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.