Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wild River

Wild River (1960) is drama directed by Elia Kazan and stars Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick, and Jo Van Fleet.

This is a powerful historical drama about the clash between public necessity and private autonomy, racial prejudice, intrusion of the government and remains one of Elia Kazan’s finest films.

As part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Congress creates the Tennessee Valley Authority in May 1933. The mandate of the TVA is to stop the deadly flooding of the Tennessee River and bring progress to the poverty-stricken area through the construction of a series of dams.

Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift) is an idealistic Tennessee Valley Authority administrator who comes to a small town in Tennessee to enforce the clearing of the land to be flooded by a new dam on the Tennessee River in the early 1930s.

Chuck’s first task is to convince the elderly Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet) the matriarch of a large family that has lived on an island in the river for generations, to sell her land to the government.

Ignoring the "TVA Keep Off" signs, Chuck crosses the river to Garth Island, but Ella refuses to speak to him. Hoping Ella’s three grown sons can help, Chuck approaches them, but when he suggests that Ella might be senile, Joe John Garth (Big Jeff Bess) tosses him into the river.

When Chuck returns to the island, he finds Ella, surrounded by her black field hands and their families, railing against Roosevelt’s New Deal. To illustrate her situation, Ella pretends to attempt to force Sam Johnson (Robert Earl Jones), an elderly field hand, to sell her his beloved hunting dog. After making her point that she has no right to ask Sam to sell his dog, Ella proceeds to tell Glover that she is not interested in the modern conveniences the dam will bring, declares that she cannot be forced to sell her land because to do so would be "against nature."

Ella Garth entire identity is wrapped up in the island her family has owned for years. While it’s clear that Glover will somehow eventually convince her to move, the story of how this happens remains compelling until the end.

Meanwhile, Glover falls in love with the matriarch's granddaughter, Carol Garth Baldwin (Lee Remick). The scenes between them are remarkable for their erotic tension with no explicitness whatsoever.

The film also portrays some of the racial issues in the South during the Great Depression.

Chuck Glover takes Sam aside and asks him to bring the men to the TVA office to discuss employment possibilities. Glover plans to pay the African Americans five dollars a day clearing land for the dam, the same amount that is paid to white workers.

Sy Moore (Malcolm Atterbury), a prominent businessman, urges Chuck to create segregated work crews and pay the black workers less than the whites, but Chuck flatly refuses to maintain such inequities, leading Moore to warn of retaliation by less reasonable townspeople.

The anger of the locals is aroused. First, Hank Bailey (Albert Salmi), a cotton farmer takes revenge on Chuck in his hotel room because one of his black workers left to take advantage of the higher wages offered by the TVA. Later, Hank Bailey and several town's people arrive at Carol's new home and attack Chuck Glover. As the sheriff watches from the sidelines, the crowd vandalizes Carol’s home and Chuck’s car.

This multi layered film also focuses on loyality. Everyone eventually leaves the island but loyal Sam, who refuses to leave Ella. In a moving scene, Glover makes one last attempt to convince Ella to leave the island before calling in the US Marshal, as he heads back to the ferry, he notices that the faithful Sam continues to plow the fields.

Another layer of this film is the good side of people. The whole town views Glover as an outsider and a representative of the evil government. Carol's intended Walter Clark (Frank Overton)is alerted to Glover's relationship with Carol by Bailey. Clark is to lure Glover back to his hotel room to a waiting Bailey. At the last minute, Clark cannot do it and warns warns Glover. Later Clark arrives to warn Glover of the gathering angry towns people coming to teach Glover a lesson. Clark who has lost his girlfriend to Glover, still knows Glover has a job to do and it is wrong to attack him.

During the film, Chuck Glover grows and comes to respect Ella. Hamilton (Jay C. Flippen) and Cal (James Westerfield) Garth approach Chuck to propose that they sell the land themselves after having their mother declared incompetent. However, Chuck, who now understands and greatly admires Ella’s pride and dignity, is disgusted with their plan and declares that he would rather have Ella removed with a gun to her head.

Wild River anticipates much of the environmental debates concerning the artificial control of rivers. The film shows a deep understanding of the relationship of Nature and the Land with the individual in the United States.

Other minor conflicts are evident in the film, such as the hostility the fairly liberal Glover has to deal with when he hires blacks to work alongside the local whites at the site.

The beautiful cinematography and atmospheric settings which are vivid and lends much to the story.

The film ends with very powerful scences. Chuck and Carol accompany the marshal to Ella’s island. As Ella’s former workers look on, the marshal reads the eviction notice, after which the silent Ella walks to the ferry accompanied by the sounds of ax blows and falling trees. At her modern new home, Ella sits on the front porch, staring at the river and refusing to speak. A short time later, as workers finish clearing the island and prepare to burn down her farmhouse, Ella passes away.

Once his work is done, Chuck and his new family fly out of the valley, first past Garth Island Cemetery, now a tiny speck in a man-made lake, and then over the powerful new dam.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Man Hunt

Man Hunt (1941) is a thriller drama directed by Fritz Lang and starring Walter Pidgeon and Joan Bennett. It is based on the 1939 novel Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household.

On July 29, 1939, renowned British big game hunter Captain Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) slips through the forest undetected near Adolf Hitler's residence near Berchtesgaden. Getting the dictator in his telescopic sight, he pulls the trigger on his unloaded rifle and gives a wave to Hitler. Throndike ponders a moment, then inserts a live round in the chamber, but is discovered at the last second by a guard who tackles him and the shot fires but does not strike Hitler.

After being beaten up, Thorndike is taken to Major Quive-Smith (George Sanders). Quive-Smith is also a devoted hunter and an admirer of Thorndike. Thorndike explains that the purpose of the exercise was a "sporting stalk", not to kill, but just for the thrill of going after the biggest game of all.

Quive-Smith is not persuaded and insists Thorndike sign a confession stating that he was in fact trying to assasinate Hitler on behalf of the British government. When Thorndike refuses, he is tortured, but remains steadfast and warns of "questions being asked in high places" if he is killed, as states his brother, Lord Risborough (Frederick Worlock), is a very important diplomat.

Quive-Smith decides to throw Thorndike off a cliff and make his death look like an accident.

Thorndike survives when his knapsack gets caught in a tree, breaking his fall. He eludes his German pursuers and eventually reaches a port. He steals a rowboat, but is forced to abandon it when a patrol boat comes near. He swims to a Danish ship about to sail for London.

On the ship, he meets Vaner (Roddy McDowall), the cabin boy, who turns out to be English and helps Thorndike hide until the ship reaches England.

Meanwhile, the Germans find Thorndike's coat and passport aboard the rowboat. The Germans place an agent named Mr. Jones (John Carradine) on board using Thorndike's passport to continue looking even after the ship leaves the harbor.

In London, Jones is met by German agents. Thorndike, still being pursued ducks into an apartment house and meets Jerry Stokes (Joan Bennett). Jerry helps Thorndike reach his brother.

When Lord Risborough tells his brother that the British government, continuing its pre-war policy of appeasement, would have to extradite him if he were found, Thorndike decides to try and make it to Africa.

An amusing scene at the Risborough household is when Thorndike tries to offer Jerry money for her help and Lady Risborough (Heather Thatcher) assumes that it is payment for other services.

Jerry and Throndike have grown fond of each other. He buys her a new hatpin, as she had lost hers. She chooses a cheap chromium arrow and insists Thorndike present it to her. Thorndike likens it to her, saying both are "straight and shiny".

Quive-Smith arrives in London to join the hunt.

After Throndike leaves his solicitor Saul Farnsworthy (Holmes Herbert)office, he is chased into the London Underground Station and tunnel by Jones. Thorndike struggles with Jones, who is killed when he is thrown onto an electrified rail. Jones' body is so mangled by an oncoming train, the British authorities assume he is Throndike as Jones is still carrying Throndike's passport and papers. The Germans, however, know that it is in fact Jones who was killed.

Throndike is seen running from the tunnel and described by witnesses as a man with a scar (which he obtained when he was tortured in Germany). Throndike is now wanted by the British authorities for murder and is still being pursued by the Germans.

Thorndike tells Jerry to have Lord Risborough send him a letter in three weeks time care of Lyme Regis Post Office. Meanwhile, Thorndike hides in a cave in the countryside and grows a beard to cover his identifing scar.

Jerry says goodbye to Throndike and returns home to find three German agents in her apartment.

Thorndike goes to pick up the letter, the postmistress (Eily Malyon) seems alarmed and sends a girl on an errand. Thorndike grabs the letter and beats a hasty retreat. Back at his cave, he finds the letter is from Quive-Smith.

Quive-Smith follows Throndike to the cave and seals the only entrance and passes his quarry the confession and a pen through an air hole, threatening to leave him trapped inside.

What happened to Jerry? Will Throndike get out of the cave alive? Will Throndike be forced to sign the confession?

Man Hunt became the first war film to attract the attention of the then neutral America's Hays Office. Joseph Breen was alarmed by the script when he read it in 1941calling it a "hate film".

Breen felt the film showed all Germans as evil unlike other films showing both good non-Nazi Germans as well as evil National Socialists. Breen insisted that the Germans could not be characterised as so brutal; the office would only pass the film if it would only "indicate" brutality rather than show it. Therefore cuts did not show Thorndike's torture but left it in the mind of the audience.

George Saunder's gives an excellent portrayal of a Gestapo agent. John Carradine is eminently creepy. Joan Bennett is purely delightful as the carefree and joyful Jerry. Roddy McDowell is terrific and shows his talents as an actor.

This is one of Walter Pidgeon's best performances.

This is a classic WW II propaganda piece that was suspenseful, engaging and a joy to watch. It is a tight thriller which holds its audience with its face pace of action.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


McLintock (1963)is a comedy western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
and stars John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. The film is loosely based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

The movie co-stars Patrick Wayne, Yvonne de Carlo, Stefanie Powers, Chill Wills, and Jerry Van Dyke.

There are also classic performance by some of our best loved character actors: Edgar Buchanan, Hank Worden, Strother Martin and Chuck Roberson.

The movie also features John Wayne's daughter Aissa Wayne as Alice Warren.

George Washington McLintock (John Wayne) is the owner of the largest ranch in the territory in the southwestern town of McLintock , which also includes a mine and a lumber mill.

McLintock'w wife, Katherine (Maureen O'Hara) walked out on him two years ago without a word of explanation. She has been living back east with high society.

Drago (Chill Wills) is McLintock's partner and friend.

Devlin Warren (Patrick Wayne) is McLintock's recently hired hand who has eyes for his daughter Becky.

Louise Warren (Yvonne de Carlo) is the mother of Devlin and is hired to be McLintock's cook. She is also engaged in a battle of wills with Katherine.

Becky (Stefanie Powers) is Katherine and McLintock's daughter. She has just returned from college.

Matt Douglas, Jr., (Jerry Van Dyke) is Becky's Harvard beau. His father is one of McLintock's old enemies.

Matt Douglas (Gordon Jones) is a corrupt land agent and McLintock's arch enemy.

McLintock has his hands full.

First, there a group of homesteaders out of the area who are pouring in with the support of the government, hoping to farm on land that's just barely adequate for cattle to graze on.

Second, the government is trying to push the Indians, whose chiefs are some of McLintock's oldest enemies and his best and most honored friends, by shipping them off to a reservation, where they'll be cared for like old women. The Indians are being dealt with by an inept Indian agent Agard (Strother Martin).

Third, Katherine has returned home. She is trying to secure a divorce and take custody of their 17-year-old daughter, Becky.

Fourth, his daughter is being pursued by his hired hand Delvin and his arch enemy's son Matthew Douglas Jr.

Finally, there is more trouble when a band of Comanche Indians just released from prison arrives in town to make a final stand against the white man.

So McLintock has government officals underfoot who are either corrupt or inept, recently arrived homesteaders, an angry and fiesty wife, a daughter, the Indians, and his own staff to deal with.

This setup ignites into a sprawling comedy Western with serious overtones, a battle-of-the-sexes, politcal issues and several brawls.

The film is famous for its two spanking scenes, in which mother and daughter are each paddled with coal shovels. First, Becky is paddled by suitor Delvin. Later, McLintock takes a coal shovel to Katherine's behind.

This film is one of the best pairings of Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne. Maureen O'Hara steals every scene she is in.

State of the Union

State of the Union (1948) is a political satire comedy directed by Frank Capra and stars Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, Van Johnson and Adolphe Menjou.

Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury) is called to the home of her father, newspaper publisher Sam Thorndyke (Lewis Stone), who is dying. Thorndyke, a bitter old man, tells his daughter how the Republican Party betrayed him and that he would be dying in the White House if they had continued to support him. He tells Kay "to make heads roll." After Kay leaves, Sam, tired of his suffering, commits suicide.

Kay is now the head of the Thorndyke Press, Kay begins the work of grooming her own man for the White House. She meets with Jim Conover (Adolphe Menjou) and asks him to head the campaign of her handpicked candidate: self-made aviation mogul Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy). She tells Conover that Matthews is "a rare combination of sincerity and drive that the common herd will go for."

Kay also enlists the services of one of her columnists, "Spike" MacManus (Van Johnson) to be a press secretary for Grant Matthews.

Grant Matthews arrives in Washington and states he is not interested in running for president, arguing that he is not a "politician" but a plainspoken American. However, Grant Matthews is an ambitious man, which Conover quickly recognizes, and talks Matthews to test the idea by giving a number of political speeches as he tours the country visiting his airplane factories.

A big obstacle in Conover and Throndyke's plans is Throndyke and Matthews affair and they must stop seeing each other because the illicit relationship with Kay would ruin any chance for the presidency. Kay readily agrees, but Grant is reluctant, as he must ask his estranged wife Mary (Katharine Hepburn), an idealistic woman, to go on the speaking tour with him.

Kay Throndyke and Jim Conovers both agree that Grant Matthews is the type of man they can control, or at least they think he is.

Although Kay Throndyke has agreed to end the relationship with Grant, she still decides to torment his wife Mary. She carefully leaves her glasses on Grant's nightstand for Mary to find. At first Mary is furious and decides to go him. But learning he is thinking of running for president, she agrees to share her husband's campaign but not his bed.

Jim Conover works the political back rooms, making dirty deals in Grant Matthew's name and the speaking tour begins with great success. However, in Kansas, under Mary's influence, Grant Matthews makes his own controversial speech, instead of one of Spike's carefully prepared ones. The people love Grant Matthews but the republican players do not.

In Detroit, Grant plans another speech, this time attacking management, but Jim and Kay interfer with a secret visit from Kay. Matthews agrees to make the prepared speech. Grant Matthews becomes a political pawn, meeting with all the special interest groups that Jim Conover brings to him and making any deal he can that will get him convention delegates.

To formally announce his presidential aspirations, Grant Matthews prepares an elaborate national broadcast from the Matthews' Long Island home. To deflect rumors of Kay and Grant's relationship, Mary is forced to invite Kay to the broadcast, which is the same night as the Matthews' wedding anniversary.

When some of the republican politicians attempt to renegotiate their deals with Grant, Kay steps forward and shows that she is the real power behind the campaign. Mary, finding out that Kay was in Detroit and realizing the role she has played in Grant's campaign, gets drunk and announces that she will not make her speech and her children will not appear on the broadcast.

Kay quickly agrees to make the speech for her, while Spike warns Mary, whom he has come to admire, that if Kay gives the speech, she will lose Grant forever. At the last moment, Mary steps up and begins the speech. Grant can take no more and stops Mary and proceeds to attack all the politicians who supported him, saying that he is no better because he played both sides and lost his faith in both the people and himself.

Grant Matthews and Mary reconcile. Kay Throndyke and Jim Conover lick their wounds and begin looking for another candidate.

This is another one of director Frank Capra's delightful blends of romantic melodrama and socio-political morality.

This is also of the most loved of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's collaborations.

The film is an intriguing look at the underhanded dealings and compromises needed to succeed on the road to the White House. Although the movie is over 60 years old, it is probably just as accurate a portrait of campaigning today as it was then.

The film becomes a tug of war for Grant Matthew's affection and his soul, as he lets his ambitions override his ideals.

One thing to watch for in this movie is "Spike" MacManus (Van Johnson) great one liners.

The film also includes delightful performances by character actors Margaret Hamilton as Norah, Charles Dingle as Bill Nolard Hardy and Charles Lane as Blink Moran.

This film's great performances and the well-written script make this movie a must see for every classic film lover.

Monday, January 18, 2010


"Frank Bigelow: "I want to report a murder." Homicide Captain: "Where was this murder committed?" Frank Bigelow: "San Francisco, last night." Homicide Captain: "Who was murdered?" Frank Bigelow: "I was." "

D.O.A. (1950), a film noir drama film directed by Rudolph Maté. The film stars Edmond O'Brien and Pamela Britton.

The movie begins with a long sequence featuring Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien) walking through the hallway of a police station to report his own murder. When he arrives, the police say they have been expecting him.

Frank Bigelow begins to tell the police what brought him there. A flashback begins with Bigelow in his hometown of Banning, California where he is an accountant and notary public. He decides to take a one-week vacation in San Francisco, but this does not sit well with Paula (Pamela Britton), his secretary and girlfriend, since he is not taking her along.

In San Francisco, Bigelow accompanies a group from a sales convention on a night on the town. At a jazz club, while he is talking to a beautiful blonde, a stranger with a plaid scarf swaps his drink with his. Bigelow does not notice.

The next morning, Bigelow feels ill. He visits a doctor, where tests reveal he has swallowed a "luminous toxin" for which there is no antidote. A second opinion confirms the grim diagnosis, and the other doctor tells Bigelow that someone has poisoned him.

With at most a few days to live, Bigelow sets out to untangle the events behind his impending death.

Paula provides the first clue, a Eugene Philips has been trying to contact him but has since died. Paula finds in Bigelow's notary book that he once notarized a bill of safe involving Eugene Philips.

Bigelow travels to Philips' import-export company in Los Angeles, first meeting Miss Foster (Beverly Garland), the secretary, then Mr Halliday (William Ching), the comptroller, who tells him Eugene Philips committed suicide. Bigelow follows the trail to the widow, Mrs Philips (Lynn Baggett) and Eugene's brother Stanley (Henry Hart).

Bigelow learns the bill of sale was for stolen iridium and Eugene Philips had been trying to contact him as this bill of sale would be proof of Philips innocence.

Bigelow next contacts Philip's mistress Marla Rakubian (Laurette Luez) and this leads him to gangsters led by Majak (Luther Adler). They capture Bigelow and since he has learned too much about the theft, Majak orders his psychotic henchman Chester (Neville Brand) to kill him. However, Bigelow manages to escape.

Who poisoned Bigelow? Was it Eugene Philip's brother Stanley? His secretary Miss Foster? Gangster Majak? Eugene Philip's partner Halliday? or Eugene Philips widow? Did Eugene Philip's commit suicide or was he pushed off the balcony?

The flashback comes to an end, Bigelow finishes telling his story and at the police station and dies, his last word being "Paula." The police detective taking down the report instructs that his file be marked "D.O.A." (dead on arrival).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

If I Had A Million (1932)

If I Had Million (1932) is a delightful comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Norman Taurog, Stephen Roberts, Norman Z. McLeod, James Cruze, William A. Seiter, and H. Bruce Humberstone. The screenplays were scripted by many different writers, with Joseph L. Mankiewicz making a large contribution.

Tycoon John Glidden (Richard Bennett), dying though still vigorous cannot decide what to do with his millions. He despises his money-hungry relatives and believes none of his employees is capable of running his various companies. He decides to give it away in million-dollar amounts to strangers picked from the city directory. The first name selected is John D. Rockefeller, which is swiftly rejected.

He picks a meek china salesman; a prostitute; a forger; two ex-vaudevilleans who hate road hogs; a condemned man; a mild-mannered clerk; a boisterous marine; and an oppressed inmate of an old ladies' home.

Glidden's first pick is Henry Peobody (Charles Ruggles), a china salesman. Peabody is unhappy at work and at home. A bookkeeper promoted to salesman in a china shop, Peobody keeps breaking the merchandise, meaning his raise brings home less money than before. At home, his nagging wife (Mary Boland) is quick to notice. After Glidden gives him a certified check, Peobody shows up late for work with a pet rabbit and then proceeds to gleefully break things at random.

Glidden's second pick is a bar room prostitute Violet Smith (Wynne Gibson). She uses her million to check into the most expensive hotel suite she can find and goes to bed, alone.

Glidden's third pick is Eddie Jackson (George Raft), a forger wanted by the police.
Eddie narrowly avoids arrest for trying to cash a forged check. With his prior record, if he is caught, it will mean a life sentence in prison. When Glidden presents him with his check, Eddie is delighted, at first. However, he does not dare show his face in a bank to cash the check, and none of his criminal associates believes the check is real. Frantic to leave town and desperately needing to sleep, he gives the check as security for a 10 cent bed in a flophouse. The manager secretly calls the police to take away what he thinks is a lunatic, and burns the check and uses it to light his cigarette.

Glidden's fourth selection is two ex-vaudevilleans, Rollo La Rue (W.C. Fields) and Emily La Rue (Alison Skipworth). The couple are very content with their life and running a tea room. There dream of owning a car comes true. However, on their first outing in their new automobile, they are in an accident caused by a road hog. When they return home heartbroken, they are met by Glidden. Emily comes up with an inventive way to spend part of her great windfall.

Emily and Rollo purchase eight used cars and hire drivers. They all take to the road in a long procession of cars. When they encounter a road hog, Emily and Rollo immediately set off in pursuit and crash into the offender's automobile. They then switch to one of their spare cars and repeat the process, until they run out of cars. At the end of the day, Emily purchases another new car, but it too is destroyed in a collision with a truck. Emily still tells Rollo it has been "a glorious day".

Glidden's fifth selection is John Wallace (Gene Raymond), a man on death row. After a tearful conversation with his wife Mary (Frances Dee), he is visited by Glidden in his cell. Glidden knows he is about to die but figures John can die in peace knowing his wife is provided for. However, John is certain that his new-found wealth will save him, but it is too late. He is executed that same day, despite his protests.

Glidden's sixth selection is clerk Phineas V. Lambert (Charles Laughton) who receives his check in the mail. He shows little emotion. He merely leaves his desk, calmly climbs the stairs to the office of the President of the Company. When he is arrives, Phineas blows a raspberry at his former boss and leaves.

Glidden's seventh selection is Marine Steve Gallagher (Gary Cooper). When Glidden arrives Gallagher and his budies Private Mulligan (Jack Oakie) and Private O'Brien (Roscoe Karns) are in the stockade for striking their sergeant. When Glidden gives Gallagher the check, Gallagher notices it is April 1st and assumes it is a joke. When the three men are released, they immediately head for a nearby lunch stand to see Marie (Joyce Compton), the pretty waitress. They all want to take her to the carnival, but none of them has any money. Then Gallagher remembers his check and that Zeb (Lucien Littlefield), the stand's owner, is illiterate. He tells Zeb that the check is for $10 and gets Zeb to cash it.

When the trio gets into a fight at the carnival they end up back in the stockades. Through the bars, they watch dumbfounded as a fancily-dressed Zeb steps out of a limousine, escorting an equally well dressed Marie. Gallagher says to his buddies, do you think the check was real?

Glidden's final selection is Mrs. Mary Walker (May Robson). She resides at Idylwood, a home for elderly women. The home is run by Mrs. Garvey (Blanche Friderici). Garvey is a tyrant who will not the residents do anything, play cards, have pets, or cook. Mary uses the money to buy the home. She pays Mrs. Garvey and the rest of the staff just to sit in rocking chairs while she and the other residents have a wonderful time partying and dancing with their gentleman friends. In addition, Mary always several kitty cats to live in the home too.

Mary's spirit even reinvigorates John Glidden. Glidden ignores his doctor and looks forward to spending time with Mary and eating her wonderful pies.

Some of the eight stories are funny, some are touching, and some are brilliant. The Eddie Jackson (George Raft) segment is twistedly ironic showing crime never pays. And everyone wants to be Phineas Lambert (Charles Laughton) and give their boss a rasberry.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dead End

Dead End is a 1937 crime drama directed by William Wyler. The screenplay was written by Lillian Hellman and is based on an adaptation of the Sidney Kingsley 1935 Broadway play of the same name.

It stars Humphrey Bogart, Joel McCrea, and Sylvia Sidney. It is notable as being the first film appearance of the Dead End Kids. Supporting cast includes Marjorie Main, Claire Trevor, Wendy Barrie, and Allen Jenkins.

Dead End was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Art Direction (Richard Day), Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Gregg Toland) and Best Supporting Actress (Claire Trevor).

In the slums of New York, wealthy people have built luxury apartments because of the view of the picturesque East River. At the end of the street is a dock on the East River; to the left are the luxury apartments and to the right are the slums.

The Dead End Kids, led by Tommy Gordon (Billy Halop), are a petty street gang whose members include Dippy (Huntz Hall), Angel (Bobby Jordan), Spit (Leo Gorcey), T.B. (Gabriel Dell), and Milty (Bernard Punsly).

Tommy's sister, Drina (Sylvia Sidney), dreams of marrying someone rich who will save her and Tommy from this miserable life of poverty and help prevent Tommy from growing up to be a criminal.

Dave Connell (Joel McCrea) is an unemployed architect who currently works odd jobs. Dave is torn between Drina, sweet but equally poor, and Kay (Wendie Barrie), a rich man's mistress.

Mobster Baby Face Martin (Humphrey Bogart), has returned to the neighborhood to visit his mother (Marjorie Main) and old girlfriend, Francey (Claire Trevor).

The Dead End Kids rough up a rich kid (Charles Peck) who lives in the apartments. When the boy's father tries to intervene, Tommy winds up stabbing him in the hand. He escapes the police and goes into hiding.

Martin, meanwhile, is rejected by his mother who denounces him as a murderer. Matin is repulsed to learn his ex-girlfriend, Francie is now a prostitute and suffering from syphilis.

Despondent over the failed visit, Martin decides to kidnap the rich child for ransom money to make the trip back home worthwhile. Dave orders Martin to leave or he will call the police. Dave and Martin struggle and Dave is stabbed and thrown into the river. Dave manages to get out of the river and a shootout begins. Martin is killed.

When the police arrive, a crowd gathers, including Spit, who is recognized as being a member of the gang that attacked the rich kid and his father. Spit squeals and informs the police of Tommy's identity and where to find Tommy. Tommy hears of Spit's betrayal and tries to give him the mark of the "squealer", which is a knife wound across the cheek. Before he can do so, Dave apprehends him and convinces him to turn himself in. Dave agrees to use his reward money from Martin's slaying to pay for Tommy's defense.

This movie is not only a crime drama, it is also a a great social commentary on the divisions between rich and poor.

The film shows the class differences between the rich and the poor. One moving scene is when Kay (Wendie Barrie) attempts to visit Dave (Joel McCrea) in his apartment building. She doesn't make it to his front door as she is horrified at the living conditions as she slowly climbs the stairs of the apartment building.

The film also shows the plight of the poor. Baby Face Martin turned to a life of crime. Drina has an honest job but is having trouble supporting herself and her brother. Dave got a college education but is unemployed and still living in the same neighborhood taking odd jobs. Francey moved to Brooklyn and turned to a life of prostitution.

The Dead End kids are know for theft, robbery and assault. One of them has already been to reform school. Tommy is probably going to reform school. The rich kid's father, a brother of a Judge, says that reform school will teach Tommy some good and keep him from hurting someone else. A fellow Dead End kid is telling Tommy to team up with "Smoke" at the reform school and he will show him the tricks to survive.

One strong message in this film, is the wealthy do not understand the plight of the poor. First, they moved into their neighborhood but act as though it is the poor who are intruding and interferring with their happy life. Second, the wealthy think reform school is a solution and do not realize reform school teaches more criminal behavior than anything else.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) is a screwball comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges. The film stars Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, Diana Lynn and William Demarest.

Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprise their roles from Sturges' 1940 film The Great McGinty as Governor McGinty and The Boss.

The film was nominated for a 1945 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Just before Christmas, the editor (Victor Potel) of the Morgan's Creek newspaper anxiously calls Governor McGinty (Brian Donlevy) to announce some astonishing news. Although McGinty is impatient, the editor begins to relate a long-winded story:

Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) wishes to attend a wild farewell party for a group of soldiers about to go overseas during World War II. However, after reading an editorial in the Morgan's Creek newspaper on sudden war marriages, grumpy town policeman Officer Kockenlocker (William Demarest) forbids his nearly adult daughter Trudy from attending a farewell dance for soldiers.

Trudy pretends that her childhood friend Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), whose enlistment has been rejected because of his high blood pressure, is taking her out to the movies. While Trudy attends the dance, Norval reluctantly sits through three features at the movie theater.

Trudy, meanwhile, drinks and dances with soldier after soldier. While dancing the jitterbug at one point, Trudy is knocked on the head by a chandelier.

The next morning at 8AM Trudy picks up Norval at the movie theater. Trudy does not remember where she has been and as Norval drives off to take Trudy home, a just married sign falls off the back of the car. When they arrive home, Norval takes the brunt of her father's anger.

Later, while talking with her younger sister Emmy (Diana Lynn), Trudy begins to vaguely recall the events of the night before. She remembers someone talking about getting married and realizes she has a wedding band on her finger. However, Trudy can't remember the man's name. Her sister suggests finding the marriage license but Trudy remembers someone saying not to give their real names. All Trudy can remember is her husband's name is something like Ratzkiwatzki.

Trudy's worst fears are realized when she learns she is pregnant. Trudy and her sister visit a lawyer and learn the marriage is valid even if a false name is given. Trudy doesn't know what she is going to do. Her sister suggests she just marry someone else. Trudy decides to marry Norval. Norval has been devoted to Trudy since childhood.

However, Trudy's conscience will not allow her to deceive Norval, and she confesses her predicament to him. Trudy also realizes she loves Norval. She refuses to marry him as it would constitute bigamy. Her father is unaware of his daughter's situation and intimidates Norval into the marriage, as the town is already talking about Trudy and Norval.

Norval has an idea, he will pretend to be Ratzkiwatzki and they will get married to obtain a marriage license, then Trudy can divorce Ratzkiwatzki and marry Norval. However, at the justice of the peace, everything is fine until Norval accidently signs his own name.

The justice of the peace accuses Norval of having abducted Trudy, who is a minor, and impersonating an officer. Norval and Trudy are brought home by a bevy of police, who have brought nineteen charges against Norval. The justice of the peace tears up the marriage certificate for Constable Kockenlocker.

Emmy and Trudy then explain the whole situation to their father. Norval who is now in jail, is encouraged to escape by Trudy's father. However, Norval is too honest refuses until Kockenlocker forcibly removes him from jail.

Norval then slips into the bank where he works and takes $900 from his account, intending to search for Ratzkiwatzki. Norval escapes in Kockenlocker's car after he sets off the alarm, and Emmy and Trudy tie up their father and knock him out to mitigate his involvement in the break-in.

Norval returns approximately six months later, an escaped prisoner and bank robber. He was unsuccessful in his search for Trudy's husband. As Trudy's former boss is about to take Norval to Trudy, he is picked up by police. We learn that Kockenlocker was fired from his job and moved out of town.

Trudy learns of Norval's return and insists on returning to Morgan's Creek to tell the truth, but she is prevented she goes into labor and gives birth to sextuplets, thereby making national headlines.

Governor McGinty drops all charges against Norval, arranges for Trudy's first marriage to be annulled, and insists that she has been married to Norval all along.

The effects of the birth of sextuplets are felt around the world, and Norval himself becomes hysterical.

The film ends with this epilogue: But Norval recovered and became increasingly happy for, as Shakespeare said: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Preston Sturges played fast and loose with the censorial restrictions of mid-1940s Hollywood that critic James Agee noted that "the Hays office must have been raped in its sleep" to allow the film to be released. Afterall, a comedy about a girl who gets drunk at a party with a bunch of soldiers and wakes up the next morning hung over and pregnant, with no memory of who the guilty party might be (except that his name sounded like "Ratzkiwatzki"), hardly conformed to Hollywood's ideal at the time.

Although the Hays Office received many letters of protest because of the film's subject matter, it was one of Paramount's highest-grossing film of 1944.

This is a delightful screwball comedy and Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken and William Demarest are at their best.