Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Fleet's In

The Fleet's In (1942) is a musical directed by Victor Schertzinger. The film stars Dorothy Lamour, William Holden, Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton, in her film debut.

Casey Kirby (William Holden) asks movie star Diana Golden (Betty Jane Rhodes) for an autograph for his little sister. Casey is tricked into a publicity kiss with Diana. Casey's shipmates immediately begin calling shy Casey a ladies man. The real ladies man of the ship, Jake (Leif Erickson) bets the other shipmates that Casey will not be able to kiss "The Countess" (Dorothy Lamour) on their next trip to San Fransico. Casey's buddy Barney (Eddie Bracken) gets in over his head in the bet and begs his friend Casey to go along with the bet.

When the ship docks in San Fransico, Barney takes Casey to The Countess's dance hall, Swingland. The Countess, who is renowned for her aloofness, brushes Barney and Casey off. However, her boss wants her to enterain a millionaire playboy. Casey becomes a pawn in The Coutness attempts to brush off the millionaire.

Meanwhile, singer Bessie Dale (Betty Hutton) is sweet on Barney.

The Countess becomes charmed by Casey despite herself, and she invites him into the hillside apartment she shares with Bessie Dale. Bessie returns the same night with Barney, and both couples pursue their flirtations until Barney mentions the bet to Bessie.

Bessie interrupts Casey and The Countess just as they are about to kiss and tells The Countess about the bet. Both Barney and Casey are thrown out of the apartment, but Casey soon realizes that he is sincerely in love with The Countess and buys an engagement ring. Bessie meanwhile reveals to The Countess a plan she heard from Barney, in which Casey will propose to her in order to get a kiss. When Casey does propose, the outraged Countess throws the ring out the window, but Casey explains his sincere intentions, and they retrieve the ring. But the Countess is still giving Casey the brush off.

That night during the show at Swingland, Casey tries to propose again while The Countess dances on a conga line. The club’s bouncers think he is drunk and wrestle him to the floor, and a brawl ensues involving all the visiting sailors. Casey is later brought to trial as the initiator of the brawl. He refuses to defend himself until The Countess strolls into the courtroom and helps Casey out. Casey is acquitted. Casey and the Countess are married as well as Barney and Bessie. At the dock, all the sailors witness Barney win his bet as Casey and The Countess finally kiss.

Although, the romance between Casey and the Countess is delightful, the true magic of this movie, is the various musical numbers performed at Swingland.

Betty Hutton is incredible in her musical numbers.

We are also treated to a delightful comic routine by Gil Lamb, who is nicknamed the rubber-limbed man, who does his most famous routine where he pretends to swallow a harmonica. Gil Lamb play Spike, a fellow sailor in the movie.

We are also treated to a performance by Cass Daley (as Cissie) who has a flair for zany comedy and eccentric off the wall singing and dancing.

A final treat is a performance by husband wife team Jean Lorraine and Roy Rogna, who
perform a comic ballroom dance act.

We are also treated to performances by Jimmy Dorsey and his band.

The score includes the popular hits "Tangerine", and "I Remember You". It also includes songs as "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry," " If You Build a Better Mousetrap," "Not Mine,", "The Fleet's In," and "When You Hear the Time Signal."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Night Must Fall

Night Must Fall (1937) is a psychological thriller directed by Richard Thorpe. The film stars Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, and Dame May Whitty. Dame May Whitty reprises her role from the play's performances in London and New York.

The film is an adaptation of the Emlyn Williams play of the same name.

Robert Montgomery was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and Dame May Whitty for Best Supporting Actress. The film was named the Best Picture of the year by the National Board of Review.

In a small English village, the police are dragging the river, searching for the body of Mrs. Shellbrook, who has been missing for several days.

Meanwhile, at the home of Mrs. Bramson (Dame May Whitty), the maid Dora (Merle Tottenham) informs her that she is having boyfriend troubles and her boyfriend, Danny, has promised to marry her but is taking his time.

Mrs. Bramson speaks to the young lad (Robert Montgomery). Danny instead charms his way into Mrs. Bramson's home. He tells her that she reminds him of his mother, then says that he loves Dora and would marry her if he had a better job. Mrs. Bramson hires the young lad and he moves in. One example of Danny's charming Mrs. Bramson is purchasing a scarf in the village and gives it to Mrs. Bramson, saying that it belonged to his mother. Olivia, who sees the price tag on the scarf, says nothing.

Mrs. Bramson's niece and companion, Olivia (Rosalind Russell), is suspicious of Danny, but Mrs. Bramson stubbornly refuses to listen to her.

Mrs. Bramson's attorney, Justin Laurie (Alan Marshall), arrives to give Mrs. Bramson some money, and warns her not to keep much cash around the cottage, but she is unconcerned. After Mr. Laurie leaves, Mrs. Bramson puts money into her safe and is secretly observed by Danny.

Dora, Olivia and Mrs. Terence (Kathleen Harrison), the other maid, secretly go through Danny's things one day when he is out with Mrs. Bransom. They are caught and Danny seems unconcerned except for worrying about a giant hat box that they have not snooped into. One item they find is a picture of Mrs. Shellbrook and wonder Danny's true connection to her.

Dora discovers Mrs. Shellbrook's decapitated body. Though Olivia accuses Danny of the murder, he denies it. However, Olivia is fascinated by Danny and at the same time afraid of him.

Olivia tries again to warn Mrs. Bramson of her concerns and she merely dismisses her niece's accusations.

When the police inspector comes, he searches Danny's room and finds the large, locked hatbox. He is just about to open it when Olivia impulsively grabs the box and says that it is hers.

Olivia now very fearful and still attracted to Danny makes arrangements to stay with Mr. Laurie's mother. The maids, Dora and Mrs. Terence leave for the evening. Mrs. Bransom is now alone with Danny. Danny cuts the telephone wires without anyone's knowledge. Danny steps out on a mysterious walk.

Alone in her drawing room, Mrs. Bramson hears noises and becomes frightened. When she screams for Danny, he comes in and calms her down by giving her something to drink and lulling her to sleep. Danny then murders Mrs. Bransom by smothering her. He next robs the safe.

Olivia returns to check on her aunt and Danny threatens to kill her too in order to cover up his crimes. Will Olivia be rescued or murdered as well?

Dame May Whitty is wonderful as the horrid abusive elderly woman. She is only nice to Danny.

Rosalind Russell is wonderful and delivers a great performance with the conflicting emotions of being fascinated and attracted to Danny but at the same time fearful he is a murderer.

Robert Montgomery is charming but sinister.

What transpires between the major characters is an intriguing mystery and psychological drama.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Apartment for Peggy

Apartment for Peggy (1948) is a comedy directed by George Seaton. The film stars William Holden, Jeanne Crain, and Edmund Gwenn.

Professor Henry Barnes (Edmund Gwenn), a widower who has been retired from a Midwestern university for many years, decides he's lived long enough and contemplates suicide.

Professor Barnes telephones his close friend and fellow chamber music performer, law professor Edward Bell (Gene Lockhart), and asks him for help preparing his will as he intends to commit suicide.

Bell rushes over and tells Barnes all the reasons why he should not take his own life, however Barnes continues to feel he no longer is of any use to society. When Bell relates this to his colleagues and fellow chamber music players, they are horrified.

One of them, Philip Conway (Griff Barnett), a medical doctor, arranges to examine Barnes and finds him in excellent health and not depressed or bitter.

Barnes tells Conway that he had a wonderful marriage and, although their son was lost in the war, has had a full and satisfying life. Barnes claims that he has not been sleeping well and asks Conway for sleeping pills, but the doctor gives him only two.

Later, while Barnes is feeding pigeons in the park, young Peggy Taylor (Jeanne Crain)sits down on the bench beside him. She tells him that she and Jason (William Holden), her husband who is studying chemistry on the G.I. Bill, have been looking for an apartment and are expecting a baby. Barnes offers to mention their predicament to Bell, who is also the university housing administrator.

After a philosophical conversation with Peggy about the pros and cons of suicide, Barnes ponders whether he is really "living now." But Barnes plans to still commit suicide when his book is finished.

Bell discovers that during the war two soldiers were temporarily billeted in Henry's attic, the determined Peggy goes to Barnes's house and talks him into letting her and Jason move into his attic. But Bell also has alterior motives, wondering if the young couple may help Barnes change his mind.

The couple causes some havoc in Barnes's life, blowing fuses, interfering with his writing, bringing a cat into the house, and adopting a dog, and Barnes finds himself calling Dr. Conway for more sleeping pills. However, we learn that Barnes is not taking the sleeping pills but is storing them for later.

Peggy and Jason invite Barnes to see what they have done to the attic, and he is amazed by the transformation. Over a cup of tea, Jason tells Henry he wants to be a teacher. Later, Peggy tells Barnes him about the riff in education between G.I. husbands and wives. Peggy maintains that the wives need overview classes so that they can help their husbands and talk to their husbands about their studies, and has suggested to the university that Barnes organize such courses.

He protests, saying he wants to finish his book but, a few days later, finds himself in a converted pool hall in front of a large group of students' wives presenting a lecture on the basics of philosophy. The class is very successful, and Henry takes a new lease on life.

Meanwhile Jason is fed up with not earning enough money to properly support him and his wife. He tells his chemistry professor (played by the delightful Charles Lane)that he is quitting school and getting a job as a cars salesman. As Jason is telling his chemistry professor that he is going to have to leave school, he is summoned to the the hospital and learns that Peggy has given birth prematurely and the baby has died.

Jason, depressed over the loss of their child, goes to Chicago to sell cars with his old war buddy.

Later, when Barnes visits Peggy in the hospital, he finds her in good spirits and tells her that a life wasn't lost, but merely exchanged, as she has saved him from suicide.

Barnes goes to see Jason at the used car lot and informs him that he can be reinstated and given a job as a teaching assistant, but Jason feels that a teaching job will not be enough for him. Barnes has arranged for Jason to take make up exams.

Back home, Barnes discovers that Peggy plans to go to live with her sister. Unknown to Barnes and Peggy, Jason has returned to take the make-up exams and, with the help of Barnes's colleagues, passes all his exams.

After Barnes grows very despondent because Peggy and Jason are apart, and downs several of the doctor's sleeping pills, Peggy tells his friends that he has taken a a lot of sleeping pills. The doctor, however, informs them that what he prescribed were not sleeping pills but pills that will merely make him slightly uncomfortable. However, Peggy and Jason are unaware that they were not sleeping pills that Barnes took

Meanwhile, Peggy is walking Henry back and forth and filling him full of coffee when Jason comes home. Barnes explains that he took the pills because they are leaving him. Jason challenges Barnes to pull himself together by saying that he can think of many fellows, including Barnes's son, who would like to have had the choice he has now. Moved by Jason's words, Barnes gets up and starts walking on his own.

Later, Barnes changes the living arrangements in the house to give the couple more space. The chamber music group is performing once again in Barnes's parlor when Peggy and Jason announce that they are going to try to have another baby.

Jeanne Crain and Edmund Gwenn are wonderful in this film. The two have many wonderful scences together. Jeanne Crain's snappy, slang laden talk and her optimistic out look on life in contrast to Edmund Gwenn's resigned philosophic ways is delightful.

One interesting thing about this film, is the discussions between the various characters about education and the government and all the things wrong and that need to be changed. Although the film takes place in the 1940s, those discussion are the exact same ones we are having today.

Another interesting point is the discussions among the older professors about the youth today and the generation gap, sixty years later, the same discussions occur.

This light, funny film about life and death has a certain charm. Had it been cast differently, it may well have failed, because the movie relies heavily on the charm of the characters.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)is a comedy directed by Frank Capra, based on the story Opera Hat by Clarence Budington Kelland that appeared in serial form in the Saturday Evening Post. The film stars Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in her first featured role.

In the middle of the Great Depression, Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), co-owner of a Tallow Works, part-time greeting card poet and tuba-playing small town man of Mandrake Falls, Vermont inherits 20 million dollars from his late uncle Martin Semple.

His uncle's scheming attorney, John Cedar (Douglass Dumbrille), locates Deeds and takes him to New York City with hopes that Deeds will grant him power of attorney over the vast fortune.

Cedar assigns ex-newspaperman Cornelius Cobb (Lionel Stander), the task of keeping reporters away from the heir.

However Cobb and Cedar are not able to keep away star reporter Louise "Babe" Bennett (Jean Arthur). Bennett pretends to be Mary Dawson who pretends to faint in front of Deeds from exhaustion after walking all day to find a job and worms her way into his heart.

Deeds is like a kid in a candy shop in his new mansion, running to the window to watch the fire trucks go by, playing with the echos in the vast mansion, and sliding down the staircase bannister.

However, Deeds has a certain wit about him. He will not agree to sign power of attorney over to Cedar without seeing his books. He does not fall for a scheme by an Attorney named Hallor (Charles Lane) who claims he represents a common law wife of Semple. He also tricks his bodyguards by locking them in a closet so Deeds can have an evening out without constant supervision.

Deeds first night out he takes Mary Dawson/ Babe Bennett the lady he just rescued to a restraurant popular with writers. At the restraurant, the writers make fun of Deeds simple ways. He stands his ground by decking them. One writer is impressed with Deeds and takes him on a night of drinking on the town.

Babe Bennett utilizes the opportunity to chronicle Deed's drinking bender in her paper and nicknames him the Cinderalla Man. After his drunken bender, Deeds vows to talk to no one but "Mary." Bennett continues her articles but slowly is beginning to fall in love with Deeds.

Just as Bennett decides to quit the paper and tell Deeds the truth, Cobb discovers her true identity and tells Deeds first. Deeds is left heartbroken.

Deeds decides to give away his fortune by helping farmers. This angers Cedar and Cedar joins suit with Deed's only living relative and they try to declare Deeds mentally incompetent.

Unknown to Cedar, Cobb, the man he hired to watch Deeds, respects Deeds and what he is trying to do for the farmers.

Deeds sinks into a deep depression and won't ask for an attorney or any help at his sanity hearing.

During his sanity hearing, things do not look good for Deeds, especially since he refuses to defend himself. Cedar paints Deeds as a manic depressive. Pointing out his attacking the writers at the restraurant, feeding donuts to a horse during his drunken bender, running the streets without his clothes, and so forth. Cedar even brings two women (Margaret Seddon and Margaret McWade) from Deed's hometown in Mandrake Falls who say Deed's is pixilated.

During the hearing, Bennett expresses her love for Deeds and he gets his fight back. Cedar's charges slowly one by one fall apart as Deeds explains himself and points out what some would call eccentric behavior in the Judge, Cedar and the psychiatrist.

Frank Capra won his second Academy Award for Directing for this movie. Gary Cooper received his first Best Actor nomination for his role as Longfellow Deeds. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay (Robert Riskin), and Best Sound Recording (John P. Livadary).

This is a classic comedy and Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper are at their best. It is a warm hearted film and shows that good triumphs evil in the end.

The movie also contains delightful performances by Ruth Donnelly as Mabel, H.B. Warner as the Judge, and Raymond Walburn as Walter.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The More The Merrier

The More The Merrier (1943) is a comedy directed by George Stevens. The film stars Jean Arthur, Joel McCrae and Charles Colburn.

During World War II, retired millionaire Benjamin Dingle (Charles Coburn) arrives in Washington, D.C. as an adviser on the housing shortage and finds that his hotel suite will not be available for two days.

Dingle sees an ad for a roommate in the paper. When he arrives, there is a line of applicants. Dingle calmly walks into the apartment complex unnoticed by the applicants. He then changes the sign to no vacancy and tells the applicants there is no longer a room available. He then awaits the tennant arrival home.

Dingle manages to talk to tennant, a reluctant young woman, Connie Milligan (Jean Arthur), into letting him sublet half of her apartment. The next morning is a hilarous series of events as Dingle tries to comply with Connie's minute by minute schedule.

Later that day, Dingle meets Sergeant Joe Carter (Joel McCrea), who has no place to stay while he waits to be shipped overseas. Dingle generously rents him half of his half without Connie's knowledge.

That evening, Connie arrives home and another series of hilarious events unfold as Dingle tries to hide the newest tennant from Connie until he can break the news to her.

When Connie finds out about the new arrangement, she orders them both to leave, but is forced to relent because she has already spent their rent money. Joe and Connie are attracted to each other, though she is engaged to bureaucrat Charles J. Pendergast (Richard Gaines). Dingle meets Pendergast at a luncheon and does not like what he sees. He decides that Joe would be a better match for his landlady and begins matchmaking Joe and Connie.

One day, Dingle goes too far, reading aloud to Joe from Connie's private diary. When she finds out, she demands they both leave the next day. Dingle accepts full blame for the incident, and Connie allows Joe to stay the few more days before he is shipped to Africa.

Due to a nosy teenage neighbor, Joe is taken in for questioning, as a suspected spy for the Japanese, and Connie is brought along as well. When Dingle and Pendergast show up to vouch for them, it comes out that Joe and Connie are living in the same apartment. Dingle advises the young couple to get married to avoid a scandal and then have it annulled later. They follow his advice and wed. However, Dingle arranges it so they will stay married by knocking down a wall that seperates Joe and Connie's bedroom in the apartment.

This is a delightful comedy and one of Charles Colburn's best performances. Jean Arthur and Joel McCrae make a delightful couple.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Long Long Trailer

The Long Long Trailer (1954) was directed by Vincente Minnelli and stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. The film is based on the book by Clinton Twiss.

Nicky Collini (Desi Arnez) and his fiancée Tacy (Lucille Ball), buy a large trailer despite Nicky's extreme reluctance. Tacy wishes to buy the trailer so they can save money that would otherwise be spent on a house and also be able to travel around the United States to civil engineering projects that Nicky is employed on.

First the cost of the trailer with taxes is more than they predicted. They also have to buy a more powerful car to tow the trailer and the money spent starts to mount up.

The honeymoon trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains rapidly becomes a catalogue of disasters. These include Nicky's inability to drive the trailer at first. As a mechanic describes best "think of it as a train behind you, forty feet of train." There is also a delightful scene of Tacy's attempts to cook dinner in a tilted trailer and her being ejected from the trailer into the mud.

Keenan Wayne plays a cop directing traffic as Nicky drives the trailer through a small town.

At a trailer park, they experience the life of a "trailerite" with all the "unwanted" help from fellow trailerites including a delightful performance by Marjorie Main.

At Tacy's relatives, Nicky learns how to back up the trailer, successfully taking out a rose bush and part of the house.

Another classic scene is Tacy learning the hard way you can't ride in a trailer when it is in motion.

There is a wonderful cliffhaning ride on a narrow road through the mountains. A delightful scene with full facial expressions of Tacy, Nicky, and a driver passing in a blue truck.

Needless to say relations deteriorate between the couple and finally Tacy storms off in a huff. But by the film's end, they are tearfully reunited.

In addition to Marjorie Mann and Keenan Wayne, the film includes appearances by Madge Blake (as Tacy's Aunt Anastacia), and Walter Baldwin (as Tacy's Uncle Edgar),

This is one of the funniest films I have ever scene. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez are at their best.

According to Robert Osborne, the studio was not sure if this film would be a success because they thought that people would not pay money to see Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in a movie when they could watch the couple on television for free. Desi Arnaz made a $25,000 bet with the studio that the movie would make more money than the current highest grossing comedy at that time (Father of the Bride starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor and also directed by Vincente Minnelli). Arnaz won the bet.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Woman in White

The Woman in White (1948) is a psychological thriller directed by Peter Godfrey and based on the novel by Wilkie Collins. The movie stars Gig Young, Alexis Smith, Sydney Greenstreet, Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, John Emery and John Abbott.

In 1851, artist Walter Hartright (Gig Young) arrives in Limmeridge, England to teach drawing to wealthy Laura Fairlie (Eleanor Parker).

As he walks to the Fairlie estate, he encounters a strange young woman (Eleanor Parker) dressed in white, who disappears when a carriage drives up. The people in the carriage ask if Walter has seen the woman and explain that she has escaped from an asylum. Walter denies seeing the woman.

At the estate, Walter is greeted by Laura’s cousin, Marian Halcombe (Alexis Smith). The other members of the household are Frederick Fairlie (John Abbott), Laura (Eleanor Parker) and Count Fosco (Sydney Greenstreet).

Walter pays a visit to Fredrick Fairlie, an invalid with a nervous disposition who never leaves his room and is bothered by the slightest noise.

The next morning, Walter is introduced to Laura (Eleanor Parker) and mistakes her for the woman in white he met on the road. He soon realizes his mistake, and at breakfast, an amused Laura reveals the story to the rest of the house.

Later, Mrs. Vesey (Emma Dunn), Laura's old nurse, admits that many years earlier, there was a little girl at the house, who was about the same age and appearance as Laura. This information prompts Marian to investigate and read through old family letters, which confirms that there was a girl and her named was Ann Catherick who vowed to always wear all white.

Although Walter asks Marian not to mention the letter to Count Fosco (Sydney Greenstreet), the Count sees the letter and seizes it. Count Fosco had been in the carriage looking for the woman in white. Walter is suspicious of Count Fosco.

Walter and Laura begin to fall in love. But their romance is complicated by the return of Laura's fiance, Sir Percival Glyde (John Emery).

At Marian's insistance, Walter agrees to leave the estate. Before he does, he encounters Ann, who tells him she is being kept in the asylum to prevent her from warning Laura. Ann tells Walter her story and Walter tries to get her to confront Percival and Fosco but Ann is scared away at the sight of Fosco.

Walter accuses Percival and Fosco of forcing Fairlie to agree to Percival’s marriage to Laura for her money. Count Fosco dismisses Walter's claims and says that Ann is a mentally disturbed woman. Walter leaves the estate unable to get anyone to believe him.

Laura and Percivial marry. While they are on their honeymoon, Marian visits family. When Marian returns to the estate, she learns that the old family staff has been replaced. She is also shocked by Laura's strange behavior. Also living at the estate is Count Fosco and his wife (Agnes Moorehead).

Later, Laura tells Marian secretly that she is frightened of her husband. She tells Marian that Percival wants her money and she fears he might kill her. We learn that Count Fosco has been drugging Laura to gain control of her mind.

Laura falls ill and is having delusions. Ann visits Laura to warn her against Fosco and Percival. Ann escapes just as Fosco and Percival arrive in Laura's room. Fosco knows she has been there but is unable to figure out where she went.

We learn that Ann is hiding in a secret room off of Laura's bedroom and she is being helped by Countness Fosco (Agnes Moorehead).

Ann visits Laura again but is interrupted by Percival and Fosco and is frightened to death. Count Fosco has a wonderful plan. He substitutes Ann's body for Laura's. Laura is sent back to the asylum as Ann. Ann is buried as Laura.

At the funeral for Laura, Walter returns and realizes that it is Ann not Laura in the coffin. He tells Marian everything he knows and Marian believes him and agrees to help.

In the meantime, Fosco tries to convince Laura that she is Ann. He is not completely successful. In a moment when Laura realizes who she really is, she tells Percival she is pregnant.

Walter and Marian, have fallen in love, and Walter goes to the asylum to free Laura from her captors. However, he is too late, Laura has escaped on her own. He finds her and returns her to the hotel where he and Marian are staying. But Marian has left, she has returned to the estate to confront Count Fosco and make a deal with him. Laura and Walter rush to the estate to find Marian.

This is a wonderful and gripping psychological thriller with so many questions.

Who really is Ann and why was she sent away from the estate as a young girl?

Why is Countess Fosco helping Ann and what is her connection to Ann?

What is Count Fosco and Percival's true plan?

Will Walter and Laura arrive in time to save Marian from Count Fosco?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Carmen Jones

Carman Jones (1954) is an American musical film produced and directed by Otto Preminger.

The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

Carmen Jones also earned two Academy Award nominations. Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for Best Actress (the first African American to be nominated for Best Actress) and a second nomination for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture for
Herschel Burke Gilbert.

The movie is based on the screenplay by Harry Kleiner is based on the 1943 stage production of the same name by Oscar Hammerstein II, which was inspired by an adaptation of the 1845 Prosper Mérimée novella Carmen by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.

Otto Preminger realized no major studio would be interested in financing an operatic film with an all African American cast, so he decided to produce it independently
Because he himself was sensitive to the issue of racial representation in the film, Preminger had no objections when Zanuck urged him to submit the script to Walter Francis White, executive secretary of the NAACP, who had no objection to it.

In adapting it for the screen, he wanted to make "a dramatic film with music rather than a conventional film musical," so he decided to return to the original source material - the Prosper Mérimée novella - and hired Harry Kleiner, whom he had taught at Yale University, to expand the story beyond the limitations imposed upon it by the Bizet opera and Hammerstein's interpretation of it.

Otto Preminger next began to assemble his cast.

Harry Belafonte (Joe), was a folk singer who recently introduced Calypso music to mainstream America and only had one film to his credit. But he had just won the Tony Award and Theatre World Award for John Murray Anderson's Almanac.

Pearl Bailey's (Frankie) sole screen credit was the 1948 film Isn't It Romantic?, but she had achieved success as a band singer and was familiar to television audiences from her appearances on Your Show of Shows.

Joe Adams (Husky Miller), was a Los Angeles disc jockey with no acting experience, but Preminger felt he had the right look for Husky.

Diahann Carroll auditioned for the title role of Carmen, but she was so terrified of the director she could barely focus on the scene, and Preminger cast her in the small supporting role of Myrt instead.

Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen) was not Otto Preminger's first choice. He was familiar with Dorothy Dandridge but felt she was incapable of exuding the sultry sex appeal the role of Carmen demanded. Preminger suggested she audition for the role of Cindy Lou. Dandridge took the script and left, and when she returned she was dressed and behaved exactly as Preminger envisioned Carmen. She won the role.

Recent Juilliard graduate Olga James was cast as Cindy Lou.

Although Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte were singers, neither was capable of singing the operatic score, so Marilyn Horne and LeVern Hutcherson were hired to record their operatic vocals. Marvin Hayes was hired to provide the vocals for the role of Husky Miller.

The movie is set during World War II, and focuses on Carmen Jones (Dorothy Dandridge), a vixen who works in a parachute factory. When she is arrested for fighting with a co-worker who reported her for arriving late for work, foreman Sgt. Brown (Brock Peters) assigns young soldier Joe (Harry Belafonte) to deliver her to the authorities, much to the dismay of Joe's fiancée Cindy Lou (Olga James), who had agreed to marry him during his leave.

While en route, Carmen seduces Joe and the next morning he awakens to find a note in which she says although she loves him she is unable to deal with time in jail and is running away. Joe is locked in the stockade for allowing his prisoner to escape, and Cindy Lou arrives just as a rose from Carmen is delivered to him, prompting her to leave abruptly.

Having found work in a Louisiana nightclub, Carmen awaits Joe's release. One night champion prizefighter Husky Miller (Joe Adams) enters with an entourage and introduces himself to Carmen, who expresses no interest in him. Husky orders his manager to offer her jewelry, furs, and an expensive hotel suite if she and her friends Frankie (Pearl Bailey) and Myrt (Diahann Carroll) accompany him to Chicago, but she declines the offer.

Just then, Joe arrives and announces he must report to flying school immediately. Angered, Carmen decides to leave with Sgt. Brown, who also has appeared at the night club, and Joe severely beats him. Realizing he will sentenced to a long prison term for hitting his superior, Joe flees to Chicago with Carmen.

While Joe remains hidden in a shabby rented room, Carmen secretly visits Husky's gym to ask Frankie for a loan, but she insists she has no money of her own. Carmen returns to their room with a bag of groceries, and Joe questions how she paid for them. The two argue, and she goes to Husky's hotel suite to play cards with her friends. When she draws the nine of spades, she interprets it as a premonition of impending doom and descends into a spiral of alcohol and debauchery.

Cindy Lou arrives at Husky's gym in search of Carmen just before Joe appears. Ignoring his former sweetheart, he orders Carmen to leave with him and threatens Husky with a knife when he tries to intervene. Carmen helps Joe escape the military police.

At Husky's big fight, Joe finds Carmen and confronts her and says he loves her and can't live without her. When she rebuffs him, Joe strangles Carmen to death just before the police arrive to apprehend him for desertion.

This is a wonderful films with an incredible cast. The songs are delightful and Dorothy Dandridge is one of a kind as Carmen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Giant (1956) is a drama directed by George Stevens from a screenplay adapted by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat from the novel by Edna Ferber.

The movie stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. The movie also features Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Rod Taylor, Sal Mineo and Earl Holliman.

The movie opens with Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson), the head of a Texas ranch, traveling to Maryland to buy a stud horse, War Winds. While there, he meets and courts socialite Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) who becomes his wife. They return to Texas to start their life together on the family ranch, Reata.

Luz (Mercedes McCambridge), Bick's sister, and Leslie do not get along. Jett Rink (James Dean), the ranch's handyman, is envious of the Benedict wealth and is smitten with Leslie.

Luz dies after War Winds bucks her off, and as part of her will, Jett is given a plot of land on the Benedict ranch. Bick tries to buy back the land, but Jett refuses. Jett fences off his piece of land and names the property Little Reata.

Leslie gives birth to twins (Jordan Benedict III and Judy) and later has another daughter Luz Jr. Bick's dream is for his son Jordy to one day take over the family ranch. Even at a young age, Jordy is afraid of horses and prefers playing with his toy doctor's kit. This causes tension between Leslie and Bick.

Jett discovers oil on his property and when he gets his first gusher, he barges onto the Benedict's property proclaiming in front of the entire family and most of the town who have gathered for the twins' birthday party, that he will be richer than the Benedicts.

Jett starts an oil drilling company that makes him enormously wealthy. Bick resists the lure of oil wealth, preferring to remain a rancher. After World War II breaks out, Jett convinces Bick to allow oil production on the ranch to help the war effort.

In the postwar years, tensions in the Benedict household revolve around how the parents want to bring up their children. Bick stubbornly insists that Jordy (Dennis Hopper) must succeed him and run the ranch, but Jordy wants to become a doctor. Leslie wants Judy (Fran Bennett) to attend finishing school in in Switzerland, but Judy loves the ranch and wants to stay in Texas for her education studying agriculture.

Bick realizes Jordy is going to become a doctor despite his wishes. He hopes that Judy's new husband Bob (Earl Holliman) will take over the ranch, but Judy wants to start her own place, a little ranch for her and her husband.

The Benedict/Rink rivalry comes to a head when the Benedicts find Luz Jr. (Carroll Baker) and Jett Rink have been dating. Bick takes Jett to a kitchen room to fight him over Judy and Jordy but realizes that Jett is a drunken old man, who only has money and leaves. The party ends when Jett, completely drunk, passes out on the table right before his big speech. Luz Jr. sees him afterwards and discovers he is a lonely, unhappy, mess who has a crush on her mother.

The movie protrays how the oil industry transformed Texas ranchers during the early 20th century.

This movie also has a major sub-plot of racism against the Mexican Americans in Texas. When the movie starts, Bick and Luz are racist towards the Mexicans who work on their ranch, which upsets Leslie greatly. She also learns that Jett is racist as well. In one scene, Jett drives Leslie through a little Mexican American village where a baby is very sick. Jett tells Leslie not to get involved. Leslie does and makes sure a doctor visits the baby and this upsets her husband greatly. Leslie later arranges for a Mexican American doctor to look after the people in the village.

Bick's racism comes to a head, when his son Jordy marries a Mexican American (Elsa Cardenas) and they have a son. Bick slowly begins to see the Mexican Americans as people and his equal. In a very telling scene at a diner, Bick gets into a fist fight with the diner's owner when he refuses service to a family of Mexican Americans. At the gala, Jordy first gets into a fight with Jett when Jett has order his hotel staff not to serve Mexican Americans and his wife is refused service at a beauty salon.

This movie is way ahead of its time telling the racial tension that existed in Texas during the 20th century. Also Bick's beating at the hands of the racist diner owner shows that good does not always triumph over bad.

When World War II breaks out, Judy's husband Bob and Angel (Sal Mineo) the son of a ranch hand, are both drafted. Bob returns home safe but Angel is killed in the war, a reminder that Mexican Americans fought and were killed in World War II.

A third more minor sub plot is women as equals. This is not as apparant as the racism sub plot. But is shown beautifully in one scene after a dinner party at the ranch. The men are sitting in one corner talking politics. The women are in another corner, knitting. Leslie attempts to join in on the men's conversation and is told it is not her place. Leslie gives a wonderful speech about women and their contributions to the world and their rights.

Giant won the Academy Award for Directing. It was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (both James Dean and Rock Hudson), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mercedes McCambridge), Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Musical Score, Best Picture and Best Writing.

This is a very powerful film and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Prince and The Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper (1937) was directed by William Keighly and William Dieterle and was based on the novel of the same name by Mark Twain. The movie stars Errol Flynn, Claude Rains, and Billy & Bobby Mauch.

In Tudor England in 1537, two boys are born on the same day under very different circumstances. Tom (Billy Mauch) is born in the slums of Tudor to a vicious criminal John Canty (Barton MaClane). While Edward (Bobby Mauch) is born a prince and the heir of King Henry VIII (Montagu Love). Tom grows up in poverty, begging for food and Edward grows up in luxury, with a curiousity of the outside world. As Tom grows up, he studies with Father Andrew and dreams of a life apart from the beggers and thieves that surround him.

One night, when Tom hides in the palace yard to escape a driving rain, the two boys meet, realize there is a striking resemblance between them, and playfully exchange clothes. But the Captain of the Guard (Alan Hale Sr.) mistakes the prince for the pauper and throws him out of the palace grounds.

Tom is unable to convince anybody that he is not the prince. Everyone is convinced that he is mentally ill. When Henry VIII dies, Tom is scheduled to take the thrown. Tom finally convinces except for the Earl of Hertford (Claude Rains) of his identity. Hertford threatens to expose Tom unless he does as he is told. Hertford hopes to be appointed Edward's Lord High Protector and seizes the opportunity to control the throne by forcing Tom to continue the pretense. Hetford Hertford also blackmails the Captain into searching for the real prince to eliminate the dangerous loose end and orders the murder of the real Edward.

Meanwhile, Edward finds an amused, if disbelieving protector in Miles Hendon (Errol Flynn). Edward is horrified when John Canty kidnaps him from Miles and Edward witnesses John murder the beloved Father Andrew. John runs to hiding taking Edward with him and Edward in the process learns alot about the people of England.

The Captain finds Edward and attempts to assainate the boy. He is rescued by Miles and Miles engages in a sword fight with the Captain. With Miles help, Edward manages to re-enter the palace just in time to interrupt the coronation ceremony and prove his identity. Tom is made a ward of the new king, and Hendon is rewarded for his services.

This movie has a great cast and is a marvelous film. Billy and Bobby Mauch are delightful as the Prince and the Pauper. Claude Rains is pure evil as the Earl of Hertford. Errol Flynn is adorable as Miles Hendon.

I highly recommend this film.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Letter to Three Wives

A Letter to Three Wives (1949) was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starred Linda Darnell, Jeanne Crain and Ann Southern.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and won the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay.

A flirt, Addie Ross writes a letter to Deborah (Jeanne Crain), Lora Mae (Linda Darnell) and Rita (Ann Southern). They receive the letter just as they are boarding boat to take the town's children to an all day picnic. The letter says that Ida is leaving town and leaving with one of their husbands.

We learn through flash backs about the three woman and their lives and their husbands and about Ida Ross.

First we learn that Deborah is a farm girl who met her husband, Brad (Jeffrey Lynn) while they both were serving in the Navy. They meet and fall in love and Deborah returns to her husband's home. Deborah is scared to death of meeting Brad's friends as she will be the outsider and she is a farm girl and they all seem so sophisticated. Rita, Brad, George (Kirk Douglas) and Addie grew up together. Addie is an old sweetheart of Brad's. Deborah has one to many drinks before the country club dance and feels out of place in her four year old dress. At the dance, Deborah learns more about Addie. Porter (Paul Douglas) and Lora Mae's husband, says Addie has "class." Deborah's dress is torn in a most embarassing moment and she seeks solitude in the women's dressing room as the maid stitches back of her dress and Rita gives her reassurance and support. Deborah returns to the dance and sees her husband talking to Addie. We do not see Addie, as she is blocked by a tree and all we see is her husband laughing and a woman's arm holding a cigarette.

Deborah wonders if it is her husband that Addie has run off with. Addie and her husband are old flames. Her husband left that morning for a business trip to the city with an overnight bag. The dress he had picked out for her for this year's dance is one that Addie also wore recently. Is it her husband, she wonders?

Next we learn about Rita and George, childhood sweethearts. George is a school teacher and Rita writes for a radio show. Rita's flashback is about a dinner party attended by Rita's bosses, Lora Mae and Porter. Although a happy couple, George is upset about Rita putting on a show for her bosses like making their maid Sadie where a maid's uniform. George receives a gift from Addie with what appears to be a romantic note and we learn it is also George's birthday, and Rita has forgotten. The gift is a Braham's record recorded in Vienna before the war. When the recorded is accidently damaged by Rita's boss, George stews and brews. George finally blows up at Rita's boss and Rita.

We learn that George feels somewhat somewhat emasculated since she earns a substantial portion of the household income. We also learn George does not approve of radio stories as a form of entertainment. As he tells Rita's boss in a delightful quote "The purpose of radio writing, as far as I can see, is to prove to the masses that a deodorant can bring happiness... a mouth wash guarantee success and a laxative attract romance. " Rita, wonders if it is her husband. George left that morning in a suit and did not say where he was going. He always fishes on Saturday, where could he be going all dressed up? Did he leave with Addie?

The final flashback is about Lora Mae. We learn Lora Mae is a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who married her boss, her much older boss. Lora Mae, her sister and her mother live in a tiny apartment near the railroad tracks and their apartment shakes violently when a train goes by. Lora Mae and Porter's courting is a strange one with her playing hard to get. While on their first dinner date, they run into George. George says that he and Rita are having dinner with Addie. Porter becomes very distracted and we can tell he is interested inAddie and they leave the restraurant. On a later date at Porter's house, Lora Mae stars at a photo on the piano, the photo is of Addie. Lora Mae wants to be the queen in the silver picture frame on the piano. Frustrated with Porter, she breaks off the relationship. New Years Eve, Porter comes to Lora Mae's house because he can't stop thinking about her and asks her to marry him even though he has been married before and does not wish to marry again.

During Rita and Deborah's flashbacks we also learn that Porter and Lora Mae's marriage is a strange one. Lora Mae loves to dance and Porter would rather sit at the table and drink. They also bicker frequently. He is a bit older and "knows all the answers," as she sarcastically tells him. The couple has never gotten along but obviously share a bond. Lora Mae wonders if it is her husband that Ida has run off with.

The women return home from the picnic and each hesitantly goes home to find out which of their husbands have run off with Addie.

This film also includes a delightful performance by Thelma Ritter who plays Sadie. She is George and Rita's maid and also an old friend of Lora Mae's mother and is featured in both Rita's and Lora Mae's flashback scenes.

We never see Addie Ross, her voice in narrating the film is provided by Celeste Holm. The film's technique of never showing Addie Ross is delightful. You have an image in your mind of what she looks like based on her voice and the men and women's reactions to her and the way they speak of her.

I enjoyed this movie. It has an excellent cast and excellent script. I highly recommend this movie for those who have not seen it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun (1961) was directed by Daniel Petrie, written by Lorraine Hansberrry, and starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands. Supporting cast includes Ivan Dixon, Louis Gossett Jr.(in his film debut), John Fiedler, and Stephen Perry.

The movie is based on theBroadway play also written by Lorraine Hansberry. Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon, Louis Gossett Jr. and John Fielder recreated their stage roles for the movie version.

A Raisin in the Sun is about a working class African American family at a turning point in their lives.

Walter (Sidney Poitier) and Ruth (Ruby Dee) Younger and their son Travis (Stephen Perry), along with Walter's mother Lena (Claudia McNeil) and sister Beneatha (Diana Sands), live in poverty in a dilapidated one-bedroom apartment on Chicago's south side. Walter is barely making a living as a limousine driver and is going through a mid life crisis. Ruth is also excepting their second child although marital relations are strained by Walter's drinking and mood swings.

On the death of her husband, Lena Younger (Claudia McNeil) becomes the beneficiary of a $10,000 life insurance payment, and suddenly the family is in conflict over how the money should be spent. Lena wants to use the money for a down payment on a house. Her daughter Beneatha (Diana Sands) is hoping that Lena will help her pay for medical school. Lena's son, Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier) wants to go into business with friends who plan to open a liquor store, which he's convinced will be a sure money maker.

Walter feels he has a sense of entitlement to the money and desperately wants to become wealthy, but his mother has religious objections to alcohol and frowns on his idea of using the money for a liquor store. Beneatha reminds Walter that it is Mama's money and it is her call on how to spend it.

Beneatha is in college and being pursued by two suitors. First there is George (Louis Gossett Jr) who is wealthy and educated. Second there is Joseph Asagai, a Nigerian medical student at a Canadian university on a visit to America. Beneatha and Walter feel that George represents the "fully assimilated black man" who denies his African heritage with a "smarter than thou" attitude. Whereas, Asagai teaches Beneatha about her African heritage but also points out how she is assimilating herself into white ways.

Lena puts some of the money down on a new house, choosing an all-white neighborhood over a black one for the practical reason that it happens to be much cheaper. Walter is furious and goes on a drinking binge. Lena later relents and gives the rest of the money ($6500) to Walter to invest with the proviso that he reserve $3,000 for Beneatha's education.

Meanwhile Karl Lindner (John Fiedler) from the all white neighborhood offers to buy the Youngers out of their house, to avoid an "interracial" neighbor. Walter shows him the door.

Walter passes all the money (he fails to put away $3000.00 in a savings account for his sister) on to Willy's naive sidekick Bobo, who gives it to Willy, who absconds with it, depriving Walter and Beneatha of their dreams.

Beneatha is scolded by Asagai for her materialism when she becomes distraught at the loss of the money. She eventually accepts his point of view that things will get better with rebuilding effort, along with his proposal of marriage and his invitation to move with him to Nigeria to practice medicine.

Walter, distraught, calls Karl Linder planning to take him up on the offer to buy them out of the house. His wife Ruth, his mother and sister are horrified. As Lena says that while money was something they try to work for, they should never take it if it was a person's way of telling them they weren't fit to walk the same earth as them.

In the end, Walter comes to his senses and in a powerful speech to Linder, turns down the money and the family gets ready to move into their new home.

A Raisin in the Sun is a groundbreaking movie.

The film shows the complex questions facing a racial minority. The movie examines serious generational and racial issues as assimilation, prejudice, conflicts between idealism, the pursuit of the American dream, and pride in one's racial and cultural heritage.

The movie powerfully conveys the inter-familial and inter-generational conflicts that arise out of different hopes, dreams, and ambitions.

The movie captures the power and tension of a strong ensemble cast with intelligent and moving script.

I highly recommend this very powerful and moving film.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Navigator

The Navigator (1924) was directed by Donald Crisp and Buster Keaton and starred Buster Keaton and Kathryn McGuire.

Rollo (Buster Keaton) decides to marry his sweetheart Betsy (Kathryn McGuire) and sail to Hawaii. When she rejects him he decides to go alone but boards the wrong ship, the "Navigator" owned by Betsy's father. Unaware of this, Betsy boards the ship to look for her father. whom spies capture before cutting the ship loose. It drifts out to sea with the two socialites each unaware of there being anyone else on board.

The two end up together, stranded and drifting a sea. At first, the young couple is helpless because they've never had to lift a finger in their lives. What follows is a series of comedy gags as the couple tries to figure out how to cook for themselves.

As the weeks pass, Keaton and McGuire become quite adept at fending for themselves, utilizing the huge facilities of the liner (its steam room, its enormous kitchen) for the simplest and most basic of necessities.

An attack by a cannibal tribe requires Rollo (Keaton) to be more resourceful than ever, he must go down in a deep sea diving suit and repair the ship in order to escape the cannibals.

This builds-up to the climatic contretemps between Rollo (Keaton), Betsy (McGuire) and the cannibals .

The movie also has a great gag with a photo of director Donald Crisp.

There are gags with Rollo (Keaton) losing a battle with a deck chair and his attempt to shuffle a water soaked deck of cards.

The Navigator contains some of the most elaborate and well-known stunts by Keaton.

This film is a comic masterpiece and one of the silent era's most memorable films as well as one of Keaton's best films.

Two Faced Woman

Two Faced Women (1941) was directed by George Cukor and starred Greta Garbo and Meylvn Douglas.

The movie opens with Lawrence "Larry Blake" on holiday at a ski lodge in Idaho. He is there to rest and not ski. That is until he sees ski instructor Karin Borg (Greta Garbo) and immediately wants lessons.

The two fall in love and marry. Larry Blake vows to Karin to give up the life in New York and settle for a simple life in Idaho. However, his vow doesn't last long, when his secretary Miss Ellis (Ruth Gordon) and business partner Oscar Miller (Roland Young) arrive in Idaho. Blake is outraged at the latest addition of his magazine and against his wife's wishes returns to New York. His trip to New York becomes a longer and longer stay. Karin missing her husband decides to suprise him in New York.

However, it is Karin that gets the suprise when she spots him with old girlfriend Griselda Vaughn (Constance Bennett). Karin tries to make a quiet exit from New York, swearing Miss Ellis to not tell anyone she was in New York when they accidently run into Oscar Miller, Blake's business partner.

Miss Ellis gets the idea to say that Karin is not Karin but Katharine, Karin's twin sister. Miller falls for the gag and "Katharine" and invites her to dinner. Karin/Katharine decides it might be fun to pose as her twin and spy on her husband with Griselda.

At the night club, Larry Blake is suspicious and calls Idaho and finds out his wife is in New York. So Larry decides two can play this game. What unfolds is a comedy of errors and mishaps.

This was Garbo's last film before retirement. Rumor says because it bombed at the box office, she bought out her contract and retired from the silver screen.

Ruth Gordon is delightful as Miss Ellis and I love it when she says "I am going slowly but quietly insane" as she is the only one that knows Katharine is Karin.

Roland Young is wonderful as Oscar Miller, befuddled and confused.

Greta Garbo and Meylvn Douglas have wonderful chemistry as they did in Ninotchka (1939).

I found this film delightful and truely enjoyed it.

Several films we find classic today originally bombed at the box office like Bringing Up Baby (1938).

This is one of those films that may have bombed at the box office but is truely a romantic gem and a movie to see.

The Black Swan

The Black Swan (1942) was directed by Henry King and starred Maureen O'Hara and Tyrone Power.

After England and Spain make peace, notorious pirate Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar) is made Governor of Jamaica and decides to reform. He vows to rid the Caribbean of his former comrades, by persuasion or force, if necessary. Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) and Tommie Blue (Thomas Mitchell), reluctantly give up their "trade" out of friendship with Morgan.

Morgan replaces the former governor, Lord Denby (George Zucco) but is not trusted by either the lawful residents or the pirates.

Captain Billy Leach (George Sanders) and Wogan (Anthony Quinn) refuse to change and continue wrecking havoc on the Caribbean seas. When Morgan is unable to stop the pirating of his old shipmates, he is suspected of still being allied with them. Someone is selling sailing information to Captain Leech and his crew. The people of Jamaica suspect Morgan and demand for his impeachment.

It is up to Jamie Waring to set sail to get to the bottom of things and bring Captian Leech and his crew to justice and restore Captain Morgan's good name.

However, Jamie Waring has taken a liking to Lord Denby's daughter, Lady Margaret (Maureen O'Hara) who happens to be engaged to an English gentleman, Roger Ingram (Edward Ashley). It turns out, her soon to be husband is the one secretly providing information about ship sailings to the pirates in an attempt to unseat the newly appointed Governor Morgan.

On the eve of Lady Margaret's wedding to Roger, Jamie Waring kidnaps her and takes her along on his voyage to capture Captain Leech and his crew. When Jamie Waring, Tommie Blue and the crew meet up with Leech's ship "The Black Swan" they realize they cannot fight them or out run them. So Jamie Waring and his crew form a fake alliance with Leech pretending they have left Morgan and returned to being pirates. Their plan is to lure Leech in and have him captured. However, Leech discovers their plan and takes them all hostage and the fight is on.

In the meantime, Captain Morgan thinks he has been betrayed by Jamie Waring and vows to bring him in.

What falls is an explosion of fighting and Leech is brought down and Lady Margaret falls in love with Jamie.

This is one of the best pirate films. The film won an oscar for Best Cinematography, Color.

Maureen O'Hara is stunning as Lady Margaret. Thomas Mitchell, Tyrone Power, George Sanders and Laird Cregar give excellent performaces.

Tyrone Power as Jamie Waring.

Maureen O'Hara as Lady Margaret

Laird Cregar as Captain Morgan.

Thomas Mitchell as Tommie Blue.

George Sanders as Captain Leech

Anthony Quinn as Wogan

Ladies in Retirement

Ladies in Retirement (1941) was directed by Charles Vidor and stars Ida Lupino and Louis Hayward.

Ida Lupino plays Ellen Creed a housekeeper to retired actress Ms. Fisk (Isobel Elsom). Evelyn Keyes plays Lucy, the maid.

The film's setting is the late 1800s in a remote area of England. Ms. Fisk (Isobel Elsom) is a retired London stage actress. She lives with her personal assistant/ housekeeper, Ellen Creed (Ida Lupino) and her maid, Lucy (Evelyn Keyes). The remote mansion in the country only gets occasional vistors like the sisters from the near by church, Sister Agatha (Queenie Leonard) and Sister Theresa (Emma Dunn) or Ms. Fisk's driver, Bates (Clyde Cook).

The film opens with Ellen receiving a letter from her sister's landlord. The landlord states they must leave at once or she will call the police and have them committed to the appropriate institution. Ellen persuades her employer, Ms. Fisk to permit the sisters to visit for a few days, not telling her of their mental problems. Ellen goes to London to run a few errands for Ms. Fisk and pick up her sisters.

While Ellen is in London, her long lost nephew Albert (Louis Hayward) appears needing money. The generous Ms. Fisk loans him a few pounds. Albert also takes a fancy to the maid, Lucy. He leaves before Ellen returns and asks Ms. Fisk and Lucy not to say anything of his visit.

Ellen returns from London with her sisters Emily (Elsa Manchester) and Louisa (Edith Barrett). A few days visit turns into six weeks. The two sisters are batty and soon get on Ms. Fisk's nerves. Ms. Fisk has had about all she can take of the crazy sisters and their antics. Ms. Fisk demands Emily and Lousia leave her home at once.

Ellen fearing her sisters will be committed and having no avenue of escape, murders her employer Ms. Fisk and tells everyone Ms. Fisk is on an extended holiday.

Long lost nephew Albert returns to the mansion, and begins to suspect what Ellen has done with Ms. Fisk. He is also running from the law, after stealing money from the bank where he worked.

What begins is a suspenceful cat and mouse game between Ellen and Albert, with Lucy helping Albert. Will Ellen be exposed or will she retain the upper hand?

The acting is excellent and it is a very absorbing suspenseful film. The name of the film makes it sound like it would be a comedy and not the melodrama that it is. It is actually based on a true story that occurred in England in 1886.

If you have not seen this film, I highly recommend it, you will not be disappointed.

Les Miserables

Les Miserables (1935) was directed by Richard Boleslawski and stars Fredric March and Charles Laughton. The movie is based on the book by Victor Hugo. Like most movies based on books there are some differences.

Fredric March gives one of his finest performances as Jean Valjean/ M. Madeleine/ M. Duval.

Charles Laughton is equally as good as the vicious, single-minded, neurotic Inspector Javert.

Young Cosette (Marilyn Knowlden) is delightful. She also played young Kim the 1936 version of Showboat and Florence Udney in Anthony Adverse (1936).

Older Cosette is played by Rochelle Hudson.

In 1800, in France, Jean Valjean (Fredric March) is sentenced to ten years as a galley slave. Jean's crime was that while he was hungry and out of work, he stole a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her children.

Officer Emile Javert (Charles Laughton), who has sworn to rise above his father, crimes (his father died as a prisoner on the galleys) is promoted after he emotionally confides that the book of regulations is his bible and that his creed is that the law must be strictly obeyed. Officer Javert is assigned to the galley were Jean Valjean is imprisoned. They meet for the first time when a fellow prisoner is injured and Jean Valjean lifts the heavy board off the prisoner with his back.

After years of imprisonment, Jean, now with long, unkempt hair and beard, is freed and told he must carry a yellow passport and report to police headquarters on a regular basis. He is refused lodging and food by all because he is a former convict. He takes shelter during a rain storm with Bishop Bienvenue (Cedric Hardwick). During the night, Jean Valjean steals the Bishop's silver plates. Officer catch Jean Valjean and return him to the Bishop. Much to Valjean's suprise, the Bishop states that the plates were a gift. The Bishopalso presents Jean with two silver candlesticks and tells him that life is to give, not to take, Jean leaves with new confidence.

The movie next advances to years later. Jean has changed his name to M. Madeleine and, as the owner of a thriving glass factory. He is newly appointed Mayor of the village. Things are going well for the former prisoner until Officer Emile Javert is appointed inspector of police for the district in which Jean lives. Jean remembers Officer Javert but at first Officer Javert does not remember Jean.

Fantine (played by Fredric March's real life wife Florence Eldridge) is a glass factory worker who is discharged because of rumors that she had a child out of wedlock. Although she threatens to kill Jean/ M. Madeleine for firing her, he prevents Javert from arresting her and takes her in. He goes to the Inn where her daughter has been sent to work and brings her daughter Cosette home to her mother.

On the way to the Inn, Jean/ M. Madeleine rescues a man caught under a cart by lifting it with his back. Javert witnesses the rescue and, his suspicions aroused as he has only see men who were imprisoned in the galleys with such strength in their backs. Javert sends messengers to inquire about Jean/ M. Madeleine.

Javert suspects that M. Madeleine is actually Jean Valjean, a man who is wanted for not reporting for parole. However, Javert learns that a man known as Champmathieu has been arrested and is believed to be "Jean Valjean." Javert confesses his actions to Jean and demands that Jean dismiss him and press charges against him for wrongly accusing M. Madeleine of being a wanted convict. Jean/ M. Madeleine refusal greatly disturbs Javert.

Jean/ M. Madeline is disturbed that another man is being prosecuting for his crime of not reporting to parole and goes to the trial. During the trial, Jean/ M. Madeleine cannot watch another man being wrongly prosecuted and confesses he is the man they are looking for and they know where they can find him if they wish to arrest him. He returns to his home and attempts to give Fantine 20,000 francs to provide for her daughter, Cosette, but Javert confiscates the money. When Fantine, who has been seriously ill, dies, Jean throws Javert down and escapes with Cosette for Paris.

After changing his identity to M. Duval, Jean puts Cosette into a convent and gets work there as a gardener. Years later, after Cosette's confirmation, the two leave the convent and settle in Paris. While in Paris, Cosette meets Marius, a law student who is protesting for reforms, and they secretly fall in love. Javert, investigating Marius' group, follows Cosette home, and when Jean spies Javert watching them, he starts to pack.

As the students' protests escalate into street violence, Jean plans to go with Cosette to England, but when she reveals her love for Marius, Jean responds with anger, jealousy and dismay, for he loves Cosette himself, stating she is all he has in the world. Cosette, who thinks of Jean as her father and feels undying gratitude for, agrees to escape to England and leave Marius behind. However, Jean remembering the Bishop's words on giving and while looking at the candlesticks the Bishop gave him, decides to help Marius and bring him back to Cosette.

Jean and a friend of Marius must fight their way through the violence in the street to reach Marius. Javert is hot on their trail. After the students capture Javert, Jean says he is his, that this man has been following and hounding him for 20 years. However, Jean cannot bring himself to kill Javert and sets him free.

Javert is outraged to be freed by Jean. Jean finds Marius who has been badly beaten. Jean carries the beaten Marius through the sewers of Paris and escapes. He brings Marius to Cosette and begs Javert, who is waiting at he house, for a moment to say goodbye to her. Although the law does not allow this, Javert complies.

Jean says his goodbyes to Cosette and Marius, letting them believe he is escaping to England. He does not tell them that Javert is waiting to arrest him. He repeats the bishop's creed to Cosette and Marius and gives them the candlesticks. Jean walks out the door to meet Javert.

I will not write what happens next as I do not want to reveal a spoiler for whoever has not seen this movie. But I will say the ending is a very emotional one.

The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) was directed by Orson Welles and starred Joseph Cotton, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter, Agnes Moorehead, and Tim Holt.

The film, set in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, tells the story of the Ambersons, an upper-class Indianapolis family.

The head of the Amberson family is Major Amberson (Richard Bennett). The Major has two children, Isabel (Dolores Costello) and Jack (Ray Collins).

The beginning of the film is told in flasbacks and establishes the history between the characters. We learn that Isabel is unintentionally humiliated in public by her beau Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) with he serenades her after having a few drinks and drunkenly falls and breaks his bass violin. Isabel breaks off the relationship and marries Wilbur Minafer (Donald Dillaway).

Isabel and Wilbur have one child, George (Tim Holt), who the town describes as a spolied arrogant immature brat who will one day get his "commeuppance."

The film next advances to twenty years later. Eugene, now a widower, returns to Indianapolis with his daughter Lucy (Anne Baxter). Isabel and Wilbur are still married and living in the Amberson mansion with her father Major Amberson and Wilbur's spinster sister Fanny (Agnes Moorehead). George is home from college and they are throwing him a party. George meets Lucy and is instantly taken by her.

But George is a momma's boy and is upset by the obvious attraction that still exists between Eugene and his mother, Isabel. Fanny is also not happy as she is also smitten with Eugene.

Eugene is a man of the future, designing "horseless carriages" which George thinks is stupid and a useless invention.

George and Lucy begin a courtship but problems arise when George's father Wilbur dies. After Wilbur's death, his mother begins seeing Eugene and George is furious. To make matters worse, Fanny flames the fire with George's dislike of Eugene. Ultimately, this conflict results in a breaking off of the relationship between George and Lucy.

Eugene continues to court Isabel and then decides to ask for her hand in marriage. Sensing that Eugene wants to marry Isabel, George takes control and rebuffs a planned visit from Eugene at the door of the Amberson mansion. Isabel's love for George overrides her love for Eugene, so she complies with George's demands. Isabel leaves with George on a world tour, to get her away from Eugene.

Isabel becomes ill on the world tour. Her illness compels their return to Indianpolis, where George still acts as gatekeeper for those who wish to see the dying Isabel. Eugene is unable to see Isabel for one last time before her death.

Shortly thereafter, Isabel's grief-stricken father Major Amberson dies, leaving George and the other family members to fend for themselves financially. George and Fanny are forced to move from the mansion.

George feeling a responsibility to care for Fanny, must take employment among the "riffraff" he has always scorned. George was originally to take a job in a law firm but it did not pay enough to care for himself and Fanny, so he takes a job in the labor industry. George Minafer received his comeuppance.

George also begins to gain some self-awareness of how he has hurt others. He begins to learn to take responsibility as he deals with his grief and guilt. He finally begins to show signs of maturity.

Eugene and Lucy read in the newspaper that George is in the hospital after nearly being killed in a car accident. The final scene of the movie shows Eugene and Fanny walking down the hall outside of George's hospital room and we learn George, Eugene and Lucy have reconciled their differences.

The Magnificent Ambersons was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Supporting Actress for Agnes Moorehead.

Agnes Moorehead and Tim Holt steal this movie. There performances are excellent. Although Agnes Moorehead did not win the Academy Award she did receive the New York Film Critics Award for her performance as Fanny.

The main draw back to this movie, is the original version was much longer and several cuts were made. At times it is obvious that that a scene or information is missing.

This is a very good movie that I highly recommend

A Guide for the Married Man

A Guide for the Married Man (1967) was directed by Gene Kelly and starred Walter Matthau, Inger Stevens, and Robert Morse.

Paul Manning (Walter Matthau) discovers one day that his dear friend and neighbor Ed Stander (Robert Morse) has been cheating on his wife. Curious, he asks Ed about it and is given the history and tactics of men who have successfully cheated on their wives. With each new story and tactic Paul can't help but notice the attractive blonde who lives nearby. Although Paul gets close to cheating on his wife, Ruth (Inger Stevens) he never does go through with it.

As Ed Stander (Morse) is telling Paul (Matthau) the lessons on how to cheat without getting caught, Ed's examples are told by cameo appearances and witty demonstrations.

For example, Lucille Ball and Art Carney, play a married couple which demonstrates how the husband can pick a fight to get out of the house.

Another example is shown by Jayne Mansfied and Terry-Thomas, on why one should never cheat on their wife in the home, when Jayne loses her bra.

Cameos in the examples are portrayed by Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Terry Thomas, Jayne Mansfied, Sid Ceaser, Joey Bishop, Phil Silvers, Carl Reiner, Wally Cox, Marty Ingels, Same Jaffe, and Jeffrey Hunter.

This is a delightful comedy and Walter Matthau is darling. The witty demonstrations by the cameo appearances of some of my favorite actors are classic.

They Died With Their Boots On

They Died With Their Boots On (1941) was directed by Raoul Walsh and stars Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn.

The film is filled with historical inaccuracies, but all in all in is a very good film, provided you don't take it at all seriously as a historical representation. It is an enjoyable film designed to entertain not educate.

The film follows the supposed life of General George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) from his attending West Point to his final stand at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

At West Point, Custer is compared to Ulysess Grant and not in a good way. They are both said to be the most undisclipined cadets ever to attend West Point. One historical accuracy is both in real life and in the movie, Custer graduates last in his class.

Custer graduates West Point early (his class was graduated early to fight in the Civil War) and hopes to get into active battle in the Civil War. However, the person in charge of assigning soldiers to units, is Custer's old superior at West Point, Maj. Romulus Taipe (Stanley Ridges). One day while at a restraurant Custer eyes Lt. General Winfield Scott (Sydney Greenstreet) and uses his charm and art of persuasion to get Scott to have him assigned to active duty. While assigned to his first unit, Custer encounters his old nemis from West Point, Ned Sharp (Arthur Kennedy). Custer ignoring all rules and the chain of command, slugs Sharp and takes over the men and lead them further into battle. Later, a goof promotes Custer to General and he is in charge of the Michigan cavalry and once again Custer ignores orders and leads the men further into battle.

After the Civil War, Custer is assigned to Fort Lincoln. Prior to his assignment, he turned down a job offer by Ned Sharp's father to head up trading posts in the new frontier. Custer turned down the position with the Sharps because he did not want his good name to be used to make money. At Fort Lincoln, Custer once again encounters his old nemis Ned Sharp. Ned Sharp is selling firearms to the Indians and selling booze to the soliders at Fort Lincoln. To the dismay of Ned Sharp, Custer closes the bar and basically shuts down Sharp's business.

Sharp and Major Taipe enter into a plan to make the public believe their is gold in the Black Hills and break the treaty. But first, they have to get Custer out of the way. Taipe orders the bar at the Fort reopened and Custer has a bunch of drunk soldiers on his hands. Custer slugs Taipe and a court maritial proceeding is initiated. Custer true to his word and his men, asks for the proceedings to be put on hold until he can return to Fort Lincoln and help the soliders fight the Indians. Custer knows the infantry is not suited to fight the Indians, it must be the cavalry, only the cavalry is trained properly to deal with Indians. Custer knows the mission is most likely a suicide mission. The white settlers must be protected and as Custer states he and his men must endure and die with their boots on. Knowing it is a suicide mission, Custer writes a letter as a dying declaration exposing the corruption and absolving the Indians of all responsibility.

Flynn is excellent as the fun loving, dashing Custer. Olivia de Havilland is delightful as Custer's sweetheart and then wife, Elizabeth Bacon. This is the final movie together for de Havilland and Flynn and they are so comfortable together and play off each other so easily, it is easy to over look how thinly their courtship is written into the movie.

The movie also has delightful characters as Elizabeth's maid, Callie (Hattie McDaniel) and California Joe (Charley Grapewin), Custer's right hand man at Fort Lincoln. California Joe is not a solidier but a settler who is determined one day to get to California, never mind the fact he has been trying for 27 years.

This is a wonderful movie, entertaining with an excellent cast.

Drums Along the Mohawk

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) was directed by John Ford and stars Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert. Supporting cast includes Edna May Oliver, John Carradine, Ward Bond, and Eddie Collins.

It is a technicolor film based upong a 1936 novel of the same name by American author Walter D. Edmonds.

In 1776, American colonists Gilbert Martin (Henry Fonda) and Lana Borst (Claudette Colbert) marry and leave her family home in Albany, New York to settle in Deerfield, a frontier of the Mohawk Valley in central New York.

Lana has difficulty adjusting to frontier life, but is soon working the farm alongside her husband. Her first night in Deerfield she is terrified to the point of hysteria when a local friendly Indian Blue Back (Chief John Big Tree) pays the new couple a visit.

The American Revolution begins and the local Indians are being led by a Tory named Caldwell (John Carradine). Caldwell and the Indians burn every home to the ground including the Martins. Lana is pregnant at the time and miscarries when their home is burned and they are forced to seek shelter in Fort Herkimer.

Peace is temporarily restored in the valley (although the Revolution continues) and with winter approaching, Gil and Lana accept work and shelter on the farm of a wealthy widow Mrs. McKlennar (Edna May Oliver).

Another attack by the Tories and the Indians threatens the valley and the miltia is called up. Gil Martin promptly joins the minutemen. Mrs. McKlennar and Lana are ordered to take shelter in Fort Herkimer but Mrs. McKlennar refuses.

The poorly trained setllers barely mange to defeat the enemy at Oriskany. Gil returns home badly wounded. He is nursed back to health. Mrs. McKlennar's home is turned into a temporary hospital for the wounded settlers. .

Life once agains returns to nomality, although the American Revolution continues. The Martin's are still working for Mrs. McKlennar and the community of Deerfield is slowly rebuilding. Lana and Gil welcome the birth of their son. But life in the valley will soon change.

The enemy once again attack the settlers, led by Caldwell. This time they burn Mrs. McKlennar's home to the ground. The settlers take refuge in Fort Herkimer. Mrs. McKlennar is killed and ammunition runs short. The settlers realize someone must get to Fort Dayton for help. The person who is selected must make it through enemy lines to secure help. The first person to attempt to get to Fort Dayton, is captured and killed. Gil then decides to try to make it to Fort Dayton for help.

While Gil is gone, the Indians and the Tories are closing in on the Fort. Will help from Fort Dayton arrive in time? Will Gil make it to Fort Dayton or will the three Indians chasing him catch him before he can get help?

Edna May Oliver was nominated for an Acadmey Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She steals every scene she is in. She is fiesty and will not back down for anyone. For example, when she is ordered to take refuge in the Fort the first time, she refuses, saying this is her home and she can handle anything that comes her way. When the Indians come and are burning down her house, she won't leave and actually physically fights with the Indians. Gil has to forcibly remover her and take her to the fort. When the Indians are attacking the Fort, she is fighting right alongside the men.

I really enjoyed this movie and I highly recommend it.

Half Angel

Half Angel (1951) is a delightful romantic comedy directed by Richard Sale and stars Loretta Young and Joseph Cotton.

Loretta Young plays Nora, a prim and proper nurse, engaged to the stuffy Tim (John Ridgely). Nora is a sleepwalker and during her nocturnal forays, the less inhibited side of her personality takes over. On one of her nocturnal strolls, she meets up with her childhood sweetheart flame, John Raymond Jr. (Joseph Cotten) and once more falls for him. Of course, neither of Nora's personalities is aware of the other's existence, which leads to a comedy of errors. Finally, on the night before her planned wedding to Tim, her nighttime half runs off with John, to her other self's bewilderment the next morning. Of course her psychological problem is discovered in time and the movie ends on a happy note.

Cecil Kellaway plays Nora's father Harry Gilpin. Cecil Kellaway is a long time character actor who appeared in such films as Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), and Harvey (1950).

Basil Ruysdael plays Nora's boss, Dr. Jackson. He appeared in such films as The Horse Soliders (1959), People Will Talk (1951), and The File on Thelma Jordan (1950).

Jim Backus best known as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island plays Mike Hogan, John Raymond's friend.

Irene Ryan best known as Granny Clampett is delightful as Nurse Kay, Nora's co-worker and friend. This is a younger Irene Ryan and who knew she had red hair.

John Ridgely is delightful as the stuffy Tim McCarey, Nora's intended groom. Ridgely was Eddie Mars in The Big Sleep and Saunders in Arsenic and Old Lace.

This is not a serious movie, it is simply a delightful romantic comedy with a wonderful cast and if you are looking for a light hearted movie, this is a movie to see.