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Which one of these surviving classic silent films, still not selected for the Registry, most deserves to be inducted?
Sam Rockwell and the Pie Face
Behind the scenes look at the relationship between Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse focuses on the minutiae of their daily lives with the Broadway shows and movies they made playing in the background.
Sam Rockwell is brilliant as Fosse, the obsessive and self-destructive dancer, choreographer and director who shot to stardom for his work in SWEET CHARITY, CABARET, CHICAGO, LENNY, and DAMN YANKEES. Lumpy Michelle Williams is much less successful playing the lithe Verdon, a brilliant dancer who ranked as a major musical star on Broadway in the 1950s and won four Tony awards to prove it. She won for CAN-CAN, REDHEAD, NEW GIRL IN TOWN, and DAMN YANKEES.
As her career takes a back seat to motherhood and Fosse's burgeoning career in the 1960s, Verdon struggles on stage with a flop straight play and two hits shows--SWEET CHARITY and CHICAGO spread out over ten years. FOSSE ricochets from movies to television to Broadway despite drug abuse, mental issues, and bad health.
Their lives are littered with extra-marital relationships and bitterness despite the successes. Aside from Verdon, Fosse was married to dancer Joan McCracken and had long relationships with Carol Haney and Ann Reinking as well.
Among their show-biz pals are Neil Simon and his dying wife Joan, writer Paddy Chayesfsky, Hal Prince, Liza Minnelli, George Abbott, and song-writers Kander and Ebb.
The episode set on Long Island in the rain is especially long and boring, though the series has its moments.
Girl Without a Room (1933)
Don't Paint the Whistle, Paint the Blow
Charles Farrell is miscast as a young hayseed from Tennessee who goes to Paris to study painting. He wins a scholarship but his painting style is very old-fashioned. He falls in with a loony bunch of Bohemians and learns about women and life and art.
He's interested in Kay (Marguerite Churchill) who's from Atlanta but they quarrel and the greedy Nada (Grace Bradley) moves in on him to take his money. There's also the sullen singer (Walter Woolf) who drinks too much but wants to marry Kay. Charlie Ruggles plays Crock, a fellow artist who tell Farrell his style of painting stinks and says, "You don't paint the whistle ... you paint the blow." If you paint the whistle, it's only photography.
Farrell gets drunk and paints a piece that wins a big prize ... until they discover something about it.
Bright and funny with a few good songs. The Russian duel scene is tedious. Farrell hardly bothers to hide his Massachusetts accent even though he's supposed to be from Tennessee. But Ruggles, Churchill, and Bradley are all quite good. Mischa Auer and Leonid Kinskey have small roles.
The Wonderful Story (1922)
Melancholy Tale Set in Rural England
Set in an English village, the story follows the simple lives of two brothers, Robert and James Martin, and the woman they both love, Kate Richards.
Older brother Robert (Herbert Langley, in his film debut) is a rugged bloke who runs a farm and shares a small cottage with his brother Jimmy (Olaf Hytten), who's a bit of a dreamer. It's well known in the cottage and in the village that Robert has his eye on young Kate (Lillian Hall-Davis), and so he announces their wedding.
But before they can be married, Robert falls from a ladder and becomes paralyzed. As he lies in bed as the seasons change, his personality changes and he becomes bitter and angry. When he learns that Jimmy and Kate have secretly set a date to be married, he spews evil curses on the couple and the village vicar (Bernard Vaughan) who's been in on the plot.
Time passes and Kate gets pregnant, but Robert refuses to take back his curses. When she enters a difficult labor with the birth, on a black night streaked by lightning, Jimmy pleads with his older brother to lift the curse before it's too late.
First-time director Graham Cutts does well with the simple story, and the village location is beautiful. Langley, a famous opera singer of the day, does quite well as the brooding Robert. and Hytten and Hall-Davis (she reminded me of Viola Dana) are fine. The film was not a success in its day, but its a fine rural drama.
The Sailor Takes a Wife (1945)
Breezy June Allyson Comedy Romance
This was June Allyson's first starring role without another big name female like Hedy Lamarr or Lucille Ball sharing top billing. She stars here with Robert Walker as a couple who marry impetuously while WW II is raging. When he's suddenly declared 4F, they have to quickly adjust to each other and married life.
They end up in an empty apartment where nothing works and become immediately ensnared with a conniving Romanian refugee (Audrey Totter) and Allyson's scheming boss (Hume Cronyn) in a series of comic situations. Also on hand is Eddie Anderson as the apartment building's superintendent.
All five stars are in top form. There's also Reginald Owen as a plastics manufacturer and Chester Clute as the bemused nightclub goer. In a way it's like an early version of BAREFOOT IN THE PARK.
The Mirror Crack'd (1980)
Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor as Movie Queens
Agatha Christie's plot and Angela Lansbury's casting as Miss Marple take a back seat to the Hollywood movie crew that invades the little village of St. Mary's Mead in this film adaptation of Christie's 1962 novel "The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side."
A movie about Mary, Queen of Scots is being filmed and two rival movie queens, played by Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak (in their only film together) are playing Mary and Elizabeth I. Catty and campy to the max, they snipe at each other as they jockey for power in making the film. Taylor is married to Rock Hudson (the director) and Novak is married to Tony Curtis (the producer). There's also an assistant (Geraldine Chaplin) who is having an affair with Hudson.
The locals are a pale lot compared to this Hollywood flash. But when a local woman (Maureen Bennett) is poisoned at a reception for the Hollywood crew, Miss Marple jumps into the fray with the help of her nephew from Scotland Yard (Edward Fox).
The murder mystery unveils amid the flying insults between Novak and Taylor as well as between Hudson and Curtis. But things turn very serious when another murder occurs.
This might be minor Christie and Lansbury strikes me as badly cast as Marple but the film is lively and fun. Others in the cast include Wendy Morgan as Cherry, Richard Pearson as the doctor, Charles Lloyd-Pack as a vicar, Carolyn Pickles as Miss Giles, Margaret Courtenay as Mrs. Bantry, and look for Pierce Brosnan as a movie extra.
There's also a film Marple goes to see called "Murder at Midnight" which features Dinah Sheridan, Nigel Stock, Ian Cuthbertson, and Anthony Steel, and which seems to serve no purpose other than to display Marple's powers of deductive reasoning.
Worth watching for Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor.
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Dianne Wiest Is Perfection
Witty and waspish Broadway story directed by Woody Allen and co-written by Allen and Douglas McGrath is a fond look at a bygone era.
John Cusack plays a struggling playwright who agrees hire the no-talent Olive (Jennifer Tilly) in order to have a mobster back his new play. The mobster assigned a stooge (Chazz Palminteri) to watch over Olive and make sure she doesn't cheat on him.
Cusack and his agent (Jack Warden) talk fading Broadway star Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest) into starring in the play, but as the play struggles in rehearsals, the stooge (Palminteri) starts to make constructive criticisms that launch the play in a different direction. As the rehearsals catch fire, it become obvious that Olive must go ... and go she does.
While the main characters are all well played, it's Dianne Wiest who growls and guzzles her way to a sublime performance (and a well-deserved Oscar) as the haughty star who never plays frumps or virgins.
Others in the cast include Mary-Louise Parker as Cusack's drab girlfriend, Tracey Ullman as the actress with a dog, Harvey Fierstein, Rob Reiner, Jim Broadbent, and Joe Viterelli as the mobster. Edie Falco plays the small role of the assistant director.
The film is aided by the usual impeccable production design by Santo Loquasto and costumes by Jeffrey Kurland. The music is also spot on.
Bette Midler Shines
This is one where some terrific performances are trapped in a movie that, as a whole, doesn't quite work.
Bette Midler shines as Stella, a working-class high school dropout who slings drinks in an Upstate New York bar. She meets a rich college boy (Stephen Collins) who's taken with her quirky zest for life and they have a kid. But marriage is out of the question. Stella knows in her heart she'd never fit into his world. As the kid grows up, Stella wrestles with what's best for the kid versus what she wants for herself. This quandary eventually leads to a mother's sacrifice.
Based on the 1923 novel STELLA DALLAS by Olive Higgins Prouty, this story was first filmed in 1925 with Belle Bennett and again in 1937 with Barbara Stanwyck as the star. By 1990 the story just seemed far-fetched and very old-fashioned and Midler's follow-up to the smash hit BEACHES was a box-office disappointment.
It's a shame because Midler gives a terrific performance. Her Stella is full of love and self-doubt as she rides the highs and lows of her threadbare life. She eventually ends up selling cosmetics door to door to pay for things for her daughter (Trini Alvarado). Stella puts her life on hold to give her daughter what she thinks the daughter wants. Only problem is the daughter wants something else.
Also very good in this film are John Goodman as Ed, Stella's longtime friend who's on a downward spiral, and Marsha Mason as the warm and understanding Janice, the woman who will become the daughter's step-mother.
Others in the cast include Ben Stiller, Linda Hart, Eileen Brennan, and William McNamara ... but watch this one for a great performance by Bette Midler.
Fox Farm (1922)
Guy Newall and Ivy Duke
This 1922 film is based on a 1911 novel by Wawick Deeping. Story follows Jesse Falconer (Guy Newall), a fatalist who runs a failing farm and is married to a nagging harridan (Barbara Everest), who calls him a fool. Falconer refuses to worry about what is fated to be, yet is a sentimental man.
The Wetherells are neighbors, headed by a cruel and abusive father who beats his son on a regular basis. His elder daughter Ann (Ivy Duke) is a gentle soul who is powerless to stop her father's abuses. When she comes upon some village boys abusing a dog, she intervenes and is set upon by the larger boy. Falconer happens by and rescues both Ann and the dog.
The dog instantly bonds with Falconer, but the wife threatens to get rid of it. After Falconer is blinded in a hideous farm accident, the wife takes over the farm and embarks on an affair with another man. Eventually Ann comes to work in the house as a cook to escape her father and secretly falls in love with the sad Falconer.
Eventually Falconer becomes aware of his wife's infidelity and sets in motion what is fated to be.
Guy Newall turns in a powerful performance as the fatalist, and Ivy Duke is excellent in a change-of-pace role. Barbara Everest is also very good in the thankless role of the harridan. A. Bromley Davenport is the cruel Wetherell, Charles Evemy is the son, Cameron Carr is the other man, and John Alexander plays the wandering gossip and religious fanatic.
Slow, somber, and beautifully done.
Season/Series 05 Is Bad
SHETLAND still hasn't had a story take place in wintertime, and season 5 wanders and dithers all over the place in a story about people traffickers and a maybe romance for Perez with a truly annoying woman.
Aside from the moronic romance with a married woman, Tosh maybe finds a boyfriend while Sandy maybe gets suspended for being stupid. Rhona still just sits around scowling at everyone. The trafficking story devolves into various murders and is way too thin to be stretched out over 6 episodes. And then there's Duncan reaching for rock bottom while Cassie is off at Uni.
This season seemed really full of filler and "OH PLEASE" moments that were way off the mark. I like the setting and the main characters but if there's a season 06, they'd better have a better crime story and less "romance."
TV icons Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda star in this romance set against the threat of the Vietnam War. Thomas plays Jenny, a shy, moony girl from Connecticut who has come to New York City after she gets pregnant. Alda plays a callow young filmmaker named Delano (after FDR) who makes TV commercials. They meet in Central Park when she wanders into his shot as he filming a bag lady (Charlotte Rae).
It seems she got pregnant at a drive-in, carried away by the romantic story of A PLACE IN THE SUN. He has a girlfriend Kay (Marian Hailey) and is afraid of being drafted and sent to war. As the draft threat looms, he learns that married men with children are being exempted so he strikes a deal with lonely Jenny to get married. She saves him from the draft; he takes care of her and her baby. While this all starts out as a practical arrangement, what are the odds against its turning into real love?
Jenny is too entrenched in her dreams of romance to understand the grim reality of being an unwed mother. Delano is too selfish to really care much about Jenny or even his current girlfriend. It all gets complicated by Jenny's lies to her parents (Vincent Gardenia, Elizabeth Wilson) about who Delano really is.
While Gardenia and Wilson come off well as the slightly daffy parents, and Hailey is quite good as the understanding Kay, the characters of Jenny and Delano are not terribly sympathetic. Alda and Thomas can't seem to add enough warmth to make these characters likable. Minor characters like Rae's bag lady and a lonely man (Phil Bruns) Jenny meets spark more interest than the central characters.
JENNY is very much a film of its time. The Vietnam War dominated life for young people of that era. And while they are not radicals in any sense of the word, Delano and Jenny are caught in the war's long web. Even their eventual marriage takes place under a bleak picture of Richard Nixon on the wall.
Elizabeth R (1971)
Still Stunning in Our Eyes
Nearly 50 years after this was televised, Glenda Jackson is about to storm Broadway as King Lear.
As Elizabeth I, Jackson gives one of the great performances of television. All of her intelligence and fierceness is channeled into making this Queen a person of flesh and blood, and not just a costume parade. Jackson is totally believable as the wary young princess and equally so as the weary old monarch. Her voice thunders through the ages as if it were the real voice of that ancient Queen.
Among the cast are several familiar faces. Robert Hardy as Dudley, Robin Ellis as Essex, Vivian Pickles as Mary Stuart, Angela Thorne as Lettice, Peter Jeffrey as Philip II, Michael Williams as Alencon, Rachel Kempson as Kat, Daphne Slater as Mary I, Rosalie Crutchley as Catherine Parr, John Nettleton as Francis Bacon, Ronald Hines as Burghley, Stephen Murray as Walsingham, John Woodvine as Francis Drake, James Laurenson as Simier, Jill Balcon as Lady Cobham, and Margaretta Scott as Catherine de Medici, and all are wonderful.
While the production values are rather modest, the series is very accurate in its historical facts and paints a properly dour picture of the religious wars that plagued Elizabeth as well as the constant and endless worries about the Succession to the Throne.
Elizabeth was one of the most remarkable women in history and is here played by one of the great actresses of our time: Glenda Jackson.
Man's Favorite Sport? (1964)
Belly Up Floater
Bad pacing and 2-hour running kill this one deader than a mackerel.
Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss star and do what they can with this long-winded and fitfully funny comedy. Hudson plays the author of a revered fishing guide but he's never fished. Thanks to budinsky Prentiss, he gets roped into competing in a fishing tournament. The humor comes from his bungling attempts to learn the sport, and her bungling attempts to catch his eye.
Director Howard Hawks lost his touch. This one lumbers along. There's a girlfriend character played by Maria Perschy that has no reason to be in the film. John McGiver plays the boss. Roscoe Karns and Forrest Lewis play fishing contestants. Norman Alden plays a hideously unfunny Indian that's supposed to be hilarious. It ain't.
Regis Toomey runs the contest and Charlene Holt shows up as a jealous girlfriend with a wandering accent. The fish play themselves.
Rumor has it that the studio cut 20 minutes from this one. They should have kept going with the scissors.
The Curse of Oak Island (2014)
Talk Talk Talk Talk and Then a Commercial
Hideously slow, repetitive garbage built around some possibly interesting history.
These "treasure hunters" dig and gouge their way through Oak Island, instantly assuming everything they find is Norse or Roman and another clue to the treasure they seek. Each episode has a nugget of story stretched out to fill a 1-hour time slot. They stand around and talk and talk and talk.
There's an old cross, an old coin, a concrete wall, a mysterious cavern, a rock with "carvings," etc. With every "find," they jump to an array of conclusions that always hark back to the mythic Roman or Norse explorers from two centuries ago. Nothing is ever substantiated. The "experts" they consult add nothing to the endless blather.
The Far Paradise (1928)
The Three Sisters
THE FAR PARADISE is a leisurely paced Australian silent that stars Marie Lorraine as a damsel in distress in modern dress. A production of the McDonagh sisters, the famed self-taught filmmakers, it has many good qualities and an interesting-if-standard story. Cherry Carson (Lorraine, whose real name was Isabel McDonagh) returns home after years abroad. She meets by chance a young man (Paul Longuet) who's just graduated from university and is also returning home. Surprise, it's the same town. His father is the local district attorney; hers is a shady character who lives a lavish life. Her father (Gaston Mervale) chases off the young man, afraid he's in with his DA daddy to entrap him. Cherry assumes he's forgotten her. There's a big blow up when they all meet at as masquerade ball. Eventually Cherry and the father go into hiding in the remote Paradise Valley, but the young man eventually finds her. There are a couple of surprise plot elements best not to reveal.
Nice use of local color, including the remote valley and a nice episode by the sea. The leads are attractive and Mervale is suitably slimy. There also a bit by Arthur McLaglan as the evil Rossi. John Faulkner plays the DA.
Longuet was also in Australia's first talkie, SHOWGIRL'S LUCK, and Lorraine also appeared in the part-talkie THE CHEATERS. Both of these Australian classic survive. Of the McDonagh sisters, Isabel was the actress, Paulette was the director, and Phyllis was the art director and production manager. All three sisters shared duties as film producers.
THE FAR PARADISE was a local hit in its day as was the sisters' 1926 film THOSE WHO LOVE, which is presumed lost.
Unexpected Uncle (1941)
Charles Coburn Is the Saving Grace
Badly done romantic comedy. It's hard to say if it's badly directed or was butchered in the editing room. The 67-minute running time and choppy narrative point to the latter.
Charles Coburn is excellent as the mysterious "uncle" who breezes into the life of a shop girl (Anne Shirley) who's juts been fired. She's been saving up for a gown for a dance, so he buys the dress for her and off they go. They run into a runaway millionaire (James Craig) and his crowd at the dance. Shirley and Craig are immediately attracted to one another.
Eventually Craig has to go back home to run his business and he takes Shirley and Coburn with him. But he has no time for them. They movie into his mansion but never see him. After a few breakups and misunderstandings, every come out right.
The problem is that we never even know what his business is. This section seems to have been cut from the film. The censors may also have had something to say about the living arrangement of the unmarried couple. The bottom line is that neither Craig nor Shirley is very likable.
Coburn, on the other hand, plays the charming oldster (who has a passion for pitching horse shoes) with zest and humor. He also has a big secret. Co-stars include Ernest Truex as the man servant, Russell Gleason as the nerdy Tommy, Nora Cecil as the landlady as well as Astrid Allwyn, Jed Prouty, Jimmy Conlin, Renee Godfrey (who was married to the director), and Tom Dugan as the bus driver.
The film is notable for its overuse of rear projection (badly done) and incredibly cheesy outdoor sets in which most of the backgrounds are giant paintings.
Watch it for Coburn.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Long, Lifeless, and Boring Box Office Bomb
I hated MOONLIGHT. That said, this film by Barry Jenkins may be even worse. The central story is good enough, but the long, slow, lifeless scenes just pile up on each other. Long, lingering looks at actors add nothing to the story and kill the pacing.
The flashback narrative is ok but there are far too many scenes that go nowhere (like the loft rental scene). It's ad is the director has no idea when to yell "cut" and the editor doesn't edit.
On top of these basic flaws, the central characters are boring. They are in love. We get it! Move on! The mother (played by Regina King) has some potential, but even her "big scene" (a trip to Puerto Rico) isn't that big. I don't understand the Oscar nomination for King.
The real killer is that as the film moves toward a specific climax (involving the false accusation of rape and the guy's incarceration) and then pulls the rug out from under the viewer. It then tacks on a "years later" epilogue that drags on for another 5 minutes. We get it! Move on!
No wonder this was a big flop at the box office!
A Star Is Born (2018)
A Scar Is Born
Shrieking, loud, interminable re-telling of a familiar story that didn't need to be re-told. This is nothing but a vanity project for Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper with terrible music.
There's no need to recap the story since everyone knows it. Aside from the killing pace that drags this one on to 135 minutes, it's also notable that there's not a likable character in the film. That includes the stars, the grasping manager, the dim father, and the bizarre character played by Sam Elliott. What point was trying to be made my casting 74-year-old Elliott as 44-year-old Cooper's brother? It defies logic.
The story was better told in WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? (1932) starring Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman, A STAR IS BORN (1937) starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, A STAR IS BORN (1954) starring Judy Garland and James Mason, and A STAR IS BORN (1976) starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, as well as several others with the same plot.
This one has inane plot points like the tribute to Roy Orbison and a one-word cameo by Alec Baldwin. And what's the point to the drag club? This was lifted from Bette Midler's THE ROSE (1979).
This version is about as entertaining as an open wound scarring over. Indeed, a scar is born.
Easily the Worst
Worst episode of this usually funny and insightful series. Whereas the guest comedian usually just sits and talks like a person, this one has an incredibly unfunny woman playing her incredibly annoying character for the whole drive. She only comes out of character after the closing credits.
Jerry Seinfeld is a savvy and funny guy, and his TV series is probably the greatest sitcom in TV history. This web series is quite different, but it's an oddly addictive mix of vintage cars and some legendary comedy stars.
This particular episode is a total misfire. It's the only one I've seen where the guest plays a character.
A HUGE mistake, Jerry ... HUGE!
Melody in Spring (1934)
Not Bad at All
Charlie Ruggles stars as a loony businessman (dog biscuits) who has a wife, a daughter, and a radio program he sponsors. Lanny Ross plays a singer who tries to meet Ruggles so he can audition as a singer. He meets the daughter (Ann Sothern) and falls for her. But Ruggles refuses to hire him as a singer and doesn't want him as a son-in-law.
They all end up in the Swiss Alps where Ruggles gives in to his compulsion to "collect" souvenirs. He tries to steal the silver cow bells from an Alpine herd but gets caught. Meanwhile, his dim wife (Mary Boland) sets about to frame Ross so that Sothern will go back to her snooty boyfriend.
Ross sings a few forgettable songs (Sothern doesn't get to sing anything) but Ruggles and Boland steal the show with their terrific chemistry and loopy characters. Herman Bing plays the hotelier, Norma MItchell plays the matron, and the triplets are played by the Gale Sisters (twins and a third sister), one of whom later married Oscar Levant.
On Your Toes (1939)
Slaughter on the Warner Lot
Absolutely terrible film version of the hit 1936 Broadway musical by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and George Abbott.
Ray Bolger originated the role of Junior, but here we have Eddie Albert as a last-minute replacement for James Cagney who bailed from the project after Warners specifically bought it for him. Albert was on the lot, having made a small splash the year before in BROTHER RAT. Since Albert couldn't dance, a double had to be used and the character's dancing was scaled back.
Also taking a hit, most of the songs are not performed and end up as background music. So "Small Hotel," It's Got to Be Love," "The Heart Is Quicker Than the Eye," and "Quiet Night" are basically eliminated from the film, leaving the character of Peggy Porterfield (Gloria Dickson) with nothing to do. The female character of Frankie Frayne is eliminated altogether. Even the title song only shows up as background.
The other giant hit this version takes is that both the "Princess Zenobia" ballet and the "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" number are scaled way back partly because Albert couldn't dance. This also takes the oomph out of Vera Zorina's starring performance. The music portions are cut back, but the hokey comedy and lengthy Vaudeville intro were retained.
Another huge minus is the terrible direction by Ray Enright, who apparently had never seen a good movie musical. There are endless cuts during the dance numbers and zoom-ins to close-ups and cutaways to peripheral characters. And it's painfully obvious that the close-ups of dancing feet are not of Eddie Albert.
Supporting cast tries hard, but most of the Russian humor falls flat. While Leonid Kinskey is fine as Ivan, Alan Hale is an odd choice for Sergei. We also get Frank McHugh as the stage manager, James Gleason and Queenie Smith as Albert's parents, Berton Churchill as the hotel manager, and Erik Rhodes bizarrely cast as the leading ballet dancer. Notable also is Donald O'Connor as the young Junior in the Vaudeville segments.
The musical has been revived twice on Broadway (I saw a production in London starring Doreen Wells in 1985), but this is the only film version, which is a real pity because the music is wondrous, and it would have been nice to see Zorina in a full-fledged version of "Slaughter on 10th Avenue."
It's My Turn (1980)
Chicken Broke Toe and I Don't Care
Jill Clayburgh plays yet another one of those wannabe liberated women in this feminist fantasy/comedy. She's a math professor at the University of Chicago and living with a guy (Charles Grodin) but she feels she wants more ... maybe. On a trip to New York for her widowed father's wedding, she meets a brash man (Michael Douglas) and something happens.
The trouble with this film is that the feminist view is scuttled in favor of formula storytelling. Clayburgh hit the mark in AN UNMARRIED WOMAN because the character fulfilled her promise. In this film, she falls for the same of song and dance and basically gives up any sort of fulfillment for the usual relationship with a man.
The ultimate fulfillment is still to be found in a man. The real irony here is that this film was written by a woman and directed by a woman and they still come up with "a man is the answer," whereas AN UNMARRIED WOMAN was written and directed by a man.
Feminist politics aside, Clayburgh, Douglas, and Grodin are easy to watch even though there are a few wayward scenes that go nowhere or seem to have come out of nowhere. Steven Hill plays the marrying father, and although he's in bad health and popping heart pills, nothing comes of that arc. Beverly Garland is quite good as the new bride. There's also Dianne Wiest, Charles Kimbrough,, and Daniel Stern as a brilliant student.
Clayburgh's teaching career and new job in New York tack a back seat as soon as Douglas enters the story. Director Claudia Weill, who showed such a sure hand in GIRLFRIENDS just goes by the numbers here. There's never a moment's doubt what the conclusion will be, despite the film's title.
Beautiful Boy (2018)
Dreary Beyond Belief
This is a trip you won't want to make.
Self-indulgent Marin County family (the mother paints the trees in her yard) is torn apart by the son's descent into drugs. They seem to have endless piles of money since there's never a word said about the costs of the various rehab programs the kid goes through. Being a freelance writer must be one helluva good paying job.
So OK, the acting is fine. Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet go through their grim paces without cracking a smile. Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan as the mothers are even more relentlessly dour. Even the flashbacks to "happier times" aren't.
This story has been done to death and there's nothing new here except maybe highlighting the perils of the drug du jour: crystal meth. By the end of the over-long film, you realize you don't know these people at all ... and you don't want to.
A Window in London (1940)
Nifty little film with a surprise ending!
Michael Redgrave is on his way to work via train when he sees what looks like a murder in an apartment window. When he goes to investigate (with a cop in tow) it turns out to be something else altogether.
He meets a magician (Paul Lukas) and his beautiful wife/assistant (Sally Gray) and gets involved in their lives (and unhappy marriage). As he gets pulled into their lives, he becomes more and more attracted to Gray. Meanwhile, his own wife (Patricia Roc) is having her own problems at work.
What starts out as the act of a good Samaritan turns into a meandering tale of intrigue. This one never quite goes where to expect it o. Worth looking for.
Redgrave, Gray and Lukas are all especially good in this one. It's a wonder that Sally Gray wasn't scooped up by Hollywood.
Seven Days to Noon (1950)
Exceptional Doomsday Thriller
Professor Willingdon (Barry Jones) is a scientist in post-war England. He's been working on nuclear bombs and goes a little nutty when his conscience starts bothering him about his weapons of mass destruction. So he writes an ultimatum to the Prime Minister and steals a small nuclear device with the threat of detonating it somewhere in London if his demands are not met.
This sets in motion a massive man hunt by Scotland Yard, led by Superintendent Folland (Andre Morell), who utilizes Willingdon's daughter (Sheila Manahan) and research assistant (Hugh Cross) to track him down. The threat also calls for the evacuation of London.
But Willingdon is as devious as he is deranged. He has his hair cut and shaves off his mustache when he notes that pictures of him are posted throughout the city. He melts into the working class neighborhoods and disappears.
Highlights include his suspicious landlady (Joan Hickson) and his encounter with a blowsy, washed-up actress named Goldie (Olive Sloane), whom he eventually takes as a hostage.
Sloane is a standout and provides a bit of comic relief (and humanity) amid the growing tensions. Jones, Hickson, and Morell are also quite good.
A few familiar faces pop up. I noticed Bruce Seton, Jean Anderson, Marie Ney, Ronald Adam (as the Prime Minister), Geoffrey Keen, Sam Kydd, and Ian Wilson as the Doomsday Man. I never spotted Patrick Macnee or Laurence Harvey as extras.
Worth looking for. It won an Oscar for original story/screenplay.
What Price Hollywood? (1932)
Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman Are Superb
Pre-Code insider's look at Hollywood, a precursor to all those STAR IS BORN films.
Constance Bennett is a waitress at Hollywood's famed Brown Derby restaurant specifically for the chance of meeting the right contact to help her break into films. In walks Lowell Sherman, a tipsy but famous director. They take a shine to each other and he wakes up the next morning to find her asleep on his living room couch. He invites her to test for a small part in a film, but she's terrible.
She works all night on her little scene and finally gets it right. Of course she makes a hit and becomes a big star. She's never romantically involved with Sherman, who's more interested in the bottle. She has everything she ever wanted and marries a stuffy rich boy (Neil Hamilton) who never fits in.
Eventually Bennett loses the husband and also loses Sherman as his career slips away because of his drinking. The years go by. One night she gets a call to come get Sherman out of jail where he's been locked up for be drunk and for skipping out on a bar bill. She takes him home and cleans him up, but it's too late.
Hard-hitting story stunned a lot of viewers who wanted to believe that the lives of the Hollywood stars was a bed of roses. Bennett and Sherman are superb. Hamilton is fine as the rich husband. Also good are Gregory Ratoff as the producer and Louise Beavers as the devoted maid.
There were insider Hollywood stories before this. Marion Davies' comedy SHOW PEOPLE showed how fame can go to an actress' head. The following STAR IS BORN films borrowed heavily from this one but the heroines in these (Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and the 2018 version) were all married to the tragic figure.
Perhaps a bigger studio than RKO could have secured the Oscar nominations Lowell Sherman and Constance Bennett deserved for this film.