Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
TopBilled

Classic Film Criticism

Recommended Posts

images-1102.jpg

*GOD IS MY CO-PILOT (1945)*

 

From Agee on March 31, 1945:

 

In this film the hero, Dennis Morgan, tells a priest, Alan Hale, that he has killed a hundred men that day. He obviously feels deeply troubled by the fact and is asking for spiritual advice. Since the priest does not answer him in any way about that, but pretends to by commenting comfortably on a quite different and much easier perplexity (saying that every death makes a difference to God), it is regrettable not to say nauseating, that they bothered to bring up the problem at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-281.jpg

*THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS (1948)*

 

From Agee on April 24, 1948:

 

As pernicious a gobbet of pseudo-religious asafetida as I have been forced to sniff at, man and Sunday school boy. I hereby declare myself the founding father of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to God.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Reader,

 

Just a note if you are a follower of this thread. I am starting to run out of Agee reviews, though I have enough to finish out the year. So the last one will publish on December 31st.

 

I am toying with the idea of doing a Classic Film Criticism Vol. 2 thread in 2013 featuring excerpts of Pauline Kael's, though I am not yet committing to that. I want to make sure that this thread goes out on a good note.

 

Love,

TopBilled

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images110.jpg

*THE SEARCHING WIND (1946)*

 

From Agee on July 6, 1946:

 

A study of the characteristic inability of Americans of good family and responsible position to admit what stares them in the face or, admitting it, to try to do anything about it. The personal and political aspects of the drama get in each other's way and, perhaps inevitably, lose in drive and shape by being staged to cover practically every major political crisis between the March on Rome and the immediate past. But the people themselves and the way they talk and think reveal many painful variations of our particular national brands of well-bred cowardice.

 

People as highly civilized as these are seldom seen in the movies, and are still more seldom played with understanding. They are very firmly played here, though with touches perhaps of highly civilized ham, by Dudley Digges, Robert Young, Sylvia Sidney, Ann Richards, and Albert Basserman. Their actions are very sumptuously and very well set, lighted, and dressed. And they are directed with his usual controlled intensity by William Dieterle.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-283.jpg

*THE GREEN YEARS (1946)*

 

From Agee on April 27, 1946:

 

Described in the ads as wonderful by practically everyone within Louis B. Mayer's purchasing power except his horses. I hesitate to ask you to take my word for it: the picture is awful.

 

I know: it is made with all the loving care that an Idaho housewife puts into a first shovel that is going to win the Grand Prize at Biarritz; Shakespeare can never have been a thousandth as high-minded. I know: it deals with large, grave, stylish matters of religious faith, etc., in a manner to make me want to turn the handiest penitential novena into a five-alarm call for the vice squad. I know: it is stuffed to the scalp and well beyond with characters all of Dickensian proportions if only A.J. Cronin were Dickens and if only Dickens were writing soap opera.

 

Until a worse example comes along, this one will serve very nicely as an apotheosis of all that has gone most deadly wrong with movies since the people with the money learned to believe that the medium could aspire to what is printed on slick paper, and could read it right side up, even without illustrations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*THEY MET IN MOSCOW (1944)*

 

From Agee on July 1, 1944:

 

It tells of the meeting, separation, longing and reunion of a southern shepherd and a northern girl who herds swine. The songs they sing are excessive, vivid, pretty, uncommercial and solidly rooted in alphabetic emotions. They are handled and photographed as if real faces and real fresh-air landscapes could not but be more pleasing than death masks peopling a vacuum-sealed magniloquence of scarlet linoleum and dry-ice mist. I wish I thought such a film could be made in this country; but our idea of freshness is pretty aptly embalmed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images113.jpg

*HELLZAPOPPIN (1942)*

 

From Agee on February 2, 1942:

 

The firm of John Sigvard Olsen and Harold Ogden Johnson has been manufacturing calculated lunacy for 27 years. In all that time their product has changed no more than a hooked rug. Three years and four months ago this pair of vaudeville assembled their lifetime's wares in a single prize package which ran 1,404 performances (an all-time Broadway musical-show record), grossing over $4 million and sending 5 million customers temporarily insane.

 

On celluloid, HELLZAPOPPIN loses the frenetic quality it achieved on the stage. But Olsen and Johnson's ability to exude a kind of ectoplasm which engulfs a theater audience and makes it participate in the show is necessarily cut off when the show is confined to the screen. The stage show, a cross between a fire in a lunatic asylum and the third day at Gettysburg, becomes only a small Balkan war in the movies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-630.jpg

*NEW ORLEANS (1947)*

 

From Agee on August 2, 1947:

 

For years I wished I might make a movie about New Orleans centered on Louis Armstrong and his colleagues. I like NEW ORLEANS, because it is the only movie ever to show any real feeling for jazz; and because the Negro musicians are much more nearly at ease than is usual in movies. Armstrong seems to me one of the most likable people in the world and certainly as fine a talent as this country has ever had.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-1108.jpg

*THE FABULOUS DORSEYS (1947)*

 

From Agee on April 12, 1947:

 

THE FABULOUS DORSEYS, meaning Jimmy and Tommy, is one more musical biography. It has very little to recommend it except that the musicians look and act a little more than usual like musicians.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-365.jpg

*SO PROUDLY WE HAIL! (1943)*

 

From Agee on September 25, 1943:

 

This is probably the most deadly-accurate picture that will ever be made of what war looks like through the lenses of a housewives' magazine romance. In those terms it is to be recommended. But it seemed to me the most sincere thing Paramount's young women did was to alter their make-up to favor exhaustion (and not too much of it) over prettiness (and not too little of that).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-530.jpg

*HANGOVER SQUARE (1945)*

 

From Agee on February 10, 1945:

 

HANGOVER SQUARE is a better than average horror picture up to, but not including, its wildly overloaded climax.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-1116.jpg

*COVER GIRL (1944)*

 

From Agee on April 8, 1944:

 

Much of COVER GIRL is not as fresh as it may seem. The story, of itself, is conventional enough: a Brooklyn nightclub dancer (Rita Hayworth) leaves her boss (Gene Kelly) who loves her, for Broadway and smoother, richer men (Lee Bowman, Otto Kruger); and ultimately thinks better of it.

 

Scene by scene, with some skids, this story is written with intelligence as well as wit. It is acted sincerely. As a result, most of the Kelly-Hayworth-Bowman triangulations carry an interest and an emotional weight. Kelly, in fact, does his best acting in the course of singing two versions of 'Put Me to the Test.'

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*MEMPHIS BELLE (1944)*

 

From Agee on April 15, 1944:

 

MEMPHIS BELLE is the story of one bomber's twenty-fifth mission over Germany. You realize, as you watch it, that if this crew survives, it will be retired from combat service. What this means to the men of the crew, to those whose survival will not mean retirement, and to those who are not flying that day is so clear in the faces of all of them that I could not guess which shots were reenacted and which were straight records.

 

The man in charge of making this good film was William Wyler, whose talent I respected in WUTHERING HEIGHTS and MRS. MINIVER, without caring for the pictures. Postwar planners should work out a better fate for him than going back to Hollywood.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-531.jpg

*THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943)*

 

From Agee on September 4, 1943:

 

THE FALLEN SPARROW passes among many people for the almost-Hitchcock spy melodrama it certainly is not. Otherwise, the show is no harm and no special good; about the speed of second-best Pocket Mysteries.

 

Someone should tell Maureen O'Hara that if she is pretending to be the granddaughter of a French prince, she should leave off aiding China long enough to avoid calling him 'France Wah.'

 

I have heard mild pleasure expressed over the fact that in this film the hero comes right out and says he fought the fascists in Spain. That seems to me to be now the strict equivalent of coming right out and saying that you were with Lee in Virginia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-295.jpg

*BETRAYAL FROM THE EAST (1945)*

 

From Agee on March 3, 1945:

 

BETRAYAL FROM THE EAST is a spy melodrama about an ex-soldier who pretends to get for Japanese agents the plans for the defense of the Panama Canal. It is supposed to be a true story. I am perfectly willing to believe it is, but my willingness is seldom encouraged by the way it is presented on the screen.

 

There is, on the other hand, no sort of harm in the movie, and it is a pleasure to see Lee Tracy again and Nancy Kelly's famous shoulders. I may be presumptuous with that adjective, but they have always been famous with me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-370.jpg

*SEVEN DAYS ASHORE (1944)*

 

From Agee on May 13, 1944:

 

In SEVEN DAYS ASHORE I thought Alan Carney pleasant and promising; Margaret Dumont very funny. I also liked glints of cynicism in the script and the flexibility in the camera work. But in the aggregate these good things cannot amount to better than five percent of the picture.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-297.jpg

*BLACK ANGEL (1946)*

 

From Agee on September 14, 1946:

 

Pretty good entertainment. Taken casually, it is about like a better-than-average mystery reprint; pleasant to read yourself to sleep with. Taken as it deserves, it is better than that. Most movies of this limited kind are made on a level of pure hack competence, or practically sleepwalking. Most of the people who wrote, directed, photographed, and played in this one have worked as if they believed that no job is so trivial but what it deserves the best you have. I particularly liked Dan Duryea's performance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1oct.jpg

 

1st THE OCTOBER MAN

2nd THE UNINVITED

3rd THE UNSEEN

4th BEDLAM

5th THE NEGRO SOLDIER

6th THE SKY'S THE LIMIT

7th ROGER TOUHY, GANGSTER

8th THE BRIDE GOES WILD

9th WITH THE MARINES AT TARAWA

10th THE EVE OF ST. MARK

11th WATCH ON THE RHINE

12th BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

13th YELLOW CANARY

14th THE IMPATIENT YEARS

15th CRY HAVOC

16th THE NAKED CITY

17th THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE

18th PRINCESS O'ROURKE

19th THE NOTORIOUS GENTLEMAN/THE RAKE'S PROGRESS

20th THE RED HOUSE

21st ISLE OF THE DEAD

22nd GUADALCANAL DIARY

23rd THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE

24th ZERO DE CONDUITE

25th TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR

26th WAKE ISLAND

27th THOSE ENDEARING YOUNG CHARMS

28th MONSIEUR VERDOUX

29th BEFORE HIM ALL ROME TREMBLED

30th PHANTOM LADY

31st BEWITCHED

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-634.jpg

*THE OCTOBER MAN (1948)*

 

From Agee on June 19, 1948:

 

A nice thriller, written and produced by Eric Ambler, starring John Mills.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-1124.jpg

*THE UNINVITED (1944)*

 

From Agee on March 11, 1944:

 

Through an adroit counterpointing, syncopating and cumulation of the natural and the supernatural, the filmmakers turn a mediocre story and a lot of shabby clich?s into an unusually good scare picture. It seems to me harder to get a fright than a laugh, and I experienced thirty-five first-class jolts, not to mention a well-calculated texture of minor frissons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-373.jpg

*THE UNSEEN (1945)*

 

From Agee on April 21, 1945:

 

A story about a governess and some rather provocative children who live next to a deserted house. It is done with quite a bit of intelligence and sophistication (produced by John Houseman and directed by Lewis Allen). But unlike Allen's THE UNINVITED, it only generates sporadic wincing qualms of excitement without ordering them into anything constant or cumulative.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images123.jpg

*BEDLAM (1946)*

 

From Agee on March 23, 1946:

 

Boris Karloff has charge of a madhouse, prior to its reform. A Quaker and a spirited young woman are also involved. There is enough metaphoric moralistic pedagogy to carry a story a dozen times the weight. There are also some nasty thrills. This is a Val Lewton production.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*THE NEGRO SOLDIER (1944)*

 

From Agee on March 11, 1944:

 

THE NEGRO SOLDIER means a good deal, I gather, to most of the Negro soldiers who have seen it. It is also pitifully, painfully mild; but neither the film nor those who actually made it should be criticized for that. The mildness is, rather, a cruel measure of the utmost that the War Department dares or is willing to have said on the subject.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images126.jpg

*THE SKY'S THE LIMIT (1943)*

 

From Agee on September 4, 1943:

 

The first half hour has such charm and flow I half expected another TOP HAT. I didn't get it. I like the idea of a short, quiet musical about three people who, for once, play a triangle which is not an Iscariot marathon. But it would have required first-rate style and polishing in every department to come off, and had it in none. Astaire's new partner, Joan Leslie, has something, too, of a primitive sort. The not very eloquent but mailable way of saying it is that she is sometimes very uncomplicatedly pretty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

images-376.jpg

 

*ROGER TOUHY, GANGSTER (1944)*

 

From Agee on June 17, 1944:

 

When real-life Roger Touhy and his six colleagues broke out of Stateville Penitentiary they managed it without outside help. In this picture the mob does get outside help. In reality, the fugitives knocked over an armored car for $20,000 for a hideout nest egg. In the film no such holdup occurs, and I kept wondering what they were living on.

 

TOUHY has some fairly exciting and intelligent things in it, and anyone who loves the best of the old gangster films will get some nostalgic pleasure out of it. But it is a long way short even of the ordinary ones in immediacy, drive, tension and imagination.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


© 2019 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
×
×
  • Create New...