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Classic Film Criticism Vol. 2

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*THE RED PONY (1949)*

 

THE RED PONY captures its rural setting ideally, and it is enlivened by strong characterizations. But the real star, aside from the titular animal, is the dialogue. The people in this story speak so realistically and naturally, it spoils you and makes you wish all films were written this way.

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*I'LL GET BY (1950)*

 

I'LL GET BY is a remake of TIN PAN ALLEY. It is obviously fictional but the filmmakers at 20th Century Fox would have us think the William Lundigan character is based on a real life composer. This seems misleading. At the end of the picture, there are quite a few credits that show various songwriters contributed the music, proof the studio's latest effort is a standard musical confection that masquerades as a biopic.

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*AH, WILDERNESS! (1935)*

 

MGM's adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's classic comedy benefits from a sturdy cast, especially Spring Byington and Lionel Barrymore. Mickey Rooney is delightful as a pre-adolescent son, but it is Wallace Beery, who plays the drifter uncle, that garners the most attention. Check out the dinner table scene where Berry's character stuffs the shellfish in his mouth. And don't miss the long drunk scene, which is brilliant. Despite the antics, it is a surprisingly restrained performance.

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CONSPIRATOR gives us MGM's first on-screen pairing of Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor. The story is rife with political intrigue. It benefits from on-location filming in Europe, a somewhat suspenseful cold war plot, and top-notch studio production values. However, doesn't the ing?nue seem a bit too young to play a wife? In the story, she is meant to be 18 (but is actually 16 in real life); and Mr. Taylor's character is said to be 31 (but he is 37). At more than twice her age, he is old enough to be her father; and yet, this glaring fact is barely even mentioned and hardly a story point. One supposes that this is what is known in the film business as either suspension of disbelief or dramatic license. It certainly couldn't be a case of miscasting, could it?

 

The age difference didn't bother me when I saw it, even though I recognized it. I think we expect such differences in the old movies, as long as the man is older. Look at a lot of 1950's Grant and Stewart films. It got pretty ridiculous.

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>Look at a lot of 1950's Grant and Stewart films. It got pretty ridiculous.

 

It was like these men (the characters, not the actors) secretly desired their daughters, that is the message that comes cross.

 

Fred Astaire was another one who played these parts, and so did Gary Cooper. In THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY, they show Astaire and Debbie Reynolds fawning all over each other, and he is her biological father who has come to give her away at her wedding! At one point, she considers running off with him to Europe, and jilting Tab Hunter. Who in their right mind would pick old Fred over hunky Tab? Not me!

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It was like these men (the characters, not the actors) secretly desired their daughters, that is the message that comes cross.

 

And I forgot the worst one-Randolph Scott. His 1950s westerns always paired him with women 25-30 years younger than he. And he looked nowhere near as young as Cary Grant did.

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I hope you're not suggesting that looks should be the primary basis for a relationship, for either sexes.

 

But yea, in the studio movie era it is sadly too common that men way older (I say > 20 years or so is way older), are paired with younger women. Since studios were all about the box office take I have to assume this didn't hurt the draw of a movie, and thus the studios continued the trend. I believe this is another example where Hollywood movies of that era were not realistic (like with not having people use cruse words, or how sexual relations were portrayed etc...).

 

Another factor is that actresses tended to become stars at a very younger age (Garson being an exception), while actors often didn't become stars until they were in their 30s (and some like Bogie until they were in their 40s).

 

 

 

 

 

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In my opinion, the actors who played the parents in some 30`s and 40`s movies looked old enough to be grandparents.Specifically I am thinking of the HARDY FAMILY and SHADOW OF A DOUBT.

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>I hope you're not suggesting that looks should be the primary basis for a relationship, for either sexes.

 

A relationship based on looks does not have to be an empty one. I'd rather have someone I can enjoy looking at, even if he can't dance as well as Fred Astaire. But then, Fred never did disco like some of my lovers have.

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>In my opinion, the actors who played the parents in some 30`s and 40`s movies looked old enough to be grandparents.Specifically I am thinking of the HARDY FAMILY and SHADOW OF A DOUBT.

 

Agree. Lewis Stone was too old to play Mickey's father. And Lionel Barrymore had previously played his father in AH, WILDERNESS! and in the first Hardy movie, before Stone took over. That was a stretch, too.

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*THE HANGING TREE (1959)*

 

The greatness of THE HANGING TREE is due to its performances and striking cinematography. Gary Cooper stars with Maria Schell and Ben Piazza, two performers that seem to contribute nicely to the success of the film. The picture was photographed in the state of Washington, and its use of authentic locations adds to its poetic beauty. Plus, it has one of the best endings of any western ever seen.

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*RIDE 'EM COWBOY (1942)*

 

While the focus is supposed to be on Abbott & Costello in RIDE 'EM COWBOY, the main attraction is Ella Fitzgerald singing 'A Tisket, A Tasket.' Other musical acts featured in the program are just as worthy of our attention.

 

The film has inspired comic bits by the main duo as well as the various costars. The gags are more than vaudeville-type bits, and they do contribute to the overall story-- even if the duo is shifted to the background during the musical scenes and while the romantic leads are falling in love.

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You got that right and poor Peter had to romance Bette twice in this film.

 

Davis is my favorite actress and, unlike some, I feel she was really cute in the 30s (i.e. during her blond shorter hairstyle look), but in Dead Ringer she is way too old for Lawford.

 

Oh, well if Audrey Hepburn has to romance Bogie, who was 34 years older than her, or Cooper, or Astaire, well, fair is fair!

 

 

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One of our fellow posters, ginnyfan, was kind enough to share the following link with me about THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION, which this columnist reviewed not too long ago. Apparently, it made a list of the ten stinkers of 1943, and I can't say I disagree. Though I probably would have placed it closer to the number one spot.

 

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HgwzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=R-gDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4208,1741457&dq=virginiaweidlerdancing&hl=en

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*SOLID GOLD CADILLAC (1956)*

 

Judy Holliday has a license to drive Paul Douglas Crazy in this highly amusing situation comedy from Columbia Pictures. The set-up: she plays a woman stockholder asserting herself in a male-dominated business culture, causing all sorts of trouble for a tight-fisted corporate bigwig, played by Mr. Douglas. Of course, in the most improbable fashion, the two soon find themselves falling in love. The result is a charming romp that goes the distance and never once comes close to running out of gas.

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*BOOMERANG! (1947)*

 

BOOMERANG! is one of producer Darryl Zanuck's semi-documentary films, and it is not the first time he has structured a screenplay and whole motion picture from an article in a magazine. In this case, the article appeared in The Reader's Digest and is based on a true story.

 

Dana Andrews is a prosecuting attorney who does a 180 and decides that the man he should convict is, in fact, innocent. The film leaves the audience hanging with the idea that Andrews may have been wrong, and even after 'justice' is doled out, there may still have been a fair amount of injustice.

 

But beyond the headlines and the courtroom theatrics, there is a larger story here. Director Elia Kazan clues the audience in on the powerful behind-the-scenes maneuverings of city politicians whose aim it is to use the trial to placate voters.

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TB, thanks for spotlighting BOOMERANG a movie that I haven`t seen in many years. I wish that TCM would show this film, otherwise the FMC might run it.

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>TB, thanks for spotlighting BOOMERANG a movie that I haven`t seen in many years. I wish that TCM would show this film, otherwise the FMC might run it.

 

You are most welcome! I think BOOMERANG! is a fine film.

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*THE SHAGGY DOG (1959)*

 

THE SHAGGY DOG is an inventive family farce from the folks at Disney's live action unit. It plays more like a radio or television sitcom than as classic Hollywood cinema. The lead actors are appealing: Fred MacMurray is charming, even in one of his least sympathetic father roles; Jean Hagen is the sensible wife who maintains order; Disney teen idol Tommy Kirk is the troubled son; there are a bevy of other child actors and of course, one mustn't forget the sheepdog that causes most of the pandemonium.

 

Not to spoil the plot and tell you how the animal comes to cause so much chaos, but the poster advertising the film does indicate there is a scene where the dog drives a sports car while chasing after Russian spies. This is heightened for laughs, and I must say that the premise allows for great sight gags, like the kind that might be found in a Harold Lloyd or Marx Brothers film. It is obvious the writers have used their imaginations and have brought a very visual comedy to the screen.

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While working on my review for JEZEBEL, which was scheduled for tomorrow, I came to the conclusion that it is rather detailed and lengthy. I guess I didn't realize how passionate I was about this film and how much I had to say about it. I really don't want to edit it down and lose some of the more valuable commentary. As a result, the review for JEZEBEL will be split in two parts and run the next two days on this thread. Check back...

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*JEZEBEL (1938)*

*PART 1 OF 2*

 

JEZEBEL is based on Owen Davis' play of 1933. Apparently, Owen Davis sets the story in 1850 (though I thought I heard Bette Davis' character say 1852 in the movie). There is a passage of time, such as the year between Pres and Julie's fight when Pres returns with a northern wife. So it would still be the early 1850s.

 

But the great outbreak of yellow fever in New Orleans did not actually occur until 1905, way after the Civil War and reconstruction. Obviously, Owen Davis does not age these characters fifty years, and neither does director William Wyler in the Warner Brothers film version. So unless there was an earlier epidemic, they are taking quite a bit of dramatic license with history

 

Also, a lot has been written about JEZEBEL in comparison to GONE WITH THE WIND. And if we are, indeed, comparing the two, then what hurts JEZEBEL the most is its black-and-white photography. Imagine the impact that would have been made if the dress that Bette Davis' character wears to the ball had been shown in Technicolor. After all, it is a major plot point that she is wearing red of all colors, and the scene signifies the character's willingness to defy the conventions of proper society.

 

And just like Tara in GONE WITH THE WIND, we need to see the Halcyon plantation of JEZEBEL in all its colorful glory. Plus, the yellow fever scenes, with them riding off through the fire would have been improved with the use of Technicolor.

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*JEZEBEL (1938)*

*PART 2 of 2*

 

In many ways, though Bette Davis is the star of the picture, the story of JEZEBEL is an ensemble drama and most of the roles are well-written. The best scene is at the ball, where Julie, Davis' character, is forced to dance and make a spectacle of herself. There are lines in the film about questioning the value of tradition, and this scene illustrates that point most.

 

Interestingly, when they come into the dance, the camera shows Henry Fonda's facial expressions as much, if not more, than Davis. The red dress seems to symbolize the fact that both of them (not just her) are no longer chaste, and that they are the most liberal couple in the community. However, he quickly renounces this as well as the idea of a future with her when he escorts her home.

 

Again, the dress needed to be seen in bright Technicolor. It occurs to me as I write this that I am making a case for the colorization of this film. Usually, I do not condone such practices. If something was made in black-and-white years ago, then it is often best left in its original format. But DARK VICTORY was colorized in the 1980s, so why shouldn't JEZEBEL be colorized, too, especially as it would not handicap the filmmakers' creation. On the contrary, it would aid the work and its themes considerably.

 

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<..a lot has been written about JEZEBEL in comparison to GONE WITH THE WIND..

 

 

..what hurts JEZEBEL the most is its black and white photography...>

 

 

Every time I watch JEZEBEL, I always compare it to Gone With the Wind and I ALWAYS wondered what her RED DRESS would look like in color, it is so hard to envision when the movie is in black and white!

 

Now that you have kindly posted a photo of Bette in the Red Dress in color, I FINALLY get to see what it Really looks like and no longer have to envision it! It is Gorgeous and looks oh so different then in B & W ! :)

 

Thank you, Twink

 

 

 

 

 

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