Thursday, July 30, 2009

Queen Norma Shearer ~ The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929)

While Jonas of All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! is away in Thailand, I wrote him a guest post for his site. Go check it out: .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Harvard, Mystery Street (1950) and Me!

Did you know that the film Mystery Street (1950) may very well be the first movie filmed on location in Boston?

I recently wrote a review of this film for Film Noir of the Week. It's up now, so go check it out: Review of Mystery Street (1950).

I was simply delighted that real Massachusetts locations were used in the film and I had fun watching as the characters traveled in and out of Boston. One particular shot caught my eye. Ricardo Montalban's character drives up to the gates of Harvard University. He parks his car at a metered spot (and doesn't pay of course) and walks through the gates. I know this may seem mundane to the average person, but being from the area and having walked through those same gates countless of times, I was giddy with glee to know that my beloved Ricardo Montalban walked through those same gates almost 60 years ago.

My friend Kevin took this picture of me (with his iPhone no less) in front of the gates. We happened to be in Harvard Square and I had just finished writing the review.

I hope you'll take an opportunity to read my review over at Steve-O's wonderful Film Noir of the Week blog and watch Mystery Street (1950) for yourself. It's a wonderful jewel of a noir that shouldn't be missed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Leave Her to Heaven (1946) @ the Brattle

On Sunday afternoon, Kevin, H., Gina, Lisa, Carlos and myself went to the Brattle Theatre to see Leave Her to Heaven (1946). I've always really loved this movie, most notably the visuals, Gene Tierney's character Ellen (spawn of Satan?!) and Tierney's performance. For one weekend only, the Brattle was showing a newly restored print of the film, so I had to take advantage of seeing this on the big screen, and what better way to do this than to share the experience with the people closest to you?

It's an interesting dynamic watching a favorite classic film with friends (and with strangers) in a theater. You never quite know what to expect. I always find myself getting really self-conscious when I bring friends to see a personal favorite of mine. I get very worried that they will not like the film, will question why I dragged them to the theatre to see it or even worse, will think less of me after the experience (what's wrong with her?!). This never really happens, but I'm always scared that it will. This fear changes the way I watch the film in the theatre.

In the case of Leave Her to Heaven, I became very conscious of how over-the-top, or to use a modern colloquialism "cheesy", the film can be. It's as though we are supposed to be in a trance with Gene Tierney's red pouty lips and the gorgeous scenery, that we wouldn't be overwhelmed by the melodrama. Also, I noticed how weak the dialogue seemed to be at different points in the movie. There is one particular scene in which Ellen (Gene Tierney) and Richard (Cornel Wilde) are having a conversation after Ellen's swim. The conversation is filled with short questions and directly answered short replies. From what I understand about screenwriting (from taking a screenwriting class in Grad school) answering a question with a direct response results in boring dialogue. Here is an example: Q: Are you going to the movie? A: Yes or Q: Are you going to the movie? A: If I don't get hit by a bus first... . In this particular scene, I can see how the direct question and answer sequence can work. Ellen's character is intense and her constant questioning can demonstrate her inquisitiveness. She has to know everything about Richard in order to posses him. Yet I feltthat it could have also been done differently with the same effect.

However, none of this lessened my opinion of the film. It just changed the way I saw it. This is still a superb film and I even have the inkling to watch it again at home by myself (too bad I don't own the DVD!). Very few can walk away from this film without some appreciation of it. All of my friends and Carlos seemed to enjoy the film and I'm so grateful for that. While we were outside of the theatre, we partook in some post-show bonding and I brought up the fact that Kate Gabrielle (of Silents and Talkies fame) did a superb painting of the famous boat/drowning scene that makes this film so iconic. Kate did a wonderful job capturing Gene's cold facial expression and the vibrancy of the scene.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"You're too hungry..." ~ The Hustler (1961)

The Hustler (1961) is not about pool. It's about one man, "Fast" Eddie Felson, and pool just happens to be the medium through which his story is told.

When a new person comes into your life in a significant way things inevitably change. If you are lucky, that new person improves your life and your outlook on it. This is what I call the "new-person dynamic" and so many great stories in literature and film are based around this concept. Personally, I have found that this dynamic always proves to be enriching. Everyone brings their own perspective and one can't help but see things differently when exposed to that other perspective. Think about the important people in your life that were introduced to you at one point and how they changed your life afterwards. Now think about your favorite film and how the new-person dynamic was a catalyst for the story. Kind of eye-opening isn't it?

The most interesting part of The Hustler (1961) for me is the love story between Eddie (Paul Newman) and Sarah (Piper Laurie). And no it's not because I'm female and I'd rather see love-dovey scenes than watch people play pool and gamble. Rather, it's because when Sarah is introduced into the story Eddie's character begins to evolve. The film starts off at a very slow and quiet pace and when Sarah and Eddie meet the rest of the film gradually quickens until it reaches it's climax. Without Sarah, Eddie would just be another hustler playing for a big pay-off. With Sarah, we watch Eddie's interactions with her and we start to learn how tortured these two characters are.

My favorite line of dialogue in the movie is spoken by Sarah when Eddie takes Sarah to her apartment and kisses her passionately outside her door. She pulls away from him and says to him, "You're too hungry". They've only known each other for a few hours and already she has discovered Eddie's major weakness and has revealed to us the most important part of Eddie's character. Eddie is a constant state of consumption. He downs JTS Brown (Bourbon Whiskey), he incessantly gambles in pool and he's is constantly striving to be the best hustler. This constant hunger proves to be his downfall. He continues to consume even though it puts his relationship with Sarah at risk.

I'm really very happy I watched this film. I had been avoiding it for years and it took that new-person dynamic in my own life for me to give it a chance. This film happens to be my new beau Carlos' favorite film. Just sensing his enthusiasm about The Hustler and talking to him afterwards about the different themes in the story, enriched my experience with the film. I hope this means I get to watch lots of other movies that have been off my radar but have been on his.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lookie what I found!

I was in Portland, Maine on Sunday with Carlos and we happened to come across a little store called Pandemonium.

And just look what they had in their window display. A Gone with the Wind (1939) lunchbox! It was so endearing I just had to snap a picture of it.

Now I'm not a big Gone with the Wind fan, but if I were I would have pulled out some cash for this little darling!

TCM will be airing a documentary called "1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year". It will be on again July 31st and it's available On Demand for Comcast customers. This year produced many superb films, GWTW and The Wizard of Oz just to name 2 biggies.

So what 1939 film would I like to see in lunchbox form? A Norma Shearer film of course!

Idiot's Delight (1939) - Image - Clark Gable being carried away by his blonde entourage after singing Puttin' on the Ritz. Elegant wigged Norma Shearer is in the background smiling.

What is your favorite 1939 film? What film would you like to see on a lunchbox? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

God Speed Karl Malden (1912-2009)

My heart hurts. One of my favorite actors Karl Malden passed on yesterday. To me, Karl Malden made every film he was in better just for being in it. He was a great character actor who excelled in comedy and drama, he could play good guys and bad, and he did all of this with such great intensity. He was a big lumbering teddy bear of a man and my heart always got warm fuzzies when I would watch him on screen. I'm so sad that I never really got to pay tribute to him on this blog while he was alive.

Malden is famous for being "that guy" in films like A Streetcar Named Desire (1952), Gypsy (1962) and On the Waterfront (1954). And that's only the tip of the iceberg. If you look at his filmography, you'll see he's been in numerous top-notch films.

There are three Malden films that I especially enjoy because of him specifically....

Baby Doll (1956) - Malden plays Archie, the frustrated cotton gin owner that just wants to consummate his marriage, but goes crazy because he can't. You can see the frustration popping out of his veins!

Parrish (1961) - Malden plays Judd Raike, the cold-hearted greedy Tobacco tycoon. Read my review of the film here.

Come Fly With Me (1963) - Malden plays Walter Lucas, a widower flying coach to Europe, who falls in love with a beautiful young stewardess. The stewardess, Bergie, falls in love with him before she finds out he's a millionaire. I don't blame her for falling in love with him, because I did a little too.

God Speed Karl Malden....

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