Showing posts with label Akim Tamiroff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Akim Tamiroff. Show all posts

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Desire (1936)

Car engineer Tom Bradley (Gary Cooper) is a Detroit transplant working at the Bronson 8 plant in Paris. He's dreamt of visiting Spain ever since he was a child and when he finally gets some time off for vacation, he takes a new Bronson 8 model car on a roadtrip to the Spanish countryside. There he meets Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich), a fake Countess and professional jewel thief who just successfully swindled a very expensive pearl necklace from jeweler Aristide Duvalle (Ernest Cossart). Unbeknownst to Tom, Madeleine is part of a network of thieves, including Carlos Margoli (John Halliday) and Aunt Olga (Zeffie Tilbury) who traipse across Europe preying on the wealthy elite. When Madeleine steals Tom's Bronson 8, and then wrecks it, he tracks her down. Both Madeleine and Tom develop an attraction to each other. But what will happen if Tom finally learns about Madeleine's criminal exploits?

Directed by Frank Borzage and produced by Ernst Lubitsch for Paramount, Desire (1936) is a dazzling romantic drama bolstered by its two magnetic leads. The film certainly has the Lubitsch Touch with plenty of wit, charm, humor and sophistication. There are plenty of very subtle sexual connotations which makes for enjoyable repeat viewings. While I don't feel like Cooper and Dietrich quite matched the chemistry they had in Morocco (1930), they still make for a captivating duo. Desire is perfect escapist fare offering viewers a highly romanticized vision of Europe and a tantalizing story of an all-American man falling in love with an exotic European woman. And as an added bonus, Akim Tamiroff, one of my favorite character actors, has a small role in the film as a Spanish police official.

Desire (1936) is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The quality is absolutely stunning. Marlene Dietrich sparkles, especially in her Travis Banton designed wardrobe, and overall the film feels so fresh and new. The Blu-ray edition is from a new 2K master and the disc includes English language subtitles and a variety of related Kino Lorber trailers. Also included are two audio commentaries. I'll be honest, I was frustrated listening to both of them. One track features two film historians and one of them continually talks over the other. The second one just has the one historian but the pronunciation of Frank Borzage's name (as well as Akim Tamiroff's) kept throwing me off. However, there are lots of great insights to take away from both commentaries and I do recommend listening to both of them. I was particularly interested in the discussion about John Gilbert, who was originally set to play the Carlos Margoli character. Dietrich, who was in a relationship with Gilbert at the time, helped get him the part. But poor health kept him away and John Halliday was cast instead. The observation was that had Gilbert been in the film the Madeleine—Tom—Carlos triangle would have been more sexually charged. Gilbert died in early 1936 before the film was released. 

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of Desire (1936) for review.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Great McGinty (1940)

Dan McGinty's (Brian Donlevy) life had a meteoric rise and fall and now he finds himself on the other side of things. Working as a bartender in a banana republic he entertains a drunk American banker Tommy (Louis Jean Heydt) and his gal pal (Steffi Duna) with his life story. Told in a flashback, we follow McGinty has goes from being a hobo to the governor of his state. At first he's hired by Skeeters (William Demarest), the right hand man to crooked mobster known as The Boss (Akim Tamiroff), to vote under assumed names in a rigged election. McGinty, wanting to make an extra buck, votes a whopping 37 times impressing The Boss who takes him under his wing. McGinty is transformed into a mayoral candidate complete with a new wife Catherine (Muriel Angelus) and her two children. McGinty is along for the ride until things get complicated. He finds himself falling for Catherine despite their strictly business arrangement, for family life and pushes back when The Boss makes certain demands of McGinty once he's governor.

The Great McGinty (1940) is Preston Sturges directorial debut. Up until this point he had been a screenwriter working on dialogue and adapting screenplays. Sturges wrote The Great McGinty, originally entitled The Story of a Man. The story goes that Paramount offered him $10 for his original script but Sturges refused to sell it unless he could direct the film as well. This was a brilliant career move. The film went on to be a box office hit and won Sturges an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. He went on to direct a dozen more films including The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942) and Unfaithfully Yours (1948). In his film The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943), Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprise their roles as McGinty and The Boss.

The Great McGinty is a charming picture. It's lighthearted approach to the rather heavy topic of political corruption and morality makes this a big spoonful of medicine you want to take. Donlevy is fantastic as the stubborn vagabond with a heart of gold. If you know me, you know that I simply adore Akim Tamiroff and will watch him in anything. The Boss is a plum role for Tamiroff and he gets a lot more screen time than he usually does in a film and he has some great conflicts with Donlevy that are just fun to watch. And of course William Demarest is at his best as The Boss's sidekick schemer. I was sad to read that this was Muriel Angelus's final film. She plays Catherine McGinty with grace and charm and left Hollywood after that to return to the theater. The wardrobe in this film especially McGinty's flamboyant suits and Catherine's fabulous gowns were designed by the great Edith Head.

Kino Lorber Classics recently released The Great McGinty (1940) on Blu-ray. This edition includes a brand new 4K master restoration which looks fantastic. It also includes English subtitles (which I mention because I use these all the time), audio commentary by film historian Samm Deighan and Kino Lorber Classics movie trailers.

When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of this set for review.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Professional Sweetheart (1933)

"I want to sin and suffer. But right now I only suffer." - Glory

Miss Glory Eden (Ginger Rogers), aka The Purity Girl, is a radio sensation. Ipswich (Gregory Ratoff), the owner of the Ippsie Wippsie Wash Cloth Company, which runs their own sponsored radio station, is desperate to lock down Glory with a brand new contract. But Glory has other ideas. As the baby-voiced model of purity and innocence, the management team tightly controls her public image. Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) is in charge of Glory's wardrobe and diet and Ipswich's cohorts including his right-hand men Speed (Frank McHugh) and Winston (Frank Darien) do his bidding to protect their collective property. Glory is jealous of her maid Vera (Theresa Harris) who has a boyfriend and goes out dancing at night clubs in Harlem. Glory wants to live life on her terms! Complicating matters is Ipswich's rival the Kelsey Dish Rag Co. who wants to steal Glory away from them and sends agent O'Connor (Allen Jenkins) off to sabotage Ipswich's plans. So the Ippsie Wippsie crew comes up with a plan. They want to get Glory a beau. They zero in on Jim (Norman Foster), a simple country man from Kentucky who was plucked out of a batch of prospective fan letters. They bring him to New York City and thus starts the media circus of publicity stunts that journalists, including the clueless Elmerada (Zasu Pitts) and mid-mannered Stu (Sterling Holloway), just lap up. No one stops to think what Glory really wants... except for Jim. Will Glory find true happiness in the midst of all of this chaos?

Professional Sweetheart (1933) was directed by William A. Seiter for RKO. The story was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, best known for her stage play Chicago. This Ginger Rogers' first film for RKO and later that year she signed her own contract with them. Norman Foster was loaned out from Fox to play the leading man.

The biggest draw for me to this film was the cast. There were so many of my favorites crammed into one 79 minute movie: Ginger Rogers, Theresa Harris, Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins, Zasu Pitts and Sterling Holloway. Wow! My perennial favorite Akim Tamiroff has a small role as the hotel waiter who takes Frank Pangborn's elaborate food order.

Speaking of food, I love to see how it's represented in early films. I was delighted with one scene in particular when characters discuss what they'd like to order from the hotel room service.

What Glory (Ginger Rogers) wants to order: caviar, lobster in wine, avocado salad, champagne, fruit salad with whipped cream, nuts and maraschino cherries
What Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) orders for Glory: breast of young chicken on whole wheat toast with no mayonnaise, unsalted butter, baked apples with cream (certified not pasteurized), cocoa (not chocolate).
What Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) orders for himself: caviar, Lobster Thermidor, avocado salad, fruit salad with whipped cream, nuts and maraschino cherries, chocolate ice cream, hot fudge sauce and marshmallow cake.
What Speed (Frank McHugh) orders for Elmerada (Zasu Pitts) to delay her: Baked Alaska (because it takes 20 minutes to make.)

"You don't kiss like you look." - Glory

Professional Sweetheart warns viewers of the dangers of treating humans like commodities although it wraps up nicely in the end. Glory as a character can be insufferable with her spoiled behavior and tantrums. She wasn't winning any points from me with her blatant distaste for books. But you can't help sympathize with her. She just wants her personal freedom. That's something everyone deserves.

The film spices things up by featuring Ginger Rogers in various states of undress giving it some Pre-Code flavor. Allen Jenkins is probably the most suave I've ever seen him in a film role. As O'Connor he uses his knowledge of romantic relationships, women ("I know dames backwards.") and business to manipulate the different characters.

Unfortunately the racism in this film is quite palpable. The management team clearly wants to appeal to a conservative white audience ("It doesn't look good to the corn belt."). When they search for Glory's prospective beau they make it clear that he has to be as white and pure as possible. Especially after Glory has expressed her desire to visit Harlem. Frank McHugh's Speed travels to "Home of the Purest Anglo-Saxons" to find Jim (Norman Foster).

Theresa Harris has a marvelous role as Glory's maid and friend Vera. Glory wants Vera's lifestyle as a young woman living it up in New York City. Both Harris and her character get the shaft. Harris has a substantial role, even more so than Sterling Holloway who only speaks a few lines and gets on screen credit where Harris remains uncredited. Vera is Glory's superior when it comes to her singing skills and we get one glorious scene where Vera takes over Glory's show delivering a sexier and more adult voice over the waves. Vera disappears shortly after as the story wraps up in Glory's favor.

Professional Sweetheart (1933) is a lighthearted Pre-Code with a fantastic cast and a lot of charm. It suffers from the trappings of the era most notably in the depiction of gender and race.

Professional Sweetheart (1933) is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection and can be purchased at the WB Shop. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thank you!

This is the film's DVD debut. George, D.W. and Matt of the Warner Archive Podcast discuss this film in the January episode Jungle Kings, Giants and Jokers.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I feature titles from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me copy of Professional Sweetheart (1933).

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Scandal in Paris (1946)

Born in jail, Eugene Francois Vidocq (George Sanders) seemed destined for a criminal life. On his birthday a few decades later, he finds himself once again behind bars. There he makes friends with fellow career criminal Emile Vernet (Akim Tamiroff). The Vernet matriarch sends Eugene a special birthday cake with a file hidden inside. The two buds break out of jail and set their minds on anything they can steal. Not content with small loot, Eugene sets his sights on a bigger prize.

Eugene meets saloon dancer Loretta (Carole Landis), seducing her out of a ruby laced garter gifted to her by prefect of police Richet (Gene Lockhart). Then he meets the De Piermont family and practically moves in while he and Emile set out to Marquise De Piermont's (Alma Kruger) family jewels. Instead he uses his detective skills to solve his own crime while impressing police captain Houdon de Piermont (Alan Napier). He charms his way into Richet's job as prefect of police. Eugene and Emile fool everyone except the beautiful young Therese (Signe Hasso), daughter of Houdon. She fell in love with Eugene when she saw a painting of the two men as Saint George and the Dragon.  Meanwhile, Eugene and Emile expertly plot out a robbery of the Bank of Paris. Will this be the greatest crime caper of all time or will Therese throw everything off?

George Sanders and Akim Tamiroff in A Scandal in Paris (1946)
George Sanders and Akim Tamiroff in A Scandal in Paris (1946)

A Scandal in Paris (1946) was directed by Douglas Sirk, who went on to direct memorable 1950s melodramas including some of my favorites: Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955) and Imitation of Life (1959). This was an independent production by Arnold Pressburger and his son Fred Pressburger and distributed by United Artists. The story is very loosely based on the real life career criminal  of the 19th century Eugene Francois Vidocq. He's credited as the world's first private detective. The screenwriters changed many aspects of Vidocq's exploits and even added a cutesy and very unrealistic ending. His buddy Emile was either a work of fiction or an amalgamation of several real life friends of Vidocq. The man himself wrote a couple of memoirs but who knows if he could have been trusted to tell his own story. In fact the opening text of the film warns audiences of this.

This movie is kind of ridiculous and a reminder why I tend to shy from biopics from this era in film history. You couldn't get away with a film like this in contemporary cinema. However, I do appreciate the attention to detail in the wardrobe and sets. I was particularly enamored with the fantastical carousel that the de Pierremonts have in their backyard. It's a fine example of the over-the-top lifestyle of the wealthy elite of that era. I enjoyed the recurring theme of Saint George and the dragon which represents the two main characters, Vidocq and Emile, and how their narratives change throughout the story. I came to this picture because of George Sanders and Akim Tamiroff, two actors whom I greatly admire. Any time a film of theirs pops up on the TCM schedule, I usually schedule my DVR to record it. Having both actors in the same film was not an opportunity that I was going to pass up.

Signe Hasso, George Sanders and Carole Landis in A Scandal in Paris (1946)
Signe Hasso, George Sanders and Carole Landis in A Scandal in Paris (1946)

Both Sanders and Tamiroff deliver fine performances. Sanders is well-suited to the role of a wanna-be upper-class criminal who charms his way out of many situations. Tamiroff is heavily made up as Emile and he adeptly plays the knife-wielding and greedy criminal who sticks by his buddy but always has his eye on the prize. Child actress Jo Ann Marlowe, who many will recognize from Mildred Pierce (1945), plays Mimi de Pierremont, Therese's curious young sister. Carole Landis has a rather small but powerful role as the saloon singer who seduces men in power positions but meets her match with Sanders' Vidocq. I enjoyed Gene Lockhart's performance as the troubled police prefect. Signe Hasso does a fine job in her role as the angelic Therese who becomes wise to Vidocq's intentions. I doubt her character existed in real life. And if it did I feel bad for her as I'm sure Vidocq would have abandoned her for other exploits.

If you can forgive the sins of a 1940s period piece, A Scandal in Paris is a worthwhile venture into the work of several key players including Douglas Sirk, George Sanders and Akim Tamiroff.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Liquidator (1965)

Rod Taylor could have played James Bond. In the documentary Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches, Taylor recalled meeting with Bond series producer Albert "Cubby Broccoli. When the part was offered to Taylor he responded saying, "Cubby it'll never work. That's TV. It'll never work on the big screen." Boy was Taylor wrong. In fact, he called it "the most stupidest remark I've ever made." However, Taylor got to play a James Bond-like character with Boysie Oakes/Agent L. in  The Liquidator. Taylor recalled the experience saying, "I had a ball. I played everything James Bond did tongue-in-cheek."

Trevor Howard in The Liquidator (1965)
Trevor Howard as Colonel Mostyn

Rod Taylor in The Liquidator (1965)
Rod Taylor as Agent L/Boysie Oakes

Trevor Howard and Rod Taylor in The Liquidator (1965)

"He's a killer. He conceals it beautifully." - Colonel Mostyn

And The Liquidator (1965) was just that; a spy movie that didn't take itself too seriously. Rod Taylor stars as Boysie Oakes. During WWII, he saved Colonel Mostyn (Trevor Howard) completely by accident. Mostyn interprets the event very differently. Years later when the Colonel needs a trained assassin to eliminate enemies of the state, he knows just the man. Problem is Oakes isn't a killer, he's just really lucky. Oakes becomes Agent L (L for Liquidator) and is trained by Mostyn and his crew to take on the part. When Oakes fails his first task he quietly hires professional assassin Griffen (Eric Sykes) to do the dirty work while Oakes does what he does best, seduce beautiful women. Things are going well for Oakes. He's living the good life and secretly romancing Mostyn's secretary Iris Macintosh (Jill St. John), something that's strictly against Mostyn's rules. When the couple elopes to Monte Carlo, Oakes is captured by Russian operatives, including bumbling mastermind Sheriek (Akim Tamiroff), Oakes must escape and carry on Mostyn's new mission. But everything is not as it seems and Agent L's reality is about to do a complete 180 degree turn.

Eric Sykes and Rod Taylor in The Liquidator (1965)
Eric Sykes and Rod Taylor

Jill St. John in The Liquidator (1965)
Jill St. John as Iris Macintosh

Jill St. John and Rod Taylor in The Liquidator (1965)
Jill St. John and Rod Taylor

Akim Tamiroff and Rod Taylor in The Liquidator (1965)
Akim Tamiroff and Rod Taylor

The movie is based on the novel The Liquidator by John Gardner (not to be confused with the other John Gardner, author of Grendel). The book was released in 1964. MGM producer Jon Penington read the book on a plane and immediately sought to buy the film rights as soon as he landed in Los Angeles. He beat out a rival producer by just a few minutes. Penington hired writer Peter Yeldham to adapt Gardner's novel for the screen. MGM intended this to be a series and optioned two more films. However, MGM had just missed the spy movie fury. The release was delayed due to a rights issue which contributed to the eventual poor box office performance. The series was never meant to be.  Author John Gardner went on to write seven more novels in the Boysie Oakes series but none of them were ever adapted for the screen. Spy stories were Gardner's specialty and he even wrote some James Bond stories after Ian Fleming passed away.

Directed by cinematographer turned director Jack Cardiff, The Liquidator was filmed at MGM's British studios and on location in Monte Carlo, Nice and the Antibes. Trevor Howard and Rod Taylor were well suited to their roles and this is evident in their performances. Screenwriter Yeldham recalled that the two didn't get along well with each other on set because they had very different sensibilities.

Rod Taylor did all his own stunts for the film. Prior to filming the scene where Taylor fights another character as his car dangles on the edge of a cliff, it had rained. The crew dried off the car but the hood was still slick. In one shot you see Taylor almost slip off the hood. But luckily he grabbed on tightly and avoided falling 300+ feet to the rocky terrain below.

I don't care what anyone says, The Liquidator is a flat-out entertaining movie. It part comedy and part political thriller. These two conflicting elements makes the experience all that more enjoyable. While watching this, I couldn't help of the two Kingsman movies, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I wonder if The Liquidator at all influenced those stories. At one point Trevor Howard's Mostyn yells out "Remember your training!" to Rod Taylor's Oakes. That exact quote spoken in a similar situation is in The Golden Circle and delivered by Mark Strong's Merlin to Taron Egerton's Eggsy. Like The Liquidator, Kingsman has conflicting elements. On one level it's a serious action thriller with a lot of class and some excellent suits. On another level it can be quite ridiculous, in a fun way, and the class is toned down with a good dose of raunchiness.

Betty McDowall and Rod Taylor in The Liquidator (1965)
Betty McDowall plays Rod Taylor's first target.

Rod Taylor in The Liquidator (1965)
Rod Taylor checks out the bar in his swanky new pad.

Let's be honest I watched this movie for three reasons: Rod Taylor, Jill St. John, and Akim Tamiroff. And they did not disappoint. Taylor's character fit him like a glove. St. John is always a pleasure on screen and her story line allows her to give two very different performances. The female roles are seriously lacking in this film and St. John's had more potential than was achieved. I adore character actor Akim Tamiroff. He proves to be utterly enjoyable as the bumbling villain. I have a new found appreciation for Trevor Howard after watching his performance as Mostyn. Also notable is actor David Tomlinson who plays the conniving Quadrant who tricks Oakes into a mission. His life story proved to be rather interesting and I'd love to see more of his work. The film boasts some beautiful cinematography, no doubt thanks to Jack Cardiff's notable talent. There is also a lot to enjoy if you're like me and gravitate towards eye grabbing clothing and set design. Tying it more to the James Bond movies, singer Shirley Bassey sings the title song "My Liquidator" written by Lalo Schifrin and Peter Callender for the film.

The Liquidator is a thoroughly enjoyable movie that doesn't take itself too seriously, even if you sometimes want it too.

The Liquidator is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection. You can purchase the DVD from the WB Shop. Use my buy links to shop and you will help support this site. Thanks!

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me a copy of The Liquidator (1965) to review!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sadie McKee (1934)

Franchot Tone, Akim Tamiroff, Joan Crawford and Edward Arnold in Sadie McKee (1934)
Franchot Tone, Akim Tamiroff, Joan Crawford and Edward Arnold in Sadie McKee (1934)

On the heels of Dancing Lady (1933), MGM teamed up off screen couple Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone for another on screen romance in Sadie McKee (1944). But it seems like Hollywood wouldn't let Crawford be the apple of one eye. She has to be desired by several. Crawford stars as Sadie McKee, a maid working for the wealthy Alderson family. Michael Alderson (Franchot Tone) has returned home to discover that Sadie has blossomed into a beauty. But Sadie is in love with the formerly employed Tommy (Gene Raymond). The two run off to New York together and plan to marry. Sadie befriends Opal (Jean Dixon), a street-wise dame with a penchant for a good time. While the two are waiting for Tommy to show up at the courthouse for the wedding, he runs off with show girl Dolly (Esther Ralston). Sadie is destitute of both money and love. She starts a new life as a show girl (plus a little more) to make ends meet. That's when she meets the incredibly wealthy and incredibly drunk Jack Brennan (Edward Arnold). Brennan is smitten with her and through marriage offers her an opportunity to get ahead. Sadie takes advantage of this even though it puts her in the precarious situation of taking care of an alcoholic. She also suffers the disdain of Brennan's friend and her old acquaintance Alderson and Brennan's staff including his butler Finnegan (Leo G. Carroll). Sadie takes on the task of saving Brennan from himself, closing one chapter in her life and starting a new one.

From the very beginning it's established that Sadie McKee is the ideal physical specimen of womanhood. She has enough sass and sex appeal to keep men interested. And the three men she lures are all grossly inadequate. Tommy can't be held down, Brennan suffers from advanced alcoholism and Alderson is a spoiled rich playboy. Although Sadie is swayed by her emotions. she's the only one of the four who seems to have her shit together. She also has the support of her best friend and frequent voice of reason, Opal. The role of Sadie McKee fits Joan Crawford's persona perfectly. She embodied the spirit of the working girl who moves up the ranks and proves her worth. It's satisfying to watch her in parts like this. One could say that Sadie McKee is the pre-code precursor to Mildred Pierce (1945).

1934 brought on a tougher enforcement of the Hays Production Code. Sadie McKee slips in just in time and there are a few elements that classify it as a pre-code film. For example, the unmarried Sadie and Tommy sleep in the same bedroom together, albeit with her in the bed and him on the chair. Sexpot neighbor Dolly, played by Esther Ralston, channels Mae West and lures Tommy away from Sadie. When Dolly and Sadie have a showdown later in the film Dolly suggests that Sadie is a glorified prostitute. Pre-Code expert Danny Reid also points out that when Opal and Sadie are at city hall waiting for Tommy, a police officer approaches them and asks if they're getting married. He says it in a way that both suggests they might be marrying each other but also that they're waiting for their fiancees. I'd also like to point out the scene in which Finnegan the butler, played by Leo G. Carroll in his first on screen role, undresses a drunk Brennan (Edward Arnold), preparing him for bed. It's an oddly intimate scene that lingers just enough to give time for the audience to wonder.

Sadie McKee is based on a story by Vina Delmar who wrote many novels, short stories and screenplays including The Awful Truth (1937). She appears in the trailer for Sadie McKee as you can see below. The story suffers from trying to do too much. It starts off as a sweet romance between two people who escape the upstairs-downstairs life for a fresh start in New York City. Then it takes a twist when it becomes a story of a poor show girl who marries a rich alcoholic. Then it takes a somber tone when the first couple are reunited. And then of course Franchot Tone's continual attraction and momentary disgust for Sadie/Crawford adds several more plot points. One could say that Sadie McKee is an epic that didn't quite reach it's potential.

Even with its many flaws this is a gem of a film. Its such a joy to see cast members like Crawford, Tone, Arnold, Carroll, Raymond, Ralston and Dixon in action. Not to mention one of my personal favorites, Akim Tamiroff who plays night club owner Riccorri. I'll watch him in anything. Also in the movie are singer Gene Austin and the jazz duo Candy and Coco who all make their screen debut and play a couple of numbers in the movie.

Sadie McKee ad from The Film Daily April-June 1934
Sadie McKee ad from The Film Daily April-June 1934

Sadie McKee got mixed reviews but still proved profitable enough for MGM that after a batch of successful films Crawford was able to renegotiate her contract. According to Joan Crawford biographer Donald Spoto, Crawford said, "I was pretty unhappy with the way the picture was cut. Perhaps it will make sense, but I doubt it."

Interesting fact: The Library Hotel in New York City plays Sadie McKee on a loop on a TV in their rooftop lounge. I've attended a few parties in that space and that movie is always on. I couldn't find any information why that film in particular was selected for the loop. It's a curious choice especially considering their rooftop bar is just around the corner. Maybe they thought a sobering film about alcoholism might encourage patrons to drink less.

Sadie McKee (1934) DVD

Sadie McKee (1934) is available from the Warner Archive Collection. You can buy the DVD-R from the WB Shop by using this link.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to the Warner Archive for sending me a copy of Sadie McKee (1934) for review!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hotel Paradiso (1966)

Writer's block is demoralizing for any artist. It can last days, months, years and sometimes stall a brilliant writing career forever. And there is nothing like the feeling when a bit of inspiration comes along and breaks through the barrier between you and your words.

In the film Hotel Paradiso (1966), playwright Georges Feydeau is suffering from a bought of writer's block. He finds inspiration for his next play by observing the shenanigans of his neighbors in turn of the 20th century Paris. First there are the Cots. Marcelle Cot (Gina Lollobrigida) is annoyed by her husband's neglect and starving for any kind of affection. Henri Cot (Robert Morley) is too busy in his architectural work to pay much attention to his beautiful young bride. They live next door to another disgruntled couple the Bonifaces. Angelique Bonafice (Peggy Mount) has 20 years on Marcelle and is driving her husband batty with her incessant nagging and her controlling nature. Benedict Boniface (Alec Guinness) seizes an opportunity while his wife Angelique is away to have an affair with his neighbor Marcelle. Everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong in this hilarious comedy of errors.

Based on Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres' L'Hôtel du libre échange, Hotel Paradiso changes the original play by putting the playwright into the story. The film was directed and produced by Peter Glenville who plays Feydeau in the film and also directed the successful Broadway and London theatre productions of Hotel Paradiso. Alec Guinness and Douglas Byng reprise their stage roles for the film.

Hotel Paradiso is chockfull of gags that will have you doubled over laughing. There are lots of fun characters each with their own quirks. Douglas Byng plays Monsieur Martin, a friend of the Bonifaces who brings his 4 daughters for a month long stay in Paris. M. Martin is a human barometer and develops a terrible stutter when the weather is bad. He's also a witness to the goings on that implicate the main characters. One of my favorite actors Akim Tamiroff plays Anniello, the proprietor of the Hotel Paradiso where most of the film's antics take place. It's the sort of seedy hotel where you pay by the hour for a secret rendezvous. Anniello's new hire George (David Battley) is a wrench in the works and fails at every task much to the audience's enjoyment.

Alec Guinness and Gina Lollobrigida in Hotel Paradiso (1966)

Gina Lollobrigida and Alec Guinness are the two reasons why you should watch this film. They're a mismatched pair which adds to the hilarity of their adulterous romance. Lollobrigida, known for playing prim and proper ladies on screen, excels at these kind of comedic roles. Her character is both horrified and intrigued by the idea of having an affair with her neighbor. Marcelle's husband's neglect drives her need for attention. Guinness' Benedict has years of pent up lust bursting out of him which he channels into this affair with Marcelle. The two escape to the Hotel Paradiso for a clandestine evening together only to be unwittingly followed by almost everyone they know, including playwright Feydeau who is writing down everything he observes.

The film is very British despite being based on a French play, taking place in Paris and having an Italian film star as the female lead. At different points in the film I had to remind myself that this was turn of the century Paris and not London.

Peggy Mount, Alec Guinness, Gina Lollobrigida and Robert Morley in Hotel Paradiso (1966)
I'm a sucker for a good comedy and it didn't hurt that two of my very favorite people, Gina Lollobrigida and Akim Tamiroff, were in the film. The motley cast of characters, hilariously enacted scenes and a two part ending that flips everything on its head makes the Hotel Paradiso (1966) a must see.

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