Showing posts with label Cyd Charisse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cyd Charisse. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)

"What does she mean to you? Two weeks of company in another town?"

It's no secret that the film industry loves remakes and sequels. Take an established story and characters with a following, slap on a number and a new story line or give it a fresh take with a new crew and wait for the financial rewards to come rolling in. It's riskier to take a chance on a new story than to revisit a tried and true formula. And as long as there are movies, there will always be filmmakers revisiting previous successes.

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962) is The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) non-sequel you didn't know you wanted. Both are backstage MGM melodramas about the film industry, both star Kirk Douglas, both are directed by Vincente Minnelli and both share the same crew including producer John Houseman, composer David Raskin and screenwriter Charles Schnee. Just take the essence of the original, give it a new story, film it at Cinecitta in Rome and set it ablaze with Metrocolor and you have Two Weeks.

Cinecitta circa 1962

Kirk Douglas in Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)

Based on the novel by Irwin Shaw, Two Weeks in Another Town follows the story of Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas), a former actor whose spent the past few years in an asylum recovering from his mental breakdown. His old director, Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson), summons him to Rome where he's working on a new film at Cinecitta. At first it's just a small gig, $5,000 in Jack's pocket and a chance to work on a movie set again. But Kruger, eager to capture the filmmaking magic they once had, wants Jack to stick around and offers him the job of dubbing supervisor. When Kruger has a heart attack, most likely brought on by his overbearing wife Clara (Claire Trevor), his tormented star Davie Drew (George Hamilton) and his temperamental female star Barzelli (Rosanna Schiaffino), Jack takes over as director. The project and his romance with budding young actress Veronica (Dahlia Lavi) breathes new life into Jack but his ex-wife, actress Carlotta (Cyd Charisse), threatens to destroy him.

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)

Jack Andrus is the perfect role for Kirk Douglas. His character is intense, emotional and temperamental but also serves as the hero the audience wants to champion. George Hamilton's method actor, pseudo-James Dean type is supposed to be characteristic of Jack before his breakdown but Hamilton wasn't a good fit for the part, something that he admitted to himself. It's also unclear why his character is so tormented in the first place. His character and many others are caricatures of film industry types or are just plain misogynistic: the innocent beauty, the angry old hag, the jaded assistant, the temperamental actress, the destructive femme fatale, the tyrant director, the heartless film reporter, and so on and so forth. The film does tap into an interesting philosophical query: can you be true to your authentic self when your life is devoted to pretending to be other people? There are a few moments where I thought the film was really going to explore this but then it went right back to the melodrama.

And melodrama it was. Over-the-top is the best way to describe Two Weeks in Another Town. From the characters, the music, the plot, and the absolutely bonkers car crash but not quite a crash sequence with Douglas and Charisse. I couldn't help comparing Two Weeks with another Kirk Douglas film The Arrangement (1969). In that film he's an ad executive who is frustrated with his job and his passionless marriage, he has a nervous breakdown which leads to a terrible car accident that he miraculously survives. He finds some joy in a romance with a younger woman (Faye Dunaway). In the Two Weeks, Douglas' Jack, before he goes to Rome, is a film star, frustrated with his job, in a toxic marriage, has a nervous breakdown which leads to a terrible car accident that he miraculously survives. Both movies are not great but I found them to be enjoyable and I had fun comparing the two.

Two Weeks in Another Town was a bomb at the box office and garnered terrible reviews. Director Minnelli was quoted as saying "It's painful to talk about the ruin of that film even now." The magic of The Bad and the Beautiful, which won 5 Academy Awards and was nominated for a 6th, couldn't be captured ten years later in a new setting. Scenes from the original are shown in Two Weeks. In the story Kruger is its director and Jack its star and they are watching the film to understand what filmmaking magic the two had lost and how can they recapture it. Two Weeks was the final project for screenwriter Charles Schnee who died the year of its release. The film also reunited Claire Trevor and Edward G. Robinson who were both in another beloved classic movie, Key Largo (1948).

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)

Should you bother with Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)? My answer is a resounding yes. If you don't come to it with high expectations and you embrace the melodrama you can be treated a simple and beautifully styled movie. I enjoyed the on location shooting in full color, performances by some of my most favorite actors, and exquisite costumes and decor. I wanted to jump into the movie, steal some goodies and go back to 2018 with my haul. In the film Kirk Douglas drives a beautiful Maserati which I appreciated for its retro body style but car enthusiasts will love because it's a rare model, a 3500 GT Vignale Spyder, that has been made the rounds with vintage car collectors and is still in existence today.

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Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me the Blu-Ray of Two Weeks in Another Town (1962) to review!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)

It’s no secret that I’m completely enamored with mid-20th Century Las Vegas. If I could take a time travel vacation, one of my top choices would be a late 1950s or early 1960s Las Vegas. So it was inevitable that I watch Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) so I could swoon over all the glitz and glamour of a Las Vegas that no longer exists and to be entertained as well.

I won a copy of this movie in a Warner Archive Kumbuya giveaway. Shout out to the lovely Aurora of Once Upon a Screen... who runs the Kumbuya platform for Warner Archive and does a splendid job at that. I do encourage you to sign up and become a part of that community.

Meet Me in Las Vegas was an MGM production directed by Roy Rowland and stars Cyd Charisse as Maria Covier. Maria is a ballerina who’s preparing for her Las Vegas debut. She’s all business. When she’s not rehearsing, she’s resting and when she’s not resting, she’s rehearsing. Her life revolves around her various dancing gigs and the only people who inhabit her world, other than her fellow dancers, are her assistant Sari (Lili Darvas) and her manager Pierre (Paul Henreid). Maria’s world is small and she likes to keep it that way.

Las Vegas doesn’t agree with Maria. She’s annoyed by the noisy casino and the slot machine in the bedroom of her hotel suite. On the flip side, no one loves Las Vegas more than rancher Chuck Rodwell (Dan Dailey). Chuck is known for his bad luck but that doesn't stop him from gambling away his hard-earned profits. He has so much fun at the casinos, gambling, flirting, drinking and signing, he's still hopeful that his bad luck streak will end and he comes back for more. His luck is about to change when he meets Maria. All he needs to do is hold her hand and he’ll win at any game: roulette, black jack, you name it he’ll win it. At first Maria is not amused by Chuck who urgently seeks her out as his good luck charm, but they start to warm up to each other. Maria finds that she’s missed out on a lot of fun and is making up for lost time with Chuck. The two start to fall in love. Will their lucky streak last forever?

This film has plenty glamorous shots of 1950s Las Vegas just waiting to be devoured. Any nostalgic Las Vegas enthusiast will love all the glorious shots of the different casinos, the marquees, the city streets, rows and rows of slot machines, the gambling tables, the pools and the lounges. During the movie, viewers take a short trip to Chuck’s ranch just outside of Las Vegas where we meet his feisty mom Miss Hattie played Agnes Moorehead, a familiar face for fans of the classic TV show Bewitched. And you’ll find plenty more familiar faces in this movie. There are cameo roles performed by Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre and several others (I won't spoil them all for you because part of the fun is being surprised by a recognizable star). Cyd Charisse's real life husband Tony Martin has a small part as a secret admirer. Fans of West Side Story will recognize George Chakiris who plays a newlywed spending his honeymoon in Las Vegas with his new bride (Betty Lynn). Jim Backus, of Gilligan's Island fame, plays the casino manager who has his hands full with the opinionated Maria. Sammy Davis Jr.’s voice (not body) makes an appearance in a dance number. And there are plenty of dance numbers that showcase Cyd Charisse’s terrific skill as a dancer and her long toned legs. There are musical performances by Lena Horne, Dan Dailey and many more.

I had a lot of fun watching this movie. Meet Me Las Vegas is a feast for the eyes and entertaining to boot. Even though the plot line isn’t all that realistic (if it were many of us would be looking for a lucky hand to hold so we can gamble our way into becoming millionaires) it’s still a lot of fun.

Spoiler Alert! For those of you who have written off the 1950s as a backwards time, check out this film. Classic film fans often find ourselves frustrated by this all too common ending: a successful woman gives up her career to be with the man she loves. Female (1933) anyone? I found it very refreshing that the couple in this story avoids this ending by coming to a compromise. They decide that each of them will work 6 months out of the year, with the other person by their side for support. That way Chuck can continue to be a rancher and Maria can continue to travel as a ballerina but they can still be together. It’s important to note that the screenwriter Isobel Lennart was a career woman herself which I’m sure had something to do with the ending of this film. End Spoiler Alert.

Meet Me In Las Vegas from Warner Bros.

Meet Me In Las Vegas (1956)  is available from the Warner Archive as a DVD-MOD which includes a trailer and two deleted musical numbers: It's Fun to Be in Love and Lena Horne's You Got Looks.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) as part of a Warner Archive Kumbuya giveaway.


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