Showing posts with label Peter Lorre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peter Lorre. Show all posts

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.


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!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The world's best remake

We hate remakes don't we? Hollywood seems to be money hungry now, milking the last few drops out of the golden teats of brands just to make some dough. Nothing is sacred. All those classics you hold near and dear are just waiting to be butchered by some big studio wanting to make a fast buck. It's just a matter of time until classic power houses such as Casablanca (1942), The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939) are remade for today's contemporary audience. However, remakes aren't new. They are an old tradition in the movie business. Let's take The Maltese Falcon (1941) for example. Not only is it a remake of the 1931 version it's also preceded by another remake Satan Met a Lady (1936) with Bette Davis and Warren William. 

I often wonder what goes into the decision making process of 21st century movie studios when they decide to remake a classic. I like to envision that young upstarts at these studios, fresh out of film school but have not yet made an emotional connection to certain classics come up with these ideas only to have them robbed by the powers that be that throw money around to make it happen. Then they see who's hot, who's available, who's willing to butcher and/or remake this film to cash in on some big box office dough. Some remakes are good but the unfortunate truth is that most are really bad. But audiences will still flock to theaters because these established names are recognizable. Who wants to take a chance on an unknown when there is something safe and familiar instead?

One thing about The Maltese Falcon is that if they ever remake it again they can NOT top the cast. Humphrey Bogart was effortlessly cool as Sam Spade. Mary Astor as the dangerous, scared and alluring Brigid O'Shaunessy was simply divine. And I couldn't imagine any other team of criminals than Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr. Or could I? While I watched the film I looked closely at each of the actor's faces and tried to come up with the first contemporary actor that came to mind. In some cases it was physical appearance in other cases it was a random association based on essence. This new cast could either prove as a nightmare or a decent possibility to you. For me, it would only work if they did something fresh and new with it. If they do ever remake this, there is no way they will be able to find an actor like Bogie. He has no equivalent. There is no replacement. Bogie was Bogie, 'nuff said.

Humphrey Bogart

Ben Affleck
(I have this strange Bogie-Affleck thing. Don't ask)

Mary Astor

Julianne Moore
(Astor pouted in the same way Moore does)

Sydney Greenstreet

James Gandolfini
(Gandolfini can't play loveable but he can sure play a big round intimidator)

Peter Lorre

Johnny Galecki
(Hair, eyes, they sort of resemble each other. Plus some guy called Chuck Lorre produces the Big Bang Theory. I didn't even realize this until I was looking up the actor!)

Elisha Cook Jr.

Casey Affleck
(eh. They just look alike!)

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