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*SAFETY LAST! (1923)*

 

Harold Lloyd is forced to substitute for a human fly and to climb a medium-sized skyscraper. Dozens of awful things happen to him. He gets fouled up in a tennis net. Popcorn falls on him from a window above, and the local pigeons treat him like a cross between a lunch wagon and St. Francis of Assisi. A mouse runs up his britches-leg, and the crowd below salutes his desperate dance on the window ledge with wild applause of the daredevil. A good deal of this full-length picture hangs thus by its eyelashes along the face of a building. Each new floor is like the stanza in a poem; and the higher and more horrifying it gets, the funnier it gets.

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*EASTER PARADE (1948)*

 

From Agee on July 24, 1948:

 

Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Ann Miller and several of Irving Berlin's old songs ought to add up to something better than this; but much of it is painless and some of it, chiefly Astaire, is pretty good.

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*THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947)*

 

From Agee on June 23, 1947:

 

A skillful telling of a pretty nasty story about a man (Robert Young) who loves money and women almost equally well, and finds that they get in each other's way.

 

Thanks to the fact that the ice was broken with the Billy Wilder movie of James Cain's DOUBLE INDEMNITY, Hollywood can now get by with filming this kind of shabby realism.

 

U.S. moviegoers have matured to the point where they will stand for reasonably frank images of unhappy marriage, sour love affairs, and of a disease so gravely epidemic as Mr. Young's obsessive desire to stay in the money at all costs. But in this, as in most such adult movies, the semi-maturity is well-mixed with trashiness.

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1st..STANDING ROOM ONLY

2nd..THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER

3rd..KILLER MCCOY

4th..DESTINATION TOKYO

5th..A MEDAL FOR BENNY

6th..CASANOVA BROWN

7th..A FRIEND WILL COME TONIGHT

8th..TO LIVE IN PEACE

9th..DEEP VALLEY

10th..DEEP WATERS

11th..WE WILL COME BACK

12th..HOME IN INDIANA

13th..COUNTER-ATTACK

14th..SPELLBOUND

15th..SALUDOS AMIGOS

16th..PRIDE OF THE MARINES

17th..KEY LARGO

18th..SUNSET BOULEVARD

19th..THE SOUTHERNER

20th..CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE

21st..WINTERTIME

22nd..JEANNIE

23rd..LET THERE BE LIGHT

24th..IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE

25th..CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY

26th..THE SONG OF BERNADETTE

27th..FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

28th..SHOW BUSINESS

29th..THE HUCKSTERS

30th..THE CORN IS GREEN

31st..CHILDREN OF PARADISE

 

Note: This is the final month in this series. It's been a pleasure sharing James Agee's reviews, a real labor of love for me...and hopefully, you have received some satisfaction from it, too!

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*STANDING ROOM ONLY (1944)*

 

From Agee on March 11, 1944:

 

Does pretty well with stale material, but the lines are utterly insincere. The directing is fairly flip and observant and some of the performances are fine, especially that of Roland Young, who is able to make anything he appears in seem much more intelligent, human and amusing than it has any intrinsic right to.

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*THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER (1947)*

 

From Agee on April 12, 1947:

 

A very stale story. Country girl comes to the metropolis, plants her housemaid's knee firmly in the sweetbreads of high society, and makes the most of her advantage. This time, however, the bluebloods are also the people who run politics in their state.

 

The story seems surprisingly fresh because everyone involved in making the movie appears to know and care for the sort of people the story is about. Patricians, politicians, even peasants, are portrayed with unusual perception and wit.

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*KILLER MCCOY (1948)*

 

From Agee on April 24, 1948:

 

A harmless, worthless movie about prize-fighting, almost old-fashioned enough to be nostalgically likable; a coolly magical performance by Mickey Rooney; good support from James Dunn and Ann Blyth.

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*DESTINATION TOKYO (1943)*

 

From Agee on January 1, 1944:

 

Combines a good deal of fairly exciting submarine warfare with at least as much human interest, which I found neither very human nor at all interesting. Warner does a lot of this sort of thing and socially conscious work and is, I believe, more to be respected than any other American studio so far as maturity of intention is concerned. But even in that respect there is all the sky from knee-high left to grow in. And the cinematic achievement, as a rule, is just about what you get from any other studio.

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*A MEDAL FOR BENNY (1945)*

 

From Agee on August 11, 1945:

 

After a rather mawkish start, it turns into a broad but furious and well-filmed piece of invective against the attempt of some small-town boosters to exploit the death of a proletarian war hero. There is a first-rate performance by J. Carrol Naish.

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*CASANOVA BROWN (1944)*

 

From Agee on September 9, 1944:

 

A large slice of brisket for Gary Cooper, it is reasonably and at times more than reasonably amusing.

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*A FRIEND WILL COME TONIGHT (1946)*

 

From Agee on July 31, 1948:

 

The scene is a rather lenient Franco-Swiss insane asylum during the war. Some of the inmates are sane patriots in disguise; when local German soldiers make trouble, you begin to find out which are which. This seems at best a cheesy idea, but parts of the early reels are done with enough irony and visual style to make it look weirdly good.

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*TO LIVE IN PEACE (1947)*

 

From Agee on December 13, 1947:

 

Luigi Zampa's TO LIVE IN PEACE is less thoroughly worked out and less acutely put on film than SHOESHINE and OPEN CITY, but in some important respects it is even more remarkable. It is the story of what war meant to an Italian hill town and especially to a peasant family which, on pain of death, sheltered two American fugitives. I think that in spirit and basic understanding it is the wisest and most deeply human movie of its time.

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*DEEP VALLEY (1947)*

 

From Agee on September 15, 1947:

 

A story about lonely people, and what the breakdown of their loneliness does for them, and to them. A remote California farm is abruptly opened to contact with the world when a convict road gang bulldozes its way into the neighborhood. The daughter (Ida Lupino), a loveless, stammering type, runs off and hides in the woods with a fugitive convict (Dane Clark). Her malingering mother (Fay Bainter) and her embittered father (Henry Hull), forced to depend on each other, strike off the shackles of the years of hatred. The main story, of course, centers on the transfigured Miss Lupino, her violent sweetheart and their hopeless romance.

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*DEEP WATERS (1948)*

 

From Agee on July 24, 1948:

 

A lobsterman (Dana Andrews) and a social worker (Jean Peters) languidly dispute the future of an orphan boy (Dean Stockwell) who loves the sea. Very mildly pleasant, with good Maine Coast backgrounds, unfortunately drenched in sepia.

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*WE WILL COME BACK (1943)*

 

From Agee on November 13, 1943:

 

A furious and very entertaining Russian melodrama about guerrillas and a Nazi spy. It is as phony in its way as THE NORTH STAR. Though it can tell you even more about the Russians than THE NORTH STAR can tell you about Americans, with about a hundredth the tedium and chagrin.

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*HOME IN INDIANA (1944)*

 

From Agee on July 1, 1944:

 

About adolescent love and harness racing. There are some half-appreciative Technicolor landscapes; there is about as little pleasure in horses as I have ever seen achieved in a horse movie. One of the female adolescents looks attractive in dungarees; another wears a couple of rather extreme bathing suits. None of them act their age or any other.

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*COUNTER-ATTACK (1945)*

 

From Agee on May 12, 1945:

 

The picture was directed by Zoltan Korda. Barring the beginning and a few shots which show the Russians building and crossing an underwater bridge, it is one of those specialized pictures, like LIFEBOAT, in which the problem is to keep a movie alive and exciting in limited space. There is a certain amount of complacent formula about the picture, of a kind nearer Russian than American (the original story is Russian), but there is a lot of aesthetic and psychological good to it, too. I think it is worth seeing.

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*SPELLBOUND (1945)*

 

From Agee on November 10, 1945:

 

Alfred Hitchcock's surprisingly disappointing thriller about psychoanalysis, it is worth seeing but hardly more. To quite an extent the psychological pretensions clutter up the murder mystery.

 

Ingrid Bergman plays a scientist and wears glasses to prove it. Gregory Peck is the troubled layman. Both are ornamentally effective looking. There are some frightening shots of the kinds of striated whiteness which mysteriously terrifies the patient, and the mark of fork tines on a table cloth; but these are practically the only suggestions of the hair-raising movie this had every right and obligation to be.

 

As for the dream designed by Salvador Dali, it is frankly irrelevant to dream reality; and it is none too good in its own terms. James Cruze did one many times better, twenty years ago, in HOLLYWOOD, probably without even considering calling in an outside specialist, far less a psychiatric adviser. But then I doubt they could have thought of hiring Dali in the first place if they had been at all wise to the possibilities of their subject.

 

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*SPELLBOUND (1945)*

 

From Agee on November 10, 1945:

 

Alfred Hitchcock's surprisingly disappointing thriller about psychoanalysis, it is worth seeing but hardly more. To quite an extent the psychological pretensions clutter up the murder mystery.

 

Ingrid Bergman plays a scientist and wears glasses to prove it. Gregory Peck is the troubled layman. Both are ornamentally effective looking. There are some frightening shots of the kinds of striated whiteness which mysteriously terrifies the patient, and the mark of fork tines on a table cloth; but these are practically the only suggestions of the hair-raising movie this had every right and obligation to be.

 

As for the dream designed by Salvador Dali, it is frankly irrelevant to dream reality; and it is none too good in its own terms. James Cruze did one many times better, twenty years ago, in HOLLYWOOD, probably without even considering calling in an outside specialist, far less a psychiatric adviser. But then I doubt they could have thought of hiring Dali in the first place if they had been at all wise to the possibilities of their subject.

 

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*SALUDOS AMIGOS (1942)*

 

From Agee on February 20, 1943:

 

Barring a few bits of infallible slapstick and one or two kitschy ingenuities with color, SALUDOS AMIGOS depresses me. Self-interested, belated ingratiation embarrasses me, and Disney's famous cuteness, however richly it may mirror national infantilism, is hard on my stomach.

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*PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945)*

 

From Agee on September 29, 1945:

 

A true story of a blinded Marine. Very good performances by John Garfield and Dane Clark. An exciting combat sequence, unusually persuasive of authenticity, at least to this layman. Considerable liberalizing about racial and postwar problems; most of it a pleasure to hear, some of it rather over-optimistic. Long drawn out and never inspired, but very respectably honest and dogged, thanks considerably to Albert Maltz's screenplay.

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*KEY LARGO (1948)*

 

From Agee on July 31, 1948:

 

John Huston and Richard Brooks have almost completely rewritten Maxwell Anderson's play. I think that in almost every way they have sharply improved on it. Huston's directing is even better than the screenplay, in some respects, because the starting materials are so much less amenable to movies and so much less promising. Anyhow, this picture demonstrates his abilities even more impressively than TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE does.

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*SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)*

 

From Agee on November 1, 1950:

 

Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder have a long and honorable record in bucking tradition, breaking rules and taking risks. Nobody thought they would get away with DOUBLE INDEMNITY, but they did. Nobody thought they could get away with THE LOST WEEKEND, but they did. Apparently nobody thought they could get away with SUNSET BOULEVARD, but they did.

 

SUNSET BOULEVARD (a beautiful title) is, I think their best movie yet. It is Hollywood craftsmanship at its smartest at just about its best. And it is hard to find better skill at this time in any art or country.

 

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