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That's Star Power!!
Being an aficionado of Classic Movies, I had always been curious about the Actor Rudolph Valentino. So when the opportunity to watch his star making movie came on an old time TV Show called "Silents Please" I could not resist. I must insert here, that at the time I was only 19 years of age and yet watching this very old movie, I also fell under the spell of this handsome actor. The year was 1960 and over 30 years after his death. Even so, and knowing all of this, I was stricken. The scene that cinched it for me was just prior to the famous tango; it comes when Valentino is watching the two dancers and. The expression on his face - the confidence, the downright arrogance was right there. And it became quite obvious that he was planning to appropriate the female part of that dance team and equally obvious that he was going to show all who was the better man - the tango being the handy vehicle. Valentino captured my adulation, and I was viewing the movie from a small screen television. I would be willing to bet that those women watching that scene in the dark 1921 theater never stood a chance. Talk about Star Power. He surely had it!
I Live My Life (1935)
Silly, Silly Saving Grace the Character Actors
I have never been a big fan of Joan Crawford, this movie clarifies why. I like comedy and Ms. Crawford is NOT a comedian. I would not attempt to understand why. Like other reviewers I wonder if this movie would have faired better in the hands of a Carole Lombard. BUT unlike other reviewers I feel Brian Ahearne could have been appreciated had he been cast opposite another actress. I have seen him in other comedic movies and he handled himself well. I am of the opinion that Ms. Crawford is the wet blanket in this movie. That said, the shining grace of this movie is the plethora of the much known and loved character actors: Frank Morgan, Jesse Ralph, Eric Blore, Arthur Treacher we never get tired of watching any or all of their antics. This is not the only movie their presence has saved.
The Big Show (1936)
One of the best of the Gene Autry Movies
The Big Show is about the most enjoyable to watch of all his movies for several reasons: One, Mr. Autry plays a double role. Two, there is a lot of clever stunt work, including the famous under the coach and handover hand to the horses stunt. Three, The Big Show has a very different plot from the usual Autry Western. Four, The Big Show contains some very listen-able songs. Five, it is really fun to see Roy Rogers when he was still with the Sons of the Pioneers as Leanard Slye. Six, it is also fun to see behind the scenes of movie making, with some back views of the Republic lot. Seven, since this is an earlier Autry entry, Smiley Burnett is Mr. Autry's side kick rather than Pat Butram. Eight, it is exciting to see the Texas Centennial Celebration as a background. All in all, this is one is really fun.
Roughly Speaking (1945)
Made me a Jack Carson Fan
Rosalind Russell was just right for this movie. Bette was a great actress, but I cannot imagine her as Auntie Mame. Same with the heroin of Roughly Speaking. Russell played it just right, with a touch of laughter and a touch of pathos. It is about a woman who lives through: Divorce, polio, the Depression, one monetary failure after another, and finally seeing her sons off to fight in WWII. However, you see that it makes her family stronger, they learn to fight thru their problems and come out better for it. It is this movie that made me fall in love with Jack Carson. Jack Carson never really made it as a top, top star. In fact in most of his movies he played a buffoon or a jerk. But in Rougly Speaking he plays the kind of man most women wish we were married to. It is my opinion that he pretty much played himself. I recommend it: It comes on TCM regularly, if you have not seen it you are in for a real treat. Watch out for Roughly Speaking you will love it.
The Mirror Crack'd (1980)
All That Talent - What A Waste
The good news: So much talent: 1. An Agatha Christie novel as basis for the plot. 2. Angela Lansbury playing Miss Marple 3. Elizabeth Taylor, a really beautiful woman over her prime, playing a really beautiful woman over her prime 4. Edward Fox a very good actor. 5. Kim Novak, another beautiful woman. 6. Rock Hudson was always good to look at. 7. Even Tony Curtis thrown in for good measure. Talk about an all star cast. The bad news: I'm not completely sure if it is the screenplay, the directing, or the acting but this movie was horrible. How in the world could so many good actors do such a terrible job. The two beautiful women, Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak played parodies of over age prima donnas. There is zero chemistry between Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor and it is not because they are older than they were in Giant, it is because they do not seem to care, certainly the audience does not. Do not judge Agatha Christie by this boiler.
Nero Wolfe: Before I Die (1981)
A Neat Little Mystery
I have now seen "Before I Die" done with both Nero Wolfe TV productions. The later one produced by Mr. Hutton in the 1990's and shown on A & E is more flippant but equally enjoyable as a mystery story. However, I like the actor that plays Archie in the 1981 series. Though he is drop dead gorgeous and boyishly charming, he still manages to imbue the character with some depth. I was impressed with his ability to convey kindness and tenderness when the occasion called for it. I like this mystery. One of the reasons is that the author offers a very good clue to the viewer. It can be frustrating to have the solution thrust upon one without so much as a hint, but this mystery plays fair, there is a very good hint.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Great satire and yet touching as well
My husband minored in Drama in College. He learned there that the difference between a mediocre movie and a great one is the ability of the story to get you to care for the characters. You can see that if you really could care less what happens to the people in the movie they can have all sorts of tragedies befall them which will have little or no effect on the audience. Conversely, if indeed you like and even come to love the characters in the movie then what happens to them will affect you deeply. And that becomes the difference between a good and bad show.
As much as I enjoyed the satire of this movie, I also felt a real tug at my emotions for the plight of the characters in Galaxy Quest: The actors who were reduced to opening Super Markets because the only success they had known was this show, to the aliens who confused the fantasy for the real. It seems there is something wistful in all of us that wants to believe.
The actors who played the aliens especially Saris deserve real recognition for their work. The writers who had the idea. The director who saw to it that the Aliens were so completely lovable. All deserve special thanks for a very good yarn.
I too hope this movie will gain proper recognition as time goes on.
Everybody's Doing It (1938)
It Should Have Been A Good Movie
As a rule, I am an aficionado of this kind of movie. That is, the B Comedy Mystery. This movie should have been good of it's kind. It had a good cast and a clever idea for a plot. The elements were there for a good B movie, but it just does not deliver. Another commenter has stated that it was bad writing and directing and I suspect that he is right. I think part of the problem is that this movie tried to be all things to all people and it came up short instead. It was a comedy-mystery, sort of. It was a goof ball comedy in spots, sort of. It was a comment on the social mores of its time, sort of. It tried to do everything and it just went nowhere. I rated it a 3 because it had a place here and there which raised your hopes that it was going to be a watchable movie.
That Midnight Kiss (1949)
Mario Lanza Sings That's All Any Musical Needs
I tend to agree with the critics of the time: If Mario Lanza was in the movie it was worth seeing. Even though this musical contained a wonderfully talented cast Mario Lanza still shines out and that is saying something. Any musical that was fortunate enough to have Jose Iturbi and his sister Amparo Iturbi who were concert pianists of great magnitude plus Kathryn Grayson who was no slouch in the singing department herself. Throw in Ethel Barrymore of the First Family of Actors and it is a lucky movie musical indeed. But in my opinion even with all of that Mario Lanza is the reason to see this movie. What a voice! Who cares if he could act or not. His acting was more than adequate. No one expected him to be an Oscar winner. Of course the plot to the musical was thin, most of those MGM musical plots were. But any musical that has Mario Lanza in it is worth seeing again and again.
Not Bad at all for a B Movie
This movie is the 2nd in the Crime Doctor series. He is now a famous and successful Psychologist, The first Crime Doctor sets him up and explains who, why and how. The rest of the Crime Doctor stories like this one are Who Dunnits. And not bad ones at that. Depending if you are an aficionado of old movies and mystery stories, I am of both, the plot should be interesting and hold your interest. Usually the Crime Doctor gets involved in the mystery through a patient and this story is no exception. The patient this time is a ex-convict who is taking on a new job. Pretty soon it looks like he has been hired so that he can be framed for the murder. Crime Doctor interviews the other people who are related to or work for the murdered man. Somewhere among them he finds the real murderer.
The Mating of Millie (1948)
A Complete Charmer
I haven't seen this one for years. I wish TCM would show it because if memory serves it is a real charmer. Evelyn Keyes. the little sister in GWTW, wants to adopt a little boy, but needs to be married. She meets bus driver Glenn Ford, and tries to vamp him. She does such a terrible job of it he worms the reason out of her and agrees to help her trap another bachelor and therein lies the plot.
I am a very big fan of Glenn Ford. I believe that no one had the ability to place their tongue as firmly in their cheek and do subtle comedy in quite the same style as he did. He got better at it, for example one of my all time favorite movies The Sheepman. Even so my memory says this is a real cute movie.
A Kiss in the Dark (1949)
It's a Charmer
This is one of those movies that is just simply enjoyable to watch. I chuckled much of the way through it. I laughed out loud at the antics of Botts when trying to get away from the practicing of our hero. But I precede myself. The hero played by David Niven, who I am an admitted fan of, is a high strung, nervous, major up tight concert pianist and very famous. He is being run by his manager, who in turn runs the butler and every one else who supposedly takes care of David Niven. One day a funny little man comes to see Mr. Niven. The former owner of The Cleopatra Arms, an apartment building played by Victor Moore who is absolutely adorable in the part. Moore takes David Niven to see the building he owns and introduces him to the tenants there. One of the tenants is a model named Polly played by Jane Wyman. As a rule I am not a big fan of Miss Wymans, but in this movie she is quite fetching. Mr. Niven takes one look at her in shorts, is immediately smitten with her and his life begins to change. I do not remember seeing David Niven and Jane Wyman in any other movie together, but in this one they make a very appealing couple. The funniest scene takes place when Jane Wyman, Victor Moore and David Niven are striving to drive the one bad tenant, Potts, out of the Cleopatra Arms by having Niven come and do his 6-8 hour piano practicing in the room next to Potts who works nights and makes everyones life miserable by yelling at them to keep quiet so he can sleep days. Broderick Crawford plays Botts. Crawford usually played such serious roles and rarely had a chance to show his comic flair, but in this movie he gets his chance and he does a very good job. All in all I think this is a very charming movie. I really enjoyed it.
The Case of the Black Cat (1936)
Ricardo Cortez made an extremely charming Perry Mason
I admit that I am a hopeless Perry Mason fan. When I was a girl, our family gathered around the TV set every Friday to watch Raymond Burr outwit Hamilton Burger. So when I had a chance to buy the DVD for this movie from e-bay I did it thinking it would be a B movie and that was that. I was very agreeably surprised. Ricardo Cortez made a very, very charming Perry Mason. My first introduction to Mr. Cortez was in an old Bette Davis movie wherein he played a snaky villain. We forget that in those days they had such a thing as good acting so I just thought he was the quiet, sneaky type. But in this Perry Mason movie he is utterly adorable. And it has a pretty fair plot too with quite a neat surprise at the end. I agree with the other comment I too do not understand why they did not make other movies with Mr. Cortez in this role.
Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
Good News Bad News Scenario
The Good News: All 3 of the Barrymores are together in 1 Movie. In fact, it is the only time they are together in one movie. It is done by MGM so the costumes, scenery, background etc are all lavish even delicious. The acting is even quite good. And it is great to see John Barrymore in a good role even a romantic role before his drinking made him a caricature of himself. The Bad News: It is historically so inaccurate that it drives you crazy. Lionel Barrymore was a very good actor, but for reasons I will explain his performance was way overwrought and overdone. The part called for him to play Rasputin as if he had the cunning and the outright intelligence to maneuver state heads to do his bidding. The movie was made in 1932 which was just 15 years from the actual Russian Revolution and so the people that made the movie really did not know what we know now. Even so the actual facts of the death of Rasputin were known and to my mind the truth was far more dramatic than the way this movie portrayed Rasputin's killing. Even then they knew that The Empress never did figure out what a scoundrel Rasputin was, whereas in the movie she finally sees through him and calls on John Barrymore to save the throne by getting rid of him. I guess MGM wanted Ethel and John Barrymore to seem heroic. Knowing what we know now just makes Lionel's performance of Rasputin seem completely off the mark and throws the whole movie out of whack.
Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
James Cagney gave a brilliant performance: gritty and tough with nuances of pathos
I am NOT a fan of Doris Day - there is just something about her that annoys me. But in this movie she acted very different from the usual Doris Day movie. And the way she sang those ballads breaks your heart. But the acting job that truly amazes - and has through the years made me a fan - is that of James Cagney. One wonders if he had a parent that was abusive or an Uncle or someone he had intimately observed. Because from somewhere that man understood something about an abusive relationship and put it in his performance. It was positively beyond extraordinary. He deserved an Academy Nomination at the very least. While he was cruel, vile, despicable, certainly repulsive and yet you felt at the same time he was pitiful, sad, pathetic. It was an extremely complex performance. When I saw "Love Me Or Leave Me" as a teenager I didn't appreciate the subtlety of his acting. It wasn't until I saw it many, many years later and had gone through a lot of living that I comprehended the true magnitude of his performance.
A Night to Remember (1942)
A Charming Comedy/Mystery
From the Title, I expected to see yet another Titanic movie and was pleasurably surprised by this charmer. I love a good mystery story and a witty comedy mystery is always an extra pleasure. This is a delightful little Mystery/Comedy in the same genre as Topper Returns and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford: Both knock-offs of The Thin Man series.
Ms. Young and Mr. Aherne play a young married couple that move into a Greenwich Apartment to soak up atmosphere so he can write a Mystery novel. They find themselves involved in a real murder mystery which Briane Aherne sets out to solve himself so that he can write about it and thereby write a good murder mystery; as he explains to his wife, all his stories up to now have been "corny". It's not the mystery being clever that makes this such a good movie, but then The Thin Man movies are not known for their Mystery stories either; it is the byplay between the husband and wife that makes the movie so very enjoyable. It is the same with this movie, the Mystery is clever enough to keep you watching and the stars of the movie have charm and charisma aplenty to make this movie a real keeper.
The Unsuspected (1947)
A Very good noir
I watched this movie because it had Claude Raines in it. And I was rewarded - this is a goody. Claude Rains, who never gave a bad performance in his life, is a smooth, sly, delectable scoundrel who pretends to be a loving Uncle; but before the movie is over kills one of his Nieces and tries his best to do away with the other - not to mention knocking off his Secretary and his Nephew. I think the reason it has been overlooked is that it seems like a "Laura" knockoff - the one by Otto Preminger starring Clifton Webb and Gene Tierney - and there are great similarities it even has the portrait of the beautiful "dead" girl hanging on the wall. But there are great differences in the two movies and therein lies the fun. Joan Caulfied plays the heroinewho has an amnesia - or does she? Or has someone caused Joan to think she has amnesia? But the pies de résistance is Audrey Totter who plays an amoral woman with such delicious gusto you really enjoy every scene she is in. It is fascinating to watch her be nasty as she does it with such panache. She very nearly steals the movie from Claude Raines - I know I sure missed her when she got killed - the movie wasn't nearly as exciting with her gone. All in all it is a good noir. In fact, very good for a "Laura" knockoff.
This Man Is Mine (1934)
Witty, Sophisticated version of She Took My Man
I probably saw this on American Movie Classics and did not tape it, not realizing that my chance would not come again. This movie is fun. Irene Dunne was in the early years when she was still playing heroic roles and here she plays the wife who is done wrong. It was refreshing to see Ralph Bellamy who so often played the put upon boy-friend who lost the girl to Cary Grant, as instead the object of desire fought over by the two women. But as I remember the movie it is Constance Cummings who gets to steal the movie because she is given some of the most interesting reasons for husband stealing, forgiveness of same and even has the audacity to lecture Irene Dunne -in a very sophisticated, urbane way of course. I wish it would come out of DVD. Failing that I wish Turner Classic Movies or AMC would run it again so I can tape it.