Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's and Ocean's 11 (1960)

Ocean's 11 (1960) is one of my favorite movies. In fact, it's in battle with Bachelor Mother for the #1 spot right now. I have at least 10 posts I could write about this darling film but today I'll stick with the New Year's theme. I apologize in advance that I do not have any screen caps for this post other than ones I stole from YouTube. My DVD copy went AWOL and my Blu-Ray is pretty useless on my Mac.

This is Ocean's 11 plus one. Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) has brought all his World War II buddies from the 82nd Airborne to Las Vegas for a well-orchestrated casino heist of Biblical proportions. Funded and originated by professional conman Acebos (Akim Tamiroff), the eleven men from the 82nd Airborne are going to rob millions of dollars from the five big casinos in Las Vegas. And they are going to do it at the stroke of midnight on New Year's.

The men involved in the New Year's Casino heist are Danny Ocean  (Frank Sinatra), Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford), Sam Harmon (Dean Martin), Josh Howard (Sammy Davis Jr.), Mushy O'Connors (Joey Bishop), Anthony Bergdorf (Richard Conte),  Roger Corneal (Henry Silva), Vince Massier (Buddy Lester), Curly Steffans (Richard Benedict), Peter Rheimer (Norman Fell) and Louis Jackson (Clem Harvey).

The casinos they are going to hit are the Flamingo, Sahara, Desert Inn, Riviera and the Sands.

Here's the plan. At the stroke of midnight, people at the different casinos will have countdown to the New Year and will begin singing Auld Lang Syne. Danny Ocean has calculated that the song takes about a minute and 38 seconds to sing. While they are singing, there will be an explosion at one of the local electrical towers bringing it down. It will black out all the casinos temporarily and the way Anthony Bergdorf (Richard Conte) has it set up, all the casino security doors will automatically open. During the blackout, the men will steal the money from the casinos, put it into garbage cans and Josh (Sammy Davis Jr) will pick up all the bags and bring them to the local trash dump for hiding.

The plan can't go wrong. Right?

Ocean's Eleven and Acebos chose New Year's as the perfect moment for their heist because it's a time of vulnerability for the casinos. Each casino will be packed with people drunkenly celebrating New Year's, singing Auld Lang Syne and without a care in the world. Their celebration is the perfect distraction for a quiet robbery. When the men do rob the casinos, it's in the dark so their identities are disguised and they hold the casino vault workers hostage and have them sing Auld Lang Syne while they are being robbed.

I love the New Year's in Las Vegas circa 1960. It's full of glamour with all the women dressed in their finest gowns and accessories and all the men in well-fitted suits and skinny ties. There are showgirls, singers and so much fun! There is so much wonderful 1960 kitsch with New Year's party favors, streamers, hats, noisemakers, balloons and more. Everyone is carefree, smoking and drinking to their hearts contents and ringing in the New Year with a kiss with their date or a perfect stranger.

A feathered showgirl pony carousel? WHY NOT?!

So was the casino heist planned and executed by Ocean's 11 on New Year's successful? You'll just have to watch the movie and find out.

Now I leave you with Dean Martin singing one of the movie's main songs "Ain't That a Kick in the Head". Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Catching Up with Quelle (11)

It's been a tough week for me. I had some personal problems, then Jack Klugman died and my week off has been full of chores and catching up with stuff that I haven't been able to before when I was working. I did manage to watch a few movies and do some reading so there is that. I hope all of you had a better holiday than I did!

Period Of Adjustment from Warner Bros.Period of Adjustment (1962) - I really wanted to write up a review and post it before TCM's airing and before Christmas but I just never got around to it. At first I thought this film was just another kooky comedy from the 1960s kind of like Lord Love a Duck. I watched the first hour and gave up. But for some reason, the film kept popping into my head and I couldn't quite let it go. I had to give it another chance.

Isabel (Jane Fonda) and George Haverstick (Jim Hutton) are newlyweds. They got married on Christmas after having met not so long ago at a hospital. They are on a honeymoon trip (traveling in a hearse!) which is turning out to be a disaster. They make a pit stop at the home of Ralph Bates (Anthony Franciosa) and his wife Dorothea (Lois Nettleton) but they only find Ralph there. Dorothea left after Ralph got fired from his job by his boss, her father. Both couples are going through a period of adjustment. The newlyweds have been thrown into their situation and are highly uncomfortable and not ready for sex and the married couple are dealing with issues of disappointment and unrealized expectations.

I watched the film again and was surprised to find that it is quite good. Newlyweds or anyone going through a new phase in their romantic relationship can appreciate this film. The main conflict of the story is essentially a battle of the sexes. The male and female characters are struggling with their respective roles, especially Franciosa's Ralph who is always trying so desperately to be "the man." One of the most interesting characters just happens to be the most quiet. And that is Ralph and Dorothea's son Skip "Junior" (Scott Robertson). He's a quiet little boy who likes to play with dolls. This angers and frustrates his dad Ralph. This innocent little boy is breaking down gender binaries unknowingly by playing with the toy that he wants to play with rather than the one he's expected to play with. The mere act of playing with a toy intended for little girls threatens his dad masculinity by voiding his influence as a male role model. In one scene, Ralph gets so angry that he throws the boy's doll into a fire. Quite an interesting subtext! I am so glad I gave this film a second chance.

Lady in Cement (1968) - Speaking of second chances, I thought I'd also give Lady in Cement another try. I didn't like it when I first watched it and this surprised me. I'm a huge fan of Tony Rome (1967) and Lady in Cement is the sort-of-sequel to that film. I have been partaking in multiple repeat viewings of Tony Rome and I was hungering for something more. So I decided to watch Lady in Cement again and I quite enjoyed it on the second viewing! There is something about the broken detective genre of the 1960s that I really enjoy. Also it's funny to see Lainie Kazan as a Spanish-American stripper! I really wish there were more than just two Tony Rome movies. There should have been more. I enjoy these much more than the James Bond films I've seen, although I like those too. For those of you who like Tony Rome and Lady in Cement, The Detective is similar but takes place in New York rather than Miami. Tony Rome is probably the most mild of the three whereas Lady in Cement and The Detective concern themselves a lot with homosexuality as part of the crime world.

Now Listening - I thought I'd share what music I'm listening to. Lately I have been listening to The Shelter of Your Arms, a collection of Sammy Davis Jr. songs. It's quite wonderful!

I just realized this post is very 1960s and that my recent viewings have been mostly films from the 1930s or the 1960s. I'll need to start finding more films from the decades around and in between to round things out a bit.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's and The Bride Walks Out (1936)

I have talked about this film before so I'll just share the summary I wrote:

The Bride Walks Out (1936) stars Barbara Stanwyck as Carolyn, a model who makes decent money and enjoys her independence. She's got her own apartment, a steady job and even a maid. Her beau Michael (Gene Raymond) is an engineer who is down on his luck. It's the Depression and there aren't enough well-paying engineering jobs to go around so Michael makes do while he waits for an opportunity to come along. All Michael can offer Carolyn is a $35-a-week lifestyle. And a happy marriage. But Carolyn isn't so sure that's what she wants.While Michael is in court for a serious traffic violation, after trying (successfully) to get fired from his taxi driver job, Carolyn meets wealthy and permanently drunk Hugh McKenzie (Robert Young). Hugh is the opposite of Michael. He's carefree and reckless. But they have one thing in common. They are both in love with Carolyn.

Carolyn and Michael are about to celebrate their first New Year's together as a married couple. So far it's been a very rocky road. Bills are starting to add up, Carolyn hasn't gotten the hang of being a housewife quite yet and Michael still doesn't have a job that pays well. And Hugh keeps getting drunk and making appearances. You could easily wag your finger at the Great Depression and blame it for ruining marriages. Lack of money always complicates things.

On New Year's the Acme Furniture company comes around to take away all of the furniture from Carolyn and Michael's apartment because they have only made 1 payment in the last 3 months. The New Year is looking pretty grim.

"Why on New Years? Why couldn't you do it tomorrow?" - Carolyn

"I'm sitting on top of the world." - Michael

Michael doesn't know the furniture has been repossessed and he calls Carolyn up from a telephone pole to tell her they are going out to celebrate New Year's Eve with the $50 he has in his pocket.

"But that's more than a whole week's salary!" - Carolyn
"Yes but this is going to buy us enough fun to last us a whole year." - Michael

Carolyn tries to talk Michael out of it because they could really use the money but doesn't tell him about the repossession or the money troubles they have been having. Uh oh. Looks like only one half of this couple is going to really enjoy this New Year's Eve!

Hugh swings by with two obscenely large bottles of champagne and the distraught Carolyn drinks her sorrows away with her best friend, Hugh and the staff from the Acme Furniture company.

It's pretty obvious at this point that Hugh can provide for Carolyn whereas Michael cannot. New Year's is a time for Carolyn to contemplate what she is going to do with her life. Stay with Michael for love or leave him for Hugh for convenience. Oh the Depression and the moral dilemmas it presented.

The New Year's for Carolyn and Michael is full of miscommunication and disappointment. Carolyn is disappointed that they can't make end meets and Michael is disappointed that Carolyn shows up late and drunk to pick them up to go out for New Year's Eve. When they arrive at the party, Carolyn's buzz has worn off and reality hits her. She and Michael argue at the party. Carolyn tells him she's going back to work but Michael won't have it.

"I'm sorry I'm just a disappointment for you" - Carolyn to Michael

Oh dear. I'm no stranger to those words!

What will the New Year bring the unhappy couple? New Year's is a time for reflection and for new beginnings. It's unrealistic to think any New Year's Eve celebration will be a happy one. I've known to have had some pretty disastrous ones in my past. I guess the moral of Carolyn and Michael's New Year's story is that lack of communication prevents you from moving forward. 

It's also interesting to see the newlyweds paired with the old unhappily married couple. You wonder if the newlyweds will become better like them or if the old married couple still has a chance at happiness.

The Bride Walks Out (1936) is a charming movie full of funny moments despite the Depression-era gloom that hangs over the characters. This is the first New Year's for Carlos and I as newlyweds so watching this film now reminds me to be patient, to communicate and that love is greater than money.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's and Bachelor Mother (1939)

For Polly Parrish (Ginger Rogers) in Bachelor Mother (1939), the New Year is off to a bad start before it even began. Around Christmas time she gets a note from her employer John P. Merlin & Son, a New York City department store, that her services will no longer be needed after the holiday is over. Without a job or any family members around to help her, she's in dire straits. While out and about looking for new employment, she stumbles across a baby that has been left at the door stop of a foundling home. The home's staff refuse to believe her when she says the baby is not hers.

"I wasn't leaving it, I was just picking it up!" - Polly 

The foundling home and David Merlin (David Niven) get together and devise a plan. They give Polly back her job and bring her the baby along with a lot of baby supplies back to Polly as a Christmas present. Seems like the New Year is going to be filled with dirty diapers, feedings, no sleep and a lot of nosy visits from David Merlin.

David Merlin and Polly Parrish are total opposites. Merlin is wealthy and reckless, speeding in the middle of the night and getting thrown in jail, showing up to work after noontime and stringing his society girlfriend along. Polly on the other hand is responsible, poor and has a very cynical outlook on life.

"I almost envy you. I do envy you." - David
"Really?!" - Polly

Fast forward to New Year's. David Merlin (David Niven) calls up his society girlfriend Louise King (June Wilkins) after 8 pm on New Year's Eve inviting her out. But it's too little too late and she turns him down.

"Why David. Are you under the impression that we have a date tonight?" - Louise

He offers a date to Polly which seems quite a rotten thing to do seeing as she's basically his back-up so he won't go stag. Polly sees right through this and realizes she can't go even if she wanted to because of the baby and because of their noticeable class difference.

"Well you and your... And me in my... What I've got. We'd make half of a lovely couple." - Polly

As long as Polly can get the landlady to watch the baby, David offers to dress her up in the finest from his department store and to take her out for an amazing night on the town.

The New Year's scenes in Bachelor Mother (1939) are quite grand. They have colored my idea of New Year's celebrations with it's 1930's elegance in black and white. David gets Polly a new dress,  a mink coat with orchids, stockings, handkerchief, purse, gloves and shoes.

Transformation complete.

They go out to a restaurant for dancing, a four course meal and all the tinsel and confetti they can stand. But there is a bit of a problem. How is Polly going to be able to talk with David's upper-class and wealthy friends with whom she has nothing in common? David devises a ruse in which Polly is the daughter Swedish magnate and doesn't speak a word of English. She dances the night away with his buddies, much to David's dismay, and needs not worry about revealing her true status. She's a queen for one glorious evening. And we get rewarded with some fun made up Swedish.

"Svell" - Polly

Polly is having so much fun she misses out on all the food!

"Hey, I'm hungry" - Polly

They leave the party in search of some food but find themselves in Times Square instead. They got lost in the crowd, the great equalizer. For one night everyone is the same, gathering together to celebrate the New Year that they'll all experience together.

They watch the ball drop in Times Square, find each other in the crowd and ring in the New Year with a kiss.

It's a very romantic New Year's celebration. Once it's over, reality meets our two heroes and the complexity of their situation comes to light. But for that one glorious night, they could forget their troubles, their class divide and just enjoy the evening.

I think I will always be longing for a New Year's Eve like the one David and Polly have in Bachelor Mother. This wonderful film is from a year known especially for being a golden year in Hollywood history. I watch it every year and it's become part of my own New Year's celebration. I hope it'll become part of your celebration too.

"'Appy Nuuu Cheah!" - Polly in her fake Swedish accent

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Celebrating New Year's

Now that Christmas is over I'd like to talk to you about my most favorite holiday of them all: New Year's!

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is that special time when we shed the skin of the old year and start afresh with the new. It's essentially everyone's birthday as we all celebrate having lived yet another year and we rejoice in the opportunity to see what the next year will bring. At New Year's we reflect on the year we just lived, the good and the bad and we make plans for the next. Lots of people make New Year's Resolutions and while some might scoff at the idea I think we should embrace resolutions as it shows our desire to better ourselves and to set goals for the future.

At New Year's we close a chapter and open a new one with a grand party. The celebration has no religious connotations and it's a great equalizer with everyone participating. Except kids. They are left out because they have to be to bed well before midnight. The occasional kid stays up until the New Year but what I enjoy about the holiday is that it's a holiday for adults. We dress up, celebrate with champagne, streamers and fun holiday tchotchkes. We seal the New Year with a big kiss. It's my favorite holiday of them all.

What has influenced my growing love for New Year's as a holiday has been certain classic movies especially Bachelor Mother (1939) and Ocean's 11 (1960). I long for the day when New Year's was even more glamorous than it is today and I strive to celebrate it each year with grand style. I'll forego anything Christmas just to be able to put more into New Year's. It's that important to me.

For the next few days leading up to New Year's I'll be talking about some classic movies that feature the holiday as a significant part of the plot. In the meantime, I leave you with Kate Gabrielle's wonderful compilation video of New Year's scenes from classic movies. Enjoy!

Auld Lang Syne
Should old acquaintance be forgot, 
and never brought to mind? 
Should old acquaintance be forgot, 
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, 
for auld lang syne, 
we'll take a cup of kindness yet, 
for auld lang syne.

Monday, December 24, 2012

God Speed - Jack Klugman (1922-2012)


My heart is broken. Many of you know that I absolutely adore Jack Klugman. He is one of my favorite actors and is someone whom I affectionately refer to as "my boyfriend". In fact I even devoted a week to him called "I Heart Jack Klugman Week"  on this blog in which I discussed some of his films and his two top TV shows.

There was something about Jack Klugman that charmed me immensely. His goofy smile, the twinkle in his eye, his natural humor and his good nature. I was just thinking about him the other day, wondering if he was okay or if we would all lose him soon. Unfortunately, the latter assumption was correct.

Please do me a favor: watch one of Jack Klugman's performances. Watch his medical drama Quincy M.E. or his sitcom The Odd Couple.  Quincy M.E. is available on Netflix Instant and DVD and Odd Couple is on DVD. You can also watch him in 12 Angry Men (1957) (he was the last surviving cast member), Days of Wine and Roses (1962) and The Detective (1968). Watch him and try to see what I saw in him. Honor him that way.

I wish I could have met Jack Klugman. I wish I could have told him how much I adored him and how much his entertainment meant to me. Alas it was not meant to happen. I have his book Tony and Me. I got a signed copy online. It's something he touched with his hands. It's the only piece of him I have and I will treasure it always.

Maybe that's my copy he's signing.

God Speed my Jack Klugman. I will treasure all the wonderful entertainment you left us with. Thank you and I hope you give Tony Randall a big hug when you see him. God Speed.

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