Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

I wish that 2011 be full of happiness and classic movies.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Year In Review


I advise classic film fans how to make the most of their non-TCM resources. I watched Chinatown (1974) on the big screen and lived to talk about it. And I waged a full-on war against the Pakistani blog thief who dared to steal my content. He messed with the wrong person.


Jean Simmons passed away and Jonas of All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! gave birth. I ask folks if Classic Films make us Anti-Social and I get a lot of great responses. We watched Born to Kill (1947) at my friend Kevin's fabulously decorated condo. I posted some great screen caps from the Art Deco/Pre-Code film, The Big House (1930).


I review a strange mix of films including America (1924), Les Girls (1957) and The Glass Wall (1953). I also talk about my reaction to violence on screen such as that in Strangers on a Train and Brubaker (1980). And I wish my Fast Eddie Felson (Carlos) boyfriend a happy birthday.


I reposted my Silents and Talkies guest post on Norma Shearer on my blog. I fall in love with Tony Rome (1967) and go crazy for all the details. I start a crazy series entitled "It's a Veritable Robert Mitchum Explosion" followed by numerous crazy posts. I basically go crazy this month. The above picture is also posted by Roger Ebert on Twitter which increases traffic to my blog. Thanks Ebert! This blog became available for viewing on Kindle this month as well.


Robert Mitchum craziness continues with more posts including one explaining that crazy picture from April. I start the Heck Yeah Robert Mitchum Tumblr and Mitchum's oldest son writes to me. Out of the Past gets nominated for Best Classic Film Blog in the LAMMYs. I review the TCM iPhone app as well as the new Doctor Zhivago (1965) DVD.


I got to see the most complete version of Metropolis (1927) on the big screen at the Coolidge Corner Theater as well as Vertigo (1958) at the Capitol Theater. Charlie Chan gives us a lesson in classic film distribution.


I review the worst boxed set known to man. My big screen adventures continue with The Lusty Men (1952) at the Harvard Film Archive and the 50th Anniversary restoration of Breathless (1960) shown at the Kendall Square Cinema.


I have a cocktail named after The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) at Noir Bar in Cambridge, MA. Patricia Neal passes away. TCM devotes a whole day to Norma Shearer during their Summer Under the Stars series.


I discover a young Ella Fitzgerald through a picture book and the Abbott and Costello flick Ride Em Cowboy (1942). I cry (A LOT) through Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) and a lot of people sympathize. Tony Curtis passes away.


I made a dinner out of the Errol Flynn movie They Died With Their Boots On (1941). I see Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) on the big screen with live musical accompaniment. I contest a Twitter "fact" with a list of Leading Men shorter than Richard Widmark. I yell at another blogger, reveal myself as @ClassicFilmRead and post a whole bunch of pictures of Actors with Puppies. I follow it up with pictures of Actresses with Kittens. I review the new Errolivia book and the Humphrey Bogart boxed set (complete with vlog!).


My busiest month ever! I write a post every day! Mostly reviews of Humphrey Bogart movies in my 24 Bogie Movie Marathon. I warn other bloggers about Full Disclosure. I fall in love with Brother Orchid (1940).  I post a rare Doris Day interview. Wrote my most popular post this year: Actors Who Remind Me of My Father. Did another vlog review, this time of the Elia Kazan boxed set. Leslie Nielsen passes away. I get people interested in Gentleman Jim (1942).


I continue the 24 Bogie Movie Marathon and don't quite finish. Watch for the rest in the new year! I write about Janet Leigh's tight sweater in Holiday Affair (1949) and most of you don't believe me. I witnessed the most amazing screening of Sunrise (1927) with live musical accompaniment courtesy of Berklee College of Music. They got a standing ovation. Carlos and I see It's a Wonderful Life (1946) at the Brattle. I watch and review King of Kings (1961) just in time for Christmas.

I would like to thank all of you who have read this blog in 2010. This blog would be nothing without my lovely readers. Thank you!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beat the Devil (1954)

Beat the Devil (1954) or 1953 according to some sources, is a Bogie adventure movie that is just plain bad. Available on Netflix Instant, Carlos and I watched this film last night and we are still not sure what it was about. I'll try my best to give you a synopsis. Bogie plays Billy Dannreuther, a man who is tagging along with four crooks trying to score some uranium rich land in Africa. The video quality on Netflix Instant is very poor and the audio is even worse. Every time I heard the name "Danrreuther" I kept thinking they were saying Dan Rather! Billy (Bogie) is married to a sexy British/Italian woman named Maria, played by the vivacious Gina Lollobrigida. Billy encounters a British couple, the Chelms, who are also on their way to Africa. While they are stuck in Italy waiting for the ship to be repaired, Gwendolen Chelm (Jennifer Jones) annoys, interrogates and seduces her way into getting information out of Billy and giving too much information herself while at the same time falling in love with Billy. Jennifer Jones is all annoying and not the least bit charismatic in this film. There is a bit of wife swapping with Mrs. Dannreuther going for Mr. Chelm and Mr. Dannreuther macking out on Mrs. Chelm. Mr. Chelm is a loose canon and sinks the vessel. They get stranded on the coast of an unnamed African nation and it's Billy to the rescue! Oh yeah and Peter Lorre is somewhere in there playing Julius O'Hara, a German with an Irish surname, a weak joke made earlier in the movie. There is a twist at the end that makes only a little sense and neatly ties up the picture.

The movie is supposed to be funny seeing as it's a spoof but it fails miserably. It didn't help that the Netflix Instant copy of this film was so poor that I could barely hear the dialogue and the exotic locale looked as appealing as it would in a black and white photograph in a newspaper. The plot was convoluted and the characters were not the least bit interesting. I felt bad for Bogie and for Lorre for having to be reduced to performing in this drivel. If you've seen this movie and liked it, bless your soul because I just couldn't. The only redeeming part about the movie was the opening sequence which ties in very well with the ending. It throws you for a loop until you get through the whole movie (you are brave if you do so) and see how it ties in. Check it out here: Opening Sequence

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

All Through the Night (1941)

All Through the Night - Authentic Region 1 DVD from Warner Brothers starring Humphrey Bogart, Conrad Veidt, Kaaren Verne, Jane Darwell, Frank Mc Hugh, Jackie Gleason, Peter Lorre, Barton Maclane, William Demarest & Directed by Vincent Sherman All Through the Night (1941) is a cheesecake murder-mystery with some Nazis thrown in for flavor. Bogie stars as Gloves Donahue (::snickers::) has been eating Miller's cheesecake for nearly a decade. When Mr. Miller is murdered by Pepi (Peter Lorre), Gloves runs into a swell looking but mysterious dame by the name of Leda (Kaaren Verne) who may be able to reveal who and why Miller was killed. Gloves rounds up a tag team of compadres including Sunshine (William Demarest), Starchy (Jackie Gleason) and Barney (Frank McHugh) to help solve the mystery. But they find a lot more than they bargained for. A whole underground cell of Nazis who are plotting a major attack on the city. What's a cheesecake-loving thug to do?! The plot is convoluted, as most early films about Nazis were, but the film is still enjoyable to watch.

Humphrey Bogart carries this film really well even though he threatens to be overshadowed by an amazing cast of character actors.

A very very young Jackie Gleason. Look at those baby cheeks! Don't you just want to squeeze them? Gleason doesn't have many scenes in this film but the ones he does stands out because of his wise-cracking lines as well as the novelty of him being a young Jackie Gleason!

Phil Silvers plays the waiter who dares to bring Gloves (Bogie) a slice of cheesecake that isn't from Millers. He's got some great lines at the beginning of the film and his facial expressions are hilarious!

William Demarest plays Sunshine, Gloves' right-hand man. Most of the time in mysteries like these the hero is by himself most of the time he's doing his investigation. Not in this film! Sunshine is by Gloves' side ready to take punches and fall off of balconies whenever Gloves needs him.

Barton MacLane plays the disgruntled club owner Marty Callahan who has the noive of dissing Gloves' ma! He doesn't realize that his club is being taken over by a bunch of stinkin' Nazis until Gloves smacks some sense into him!

Frank McHugh plays Barney, Gloves' sidekick and driver. Barney is sexually frustrated and during the whole story he meets a dame, gets engaged, gets married but never consummates the marriage because he's too busy helping Gloves and Sunshine in investigating the moider. McHugh is probably the funniest character in the film and the most enjoyable to watch. He's given a lot of great scenes and lines.

Judith Anderson, of Rebecca (1940) fame, plays the evil Madame. A Nazi suspicious of Leda (Bogie's gal) and her motives. I don't know about you, but it's always a delight when Judith Anderson appears in a film. Even if she plays evil most of the time.

Peter Lorre plays the evil Pepi who murders Mr. Miller or Miller's Bakery. He's creepy and childlike. Whenever he pops up on screen, we know something bad is going to happen. Fun fact, Lorre and Kaaren Verne (who plays Leda) married in real life a few years after this film was made.

There are several other great character actors in the film but these were just my favorites! Please give this lesser-known Bogie film a try!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bullets or Ballots (1936)

While I was watching the extras in the Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection (see my review and vlog here), a trailer for Bullets or Ballots (1936) caught my eye. I was so dazzled by the cast that I just went "gimme gimme". It went to the top of my Netflix queue and I eagerly anticipated it's arrival. 

It's a shame it didn't make it into the Bogie boxed set. It's more Bogie than most of the other gangster films he made with Warner Bros. Bogie plays one of his angriest roles as mobster Bugs Fenner. I've never seen Bogie make so many angry faces in one film! Bugs Fenner is part of a team of mobsters headed by Kruger (Barton MacLane) who takes his orders from 3 wealthy men who oversee the entire operation. Only Kruger knows who those 3 men are but Bugs Fenner isn't satisfied with being second to Kruger or third to the wealthy triumvirate. He wants all the power, he wants it now and he doesn't care who or what is in his way. In steps Johnny Blake (Edward G. Robinson), a police detective who's got an in with the mob and while he has always been good on his word is about to double-cross Kruger and all the mobsters in order to help the police bring the whole racket down. This is an excellent Bogie-Robinson film and it just gets better with the scenes showcasing spunky Joan Blondell as Lee Morgan, a numbers game gal whose making serious dough off of Harlem and the Bronx with her nickel and dime games.

Fenner (Bogie), Kruger (MacLane) and Blake (Robinson). The other triumvirate.

I'm angry, see? But I still look impeccable in my dapper suit and slicked back hair. 

Bogie and Robinson made 5 films together and this was their first one. The others include: Kid Galahad (1937), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), Brother Orchid (1940) and Key Largo (1948). I've written about all of them and I'm sad there are no more new Bogie-Robinson films for me to discover. Bullets or Ballots (the title makes little sense in terms of the plot), is an entertaining and fast-paced 1930s gangster movie that is enjoyable and worth a viewing. Robinson excels as a mock-mobster as well as a police detective and Bogie wears a scowl so well in this film you'd figure that was the way his face was fastened on!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Breakdowns from 1936

Bullets or BallotsLots of stars featured in this blooper reel fro 1936 including Warren William, Humphrey Bogart, Kay Francis, Edward G. Robinson, Joe E. Brown, Ann Dvorak, Leslie Howard and James Cagney. A lot of the scenes include actors cursing "god damn it" whenever they get something wrong. I wonder what other curses were left out? I think it's interesting too that several scenes show that movie studios crashed cymbals to end the scene instead of just yelling "cut". I found Breakdowns of 1936 in the extras for the DVD of Bullets or Ballots (1936) and lucky for us it's also on YouTube. Enjoy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

King of Kings (1961)

King of Kings (1961) was directed by Nicholas Ray and stars a 33-year old Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus Christ. It's details like that, choosing an actor who was currently living in his Jesus Year (Jesus was 33 when he was crucified), that make this film simply astounding. It could have been a cheesy, over-the-top epic production. The 1960s were full of badly dubbed versions of those. However, Nicholas Ray and company made a respectful and timeless epic about the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. There are no special effects in this film. You do not watch Jesus walk on water, turn water into wine, feed hundreds with 7 loaves and fishes and you do not watch him ascend into heaven after his resurrection. There are no angels, no devil, no representation of god. You hear the devil speak to Jesus in the desert and you see the sun shine down upon Jesus when he's on the cross but that's it. They could have gone there but they didn't. Instead what you see in King of Kings is what people who lived during Jesus Christ' time probably saw. A holy man who walked among the meek and was there to uplift them and comfort them during a time of taxation and oppression.

Jeffrey Hunter was amazing as Jesus. He had piercing blue eyes that seem to cut right into your soul and a steadiness to his countenance that I imagine Jesus would have had.

Siobhan McKenna as Mary had the same: piercing eyes and a steady countenance.

The choice of Robert Ryan as John the Baptist was genius. His scenes were by far my favorite.

Brigid Bazlen as Salome was also exceptional. Watch for the erotic dance she performs for King Herodious in exchange for John the Baptist's head. Oh, yes and we don't see the severed head. I liked that too. That would have gone into the realm of cheesy but instead they kept it classy. We know what happens but we don't have to see it. Glorification of gore is not necessary in order to understand pain or death.

Now I'm by no means religious. However, I did grow up Christian and the story of Christ is one that has always interested me. I've always found comfort in the Sermon on the Mount and have always been deeply pained by the passion. This Christmas, King of Kings (1961) was what I needed. I didn't need a Christmas film from the good ole days when people were nice to each other and everything turned out well. I wanted to see a film about oppression and hope.

Before you comment on this post, just note this is not a forum to start religious debate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Legion (1937)

I promise to finish what I started and this Bogie marathon will have 24 posts! Since I didn't have either Kid Galahad (1937) or Black Legion (1937) in my Bogie boxed set (due to a technical error) I had to wait for these to come from Netflix. Black Legion (1937) is quite a depressing film but I think it's an important role for Bogie and it's important for the time period. In a pre-High Sierra role, Bogie stars (yes stars!) in Black Legion (1937), a typical exposee fare from the 1930s. The film exposes underground white supremacist groups who find "justice" in bullying and causing harm to people who they see as different and dangerous. Bogie plays Frank Taylor, a machinist at a factory who feels he is this close to getting a promotion. He's so close he can already taste the money he'll earn and is planning on how he can spend the money on his wife and young son. However, when Joe Dombrowski, a hardworking mechanist who attended night school while all the others spent their evenings drinking, gets the promotion, Frank tastes blood. It doesn't help that Joe happens to be a Jew. Frank's anger and envy drive him to join the secret society of the Black Legion and it all goes downhill from there.

This film depressed me greatly. I'm the daughter of two immigrants who worked really hard to give me opportunities that they didn't have themselves in their respective countries. Because of their hard work and the work ethic they instilled in me, I was able to earn my high school diploma, my Bachelor's degree and my Master's degree and to develop a career of my own chosing. I'm forever grateful to them for that.

I place myself in the position of Joe Dombrowski, who works all day as a mechanist, studies at night and helps his family out at their chicken farm. America is a land of opportunity. Frank Taylor thinks those opportunities are only for his notion of who is an "American". Jews, the Irish and foreigners don't count. I'm sure if African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans were involved in the story, he'd discount them too. Unless you are 100% Native American you can't claim yourself as coming from a non-immigrant family. So while I felt bad for Frank Taylor and all the trouble he got himself in, I despise the notion that America is a land of opportunity for some and not for all. And I hope the audiences in 1937 who watched this film felt the same way.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) at the Brattle

Lately, I've had this persecution complex that I just can't shake. I feel like everyone is out to get me. I've always had some form of a persecution complex, something I inherited from my mother, but it seems to be at it's peak right now. I feel very neglected, unappreciated, taken for granted but I also feel like people are out to get me. When I feel like this, I have a tendency to withdraw and disassociate. I try to avoid as much human contact as possible. My biggest problem has been being kind to others. I don't see why I should if all I get in return is maliciousness. However, another thing I inherited from my mom is her giving nature.

The other day, as I was waiting in line in a cafe, I saw a lady trying to waive down a taxi. She was in the worst imaginable spot. Most of the taxis that passed by already had customers that they had picked up from the taxi cab stand only a block from where the lady was standing. It was cold outside and she seemed anxious. I imagined that she was visiting a friend, was unfamiliar with the area and had a plane to catch. When I stepped out of the cafe with my hot steaming cup of chai, I went up to the lady and pointed her in the direction of the taxi cab stand. She blurted out a thank you and ran to the stand as quickly as she could. I felt good about helping her. Fast forward to that afternoon and something terrible happened to me. Someone, who had been watching me very closely waiting for me to slip up, saw her opportunity and pounced. I reeled from the embarrassment and humiliation this person had put me through. And it was all because of her jealousy. So why did I even bother with that good deed in the morning if all I got was a bad deed done to me in the afternoon? Where the heck was Karma when I needed it?

Sometimes it's difficult to do good deeds. Take George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) for example. When he saw his little brother fall through the ice, his first instinct was to pull him out and save him. What did he get in return? An ear infection that led to permanent hearing loss in one ear. What did his brother do for him in return? Abandoned the family business when George wanted to pass it on so he could see the world. Let's take another instance. A young George Bailey works at Mr. Gower's store. Mr. Gower, depressed over the news he's just received has drunk himself into a tizzy. He accidentally puts poison in pill capsules and sends young George off to deliver the pills. George sees what Mr. Gower has done and doesn't deliver them. What does George get in return? Mr. Gower boxes his ears until he bleeds and then gives him an uncomfortably tight hug. What does Mr. Gower get in return? A will to live and a successful business. 

No one really thinks that George Bailey is a shmuck though, even if he doesn't get to travel the world or become an architect. He doesn't have it that bad though. He marries a wonderful woman, has a beautiful home, raises 4 children, helps out the members of the community, etc. But he still has Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) always watching him for an opportunity to make him fall. (Maybe we all have our own Mr. Potter's in life). Bailey is driven to despair and that's when Clarence steps in. We all need a Clarence, don't we. Someone to tell us that "no man is a failure who has friends".

Carlos and I missed an opportunity to watch It's a Wonderful Life (1946) at the Brattle last year. This year, we were smart and purchased our tickets in advance. The house was packed to the brim and there was not one seat available. The audience was so-so. They laughed at many moments that were not supposed to be funny. I always relegate this to their stupidity for 1. buying tickets to a movie they don't really want to see and 2. not being open minded and understanding that this film is not from this time period. Oh well. They weren't as bad as I've seen in other circumstances and by the end many people were wiping their eyes. Why doesn't anyone think to bring tissues to this movie?

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried three times during the filming. I first cried during the scene when Mary (Donna Reed), Bert and Ernie had set up the old house with travel posters, tropical music, a roaring fire, dinner and a made bed ready and waiting for some copulating. It was really sweet for Mary to take an unfortunate situation and turn into something special. The second time I cried was during George Bailey's despair. He crashes his car, heads to the bridge and wants to end it all. I've never been suicidal but I know what despair feels like so I could really sympathize with him. The third and final time I cried was during the very last seen when the whole community comes together to help out George Bailey and sing Auld Lang Syne together. This is the moment when everyone shows their appreciation for Bailey and all he's done for the community. This sort of demonstration usually only happens during funerals. Lesson here: show people how much you appreciate them while they are still alive!

I've seen a few other people on Twitter and Facebook mention that they have seen this film on the big screen this Christmas season. What was your reaction and what was the audience reaction? Have you seen it on the big screen before? Please share your thoughts.

Special thank you to the Brattle Theater for showing It's a Wonderful Life every year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

At what point do you start to cry during TCM Remembers?

I usually start to bawl towards the end. I try to keep a brave face and make it through the whole thing without a tear but it's usually the big name towards the end, the one they dwell on for a little more time that gets to me. This year it was a bit different. As soon as they showed Dennis Hopper towards the beginning of the tribute, the waterworks started. When I saw Tony Curtis, Patricia Neal, and Leslie Nielsen, I was all out sobbing. This year has been a difficult year. In fact, ever year since 2003 has been especially difficult for me. The more I fall in love with classic films the harder it is to let go of those stars who are reaching the end of their time on earth. TCM Remembers tribute is always very well done. They are fair, they give time to everyone, the visuals are always stunning, they chose appropriate and beautiful music and they are willing to edit in case someone passes at the end of December. Way to keep it classy TCM! We really appreciate it. Because the Oscar tributes become more and more offensive every year, it's nice to have the genuinely touching tributes you consistently provide us. Thank you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kid Galahad (1937)

Not to be confused by the Elvis Presley's 1962 movie by the same name.

How do you take a guy seriously if his name is Turkey Morgan?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunrise (1927) at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

Last evening, Kevin and I attended a special screening of Sunrise (1927). It was part of the Coolidge Corner Theater's ongoing series, The Sounds of Silents. If you recall, back in October I had seen Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) at the theater with live musical accompaniment.

While I loved that experience, it does not top the amazing, astounding, knock-me-off-my-seat experience I had watching Sunrise (1927) on the big screen. Here are some details about the music that accompanied the movie.

  • Berklee College of Music
  • Course Semester Project
  • 8 students composers, each composes musical score for one reel and conduct the musicians during that reel while it's playing.
  • 10 member orchestra complete with violin, cello, flute, trumpet, percussion, etc.
  • Next up: It (1927) with Clara Bow in May 2011, will be composed and performed in the same manner.

F.W. Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) is at it's core a love story. We start off at the lowest point, The Man (George O'Brien) is cheating on The Wife (Janet Gaynor) with The Woman from the City (Margaret Livingston). They don't have real names because their story is univseral. It's a case of disillusionment, the madonna/whore complex, and the battle between lust and love. The Woman from the City, who smokes like a chimney and wears polished pumps seduces The Man and convinces him to kill The Wife and sell the farm so they can move to the city together. The Man, blinded by lust, plots to do this but he can't bring himself to kill The Wife who is the epitome of love and innocence. The Wife escapes into the city with The Man following her and they accidentally embark on an adventure that has them falling in love with each other all over again. This movie touches me deeply. It made me appreciate the love I have and made me realize to not take it for granted. I went home from the experience with a heart bursting with love.

The music was fantastic. The students did such a superb job composing, conducting and performing the number. I enjoyed small details like the trumpet playing to represent a dog barking, a flute playing to represent whistling and bells playing to represent fireworks. It's details like those that I love. Unlike my previous experiences with experimental music and classic film, this music was your standard classic fare. And you know what, I loved it? At times, I found my foot tapping to the beat and at other times my heart started to race when the music built up momentum to reflect the rising conflict that was happening on screen. At the end, the musicians and composers got a standing ovation. I clapped so hard my hands hurt and my eyes began to fill up with tears. It was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. Kudos to the Berklee College of Music for such an amazing night. You did justice to the masterpiece that is Murnau's Sunrise (1927).

Friday, December 3, 2010

There is a reason why Janet Leigh's sweater was so tight...

Janet Leigh's film career began when retired actress Norma Shearer saw a photograph of the young Leigh dressed in ski-wear. Shearer was so impressed with the picture that she used what persuasive powers she had left with MGM and helped get Leigh a contract. Some years later, MGM loaned Janet Leigh out to RKO for a three picture deal. This arrangement made Leigh uncomfortable considering her previous dealings with RKO owner Howard Hughes. We all know Hughes was a notorious womanizer who set his sights on many actresses with a ferocity that would terrify your average woman.  Hughes was as impressed Leigh's beauty as Shearer was but in a totally different way. He arranged for a date with Leigh, whisking her off to a surprise rendezvous in Las Vegas (he flew of course). She was terrified of his aggressiveness and was turned off by his power and his age.  So you can imagine how terrified she was when she learned that MGM practically sold her off to RKO for three movies without her permission or asking for her opinion. 

In July of 1949, Leigh started filming the movie Holiday Affair (1949) with Robert Mitchum. Hughes put as much sex into his films as possible and he loved to complicate plots at whatever cost necessary to get the final product he wanted. But Holiday Affair was a bit tricky. It's a sweet film: a romance, a family movie and a Christmas film all in one. Janet Leigh plays Connie Ennis, a widower and single mother who works as a secret shopper for a department store. She meets Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum), a toy department clerk at a competitor's store, when she accidentally gets him fired. Mason and Ennis hit it off platonically and romantically but there are obstacles in the way, notably the memory of her deceased husband and her lawyer boyfriend. However, her son Timmy is the catalyst that keeps Connie moving in the right direction even when she's very reluctant to leave her past in the past.
Frankly, Howard Hughes was kind of bored by the idea of this film. No sex, no violence, no exotic locales, no intrigue, no malleable plot, no nothing. He knew the film would mean instant money in the bank because of the stars, the plot and the holiday hook. So he left it well enough alone which is why this film is one of the least convoluted productions from the RKO library during that time period. However, he did leave his mark by means of one very very tight sweater.  In Lee Server's Robert Mitchum biography Baby I Don't Care, he states "[Hughes] had them make Janet Leigh wear a shoulder-length fall [for hair] and in one scene a sweater so tight it made her breasts stand out like traffic cones." It was Hughes way of getting back at Leigh for her for rejecting his advances as well as injecting some sex into a pretty much sexless film. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo (1948) is a fine film indeed because of it's acute attention to detail. It's character and plot development are straight on. We learn so much from so little. Let's take a look at some details that really stand out:
  • Dual storms - There is a hurricane outside and an equally dangerous storm brewing inside the hotel. This duality increases the tension and makes for great suspense.
  • Ridiculous Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) - He's in the midst of unforgiving tropical heat, spends his days in a tub of cold water with a fan oscillating next to him. Yet he'll still don a full-on robe complete with pocket square, scarf and lit up cigar even though it's the most ridiculous ensemble to wear in such heat. He also refuses to bring in his boat during the hurricane and eventually loses it. To top it all off he brings his drunk girlfriend Gaye (Claire Trevor) who foils his plans every which way she can. For such a smart conniving gangster, Rocco becomes a complete idiot in Key Largo and that says something about his future.
  • Conflicted Frank McCloud (Bogie) - He survived WWII through his cowardice. He doesn't know whether he's coming or going or whether he should be brave and take action or whether he should just let things happen as they will. You can see the conflict in his eyes. The desire to be a better person but the debilitating fear that grips him.
  • Native Americans - Perhaps this is a John Huston touch. The camera focuses at one point on a group of Native Americans and Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) spends a considerable amount of screen time introducing us to a 100+ year old woman. The camera adores her wrinkled constitution focusing on it so closely that her face takes up the whole screen. It humanizes the story in many ways.
  • Lionel Barrymore in a wheelchair - How can this not tug on your heartstrings? If you are familiar with Barrymore's earlier work, you'll understand that it's difficult to watch him in this state towards the end of his career. It's not just the character in the wheelchair it's the actor too.
  • Lush versus Widow - Juxtaposition of two opposing female characters adds a lot to the story. It makes us understand each of the two characters and their interactions with both Rocco and McCloud help us understand those male characters too.
  • Uncomfortable - Those goons at the beginning of the picture made me terribly uncomfortable. They made the other characters uncomfortable too. The way they spoke, their restlessness and their short fuses made me scared of what was to come. It was tension before the real tension even started.
You can see this film in many ways. As a Bogie film. As a Bogie-Bacall film. As a Bogie-Robinson film. Or even as a Bogie-Trevor film. But what anchors the film is Bogie himself. He's what all the plot points depend on even when he seems to be lurking in the background. In the end, this is really a Bogie film.

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