Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Classic Film Criticism Vol. 2


Recommended Posts

images-572.jpg

*JUBILEE TRAIL (1954)*

 

The film is a combination of western, melodrama and musical. The action sequences are quite good, and there is humor, too. Even if you have not read the book by Gwen Bristow, it is obvious that producer Herbert Yates has omitted key chunks of the narrative, presumably to keep the focus on his wife, Vera Ralston, who stars in this project.

 

But the omissions hurt the picture. Indeed, too many liberties have been taken while transferring Bristow's epic story to the big screen: the New York prologue is eliminated; we do not see the death of the California woman who kills herself and her baby; the Russian character is introduced at the Hale ranch, not in San Francisco. And the film spends its final half hour in Los Angeles with the characters are on their way to San Francisco when it ends.

 

There are other jolts along the way to the final fade-out. For instance, we do not get a scene in which Garnet (Joan Leslie) learns she's pregnant; and at one point, she has her arm in a sling, though we have no idea why she's been injured at the ranch. Apparently, there was an earthquake, but those scenes were either edited out or not filmed at all.

 

Despite the flaws, this is still a very interesting film, and it is more enjoyable than one would expect it to be. It is told from the point of view of the western female; and at its heart, the story celebrates the friendship of pioneer women.

 

images-661.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

While it does seem to be insulting of sorts to farmers in general, what comes forward in these "Ma and Pa" movies, as it did in the television show "The Beverly Hillbillies" is that no amount of money or "sophistication" can supercede plain "down home" wisdom and decency. I've always thought that the insult was actually aimed at us "uppity" city folk. And a well deserved come-uppance it is. There can be a certain amount of weakness at the foundation of ANY self importance. The Kettles, like the Clampetts, saw through all these facades and noticed all the flaws in the core of whomever they met, eventually.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Obviously, the backwoods stereotypes are exaggerated for the Ma and Pa films. Can we compare them to hillbillies, even though they live in the Pacific Northwest? Perhaps. In a later film, the Kettles visit the Ozarks. I suppose this was done to show their hillbillly roots.

 

The real life Kettles successfully sued Universal over these unflattering representations. Macdonald and her publisher were lucky they weren't taken to the cleaners, too.

 

This also reminds me of the 'Newhart' television series, the one where Bob Newhart and his wife, played by Mary Frann, relocated to Vermont and ran an inn where assorted oddballs appeared. It's really a fish-out-of-water story.

 

But in the Ma and Pa series, the Colbert and MacMurray characters have been eliminated, though we can presume they still live down the road from the Kettle family. Instead, the focus is on this crop of country bumpkins.

Link to post
Share on other sites

images216.jpg

*CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935)*

 

CAPTAIN BLOOD is the film by which all other Errol Flynn adventure pictures should be judged. Our dashing hero is very unassuming in this effort and his charm counter-balances the feisty temperament of leading lady Olivia de Havilland. But as much as one enjoys the bickering and the attraction shared by these two, it is the rivalry between Flynn's character and his ally-turned-foe, played by Basil Rathbone, which gives the film much of its dramatic impetus. The duel scene along the shore that the men wage for the honor of Miss Havilland presents some of the finest, most precisely staged fencing around. After the convenient demise of Rathbone's character, the captain and his men have some great fighting scenes against enemy ships near the island of Jamaica. These maritime battles are mounted on a lavish Hollywood soundstage, but the authenticity of the sets is so real you would not know the difference.

Link to post
Share on other sites

images-2186.jpg

*THE GIRL WHO HAD EVERYTHING (1953)*

 

MGM producers have taken a routine gangster picture and repackaged it as a melodrama. In this case, they have churned out a more emotional remake of the studio's earlier hit A FREE SOUL. This time, instead of Clark Gable, suave Fernando Lamas plays a notorious criminal on trial for running an illegal gambling outfit. His lawyer, played by William Powell in the role that earned Lionel Barrymore an Oscar, manages to help him escape prosecution.

 

Soon, Lamas' character is involved with Powell's daughter (Elizabeth Taylor taking over the part originated by Norma Shearer). To be expected, the lawyer disapproves of the relationship between the unsavory client and his daughter. Feeling he must prevent an impending marriage, he decides to turn the gangster over to the Feds. It is all fairly entertaining, but one has to ask why MGM did not just re-release the original, since it is much better and this is not a Technicolor upgrade. Perhaps it is because the studio that has everything can do what it wants?

 

images-573.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Re: *Captain Blood*

 

 

The only complaint I ever had of this movie was that it's over too soon. NOT that the ending comes too abruptly or leaves too many loose ends. Just it's that GOOD one doesn't WANT it to end!

 

 

I'm always left wondering...Since Rathbone was an expert fencer, how much technical input to the duels did he ever give? And how did he actually FEEL about losing so many of them?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I asked my wife the same question, about how Rathbone might have felt as an expert fencer, about losing all those movie duels. Her answer?

 

 

"He probably CRIED all the way to the bank."

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

images-2187.jpg

*PRINCESS O'ROURKE (1943)*

 

PRINCESS O'ROURKE does not try to be amusing or clever, but instead it deftly combines funny situations with a sort of real-life seriousness. A viewer may get the impression that this is really how a princess (Olivia de Havilland) would behave if faced with the predicament of falling for a commoner in another country-- if, in fact, it would happen at all. Yet there is something believable about this hokum, because the film possesses a calmness and dignity, in large part due to the presence of Miss de Havilland. Robert Cummings as the leading man is both romantic and comic; while Charles Coburn and Jane Wyman deliver strong supporting performances.

 

The film's strongest asset, though, is the writing. The basic premise seems to cover all sorts of angles and suggests that love and politics intersect but do not necessarily mix. The story moves forward with ease, and a highlight of the proceedings is the friendship that develops between de Havilland and Wyman.

Link to post
Share on other sites

images-745.jpg

*FIVE CAME BACK (1939)*

 

Interestingly, the film ends on the non-survivors. The average viewer knows that the women and children had to be saved, and the screenwriters have made sure the much-less valuable characters die off-- the boy's uncle, the playboy, the man facing prosecution, and the elderly couple. So in that regard, it is all morally correct. Plus, don't overlook the fact the writers manage to stay clear of cannibalism.

 

Still, I think there are ways the story could have been improved. We should have seen more with the pilots trying to fix the plane and the frustration of it taking so long to salvage the wrecked aircraft. We should have seen the rescue team attempt to find them. And we should have seen the natives-- after all, wasn't it a bit too convenient that the natives did not become a problem until after the eighteenth day? And why wasn't there any discussion that once the first five returned safely that they might help the rescue team go back to get the other five?

Link to post
Share on other sites

images-576.jpg

*THE BIGAMIST (1953)*

 

Throughout most of the THE BIGAMIST, the women are naive sufferers. But by the end, they seem to be able to overcome the husband's deception. Perhaps the experience has helped them emerge stronger? Joan Fontaine and Ida Lupino (who also directed) give convincing performances. So does Edmond O'Brien, as the title character in this triangle. And Edmund Gwenn provides fine support as the social worker that catches on to the husband's secret double life.

Link to post
Share on other sites

1give.png

*GIVE ME YOUR HEART (1936)*

 

Who else but Kay Francis has the ability to draw viewers into a contrived bit of make-believe and have it seem like a genuine Shakespearean tragedy? There is a scene in this picture where she glimpses her son's picture, after having given him up, that could make a stone cry. Miss Francis' talents for the melodramatic combine nicely with Roland Young's sardonic wit and with Frieda Inescort's gentle humility. Meanwhile, George Brent is on hand as the love interest, as he is in so many of the actress' pictures. His presence helps to balance the tears with just the right amount of testosterone and sex appeal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

images223.jpg

*THE GIFT OF LOVE (1958)*

 

In this film, we have 70 minutes to reconcile ourselves to the fact that the lead character (Lauren Bacall) is going to die. If we've already seen the original version of this Fox melodrama, we know just how much of an eternity that hour and ten minutes may seem.

 

For most of this time, however, our interest is sustained by Bacall's credible performance as a terminal woman who wants to adopt a little girl (Evelyn Rudie) and leave it behind to keep her husband (Robert Stack) company. The Freudian implications of such thoughtful generosity are not fully disclosed, but we are expected to accept this contrivance just the same.

 

Beginning with the 71st minute of this motion picture, we are subjected to a series of painful scenes where Stack deals with death and the unlikelihood of raising Rudie without Bacall. There are countless moments where the characters mention talking to Bacall's spirit, presumably out of camera-range. This begs the question: why not just have Bacall hover over them, superimposed, to suggest some sort of present supernatural form?

 

But the real reason the last thirty minutes without Miss Bacall are terribly difficult to watch is because the narrative at this point must rely strictly on Mr. Stack and Miss Rudie, who are just not able to hold our attention. Quite frankly, the young actress is not good enough to handle such a huge part; some of Rudie's line deliveries are so monotone and emotionless that all the hard work Bacall had done earlier in the picture is compromised. And when it becomes apparent that Rudie lacks the ability to bring some depth to the role, we feel sorry for Stack having to go through the paces with her, and we envy Bacall who took the last exit and got off at Heaven.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Re: *Five Came Back*

 

 

My feeling is the angle of the story in NOT showing any rescue team efforts gives the movie the level of urgency the survivors felt. In an actual situation like this, nobody really KNOWS what efforts, if any, are being made in their rescue. So they need to act accordingly. This gives the audience the sensation of being there WITH them, instead of merely being observers. This leaves the audience feeling as if whatever solutions are agreed to are in the best interest and sound in it's reasoning. Showing scenes of rescue efforts unknown to the survivors would have cheaply sensationalized the story, and would have left the audience frustrated and dissapointed.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the feedback. I think I have probably seen too many episodes of Emergency! and happen to like rescue scenes...

 

FIVE CAME BACK seems to work as an allegory; and as such, the filmmakers' priority is not necessarily realism. The idea: to present a philosophy about human survival and what folks do when faced with an exaggerated moral dilemma.

Link to post
Share on other sites

*THE GIFT OF LOVE (1958)*

 

In this film, we have 70 minutes to reconcile ourselves to the fact that the lead character (Lauren Bacall) is going to die. *If we've already seen the original version of this Fox melodrama*, we know just how much of an eternity that hour and ten minutes may seem.

 

Topbilled,

For the record, since you don't mention it, (I know you know, but not everybody does know) the original is called SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (1946), starring John Payne and Maureen O'Hara.

Link to post
Share on other sites

>For the record, since you don't mention it, (I know you know, but not everybody does know) the original is called SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (1946), starring John Payne and Maureen O'Hara.

 

Yes, thanks for mentioning that, Arturo. The little girl is played by Connie Marshall in the original.

 

It was remade yet again (for television) in the 1980s with Jaclyn Smith cast in the O'Hara/Bacall role.

 

1js.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

images-3154.jpg

*WE LIVE AGAIN (1934)*

 

This film, based on the Leo Tolstoy story 'Resurrection,' is a Samuel Goldwyn production. That means a big budget, excellent stars, a thoughtful script and Gregg Toland's eye behind the camera. Although it takes awhile for the story to get underway, the playful countryside scenes involving the characters of Fredric March and Anna Sten do well to help establish the atmosphere of Russia in the beginning. Set against this backdrop, their love relationship develops despite obstacles in attitude and social class.

 

Of course, the lovers get separated: he goes on to a promising future among the elite; and she, after having lost his illegitimate son, is forced to take desperate measures to stay alive. These actions cause her to be put on trial where he happens to be serving on the jury.

 

Not wanting to spoil the outcome of the plot, let's just suffice it to say that both of them are challenged to re-examine past ideals as they begin to fall in love all over again. It's one of those tales that plays on an epic scale, but the dialogue is sharp and gives us plenty to think about as the story moves toward its logical and fateful conclusion.

Link to post
Share on other sites

images225.jpg

*WE'RE NOT MARRIED! (1952)*

 

Married folks learn their weddings were not exactly legal in this clever romp from 20th Century Fox. Screenwriter Nunnally Johnson has come up with a smart way to subvert the production code and present a vast array of characters that have received the benefit of marriage without actually having been hitched. In one couple's case, they already have a child!

Link to post
Share on other sites

images-579.jpg

*THE PARADINE CASE (1948)*

 

THE PARADINE CASE is the third collaboration between producer David O. Selznick and director Alfred Hitchcock, their previous efforts being REBECCA and SPELLBOUND.

 

The story for this film had been purchased by MGM during Selznick's tenure there. It was obviously an idea he felt passionately about, so he bought the property from MGM for his own banner.

 

The eventual product, starring Gregory Peck, is flawless in its painstaking detail of the legal process. The sets are gorgeous, and so is Alida Valli, in her first American film as the woman on trial. The film also marks the U.S. film debut of Louis Jourdan who plays one of the witnesses with a mysterious connection to the defendant.

 

Charles Coburn is on hand as a friend of Peck's, and there is also a subplot involving the judge, played by Charles Laughton, and his wife, Ethel Barrymore. They seem to take opposing sides when it comes to how any sort of punishment should be carried out.

Link to post
Share on other sites

images227.jpg

*TOPPER TAKES A TRIP (1939)*

 

The film picks up where the original story left off. If you haven't seen the first Topper, there are several flashback scenes at the beginning to bring you up to speed. This is classic screwball comedy combined with supernatural fantasy, something that seems to match writer Thorne Smith's particular talents and Hollywood's fascination with anything and everything whimsical.

 

Roland Young is impressive as the befuddled title character and Billie Burke delights audiences as his wacky wife. The issue one has with the series is not its continual use of thinly stretched gags (playing on the idea that only Topper can communicate with the dead), but rather its obvious use of camera editing to create magical special effects.

 

For example, ghostly Constance Bennett drinks a martini that seems to disappear one gulp at a time (obviously accomplished by stopping the film, emptying some of the alcohol, then resuming camera action). Most viewers probably see such an effect as fake and contrived. Despite the basic technology, the film does retain appeal, thanks in large part to the winning performances of its actors. Most notable is Bennett who adds an element of glamour to the whole affair.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I read Topper Takes a Trip, years ago, a 1933 (IIRC) paperback "Pocketbook," with a kangaroo on it. It was a lot wilder than the 1939 film, which I do enjoy. My favorite scene in the book, omitted from the film, is when Marion, naked, materializes on a fountain, so that water is spraying from all parts of her.

 

Obviously, that sort of thing could not be shown in 1939. With the right director, I think that modern remakes could be quite good, and more accurate to the books. Of course, they would need to be made with taste and humor, not for sensationalism.

Link to post
Share on other sites

1atha.png

*ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955)*

 

In ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, director Douglas Sirk takes a melodramatic story and uses it to critique the social mores of an era. The inclusion of Thoreau's philosophy in this picture shows that Sirk wanted his filmmaking to stand for a return to the natural order. As a result, there are moments within the film that indicate how all material trappings are a horror, and how they symbolize an outright danger that engulfs not only the characters but the viewers too, if they watch too many of Sirk?s films.

 

images-581.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

(GROAN!) Valentine mentions a scene from the book where Marion appears naked on a fountain and water is shooting from all points of her body. YOU, TB, go on to say that the code caused many things to be "watered down".

 

 

Intended? Or NOT?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...