Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Montgomery Clift (in most films)
Ones I tend to avoid (cause I don't like them):
Johnny Mack Brown
The rest, I am neutral. Usually.
I prefer Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly.
I'm not a fan of modern films. My favourite genres are screwball comedy and melodrama, although I do enjoy a good film noir as much as the next girl.
Tom Hanks is the contemporary actor I can tolerate the most. I can also tolerate Nicole Kidman, but only before her plastic face.
To prove I am not a robot. I post deep, meaningless movie reviews on films I watch. They are often useless things, but I try. I am very biased on who I like and don't like
That is all.
She Wouldn't Say Yes (1945)
Wanted to say yes
Rosalind Russell must have been tired of these films where she plays a career woman who doesn't need men, yet there is some slightly creepy guy who forces his way into her life, then she falls for him, or she marries someone out of convenience and ends up falling in love with him, or something like that. The Feminine Touch, Hired Wife, Take A Letter, Darling...the list goes on.
By this point, I'm guessing no one had quite noticed that they had bled poor Roz's typecasting dry...ah, well, better things (read: Auntie Mame) were around the corner.
Here, she's psychiatrist named Susan Lane, and *suprise* she doesn't need men. She meets Lee Bowman's character, a cartoonist and army man named Michael Kent, after he smashes a door in her face and knocks her down. He keeps following her, pretending they're married to get her a seat, sneaking into her office when she's working, getting chummy with her father and butler Albert, and eventually going so far as to marry her to him without her consent. Nice guy.
Of course, this being Hollywood, Roz does a complete 180 with twenty minutes left in the film and suddenly loves Lee Bowman, only for him to run away with one of her patients who has a hatred of men after a few unhappy coincidences(Adele Jergens), but don't worry, they get back together. On a train. How lovely (read: clichéd).
Rosalind Russell and Lee Bowman could have had great chemistry, as a couple of kisses in the film show, but unfortunately the script is so badly written that they're two hunks of oak. Roz does her usual, Bowman is written to be a creepy misogynistic stalker, Roz's father is written to be also very misogynistic. The butler should have been played by someone like Felix Bressart. Roz's secretary should have been played by someone like Zasu Pitts.
Griping aside, the set design and production values are very admirable, especially since this ain't an M-G-M production. LOVED the set for Roz's house, and the office. So much Art Deco 😻. Roz also gets a lot of nice gowns to wear, and for once she's given a flattering hairstyle and NO stupid hats. But I do like to watch for Roz's stupid hats, so that was slightly disappointing for me that there were no stupid hats. Ah, well, I'll just watch The Women again. 🙂
It's not the worst film you'll ever see from this era, but it's films like this that give the classics a bad name. There's more misogyny here than Woman Of The Year ever had, and that one's been catching flack recently. 😬
It's far from Roz's worst film, however. That would be Mourning Becomes Electra. Hands down.
Nor recommended, but I didn't hate it.
When the subplot is better than the main plot
Had this only been a Randolph Scott/Irene Dunne outing, I would have only given this film a four and probably just barely have finished it. The addition of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as second bananas pretty much carried the film by itself. While that may seem harsh, I have liked Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne in other things- they were great together in My Favourite Wife- they just weren't very good here.
The plot is too heavy for an Astaire-Rogers outing. A traveling band led by a guy named Huck (Astaire) stop off in Paris, looking for a place to play. With them is a maybe-football player (Scott) whose aunt owns a dress shop. Working at the dress shop is a pretty Russian princess named Stephanie (Dunne), and one of the clients at the dress shop is the boisterous Countess Schwarenka (Rogers), who turns out to be Huck's ex-girlfriend Lizzie. Then the aunt dies, Randolph Scott inherits the dress shop, Randolph Scott pursues Irene Dunne, and Astaire dances with Rogers. How will it end? See if you can get to the end first.
Randolph Scott is very wooden and not given much to do to begin with- not that he makes an effort, he's very "Hey! Let's see how many times I can say 'Gee, that's swell.' to EVERY DAMN THING EVERYONE SAYS." If he said "Gee, that's swell" one more time, I might have thrown my tablet at the wall. Irene Dunne is no better, and she's about as Russian as the New York Times. She gets to do her cutesy American shtick that she did in pretty much all of her other films (unless there was someone to get her to reign it in).
Despite having leading roles in The Gay Divorcee (1934), Fred and Ginger were unfortunately relegated to supporting roles, and none of the important songs are sung until about forty minutes in. I'd say that after the aunt dies, the film gets better- more dancing and more songs. Not all of the songs from the Broadway show are in this film- but there were two others added, I Won't Dance and Lovely To Look At. Those songs proved so popular in the film that they have since been used in most stage productions of this musical afterwards.
The best dance number in the film is the I'll Be Hard To Handle one- it was the only dance number in the Astaire-Rogers series where they were on a wooden floor, so none of their taps were dubbed in. It was also filmed entirely in one take- and those giggles on the dance floor aren't scripted. Fred Astaire also has a good number to I Won't Dance, and obviously this pairing HAS to have one romantic number, so we've got Lovely To Look At- so swoony! 😊
If ypu can tolerate the boorish main plot, you're in for quite a treat with this one. Or you could, you know, look up the dance numbers on YouTube, but that wouldn't really be the same.
It's Love I'm After (1937)
I definitely got a few chuckles from this one.
In Of Human Bondage, he was a pathetic artist with a club foot and she was an anemic, horrible, selfish waitress. Their love led to torture for both and the eventual death of one of them. Their next film, The Petrified Forest, had her as a waitress again and him as a poetic drifter- that one didn't end well either, although that time it was for him. This film, It's Love I'm After, has them as warring hammy actors in a screwball premise. Huh?
Davis and Howard never had the //greatest// chemistry ever, hence why one of them was killed off at the end of Of Human Bondage/The Petrified Forest. Here, they're quite good together, and she's not playing a waitress.
Given the three leading stars involved- Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland- I didn't expect this comedy to be very funny. None of the actors cast in it were particularly //great// at comedy, Bette Davis being the worst offender for "if I just sCrEeCh mY LiNeS, THAT WILL MAKE THEM FUNNY!" and Leslie Howard being a rather boring screen presence to begin with (still like him though).
This was also my first Olivia de Havilland film (well, full one), and while she looks pretty uncomfortable at some points (comedy wasn't her strong suit either), she does a pretty good job with her role as the starstruck fan who falls for Leslie Howard.
However, it's Eric Blore that steals the show. Given a larger part than usual, he is allowed to run wild and make bird noises however much he so desires, and he's great. The supporting actors are all your average screwball gang, the sour note in the cast being Bonita Granville as an annoying kid who likes to peek through keyholes and has got some MAJOR eyebrow problems.
Her high-pitched laugh and poor-man's Shirley Temple "Aren't I cute? Aren't I? ArEn'T I?" grated on my nerves- was disappointed that she didn't get her just desserts at the end (they should have locked her in a closet, Sylvia Fowler style).
The warring couple who love each other underneath has been done before, and better (i.e. Private Lives), but it doesn't seem tired and forced here. Davis and Howard are both surprisingly funny, even if Davis does have those unfortunate bangs that made her eyes look even bigger. Both have quite a few good lines, but there's a large chunk of the film right in the middle where she's sort of forgotten about (and she has less time than Howard/de Havilland), and that throws the plot sideways. I was actually cheering for her return ☺.
If you hated Of Human Bondage/ The Petrified Forest (as I did), you should check this one out. It isn't exactly a hidden gem, nor is it unjustly forgotten, as some reviews are gushing, but it's a nice little film and a pleasant discovery.
Top Hat (1935)
And I seem to find the happiness I seek...when Fred and Ginger are dancing Cheek To Cheek.
While Swing Time may be the best Astaire-Rogers outing in terms of score (what a score) and perhaps costumes (minus the blackface)- Top Hat is easily a very, very close second best in that it has a decent plot (odd for a Fred and Ginger film) and that it knows how to execute it (also odd for a Fred and Ginger film). The score of this one is nothing to sneeze at, either.
Jerry (Astaire) is a dancer (der) who disturbs a sleeping Dale (Rogers) one night while rehearsing one of his dance routines. Wanting to make good, he borrows a cab and deceives her into thinking he's a cab driver, but she finds out and is understandably upset. It starts to rain, and after general refusal, Dale is soon won over by Jerry. Screwball antics follow, thanks to a case of mistaken identity where Dale thinks that Jerry is the husband (actually, the husband is Edward Everett Horton) of her friend Madge (). Dale's also engaged to costume designer Beddini (), but, you know, Fred gets Ginger and they dance off into the sunset. That's not really a spoiler, because that's how all of their films end. Apart from The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle. But it's not the ending that matters, it's how they get there.
All of the music and lyrics are by Irving Berlin. Most of the songs are fabulous- hello, Cheek To Cheek and Isn't It A Lovely Day (To Be Caught In The Rain?)- but The Piccolino is a real stinker, even if the dance and how it's staged are very asthetically satisfying. The Piccolino was actually the third and final attempt (after The Carioca and The Continental) to create a popular dance for the public to take up à la The Charleston, but they seemd to have forgotten that we can't dance like Fred and Ginger. 😏
The aforementioned CTC and ITALD (TBCITR?) have perhaps two of the best staged (if not the two best staged) routines Fred and Ginger ever did,. They're both very famous, and have been referenced as well as spoofed countless times, but to see them in their entirety- wow. Ginger Rogers may have been a slightly lesser dancer than Fred when it came to the tap (for instance, if you've watched and rewatched the Pick Yourself Up number from Swing Time, as I have, you notice that she's given slightly fewer steps than he), but she was his equal when it came to the ballroom stuff. In those numbers, they were one person. They flowed together like water, and even though there was little mouth-to-mouth action in their films, you can feel their sexual tension coming off the screen in waves when they dance. Ginger was also his best partner in that she was an actress who danced, whereas all of the others (Powell, Charisse and to some extent Hayworth) were dancers who acted. She reacts the best to when he's singing to her, or flirting to her. It's fabulous.
The costumes are amazing, and the Art Deco sets are sheer delight.
Highly, highly recommended. It's heaven.
Storm in a Teacup (1937)
A ripple- but a very nice ripple at that
While Rex Harrison and Vivien Leigh aren't exactly the best couple to ever hit celluloid, and some of the less funny scenes go on and on while the funny scenes seem to stop before they've even begun, Storm In A Teacup is a pretty good place to begin if you've never seen a film with either...before they went Hollywood (before she was Scarlett O'Hara and he was Henry Higgins).
It's a political satire- Viv's character's father (Cecil Parker in a kilt) is the mayor of a small town and intends to run for governor. However, there's a young journalist (Rex Harrison) who has written an unflattering article about him for the local paper. Paker has decided to take away a woman's (Sara Allgood) dog due to her not paying her dog-owners license. Rex sets out to bring back her dog, bring the town justice, and write news articles, all while romancing Vivien Leigh. Sure, there's a rich woman (Urusla Jeans) who despises him and thinks he's no good, but ah, well, they all end up okay in the end.
Some parts of the film are spoofs of American culture, but there are a couple that were clearly influenced by American films. There are some screwballish elements to the plot, and the house that Viv and her father live in looks like it's right off the M-G-M lot.
Rex Harrison is pretty good in his role, it was a shock to see him so young, even if he just looked like his older self with more wrinkles. Vivien Leigh clearly hadn't developed her acting ability yet, which is unfortunate, and get a load of how many closeups they give her! Seriously. She says something, then there's a close-up of her looking pensive.
If you played a drinking game where you took a shot every time she had a close-up, you'd be tanked halfway through watching. There's a disappointingly small amount of funny scenes (the best ones would be either the one where Rex and Viv are in the fun house or the one where the dogs storm the house), but the film as a whole is enjoyable. Sara Allgood is good in her role as the woman who's having her dog taken away, and Cecil Parker is droll as Viv's father. Ursula Jeans is the main weak spot in the casting, but she's not on screen much, so it's not a problem.
It's not a storm in a teacup- the title is misleading- but it's a good little film, and could almost be considered a hidden gem. Seek it out if you haven't already.
Within the Law (1923)
Good performance by Talmadge
Shopgirl Mary Turner (Norma Talmadge) is sent to prison for three years for a crime she didn't commit- stealing from her workplace. She vows to get back at her boss for everything he owes her for doing her wrong, and her time in prison isn't exactly deserved.
She makes a friend in prison named Aggie (), and when they get out, Mary vows to go straight instead of being wrapped up in a life of crime like Aggie plans to do, but when she can't get any jobs due to having done time in prison, she decides to commit suicide by jumping into a lake. She is saved, however, by a conman named Joe Garson (), and relents to a life of crime. She gets back at her boss, little by little, raking in the money...within the law. Another scheme of hers is to take up with the boss's son (), but when he proposes, love gets in the way of revenge. A big heist turns to an attempted frame-up, a man is killed, and Mary is accused of murder.
I would have given this film a higher rating, seeing as I liked the story and the acting was good (particularly by Talmadge), but the story just kept plodding on and on. Too much of the story was devoted to the courtship of Mary and the boss's son, too much time was devoted to the attempted heist, but contrary to the remake Paid (1930), the scenes in the police station don't seem to go on long enough. The editing is pretty bad, odd fadeouts after the intertitles but rather sloppy editing from scene to scene where the film appears to have been spliced right on top of each other.
As I mentioned above, Norma Talmadge gave a very good performance as Mary Turner, bar the fact that her face seemed to have been stuck in the same wronged expression for most of the film. That's a nitpicky detail, and if there had been Oscars in 1923, Talmadge would have won. As with a lot of her contemporaries, her filmography isn't very vast, because a lot of her silents have been lost, but the ones that have survived aren't as good as this one.
The actor who played the son of Mary's boss was pretty boring and I don't see why Mary would have fallen for him in the first place, but love is blind, I guess. Provided some good comic relief as Aggie ("Oh, I'm so fwightened!" is a phrase she likes to repeat).
Overall, recommended, but be aware that it really does overstay its welcome. A cut of twenty minutes wouldn't have impaired the story any.
Barbed Wire (1927)
Forbidden love and war
A patriotic French farm girl named Mona (Pola Negri), her father (Claude Gillingwater) and her brother (Einar Hanson) have their farm taken over by the German army, as it is World War 1 and they need somewhere to make a base. The brother is sent off to war, only to be killed (he doesn't really get killed, he's just presumed dead). This causes the father to have a stroke. Mona, meanwhile, while working on her farm, grows to resent the Germans, particularly a dashing soldier named Oscar (Clive Brook) and a clownish little man who's determined to make her smile (Clyde Cook).
Her resent for Oscar melts into something else- romance- and they become lovers. Their secret is out when Mona defends Oscar after another soldier tries to rape her and Oscar fights him off, and the French people brand Mona as a traitor- they do everything but throw stones at her. Mona's father even dies of shock/rage after he catches Mona in Oscar's arms. Oscar tries to save Mona from more scorn by going away, knowing that they hate her because they hate him, and she is left alone for a couple of years. Then the war is over, the battles are all done, and presumably Mona and Oscar can live together in peace?
Apparently not- they are given ten minutes to decide whether she goes out of France or if he does by the French people, who even though the war is over still think Mona is a traitor. Mona and Oscar are starting their walk of shame when an unexpected visitor shows up to the farm - Mona's brother, not dead but blinded. The French people tell him that his sister is a traitor for banging a German (nice people), but he declares that he thinks Oscar is a good man with a kind face. Insert patriotic, slightly preachy speech that is slightly unwelcome but nothing compared to what we get today.
Pola Negri is very convincing as a French farm girl- I've seen a few of her silents now, and I have to say, I think she's much better when she isn't cast in a vamp role. She was a very gifted actress, and it shows in roles like this- her talent to convey emotions using her face without descending into those histrionics that give silent movie actors a bad name enables her to play a believable character, one that comes across as a human being. She's given a lot of closeups, and what she does with them...wow.
Clive Brook (must look up more films with him) is also very good as a German, and he and Pola were such a great couple that it broke my heart that people didn't like them together. Clyde Cook does a variety of pratfalls and somersaults throughout the film, bringing welcome comic relief to an otherwise somber and quite depressing film. Admittedly the story is routine and the preachy ending is a bit unwelcome- the acting gets a ten but the story itself gets an unremarkable five. I'm splitting it to make a seven.
Overall, recommended, especially for people who are into silent films but have never seen one with Pola Negri. You'll see why she was held in such high regard.
China Seas (1935)
I'm glad I'm not the only person that thinks that this film was obviously a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of Red Dust, but anyone who has never seen the prior film may not have noticed the parallels.
The main difference is that this one is on a boat instead of in the rubber plantations of Indochina, instead of a Mary Astor we have an early-career (read: before Hollywood knew what she was capable of and cast her in roles that seem very stupidly cast considering her talents today) Rosalind Russell and to top it off, big scary very bad Wallace Beery (I don't think he's evil here, but I don't remember exactly).
It's a rather unimpressive and unremarkable outing for the Gable-Harlow duo- not their worst (that would be The Secret Six or the unfortunate Saratoga), but it isn't near up to the level of Wife Versus Secretary, Hold Your Man and the aforementioned Red Dust.
Harlow isn't given much to do, and unfortunately her character is very muted and boring (thank you, production code 🙄)- this is nowhere near her finest hour. On the flip side, and I have to agree with other reviews again here, all she does is shout or shriek.
Gable isn't much better, Wallace Beery is very unremarkable, none of the supporting actors are that great, and poor Roz is caught up in a flurry of shouting and overacting and does little morenthan stand there.
It's not unwatchable, but it's not above mediocre, and even though the film is about an hour and twenty-five minutes, it feels like it's about three hours long. Some of the disaster on the boat sequences are okay, but the dialogue is clichéd and the story is basically Red Dust on a boat.
I can't recommend this one unless you've seen every other Gable-Harlow pairing, but even then, this one isn't remarkable. Gable and Harlow are fire (woosh🔥) together, but that fire can't save this film.
Love Affair (1939)
So good that I don't even mind the schizophrenic genre change.
This film starts out as a romantic comedy and ends up switching halfway through to a melodrama, but it's so good and seamless that I don't mind.
Terry (Irene Dunne), an opera singer, and Michel (Charles Boyer), a playboy, meet on an ocean cruise and fall in love. They just really be I love, as as the boat stops, he takes her to see his grandmother.
Both are already engaged to be married, but they promise to meet in six months at the top of the Empire State Building (at the time this film was made, that was the tallest building in the world, and as Terry puts it "The closest to Heaven we have on Earth.") Those six months pass, and Terry doesn't see any of Michel (nor he of her), but she carries a candle for him, as does he for her.
When she is going to the Empire State, however, she is hit by a car and becomes temporarily (they'll know for real in six months, one doctor says) paralyzed from the waist down, confining her to a wheelchair.
She doesn't want to be seen by Michel like this, so she sort of goes into hiding and starts work at an orphanage. However, Michel soon finds her and they are confronted with learning to love and accept fate, but the ending (spoiler) shows that Michel is willing to love her no matter what, even if she does end up being paralyzed forever. Awwww....❤
Dunne and Boyer are perfect in their roles- Dunne gets to sing a song and Boyer gets to make the ladies swoon with his charming Frenchness. They have beautiful chemistry together, their characters seem like real people, and the ending that in anyone's hands would have been corny and stupid is adorable and slightly tear-inducing when Dunne and Boyer do it. Leo McCarey directs well, and the set design adds to the lovey-dovey mood of the film.
One complaint- the print.
This film is a true classic, but because of the popularity of the two remakes (I haven't seen An Affair To Remember or the Warren Beatty/Annette Benning Love Affair, not have I seen Sleepless In Seattle, but I do not desire to), it's implied that it's meant to be forgotten about.
This film isn't on a decent DVD, and what prints of it you can find are pretty bad (Criterion Collection, are you listening?) That's a minor nitpicky detail, but it's also a very important one.
Overall, very recommended, particularly if you like romantic weepies or either of the stars. If you like the Dunne-Boyer pairing and you've never seen this one, there's something very wrong with you.
When Tomorrow Comes (1939)
Doesn't know what it wants to be
After Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne had been paired together in the fabulous Love Affair (1939), someone decided to pair them together again (that's the other film of theirs- Together Again (1944)), and this was the result.
It starts as a drama about women going on strike for unfair wages and there's a lot of time devoted to a working people's union, then Dunne meets Boyer and the next part of the film is devoted to their acquaintance, then there is a hurricane and they're forced to take refuge in a church, then there's drama involving Boyer, his unstable wife (gee, it's Barbara O'Neill! What a shocker! 😏) and his love with Dunne, but this being a Hollywood movie, the good couple wins- moralistically, of course. This was made under the production code, after all.
It's not that the film needed a couple of cuts- in fact, with all the plot changes, it should have been half an hour longer, or even two Dunne-Boyer films. It's that it jumps around too much and it's boring.
Dunne's working woman fair wages campaign is pretty much forgotten about after she falls in love with Boyer. Not enough time is given to Barbara O'Neill's character, other than to develop her as a crazy psycho b*tch, and remind us that O'Neill was so much more effective as Boyer's crazy psycho b*tch wife in All This, And Heaven Too (1940).
Dunne is no more or less annoying than usual- she sings a song while Boyer plays the piano, so her fans will like that. Me, I'm not overly fond of her singing, and so I just tuned out until she was done.
She and Boyer have chemistry that was just as good as what they had in Love Affair, and this film has a moralistic ending too, but what the ending of Love Affair is sweet and will bring a tear to your eye, the ending of this one is like "Well, now it's over and you can do something else now." The acting is pretty good, O'Neill is very over-the-top, but if you've seen AT,AHT, you know what to expect from her in a role like this.
Overall, not as good as Love Affair, but not quite as bad as Together Again. It won't kill you if yoy watch it, but it's disappointing.
The Doughgirls (1944)
A very loud, but very fun, if not quite perfect, comedy
If you don't like films that rely on loud, wisecracking comedy, you will probably not like this one. Likewise, if you do not understand the main joke of the film (there was a housing shortage in Washington where this film is set, in the WW11 era), or some of the references, the film will probably fall flat. But if you want a fun comedy with scenes reminiscent of the housing troubles Ruth and Eileen Sherwood (Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair) had in the film My Sister Eileen, you will inevitably love this film.
There's a cast of characters- have fun spotting actors you may know. Jane Wyman, who I've never thought of as being capable of comedy, plays the dimwitted Vivian, who isn't blonde but has dumb blonde wisecracks flying out of her mouth like spit. Quite a few of them are funny, too. Character actor (or just character) Jack Carson is her somewhat hot-tempered husband Arthur. They arrive at a hotel in Washington for their honeymoon, but the suite they want to rent is being occupied by another married couple- who, after a lot of bickering between the two women, are revealed to be Vivian's old friend Edna (Ann Sheridan, the oomph girl) and her husband Julian (John Ridgely).
Then another friend of Viv and Edna shows up, Nan (Alexis Smith), who's going to get married to a soldier named Tom (Craig Stevens). However, it soon turns out that none of the women who think they're married aren't really married at all, thanks to Julian's soon-to-be but not really wanting to be ex-wife Sylvia (the deliciously b*tchy Irene Manning). Visitors come and go, including the hotel manager after the bill (Francis Pierlot), an man who just wants to take a nap, and Jack Carson's boss Stanley Slade (Charles Ruggles) who eventually falls for Jane Wyman, but another one that decides to stay is the Russian sergeant Natalia (Eve Arden).
Arden's Russian sergeant is clearly a send-up of Garbo-does-Ninotchka, complete with bobbed hair, rifles galore, and a deliberately exaggerated accent, and it's hilarious. Ann Sheridan and Alexis Smith (I honestly couldn't tell which was which for a while) are good as the smarter friends of Viv, but they also seem to be deliberately overexaggerating their gestures and reactions as well. The fashion is very, very forties- the hair, the clothes, shoulder pads everywhere (Joan Crawford would be proud), but that just makes it even more fun, even if it does show that the film is a product of its time (I mean that in a good way 🙂)
Most of the humor is those kind of jokes that you either have to have been around in the time or know about the time to get, but if you do get them, they're very funny. The film was based off of a stage play, and it shows, but I'm not the sort of person to complain about that 😏. Perhaps it is a bit long, but it's a welcome sort of long. You feel like you're really in the hotel with these women. Does it end well for all of them? Watch the film.
All I all, recommended, but only if you like loud comedy. There's a lot of shouting, and a lot of noise, all of which is used for comedic purposes. If you liked the original My Sister Eileen, you'll like this one.
All This, and Heaven Too (1940)
All this, and schmaltzy suds too
I contemplated giving this film an unfavorable rating, but I had to think for a while to see if I really hated it or not. Have decided that it wasn't that bad after all, but not really that great. It's overrated, but still okay. Bette Davis and Charles Boyer have both done much worse. Much, much worse.
Bette Davis stars as Harriet Deluzy, a governess turned schoolteacher who tries to teach at an all-girl's school but is mocked and jeered from the moment she enters the room, thanks to her past. She tells off the girls who are mocking her, and through flashbacks we learn how she got to be where she is now.
Back in her home of France- you'd be forgiven for thinking that it wasn't France, as no one but Charles Boyer has an adequate French accent- Harriet was a governess hired by Charles Boyer's French Duc. His four children grow fond of her, as does he, but his crazy psycho b*tch of a wife (Barbara O'Neill) doesn't like her and is jealous of her. Scandal ensues, but it's a long, long, LONG time coming. The film is two and a half hours long, and nothing much happens until the last forty-five minutes. However, what does come is (minor spoilers) a killing, a scandal and a suicide.
Davis is alright as the French governess- not amazing, just alright. Note her Marlene Dietrich French accent- it fluctuates between her usual clipped speech and what sounds like a German accent. She's abandoned her usual stack of mannerisms, and I appreciate her for that, but playing a meek, patient and mild character like Harriet Deluzy isn't her forte. She's not //quite// convincing, but she does what she can, and the result is mostly pretty good. Not her finest hour, though.
Charles Boyer does his typical French lover man thing that he did in films such as Love Affair and When Tomorrow Comes, but he always did it well. Unfortunately, he has little to no chemistry with Bette Davis- I know this was supposed to be a subtle romance, with quiet sexual tension between the two leads, but it comes across as awful dry. Even if there had been a kiss on the head from Charles to Bette...ah, well, you can't have everything. His violent acts in the denouement came as a surprise to me- he played a creep in Gaslight, yes, but that came as a surprise to me too. Nice surprise, though.
Barbara O'Neill brings us the campy, scary performance in place of Bette Davis. She had previously played Charles Boyer's crazy psycho b*tch wife in When Tomorrow Comes (1939), so she was more than a shoe-in for the role, but one can't help but wonder if she was originally slated to play Harriet Deluzy and Bette Davis was supposed to play the crazy wife but they decided to switch. Probably not. 🙂
The child actors are all overly saccharine and schmaltzy, but that can be expected in a 1940s women's picture. Dinah from The Philadelphia Story is one, and I think another is the boy from A Woman's Face (1941)- they're as American as baseball and apple pie, but for the most part they're actually quite good. Minus the boy's obviously Southern drawl (listen to his drawing out of the word Maaaaaahm-zelle).
The dialogue was also very schmaltzy (I like this word), but not quite cringe-worthy. One fact of note is that the word "mademoiselle" is uttered in some way, shape or form SIX HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN times in this movie (see IMDb trivia section if you do not believe me). (Spoiler) the entire room of girls bursting into tears at the end of Bette's story was a bit of an "excuse me while I go retch in the corner" moment, but the rest of the film barely manages to avoid the eternal cringe.
Overall, kind of recommended, but it helps to be a fan of, or at least tolerant of, Bette Davis/ Charles Boyer.
Keeper of the Flame (1942)
Not much happens
I'm not fond of Spencer Tracy or Kate Hepburn when they're on their own, but I really, really like them together. Each seems to make the other palatable, even if they're just doing their usual (Tracy plays Tracy...and Hepburn plays Hepburn). However, they did have their share of stinkers, and this is probably the biggest of them all. It's only notable for the fact that this is the only Tracy-Hepburn film where one of them dies.
The plot is that national hero Robert Forrest was killed in a car accident, but journalist Steve O'Malley (Tracy) wants the truth. He approaches Forrest's widow Christine (Hepburn), but she and some of her lackeys are hiding things about Robert and who he really was, as well as what he really stood for. The political undertones in this film aren't really undertones, they're much too strong to be comfortably there, but it's not the fact that the film is saturated in political undertones that makes it a dud. It's the fact that nothing happens.
Katharine Hepburn is acting so hard that you don't feel any sympathy for her character. Get a load of that first dress she wears- it's like a straitjacket! Spencer Tracy isn't given much to do other than scowl and mug for the camera, and wear his hat at a jaunty angle. The chemistry that they had so strongly is Woman Of The Year is pretty much non-existent here- there could have been a romance subplot, but because everyone is too busy acting, it just wouldn't have been believable. Even though it's TRACY AND HEPBURN. Yikes.
None of the other actors are anything special, they're merely stock characters. Audrey Christie is all wrong in a role that needed an Eve Arden or a Rosalind Russell. Stephen McNally is your average evil dude with a mustache. That annoying child actor is the stock crying little boy who helps the protagonist. And Margaret Wycherty is your stock batty old mother of the deceased man. The M-G-M sets are too slick, too similar to other M-G-M sets, and it's bothersome. George Cukor's directing style is all wrong for a propaganda film that's just dying to be directed by Frank Capra. There are even Capra-esque touches, like the newsreel montages at the beginning and the end.
There's not much to recommend here, unless you like wartime preachy propaganda films with Katharine Hepburn doing too much acting, like she usually does, and Spencer Tracy mugging too much, like HE usually does. This film tries its damndest to be sort of like His Girl Friday meets Citizen Kane and fails dramatically.
I only watched it because I'm trying to watch all the Tracy-Hepburn films (six down and three- Desk Set, State Of The Union and The Sea Of Grass- to go).
Pat and Mike (1952)
Alright, entertaining, but not quite something special
Pat Pemberton (Katharine Hepburn) is a professional athlete with one problem- she can't perform well when her fiancé Davie (Aldo Ray) is watching. Enter coach Mike (Spencer Tracy) who finds her and decides that he can bring out the best in her.
Since this is a Tracy-Hepburn film, you're pretty much just counting down the seconds until they declare that they love each other. Of course, the ride there is exceptionally fun, especially for a Tracy-Hepburn pairing.
Seeing as the film is basically built around Katharine Hepburn's sporting abilities (she was a near professional golfer and tennis player), it's a pleasant surprise that there is actually a sort of plot stringing it together.
Of course there's the underlying theme of combating sexism and a strong feminist heroine- it is a Katharine Hepburn movie- but her character and the film's messages have held up much "better" than Woman Of The Year or Adam's Rib.
Hepburn is more palatable than usual here, her voice not seeming to grate as much as usual. She basically just plays herself (again), but it's a fun version of herself.
Spencer Tracy is also pretty good as shady Mike the coach, and his chemistry with Hepburn is very strong here. The sexual tension could light a fire without a match, and I love it. Aldo Ray is also good as Hepburn's slightly sleazy fiancé, and the rest of the actors are fine too. The screenplay is very good, with a lot of the jokes still funny today.
What plot is here is thin, but not hokey. The sports shots are very impressive, and Hepburn definitely impressed me with her golfing- maybe she should have become a sportswoman instead of an actress. Famous golfer Babe Dedrickson Zaharias makes a cameo as herself and plays against Hepburn (I think Dedrickson wins).
It isn't the greatest Tracy-Hepburn film (that would be Adam's Rib), but it's in the top five and far from the worst (that would be Guess Who's Coming To Dinner). I don't like Tracy or Hepburn on their own, but I love them together, and I recommend this film to sports film lovers and fans of the stars/pairing.
It's entertaining fun. That's all that matters.
A Farewell to Arms (1932)
Good cinematography, everything else blah
This film would probably be all but forgotten if it weren't for the fact that it was the first film adaptation of a Hemingway novel.
I'm probably never going to be fond of Hemingway's boring, lifeless way of storytelling, but the book version of A Farewell To Arms is okay. Not great- none of Hemingway's books are, in my opinion-but okay.
The movie is stilted and bland, with VERY hammy acting, particularly by Helen Hayes. She overgesticulates and widens her eyes every so often, like a bad silent movie actress. I haven't seen her in any other films, but no thanks to this one, I really don't want to.
The hokey dialogue and lifeless love scenes don't help her any, nor does being paired up with Gary Cooper, whom she has no chemistry with. By the end, I was honestly just cheering for her to die.
Gary Cooper does his usual "Yep" sort of performance, but he's quite attractive here. Adolphe Menjou isn't very good either, and all the rest of the supporting cast seem to be having a "who can do the worst Italian accent" contest between each other.
The plot is your average schmaltzy romantic melodrama about a (clearly not very good) soldier who falls in love with a nurse, gets her pregnant, continues being selfish, and she dies in childbirth (the baby too). You don't care for any of the characters, either in the book or in this film.
The cinematography is the only thing the film's got going for it- the destruction scenes are very well done, although there is one scene where the ambulances are driving and you can tell that they're probably model ambulances or toys or something like that.
Ernest Hemingway hated this adaptation of his novel, and I see why. It suffers from early talkie syndrome, as every film from 1932 did, but Grand Hotel compared to this one is fresh and modern. Not recommended- just watch bits and pieces of it and then say you watched the whole thing.
A Stolen Life (1946)
Bette and Bette go after Glenn
Always love when I can find Bette Davis movies to like, seeing as I'm not that big of a fan of hers. A Stolen Life didn't sound promising on paper, but I'm glad I watched it. I ADORED this film.
Bette Davis plays Kate, a young woman who likes to paint. She meets Bill (Glenn Ford) after charming her way into his boat- she missed her ferry and needed a ride to the island where she's staying. Their relationship blossoms into romance, and they promise to get married after a courtship, but Kate's hiding something from him and not letting him go into her house. We find out why after about twenty-five minutes, where it's revealed that Kate has a twin sister named Patricia (also Davis), who's a bitchy mantrap.
Bill doesn't find out about this, however, until Pat tricks him into having lunch with her instead of Kate. At a barn dance that Bill invites her to, Kate sees her sister kissing Bill, and she's heartbroken, but she's too good to do anything about it. Bill ends up marrying Patricia, and they go off to a different city, Kate still in love with Bill and too upset to do anything about it. She has an art exhibition, where a hobo-ish guy named (), trashes her work, sort of takes her under his wing, and ends up (maybe) falling for her too.
Around this time, Patricia comes back to where Kate is and we find that Kate has become more like Patricia (she smokes now) and Patricia has become more like Kate (she wears slacks and is learning to sail). They go on a boat trip, but there's a storm and Patricia is swept overboard, Kate discovering when she wakes up that people think she's Patricia- sure, she's got Bill now, but she soon finds out that Bill was planning to divorce Patricia after he found out she'd been having an affair. What will happen next? Watch the film.
The cinematography of this one is amazing- it's exceptional for 1946, and still very good when it comes to special effects, even for now. Few body doubles, not a lot of long shots, but Bette Davis interacting with Bette Davis. There is one scene where Patricia is talking to Kate, who's in bed, and it's a spliced shot of two different pieces of Bette Davis, and you don't have to look too closely to see the black line where it's spliced (the very bottom of Patricia's legs are missing), but now I'm nitpicking.
Bette Davis is exceptionally excellent as Kate/Patricia, managing to give the two twins separate personalities, even if it is just the standard one-good-one-bad that is often done with twins. Kate is a rare sympathetic Bette Davis heroine that you actually feel sympathy for, and Patricia is Bette Davis at her bitchy best.
Glenn Ford seems like an odd choice for Bette's love interest, but they mash surprisingly well together, so much so that the ending which I thought would make me cringe made me sigh "Awwwww..." Walter Brennan has a bit part as Glenn's sailor dad/uncle or something. The rest of the actors are also pretty good.
Sure, it's melodramatic, but in a good way.
Very strong 9/10 and a eager recommendation from me.
And you're only smilin'/ when you play your violin
Might be biased when I say that this film is even better and more Oscar-worthy than Mildred Pierce, but Mildred Pierce was sort of spoiled by me by other people raving about it, whereas Humoresque I knew next to nothing about going in. I wasn't prepared for how...melodramatic it was. How powerful, how depressing. The finale left me in tears.
The film opens with a close-up of a poster with concert violinist Paul Boray's (John Garfield) face on it, with a CLOSED sticker slapped on it. You wonder how this happened and how this Paul Boray character got to be there. The film is told in flashback, it being a noir melodrama.
Paul Boray (Robert Blake) is a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who decides he wants to take up playing the violin, despite his father's disapproval and the fact that they aren't exactly rich. He soon becomes a sort of prodigy, grows up to become John Garfield, and gets sent to a fancy music school, where his skills continue to grow and he meets a girl named Gina (Joan Chandler, in her film debut), who becomes his girlfriend, as well as a wisecracking piano player played by (who else) Oscar Levant. He (Paul) becomes noticed, and is asked to perform at a house party of a rich socialite.
But it isn't any rich socialite- it's Helen Wright (Joan Crawford) a selfish, nearsighted, alcoholic woman who's torn her way through three husbands and basically takes everything for granted. She grows fond of Paul, decides to sponsor him, thinking that she can toss him aside too. However, as her love for him grows stronger, she falls as he rises, sort of like A Star Is Born but better.
Joan Crawford is the perfect actress to play Helen Wright- I imagine that this is the character that Crawford played that was closest to herself. Sure, she was selfish, took everything for granted, and may not have been the most pleasant person to be around, but that was only on the outside. Inside the selfish brick wall, there was a woman who needed love and understanding more than she needed hatred and mocking, which is a trait both Joan and Helen shared. Helen's obsessive love for Paul Boray, like Crawford's appreciation for her fans, ended up being the only thing she could hang onto. When that was gone, nothing else was left, because no one else loved her. The ending scene is haunting- Helen, washed-up and deprived of hope, broken and disgusted with herself, decides that she can no longer go on. She listens to Paul Boray's concert on the radio at the beach house and throws her glass at the reflection of herself, and commences her solemn walk along the beach, tears streaming down her face but her head held high. The film swaps between Paul Boray playing and Helen Wright's suicide walk, and then she's gone.
John Garfield is equally good as Paul Boray, but once Joan Crawford comes on-screen (33 minutes in) he becomes less important- not as a character, it's just that Helen Wright/Joan Crawford is an all-consuming screen presence. Joan Chandler holds her own as Gina, although she's merely a plot device and is all but forgotten about after a while. Oscar Levant does his usual wisecracking shtick and plays the piano, which gets annoying after a while- love him as a piano player, but who told him he could act?
The cinematography and camerawork is amazing- moody lighting and lots of closeups of both stars, particularly Crawford. Maybe the problem with the plot is that there's too much, and at 125 minutes, there is A LOT of melodrama to take in, but if that's your forte, you will LOVE it. There are many musical interludes, which may tick you off if you don't appreciate classical music, but the score is very well done- mixing classical pieces with contemporary (for the time) songs.
10/10 and very strongly recommended to people who love classical music, noir melodrama, Joan Crawford, John Garfield, or anything along those lines. Leonard Maltin put it best when he wrote, "A cardboard soap opera this is not."
Sadie Thompson (1928)
The best version of the story.
What a film- just what a film. Excellently acted, so much so that Gloria Swanson and Lionel Barrymore could probably be in movies today and they would fit right in (ha, ha- they're WAY too good for the tripe that is put out today, but you know what I mean).
Jeanne Eagels may have been the definitive Sadie Thompson (there is no recorded version of the play version of this film, titled Rain, but it has been quoted that "When Jeanne Eagels died, Rain died with her").
Nevertheless, Swanson gives said Jeanne Eagels a very, very, VERY good run for her money. I've always been in awe of her magic eyes, and how she was able to convey emotion sans sound without descending into typical silent movie histrionics (not that I mind typical silent movie histrionics). I do agree that this is probably her best silent movie performance- she isn't heartbreaking, but you do feel sympathy for her. Her character of Sadie Thompson is washed-up, older, and it shows, but she still has a sort of wry, tired outlook on life. Swanson was on the tail end of her career by this point (or so she thought), but you'd never guess it. She was nominated for an Oscar at the first-ever ceremony, and in my opinion, she was more Oscar-worthy than Janet Gaynor was (although I did enjoy Gaynor in all three of her silents that she was nominated for).
Nice to see Lionel Barrymore in a role that isn't a feeble old man- he's almost as good as Swanson. Director Raoul Walsh also has a role in this film- this was BEFORE Orson Welles apparently invented doing this with Citizen Kane. Walsh is pretty good in his role, would have liked to see him act in more roles, but unfortunately an injury left him behind the camera full-time. He manages to capture a dreary mood throughout the entire film, and his cinematography is very good.
The basic plot of the film is that Sadie Thompson (Swanson), an ex-prostitute wanting to go straight, ends up on an island with a bunch of woman-hungry soldiers after the boat she is supposed to be traveling on ends up having to quarantine. One in particular (Walsh) falls in love with her, but a Protestant minister (Barrymore) doesn't approve of her ways and demands that she be deported. He also wants her to face her sins and pray for redemption and things like that, and she initially refuses, but he somehow makes to get her under his spell. One night, however, he is consumed with lust and breaks into her room, then rapes her and kills himself. It's alright for Swanson and Walsh, because they end up together (sort of) happily ever after.
The print of this silent film is actually in rather good condition, save for the final reel being lost. This invokes slight frustration, as just when the film is getting majorly intense, there is a disclaimer that pops up and the rest of the film is told in stills and newly made intertitles.
I've seen all three film adaptations of Somerset Maugham's short story, and I have to agree that this one was the best, although Rain (1932) was pretty good as well- oh, heck, I even enjoyed the Rita Hayworth 3D one Miss Sadie Thompson (1953). But in terms of technicality and acting by the entire cast, this one is the best.
Very highly recommended, even if you don't like silent films.
Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939)
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Leslie Howard and Ingrid Bergman had never acted before if you have seen this movie and nothing else with them in it.
A funny thing I've discovered, by browsing through their respective filmographies, is that neither Greta Garbo nor Ingrid Bergman had a particularly amazing American screen debut, yet both went on to become great beauties of the silver screen, as well as highly regarded actresses. It was lucky that their screen debuts didn't show their full potential, and that they would go onto better films, otherwise they would have been run out of Hollywood.
Intermezzo has nothing going for it, really. I'm told the Swedish version (from 1936, also starring Bergman) is better, so I'll have to watch the two and compare. You can tell that it was Bergman's first English-language film, and she can't help this, but her performance is poor and she seems to be struggling with the language (to mention my comparison above, Greta Garbo made her American film debut in silent films, and was able to become fluent in English before Anna Christie).
Leslie Howard has no excuse. He was good in other films, but not here, here he seems to be struggling with the English as well. Both performances by both the leads are stiff and lacking emotion, which is odd, because Leslie Howard would make GWTW this same year. And Ingrid Bergman had made En Kvinnas Ansikte the year before. Neither of them had any excuse to be lacking in acting ability. And don't get me started on the supporting actors.
The story is rather weak, and the dialogue seems more stilted than if this were an early talkie. A male violinist (thanks to the movies, I've learned that you can never trust these guys) falls in love with his daughter's piano teacher, they run away and have an affair, despite the man being married and loving his daughter. The rest of the movie is them being selfish and only caring about their love affair, until the man's daughter is run over by a car and they're forced to be moralistic and break up- thank you, Production Code!
Only the people who wrote this film could make a 69 minute melodrama seem like ten seasons of a soap opera. The music isn't even nice- it's just bland classical stuff. Don't diss the stars based on this film- both made better films before and after this one.
The Anniversary (1968)
Like shoving your head in a meat grinder for an hour and a half
I only gave this one star because the star is for me somehow managing to sit through this film. Where does one even begin? Crappy set design, unbearable dialogue, outrageous situations, and to top it all off, Bette Davis showing exactly why I don't like her.
It's supposed to be a black comedy, but instead it was a bloated spectacle of bad, bad camp. Evidently the screenwriters took a small part of the story from Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You In The Closet And I'm Feeling So Sad in that the father is a large part of the story, but he's dead. Although in Oh Dad, Poor Dad..., the father is an angel and narrates the story. Here, Bette Davis uses the dead father as a sort of looming figure to make the children feel guilty (among other things).
There are three children: Henry, the gay cross dresser who likes to steal women's undergarments, Tom, who's brought his fiancée Shirley home to his mommie, and Terry, who's planning to move to Canada with his ever-pregnant wife Karen. Their mother (er, mommie, if you will) has all of the children by strings- she knows everything about them and all the secrets they're trying to hide. They have all been brought together to celebrate the wedding anniversary of their mother and the dead father, but the mother decides to play psychological games with them and verbally and psychologically abuse them.
There is only one funny scene in this film, and that's Bette Davis's entrance. She sashays down the stairs, wearing what could best be described as a bright red tent, only to trip on the stairs, then right herself. She crosses the room and admires the flowers her son Henry has bought her, then asks very seriously if someone died. From then on, it's an uncomfortable watch, unless you like Bette Davis speaking in her annoying high voice register, squashing everyone under her thumb.
Davis (as Mrs. Taggart) camps it up to the max, and not in a fun way like she did in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane or Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte. In those films, as another reviewer pointed out, she had a Crawford or de Havilland to distill her camp, but here it's all Bette. She seems to be trying to out-camp even herself. For some reason, she reminds me of late-career Joan Crawford in this role. Not because she plays a domineering, controlling, abusive mother, but take a look at her makeup. Her eyebrows are much thicker than usual, her mouth is a red slash, and she's wearing long false eyelashes. Ring a bell? Thought so. She's allowed to run loose, all the Bette mannerisms in full swing, her seeming more like a drag queen than a woman.
There are some firecrackers, too, and they are very nice, but not nice enough to make me add stars.
Everyone else holds their own in the background...if holding their own means screeching over each other as much as possible. The worst offender is probably Elaine Taylor (Shirley), but everyone else gets some bad dialogue to spout. This film is clearly based off of a stage play (I've read that it's a reworking of The Silver Cord, another domineering mommie story, which was made into a movie starring Irene Dunne), but it must not have been a very good stage play.
And get a load of that awful title song. Gack.
I'm not sure why this film is on lists of Bette Davis's best films/performances. I was never a fan to begin with, but this film makes me especially not like her. If you like Bette Davis when she's in this mode, you'll love this film, but anyone else, even some Bette fans, will want to steer far away from this one. Movies that make you feel uncomfortable within the first few minutes are usually not a good sign.
Wish I'd listened to the other one-star reviewers. You won't be able to unsee this if you decide to watch it, and I don't mean that in a good way. 😬😬
Bette Davis- ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
The only thing I got out of this film is that it inspired to to look up more movies with Franchot Tone (OK, fine, Bette Davis too). I'd be hard pressed to remember most of the plot, but I've got the basic outline.
A faded alcoholic actress named Joyce Heath (Bette Davis) is found by Franchot Tone's character. They have a love affair and she gets back to work, but she is apparently a bad-luck charm or something, and also it turns out that she's already married to some old sick guy, and then thanks to the Hays code, she decides to be all moralistic and get him out of the hospital with her love and tenderness.
Bette Davis's performance here is pretty much just Of Human Bondage but with alcoholism. It's not one of her finest hours, and definitely NOT Oscar-worthy.
I didn't think she was very good in OHB anyway, and having to watch it twice in a row (okay, I watched OHB and then this one, but they're pretty much the same thing) didn't exactly sit well with me.
Franchot Tone has also done better, even in this same role- here he's just a stuffed tuxedo for Bette Davis to drape herself over/yell at (poor Franchot).
This review is short because I really can't think of anything else to say about this film, and I don't want to spam you with yet another rant. Don't watch this film, especially if you've already put yourself through the torture that is Of Human Bondage. It's not worth it.
En kvinnas ansikte (1938)
Forget Gaslight: THIS is Bergman's best.
Before I write this review, I must confess that I watched the Hollywood version of this film (with Joan Crawford) before I took a look at this one. Personally like to watch the remake before the original, to see how well it stands on its own as a film.
A Woman's Face stood damn fine on its own as a film- true, I am a fan of Crawford and not a //huge// fan of Bergman (I liked her in some roles, i.e. Cactus Flower and Gaslight, but wouldn't consider her a favourite), but the Hollywood A Woman's Face definitely is not a bad film. And neither is this one. I enjoyed both immensely. They were both wonderful- comparing the acting styles of Bergman and Crawford is like comparing a fish to an apple. They're definitely not the same.
There are some differences between En kvinnas ansikte and A Woman's Face (well, der, one's in Swedish and one's in English) other than the performances of the respective leads in their respective films: En kvinnas ansikte is much less lushly produced, but the dialogue oddly seems much more stilted in places.
There is no romantic attachment between the doctor and the character of Anna Holm in this version, but there was in the remake (minor spoiler). The sleigh ride where Tornsten Barring tries to kill Lars-Erik is much more disastrous in this version as well- in the remake, Crawford gets to wield her revolver. As well, this story is told all in a straight line, whereas the remake is faintly film-noiresque in that it starts in a courtroom and the story is told through flashbacks. Neither film has an outright happy ending.
Bergman is much better in the second half of this film than she is in the first. True, her scar makeup was more grotesque than Crawford's, but at the same time it looked more artifical. She looked like Gollum on one side and Ingrid Bergman on the other.
I also don't buy Ingrid Bergman as embittered or menacing, so her transition was a relief, because she actually got to do some acting. I bought Anna Paulsson the newly moraled governess more than I did Anna Holm the bitter gangster when Bergman was playing them. She is given a lot of lush closeups and flattering camera angles (think there was some soft focus in there).
One flaw the film does have is that some of the supporting actors are rather hammy (watch the film and you'll see which ones I mean). As well, while the cinematography is excellent, the editing isn't. Those are very minor things. I also did feel that there was a bit of a lull in the film about halfway through, but now I'm nitpicking.
Overall, highly recommended. Watch the original and the remake back to back.
The Letter (1940)
Very good, if overrated, 1940s noirish melodrama
This film is home to one of the greatest openings ever captured on celluloid.
The rest of the film had a VERY hard act to follow after the brilliant opening, thanks to the masterful direction of William Wyler. Of course, there are a lot of good shots in the film, because Wyler was truly a master at his craft, and they help to hide the fact that the story is rather predictable- and Bette Davis just does her usual- overly manned, overly b*tchy, trying to be cooly evil and descending into camp instead performance, like usual. Poor Herbert Marshall plays her husband, but at least she isn't yelling at him while he was dying of a heart attack in this one.
The basic plot of this film is that on a Southeast Asian plantation, sex and scandal are in the air when Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) murders her lover one night by pumping a revolver full of bullets into him. When she is tried in court for murder, she claims that he tried to rape her and she was merely defending herself, but a letter that is found, written by her and sent to him, threatens her. In the play (and 1929 early talkie), and in the real story of a schoolteacher that shot her lover that inspired Somerset Maugham's play, she gets away with it, but is filled with remorse for what she's done, which is kill the one she truly loved. In this film, Leslie gets her just desserts from Gale Sondergaard (for some reason, playing a Eurasian woman), in a scene involving a dagger used as a threat and a scarf. The ending is also very well shot, as (spoiler) Leslie's murdered corpse lies outside the door while the "she got away with it!" party continues inside.
While I did whine about Bette Davis's performance above, I will admit that I did enjoy her in this role. She is cold and conniving, yes, and she does that very well, but Bette Davis off-screen was probably just as cold and conniving as the characters she played, which explains why she could do it so well.
She does descend into a barrage of mannerisms and camp nearer to the end, and doesn't put a //huge// amount of feeling into the iconic line "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed", but she's convincing enough. Herbert Marshall suffers again as Leslie's husband, Gale Sondergaard is photographed nicely and sends shivers up your spine (Bette Davis was quaking in her boots), but she isn't given any dialogue to speak. She just stands there and looks coldly menacing. The rest of the actors are pretty good as well, although they do get a little hammy after a while.
Overall, it's a good film, but don't expect a classic. It's probably Bette Davis's best campy performance (that's actually quite good under the camp). Her performance in The Little Foxes is much better than her performance here, but the cinematography of this film is much better than the cinematography there, and I'm a sucker for good cinematography and camerawork, so I gave this film the higher rating. I haven't seen the original 1929 film with Jeanne Eagels, but I hear that her performance wipes the floor with Bette Davis's, so that might be a fun watch. Davis's performance here is reportedly borrowed from Eagels's in the original.
Strong 7.5 from me.
Funny later screwball
Bachelor and troublemaker Richard Nugent (Cary Grant) gives a lecture on art one day at Susan Turner's (Shirley Temple) school, and she develops a crush on him. When she sneaks into his apartment one night, the judge (and Susan's sister) Margaret Turner (Myrna Loy), lets Nugent off on the condition that he date Susan until she falls out of love with him.
Seems like a hokey plot on paper, but it works very well on the screen. Of course, the plot doesn't start //right// there, but not much happens before that point. If you turn the film off before that bit, you're missing out on a good little movie. Once it gets going, it's hilarious. There's lots of opportunities for Cary Grant to do one of the things he did best-slapstick-and do his typical suave bachelor act, a lot of good dialogue (perhaps not quite Best Oscar For Original Screenplay worthy, but the Oscars are just handed out randomly, so there you go.)
Two funny scenes in particular are the field day races, where Grant keeps losing to Judge Margaret's boyfriend (Rudy Vallee), until the last race, where Susan's loyal boyfriend Jerry (Johnny Sands) rigs it for him to win. Grant looks like a kid in a candy store when he wins his trophy. Another funny scene is the denouement in the nightclub, where everyone keeps trying to talk but they either keep getting interrupted or interrupt each other, in typical screwball fashion.
The only flaw with the film is that Myrna Loy is WAY too old to be playing Shirley Temple's sister- both in age and in the way she acts. In real life, Myrna was forty-two and Shirley was nineteen. Not sure how old Margaret is supposed to be, but Loy would have been better off playing Shirley's mother over her sister. I am aware that there are people with much older/younger siblings, but usually that is the result of marrying/remarrying. Mryna Loy also seems a little out of place (maybe I've just typecast her in my head 😁) when she's not playing someone's wife or mother. As a slightly old maid-ish judge, she seems a bit out of place, but she managed to pull it off very well. Her glacial act did go on a bit too long for my liking (was probably how the character was written), thus making it a bit implausible how quickly she thawed (even Ninotchka Yakushova wasn't won over that easily), even if it was Cary Grant doing said thawing.
Cary Grant basically does his usual, but he's more likeable than normal here- it helps that he's allowed to strut his stuff. Normally I do not like to watch any of his films after Notorious (his tan looks like it was applied with a large paintbrush and that bothers me), but this time I made an exception, and I am glad I did. Shirley Temple is okay, she always seems to be pouting, and most of the film she seems very sulky. Of course, her character is a teenager, so that might explain a lot, but her acting style was just very "If I can't get what I want I'm gonna throw a tantrum", carried on from her child star years. The role of the Assistant District Attorney seems like it would have been played by Ralph Bellamy or Randolph Scott, but instead we have Rudy Vallee (RUDY VALLEE?), and he is an adequate replacement. The rest of the cast are pretty good, too.
The film is luxuriously designed, and both female actresses get to wear some nice gowns, but in some scenes Shirley Temple is made up to look somewhat like Ann Blyth as Veda Pierce. Maybe that was just the 1940a style for young women, especially young women in the movies.
I won't spoil the ending, but I will say that both Cary Grant and Shirley Temple end up with someone closer to their own age, versus each other.
It's a very fun film, and one of the better attempts at later screwball. The genre kind of descended into repetitive films (exactly HOW many It Happened One Night spin-offs were there?) and unintentional parody around this time. This film manages to avoid that, and it's very funny, if not perfect.
Solid 8/10 and quite a large recommendation from me.
So Goes My Love (1946)
Good first half, but the second...what
Remember in Ball Of Fire, when Barbara Stanwyck was asking Gary Cooper if he knew what the slang term "I'll get you on the Ameche?" meant? In her explanation, she details how they say that on account of he invented it- Don Ameche played Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, in another movie (forget the name). Well, in this film, So Goes My Love, he plays another inventor.
Perhaps Myrna Loy was a smidge too old for her character of Jane Budden, but you'd never guess it. The hair and makeup department at Universal styled her nicely in this picture- her aging is convincing, even if it is just them changing her hairstyle.
Her character goes to the city as a gold-digger, wanting to find a rich man to marry so she'll never to go back to farming. She meets Don Ameche's inventor (of what), and he initially annoys her, poking fun at her hair with a curling iron he invented and having the fire department come to his house after someone spots smoke coming out of his windows (it turns out to be a false alarm). Jane also finds a rich man to marry, much to her delight, but all this changes when a) she and Hiram (Ameche) fall for each other and b) she finds out that the man she is going to marry plans to farm hogs.
So, she and Ameche marry, and from then on, it turns into a sort of pleasant I Love Lucy before I Love Lucy domestic comedy, as Loy and Ameche start to raise a family. The child actor who plays their son Hiram Percy seems to have taken his acting lessons from Bette Davis is her "Of Human Bondage" mode- he chews scenery like cows chew cud. It's not entirely his fault, as the character he's playing is supposed to be a charming little tyke with a mischievous streak and ends up coming across as annoying and unlikable, but not all of the jokes fall flat.
After a pleasant first hour, the film grinds to a jarring halt and a mess of implausible things happen. Loy tries to get an eccentric French (?) painter to try and paint Ameche's portrait, and she goes to the doctor and finds out that she's having a baby again- okay. So she doesn't look pregnant, but maybe there'll be a time-skip. That afternoon, Hiram Percy is being exceptionally annoying, and he puts a baby cap on the dog, and Myrna gets mad, and they chase the dog around the room, and then Myrna goes into labor?
What? She only just found out that she was pregnant that day! Excuse me? Then they have to tack on a happy-sappy ending where they all think Myrna's going to die in childbirth, and it looks like she might die in childbirth, and the kid thinks it's all his fault...but it's okay. Loy does not die. And the French painter paints a pretty little family portrait. The end. 🤔
Loy and Ameche are good in their respective roles- like I mentioned above, she's been made very attractive by the hair and makeup department, and Ameche was pretty handsome himself, in sort of a dog-like way (I do not mean that offensively). In the first half hour, Loy's character seems overly fickle and a bit snobbish, but once she gets going, she's good. And as was her usual, Loy is best playing someone's wife, and someone's mother. She'll never be a favourite of mine, but I do like her.
Nearly all of the humor stands up well today- oddly, because it is a period picture. Not a lot of contemporary (for that time) references or slang are featured in this film, if any at all, so you won't have to look up any of the terms if you need to. The first thirty minutes are mostly comedy, the next thirty are docile and family-oriented, and the last twenty minutes are sappy and saccharine. It's okay, because it works out to be a pretty good ratio. This film may well be nothing special, especially if you've seen anything else with Myrna Loy, but it's a nice kind-of nothing special.
I'd give the first two thirds of the film a solid eight and the last third a rather paltry four, but I've evened out my rating to a seven, because I was rather amused by the first two thirds.