan film, including Fu Manchu in a film series starting in 1929.

For some reason, The Good Earth was not as irritating to me as Dragon Seed with Chinese Katharine Hepburn, or Anna and the King of Siam with Rex Harrison and Lee J. Cobb (!!!) cast as Asians.

However, there's no excuse for Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's. It's yet another reason for me to detest his screen work.

I agree re: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. By 1961, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, somebody should have known better. 

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"The Great Lie." I admit to this film being a bit of a guilty pleasure for me (Who could not love Mary Astor going postal on Bette Davis in the desert?) but, what gives with Bette having both Hattie & Sam McDaniels at her beck and call as well as having black kids serenading she and George Brent on their wedding night??  This IS set in the 1940's, not the 1860's but you would never know it.

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1 hour ago, lydecker said:

"The Great Lie." I admit to this film being a bit of a guilty pleasure for me (Who could not love Mary Astor going postal on Bette Davis in the desert?) but, what gives with Bette having both Hattie & Sam McDaniels at her beck and call as well as having black kids serenading she and George Brent on their wedding night??  This IS set in the 1940's, not the 1860's but you would never know it.

I like that movie as well, though I must admit I don't remember the scenes you describe?

It does, however, remind me of  a story in Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family, a nonfiction based on his research of the genealogy of people and descendants of people who had been enslaved by his ancestors. The playwright Clare Boothe Luce (probably best known to classics fans as the author of The Women and best friend to the ill-fated starlets Dorothy Hale and Rosamond Pinchot) purchased one of the defunct Ball family plantations as a hunting lodge and retreat. This would have been around the 1930s and '40s.  One of the descendants of the sharecroppers who lived in the area recalls that Boothe Luce used to like to have the local African American children come around to the house at night to serenade her on the porch. Native New Yorker Boothe Luce was of course as Yankee as they come, and the request seems to have been met with a mildly amused and bewildered sort of "White people, am I right?!"

As you suggest, it was very much an outsider's view of what life in the rural South meant (especially for black people), informed by movies like Jezebel and apparently The Great Lie, with no bearing on the reality of how anyone in the South was living at that time (or any other time, really). Possibly The Great Lie was trying to capitalize off of Bette Davis' earlier success in Jezebel, and the "Gone With The Wind fever" that swept through Hollywood and infused even contemporarily set movies with anachronistic and romanticized impression of race.

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12 hours ago, Polly of the Precodes said:

Farrell's Liliom is a feature-length cringefest. The man is the poster child for "adorkable," but he's WAY out of his depth as a playboy carnie. Charles Boyer in the 1934 version looked like Jean Gabin by comparison.

"Adorkable" is certainly an interesting way of describing Farrell. He was pretty good in silents like "Old Ironsides," "Seventh Heaven,""City Girl," and "Street Angel." However, his Arnold Stang-type voice didn't do him any favors in the talkies (no disrespect intended to Mr. Stang). Yet, he did make a relatively successful transition to sound and was a fairly popular matinee idol into at least the mid-1930s (both with and without Janet Gaynor). That said, the only sound films I've seen him in are "Sunnyside Up," "Delicious," "Liliom," "Tail Spin," and a handful episodes of "My Little Margie." Given that most of his films aren't in significant circulation or perhaps even perished in the 1937 Fox Vault fire, maybe I haven't seen enough to render an informed opinion. 

As for "Liliom," you're right in saying that Farrell was miscast, but the film does have several moments of Frank Borzage's stylized quirkiness so it was interesting enough to watch once. I'm not dying to see it again though. I wonder if Edmund Lowe might have been able to pull of the title role better. He was a Fox contract player in 1930, but he was probably too busy cussing it out with Victor McLaglen.  

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4 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

I agree re: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. By 1961, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, somebody should have known better. 

It was Blake Edwards, so "Knowing better" was off the table.

And in that context, I didn't mind Rooney, but Hepburn's Golightly can get a little....trying.

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1 hour ago, EricJ said:

It was Blake Edwards, so "Knowing better" was off the table.

And in that context, I didn't mind Rooney, but Hepburn's Golightly can get a little....trying.

As in "trying" too hard after being miscast, Truman...err...I mean Eric?! ;)

 

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3 hours ago, Artemus said:

"Adorkable" is certainly an interesting way of describing Farrell. He was pretty good in silents like "Old Ironsides," "Seventh Heaven,""City Girl," and "Street Angel." However, his Arnold Stang-type voice didn't do him any favors in the talkies (no disrespect intended to Mr. Stang). Yet, he did make a relatively successful transition to sound and was a fairly popular matinee idol into at least the mid-1930s (both with and without Janet Gaynor). That said, the only sound films I've seen him in are "Sunnyside Up," "Delicious," "Liliom," "Tail Spin," and a handful episodes of "My Little Margie." Given that most of his films aren't in significant circulation or perhaps even perished in the 1937 Fox Vault fire, maybe I haven't seen enough to render an informed opinion.

Look for Aggie Appleby Maker of Men (1933). Farrell plays a Harold Lloyd-type mooncalf (complete with the glasses) who needs to find his inner bull ASAP. In this movie that voice works--I thought the man was a 98-pound weakling until I saw Seventh Heaven and the surviving portions of The River.

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Joan Crawford's awkward dance number with Fred Astaire in "Dancing Lady" always makes me cringe. It's obvious that poor Fred, in his first film appearance, has been forced to dumb down his choreography to accommodate Joan's decidedly limited terpsichorean skills. Like the class act he was, he always tried to make his partner look good  but in this case she didn't give him much to work with.

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Another cringeworthy scene in an Astaire film is Anne's dance audition in "Royal Wedding." Sarah Churchill is just awful - gangly, graceless and amateurish with windmilling arms. Yet somehow Astaire is  supposed to be wowed by her.

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10 hours ago, Midge said:

Joan Crawford's awkward dance number with Fred Astaire in "Dancing Lady" always makes me cringe. It's obvious that poor Fred, in his first film appearance, has been forced to dumb down his choreography to accommodate Joan's decidedly limited terpsichorean skills. Like the class act he was, he always tried to make his partner look good  but in this case she didn't give him much to work with.

Though film biographies always say that Crawford started her career as a dancer, all you have to do is watch her once to say:  "I don't think so!"  She is excruciatingly awful in "Dancing Lady."  Fred always tried to make his partner look good but I've got to say that the hat rack he danced with in "Royal Wedding" had more grace and style than Joan Crawford in "Dancing Lady."

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