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Classic Film Criticism


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*THE SULLIVANS (1944)*

 

From Agee on March 11, 1944:

 

THE SULLIVANS sketches the life story of the five brothers who were killed at once in the South Pacific. The streets, backyards, porch life and interiors are quite good. The treatment of the human being is limpid, simple and nearly always unimaginative. The emotional impact, for me, was almost nil, in part because nobody really came to life; in part because the effort reenact and to exploit these real and vanished lives seemed to me somehow scarcely sane.

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*LOST IN A HAREM (1944)*

 

From Agee on December 9, 1944:

 

A flat Abbott and Costello comedy with a rather amusing use of a ham actor, his hallucinations, which remain invisible to the audience, the soundtrack which records them, and some pantomime. The pantomime, scarcely developed as it is, is still as tantalizing and refreshing, against all the screen-paralyzing contemporary blabber, as a teaspoonful of water in the middle of the desert.

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*DAY OF WRATH (1943)*

 

From Agee on May 22, 1948:

 

DAY OF WRATH, which is set in seventeenth century Denmark, is a study of the struggle between good and evil as waged among, and within, witches, those who burned them, and the members of an old man-young wife-stepson triangle. Movies seldom contain any material, except by head-on courage, which can interest the morally curious. This one contains a good deal, and none of it is outrageous.

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*THE SAINTED SISTERS (1948)*

 

From Agee on June 19, 1948:

 

Veronica Lake, Joan Caulfield, and a swarm of clich?s. Pleasantly kidded in a manner derived from Preston Sturges.

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*Even the greatest directors depended on collaborators, I'll grant you. But you can't tell me that at their peak, Ford or Capra or Hitchcock or Lumet were not responsible for every frame that went up on the screen.*

 

Competent, hands-on producers such as Daryl F Zanuck had a lot more to do with the finished product than you seem to be giving them credit for. Zanuck gave John Ford fits, but even he admitted that most of the cuts and alterations made his films better.

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> *{quote:title=fxreyman wrote:}{quote}*

> *Would not this be much more interesting to read than what we can find out on our own in books and other media?*

*I, for one, have found these quotes of Agee's criticism to be very interesting. I do like his style, and usually agree with what I have read of him here.*

 

And while I agree with few of Agee's criticisms (so far), I thank you for this thread. He is extremely witty, educated and urbane. I feel, whether I appreciate it or not (yet), that I'm receiving an education.

 

 

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*"As horrible, and wonderful, as watching a Gopher Prairie dramatic club play a mail-order farce."*

 

OK....in direct contradiction to my stated philosophy about how I relate to professional critics....I've just been talked out of paying to see a film.

 

In fact, I would probably come late to the double feature this one might be a part of.

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*"So far as I can make out, Welles never was and never will be a genius, but he is just as gifted as he ever was. In this film he is not using the most adventurous of his gifts, but neither is he indulging any of his weaknesses.*

 

*There is nothing about the picture that even appears to be important or new, but there is nothing pretentious or arty either. In a quite modest way the picture is merely more graceful, intelligent and enjoyable than most other movies."*

 

This is a perfect example of what I do not like about Mr Agee's style. Shouldn't the review be about the film rather the director's intellectual status? While the movie may not be pretentious, the review most certainly is.

 

And to end the review with the extended back-handed compliment reveals, I think, more about Agee than it does about the film.

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*As for him being negative. Ok I see your point, but I don't think Irene Dunne would agree!*

 

And she shouldn't agree.

 

In my opinion, Ms. Dunne is one of the most underrated gems of Hollywood's golden era. She was a terrific singer, comedienne and dramatic actress. It is to TCM's credit that it shines a deserved spotlight on this relatively forgotten star.

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*"The story (Treasure of the Sierra Madre), ideal for movie purposes, is a sardonic, intensely realistic fable, masterfully disguised as an adventure story."*

 

With the incomparable Walter Huston in the role of a lifetime.

 

The "irish jig" scene is worth the price of admission all by itself..

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Yes, the "irish jig" scene is one a great one. I saw this movie with my mentor. He was a close friend of my dad and when my dad left I moved in with him. Treasure was is favorite movie and he saw it as a teen when it first came out in the late 40s.

 

So we watched the movie together and it all hit me. No wonder this was his favorite movie. He was the 'old man' now! Something I used to think that he was mean because he would make me feel just I was such a fool. Well after seeing this movie I was able to accept this more. Like the two younger guys in the movie I was a fool! I did need direction or I wasn't going to make it.

 

So this movie really helped us bond and easier for me to accept what he was trying to teach me.

 

As for Dunne; I agree that she was on of the most talented actresses. Very versatile. One of my favorites.

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*"Kelly works better with Sinatra than with Garland in my opinion."*

 

Generally speaking I agree with you. Frank and Gene make a helluva team.....but the chemistry between Kelly and Garland in "For Me and my Gal" is extra-special, especially the song and dance number in the cafe sequence, one of my favorites in all of film.

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I liked this Joan Fonaine quip.

 

*"She wears trousers and a thinly knit jersey, and a series of gowns and negligees which are still more earnestly calculated to refute the idea, that if the Hays office permitted, she would be ashamed to make a clean breast of her development."*

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> I find it interesting that Judy is so luminous in this picture, considering that it is not shot in Technicolor.

I think Judy was absolutely gorgeous whenever she was shot in black and white. The lighting seemed perfect and the textures of her face flawless,

 

"Luminous" is the perfect word to use.

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In my opinion, "Objective Burma" is an excellent film, one of Flynn's best, his performance understated and relaxed. The cast is excellent, the pace always moving forward, the cinematography outstanding.

 

I've read Agee's comments a few times and I still haven't figured out what he's talking about other than he's tired of familiar faces.

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Today was a fine afternoon of reading. Thank you, TB, for taking the time to provide these reviews.

 

Agee is, without doubt, incisive and caustic, and full to the brim with substantial artistic insights, though his honesty does tend to border on the brutal at times.

 

But, I do love his one-line dissertations.

 

And I look forward to future postings.

 

 

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*A ROYAL SCANDAL (1945)*

 

From Agee on April 7, 1945:

 

I am of the majority opinion about Tallulah Bankhead which will forgive her anything, and likes her so well that that seldom comes into question. However, in spite of her randy impersonation of Catherine the Great, I did not much enjoy A ROYAL SCANDAL.

 

I suspect that if I saw Ernst Lubitsch's original version of this story, FORBIDDEN PARADISE, again, I might think a good deal of his pantomime, but I am almost certain it would stand up even so as a much more delicate and forceful and amusing version. I wish this twenty-year-old show were revived, both for its own sake as I remember it, and because between the two versions I believe you could get a pretty good measure of the difference between talking and silent pictures.

 

I realize, of course, that talking pictures can be better than A ROYAL SCANDAL, and as good as anything silent, and conceivably even better; but in order even to try to be so, they have to know the value of pantomime, and they have to know when to shut up.

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*MARINE RAIDERS (1944)*

 

From Agee on July 8, 1944:

 

A formula war movie. Pat O'Brien versus Robert Ryan and Ruth Hussey, all versus the Japanese. It mildly transcends its formula through bits of truer-than-average dialogue, studio combat, acting and direction, and an occasional flexibility of insight or camera work which seems to distinguish RKO pictures as political decency distinguishes those made by Warner Brothers.

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*I SEE A DARK STRANGER/THE ADVENTURESS (1947)*

 

From Agee on March 22, 1947:

 

An English film that stars Deborah Kerr as a patriotic Irish innocent who helps Nazi spies until she learns better. It is a try at comedy melorama and in both ways is sometimes clever. More often, the styles go thin or conflict, or lose themselves in rather unpleasant bids for general American liking.

 

A good deal has been derived from Hitchcock, but little of the intensity and conviction which made his English films so good. There is some grace, intelligence and fun here; but essentially, this seems to me a supercilious drama.

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*TRUE TO LIFE (1943)*

 

From Agee on October 8, 1943:

 

A rather crass and moderately amusing comedy about two soap opera laureates (Dick Powell & Franchot Tone) who deceive and exploit a far from true-to-life Queensboro family for material. I liked Victor Moore and some daft gadgets from old Buster Keaton comedies. Mary Martin, I notice with some alarm, is playing Jean Arthur, a tendency which even Miss Arthur must learn to curb.

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*THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948)*

 

From Agee on April 24, 1948:

 

A vapid psychological melodrama in which Susan Peters polishes off a hearty histrionic banquet at her leisure while several other likable players such as Phyllis Thaxter, Diana Douglas, Allen Roberts and Alexander Knox snap forlornly at scraps.

 

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