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I was watching CALIFORNIA on the Encore Western channel yesterday. I really do like this film a lot. It's a color western (Barbara Stanwyck's first Technicolor film in fact) from 1946, produced by Paramount to commemorate the centennial of the Golden State. John Farrow is the director, and Stanwyck's excellent group of costars includes Ray Milland, Barry Fitzgerald, Albert Dekker and Anthony Quinn.

 

The film starts one way-- it's all about the early history of California and its people, most of them pioneers from the east. But within about 30 to 45 minutes, it gets rather bogged down in the romantic entanglements experienced by Stanwyck's character-- notably her relationship with Milland, as well as an election that involves Fitzgerald. The film works well as a romance, with some political intrigue, and I really don't have a problem with it. But it seems like a lost opportunity for a film to begin with such a clear historical perspective, only to have it shrugged off in favor of more fictional elements. I feel this way about Fox's BRIGHAM YOUNG, too, which temporarily loses itself in the made-up romance of non-historical characters played by Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell.

 

Has anyone else felt this way about a classic motion picture?

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REIGN OF TERROR, a.k.a. THE BLACK BOOK, is surprisingly accurate. During the French Revolution Robespierre (played to perfection by Richard Basehart) had the power of life and death over everyone in France, and he actually had an enemies list. He didn't let anyone know who was on it, so nobody felt safe. This led to his downfall, and he ended up on the guillotine to which he had sent so many others. The characters played by Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl may have been products of dramatic license, but the main events and the atmosphere of the times was correctly portrayed.

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"The Reign of Terror" or "The Black Book" is one of my all time favorite "noir" films,and how many "noir" films do you see concerning the French revolution? Beautifully directed by Anthony Mann in the late 1940's with fine performances by Cummings and Dahl, but it's Richard Basehart , Norman Lloyd and the great Charles McGraw who steal the film. If you've never seen this minor classic{ IMHO} treat yourself to a fun time during the French Revolution....

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Thank you so much for the info. I have never seen this film, but will watch it the next time it comes around. It seems to me there was an earlier film in which Basil Rathbone played Robespierre. I don't know the title or who played the other characters, maybe I have got this confused with another film.

 

I just checked and I do have it wrong. Basil Rathbone played Evremonde in a 1935's A Tale of Two Cities. I guess Robespierre and Evremonde are both such despicable characters, I got them confused. Basil Rathbone was outstanding at playing bad guys, but so was Richard Basehart. I am looking forward to seeing The Black Book.

 

Edited by: bagladymimi on May 1, 2013 11:40 AM

 

Edited by: bagladymimi on May 1, 2013 11:48 AM

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Thanks, Fred. I get movies from Netflix in the mail. I will put The Black Book in my queue. Just got For Whom The Bell Tolls. Can you believe that I have never seen this film? So, I will look forward to watching both movies.

 

Mimi

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