Showing posts with label Warner Archive. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Warner Archive. Show all posts

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Ladies They Talk About (1933)


Ladies They Talk About (1933) is one of the original women-in-prison films and is perfectly suited for the Pre-Code era. Directed by Howard Bretherton and William Keighley for Warner Bros., Barbara Stanwyck stars as Nan Taylor, a glamorous gun moll and a member of a bank robbing gang led by Don (Lyle Talbot) and Lefty (Harold Huber). Nan is a career criminal and has her job down pat. She's just needs to distract the cops and the people in charge while her cohorts do the dirty work. But one day her plan doesn't quite work out and she ends up in the clink. The comes her knight-in-shining-armor David Slade (Preston Foster). He's a hymn shouting reformer who broadcasts his religious sermons over the radio and hosts popular revivals in the city. He's got significant influence on the public and on local politicians and he takes a particular interest in Nan. It doesn't hurt that he's attracted to her too. Nan isn't quite sure about him and while he tries to save her from a conviction she winds up in San Quentin (when they used to house both male and female prisoners) anyways.

Now Nan needs to navigate the social politics of a women's prison. She quickly befriends the spunky and no-nonsense Linda (Lillian Roth) who becomes her sidekick. Linda introduces Nan to a motley crew of characters. There's Aunt Maggie (Maude Eburne), a former madame and an important ally for Nan. Mustard (Madame Sul-Te-Wan) who gets into quite the battle of social dominance with a seemingly high-and-mighty prisoner. Keeping watch over the crew is Noonan (Ruth Donnelly) a hard-nose but sympathetic prison matron who always has a cockatoo on her shoulder. Nan makes an enemy in Susie (Dorothy Burgess), one of David Slade's devoted followers who seethes with jealousy at Nan's romantic connection with him. Nan soon needs to decide whether she's going to give this David Slade guy a chance or risk it all by continuing her life of crime.




You really can't go wrong with a Pre-Code prison movie. There are so many good ones of the era including 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932), Paid (1930) and my personal favorite The Big House (1930) (which I reviewed here). Ladies They Talk About is thoroughly enjoyable despite a rather weak romantic storyline. The main draw really is the women-in-prison sequences. There's a reason this subgenre became popular during the exploitation era. It's titillating! Ladies They Talk About really has fun with the women's prison. Barbara Stanwyck's cell is decked out with fancy pillows, dolls, flowers, a dresser and even a gramophone to play records. The prisoners smoke cigarettes, do their hair and makeup and wear lingerie. One of them even gets to keep a pet dog. The film offers some outrageous fun with a crime drama and opposites-attract love story serving as just window dressing. How many other films boast Lillian Roth singing a love song to a picture of Joe E. Brown?!

Revisiting Ladies They Talk About sent me down the research rabbit hole about radio evangelism of the 1920s/1930s. While most people forget Preston Foster is even in this movie, I took special note of his character on this viewing. They tone down the religious elements—most likely to not offend any denominational groups—but it's clear that Foster's character represents the era when these figures influenced public morality through radio broadcasts and in-person revivals. This subject matter comes into play more prominently in another Barbara Stanwyck Pre-Code movie The Miracle Woman (1931) in which she plays an Aimee Semple McPherson type.




Ladies They Talk About was based on the play Women in Prison by Dorothy Mackaye who based the story on her own time locked up in San Quentin. In the late 1920s, Mackaye was a stage actress married to song-and-dance performer Ray Raymond and embroiled in a passionate affair with another actor Paul Kelly. On April 26th, 1927, a drunk Raymond and an equally drunk Kelly got into a fight at Raymond and Mackaye's apartment. Kelly beat Raymond so brutally that when Raytmond went to bed that night he fell asleep and never woke up. Mackaye tried to clean up the mess her lover made by bribing the coroner to change her husband's autopsy report finding from blunt force trauma to natural causes. Her scheme backfired. Both Kelly and Mackaye went to trial, were convicted and subsequently sent to San Quentin. Mackaye and Kelly reunited and married once Kelly served his time. She wrote about her experience in a play and Kelly was able to continue his acting career.  I haven't gotten my hands on the original play yet but I'd be curious to see how much of her own story was in the play and what was changed for the movie adaptation.





Ladies They Talk About (1933) is available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection. It’s also available on DVD in volume #5 of the Forbidden Hollywood series.

The Blu-ray is from a 1080p HD Master from 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. Bonus features include English language subtitles, a theatrical trailer and the Warner cartoon Merrie Melodies: I Like Mountain Music


Thank you to the Warner Archive Collection for sending me Ladies They Talk About for review!


I share more thoughts about the film and the Blu-ray on episode #6 of The Classic Movie Roundup on YouTube. Watch here:


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Yearling (1946)

Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Yearling (1946) stars Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman as Penny and Ora, married pioneer farmers who live and work deep in the Florida backwoods. Their son Jody (Claude Jarman Jr.) is their sole surviving child. Fearing that her love and attention was responsible for the death of her other children, she exudes a cold demeanor to Jody as a way of keeping him alive. Jody finds joy in his close relationship with his father and with the domestic and wild animals that he encounters on a daily basis. When Penny has to kill a doe in order to gather its liver for life saving medicine, Jody takes the doe's orphaned fawn under his wing and names him Flag. Jody's relationship with Flag helps him through tragedy. Unfortunately, when Flag becomes a yearling he begins to cause much destruction on the family farm. Jody must learn that when every day is a struggle, heartbreak comes hand-in-hand with survival.

Directed by Clarence Brown, The Yearling (1946) is a visually stunning and ultimately heart-wrenching film about family, tragedy and the cruelty of mother nature. It's a difficult watch for animal lovers, like myself, who hate to see the poor creatures suffer. While the animals in the film were not harmed during production, they are depicted as severely injured or dead and that can be a lot to bear for someone with no tolerance for cruelty towards animals.

The Yearling was shot on location in the Ocala National Forest and Silver Springs, Florida with additional scenes shot in Lake Arrowhead, California. Author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings served as production advisor and helped with location scouting. Rawlings was originally from the area and the novel was based on her experiences and observations growing up in rural Florida. MGM had purchased the rights to the novel in 1938 and while production was meant to start in 1940, a variety of production problems including financial burdens, casting issues, the volatility of filming in nature and acquiring trained animals for filming, pushed back production until 1945. It was around that time that the studio finally cast Claude Jarman, Jr. after a long search for their Jody. This was Jarman's feature film debut.

The trio of stars, Peck, Wyman and Jarm, are absolute perfection. Gregory Peck is charming as the former soldier turned farmer and loving father who will do anything to protect his family. Wyman gives Ora a range of emotions underneath the cold demeanor. We witness the depths of her pain and frustration as well as her fleeting moments of tenderness. Claude Jarman, Jr. is the heart of the film and through Jody he conveys a sense of innocence and sheer joy that makes one want to shield his character from the impending heartbreak.

The film was shot in Technicolor which is brilliantly enhanced with the Warner Archive Collection's restoration. They sourced a 1080p HD Master from the 4k scan of the original Technicolor negative. The quality is absolutely breathtaking. The color is amazingly brilliant and nature seems to come to life through the screen. Facial details are very important and with the rich detail that can be seen in this restoration, Peck, Wyman, Jarman and the other cast members looked like contemporaries standing right before me rather than renderings of figures from decades past.






I highly recommend getting the Warner Archive Collection's Blu-ray edition of The Yearling (1946) if you can. In addition to the gorgeous 4K restoration, the Blu-ray also features English subtitles, a Screen Guild Players radio broadcast, the Cat Concerto cartoon and restored theatrical trailer.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I feature titles from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me copy of The Yearling (1946).

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

They Won't Believe Me (1947)

 


"I can't walk out Harry. You'll have to do the walking."

This is the story of one man and three women. The man in question, stockbroker Larry Ballentine (Robert Young), is on trial for the murder of one of those three. A flashback takes us to when it all started. Larry was having an affair Janice Bell (Jane Greer), a delicate rose, who is falling in love with Larry but conflicted by the fact that he's still married. The wife in question, Greta (Rita Johnson), has no plans on letting Larry go. Their marriage was more of a financial arrangement for Larry. But when Greta hears that Larry is about to travel to Montreal with his new flame, she tags along to shake off Janice. At work, Larry falls for an employee at the brokerage, Verna (Susan Hayward). Verna is very different from both Janice and Greta, something that excited Larry greatly. When Verna and Larry plot an escape, a way for Larry to finally get a divorce without sacrificing his financial situation, things take a turn for the worst.

Directed by Irving Pichel, They Won't Believe Me (1947) is a captivating film noir and a must see for anyone who loves this style of filmmaking. Produced by Joan Harrison for RKO, this was her first sole producer credit (learn more about Harrison here.) It flips the femme fatale trope on its head presenting us with what TCM's Eddie Muller calls an "homme fatale." Robert Young as Larry has all the traits you would expect from a femme fatale but in a male role. And a credit to Harrison's handling of the project, the female characters are fleshed out and just plain interesting. They Won't Believe Me is based on a story by Gordon McDonnell and adapted to the screen by Jonathan Latimer. The ending is abrupt and a little ambiguous, a way to get around strict Hays Code guidelines of the time.

RKO re-released They Won't Believe Me in 1957 to play as a double bill in theaters. They cut 15 minutes from the film creating a new 60 minute version. The complete movie was elusive for years. Prints languished in archives but the public only ever saw the cut version. Thanks to the Warner Archive's George Feltenstein who championed the restoration, this film noir is now available in its entirety. The Warner Archive collection has released a new Blu-ray restored in 1080p HD from a 4K scan of the original nitrate print. This restoration premiered at the 2021 virtual TCM Classic Film Festival back in May.

If you haven't seen They Won't Believe Me yet, you're in for a real treat. I found myself really engrossed with this one. It hits all the marks I expect a good film noir should. There are a few twists and turns but nothing is over the top. For me, I really enjoyed the different elements like the court room trial, the escape to the countryside, the backdrop of the stock market, the Caribbean cruise, etc. There's a lot going on but it's so streamlined and seamless that it just flows. I'll definitely be watching this one again and again.



Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I feature titles from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me copy of They Won't Believe Me (1947).


Monday, May 3, 2021

Warner Archive Mega Haul

 


When it was announced that the WBShop was closing down in its current form and that they would be having their last 4 for $44 sale for Warner Archive titles, I pounced. On March 12th I bought a whopping 32 discs. I used both the sale and a special 15th anniversary coupon code for an extra deal. Then on the last day of March, I bought 4 sets that weren't part of the original sale but I could still use the coupon code for. While we don't know what the future holds for Warner Archive, I did want to buy what I could before it was too late. Warner Archive titles are currently available at a variety of online stores including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Deep Discount, TCM Shop and more and they have new releases scheduled throughout this year. Shop while you can!

Now on to the haul.



Did you partake in the Warner Archive 4 for $44 sale? If so, what did you get?



Saturday, December 5, 2020

2020 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide

 


Today I'm proud to share with you my 2020 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide. It's a little late to be sharing (better late than never right?) but these are great options for last-minute gifts or to treat yourself with. These are mostly new products but I also included one older release. I did things a little differently this year and decided to present each recommendation in a styled photo. I hope you enjoy them. And I will be adding a few more options in an update so stay tuned.

Shopping with my buy links helps support this site. Thank you!

Happy Holidays!


 
 
This Was Hollywood: Forgotten Stars & Stories
by Carla Valderrama
TCM and Running Press







52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter
by Jeremy Arnold
TCM and Running Press







Bruce Lee: The Greatest Hits
The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury (1972), The Way of the Dragon (1972),
Enter the Dragon (1973) and Game of Death (1978)
2 Disc Supplements
Blu-ray Boxed Set
Criterion Collection







Tony Curtis Collection
The Perfect Furlough (1958), The Great Impostor (1960), 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962)
Blu-Ray set
Kino Lorber







Holiday Affair (1949)
Dir. Don Hartman
Starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Wendell Corey, Gordon Gebert
Blu-Ray
Warner Archive Collection







Sergeant York (1941)
Dir. Howard Hawks
Starring Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Stanley Ridges
4K Restoration Blu-Ray
Warner Archive Collection







Lonesome (1928)
Dir. Paul Fejos
Starring Barbara Kent and Glenn Tryon
Blu-Ray
Criterion Collection






Outside the Law (1920)
Dir. Tod Browning
Starring Lon Chaney, Priscilla Dean, Wheeler Oakman
Blu-Ray
Kino Lorber



Drifting (1923)
Dir. Tod Browning
Starring Priscilla Dean, Anna May Wong, Wallace Beery

White Tiger (1923)
Dir. Tod Browning
Starring Priscilla Dean, Matt Moore, Wallace Beery
Blu-Ray
Kino Lorber



Tuesday, December 3, 2019

2019 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide



It's that time of year again! Whether you're shopping for the classic film buff in your life or for yourself, I have some great options for you.

Here is my 2019 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide. The guide is split into two sections. The first is Recommendations, products that I've enjoyed this year. The second section is a Wishlist of items that have piqued my interest but haven't gotten my hands on yet.

When you use my buy links to do your online holiday shopping you help support this site. Thank you! I also encourage you to shop at your local brick and mortar stores whenever possible.

Stay tuned as I'll be chatting with Carl Sweeney of The Movie Palace Podcast about some of these items. I'll include the audio link here once it's live.

What's on your holiday wishlist this year? Which of the items in my holiday gift guide most appeal to you? Leave your responses in the comment section below!









Letters from Hollywood
Inside the Private World of Classic American Movie Making 
by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall
Harry N. Abrams




TCM and Running Press Books

Forbidden Hollywood
The Pre-Code Era (1930-1934), When Sin Rules the Movies
by Mark A. Vieira
(my reviews: blog post and video)


Dynamic Dames
50 Leading Ladies Who Made History
by Sloan De Forest
(my reviews: blog post and video)


Hollywood Black
The Stars, The Films, The Filmmakers
by Donald Bogle
(my reviews: blog post and video)




Warner Archive Collection Blu-Rays

The Set-Up (1949)



The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)



A Patch of Blue (1965)





The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959) and The Indian Tomb (1959) Blu-Ray

Film Movement
(review coming soon!)




Punny Classic Film Christmas Cards by Kate Gabrielle




Ida Lupino: Filmmaker Collection

Contains: Not Wanted (1949), Never Fear (1950), The Hitch-Hiker (1953) and The Bigamist (1953)
Kino Lorber



The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) Olive Film Signature Edition

(review coming soon!)








The Definitive Jacques Tati 
edited by Alison Castle
5 Book Boxed Set




The Hollywood Book Club
by Steven Rea
Chronicle Books




Now Voyager (1942) Criterion Collection Edition





They Shall Not Grow Old Blu-Ray




TCM Movie Lovers Welcome Mat






Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Coquette (1929)




Directed and produced by Sam Taylor, Coquette (1929)A Drama of the American South stars Mary Pickford in her first ever talking picture. Pickford plays Norma Besant, a "silly little coquette", as she calls herself, who enjoys being the toast of the town. She's the beloved daughter of Dr. John Besant (John St. Polis), and the sister of the equally frivolous Jimmy (William Janney). Norma comes from a wealthy family and could have any guy she wants, including Stanley Wentworth (Matt Moore) who is absolutely smitten with her. Instead she's fallen in love with Michael Jeffrey (Johnny Mack Brown). He's from the bad part of town, has never had a steady job and can't afford the suit he'd be required to wear to take Norma to the Summer social. And Dr. Besant wants nothing to do with him. It's clear that their relationship is not off to a great start. Determined to earn Norma's affection fair and square, Michael leaves for a few months to make something of himself. He returns earlier than expected and the two lovebirds are reunited. When a scandalous rumor makes its way through the town, Michael and Dr. Besant come face-to-face and a tragic incident changes Norma's life forever.



"He's a diamond in the rough."

Coquette was based on Jed Harris' stage play and adapted by George Abbott, Ann Preston Bridgers, John Grey and Allen McNeil. Sam Taylor contributed to the dialogue and the film was produced independently and distributed by United Artists. Sets were designed by William Cameron Menzies.

This film's historical significance is more interesting than the film itself which I found to be quite dull and lifeless. The period between 1927-1929 was crucial as the industry was transitioning away from silents. A talkie debut was a big deal. For Mary Pickford it launched the next leg of her acting career and won her an Academy Award for Best Actress. The Academy Awards were still brand new and Pickford, ever the visionary, decided to campaign for the coveted prize. She did a publicity tour to drum up interest in the movie as well as in her nomination. This is commonplace now but was a brand new concept back then. Pickford's plan worked, the film was a success and she won the award. However, because Pickford was a founding member of the Academy, some felt that favoritism came into play.

Coquette is a silly Southern drama that I found needlessly frustrating. There is a lot of talk especially between Johnny Mack Brown and his rival for Mary Pickford's attention, John St. Polis, but no real action or reaction. Michael is never given a chance to prove himself and Dr. Besant is an elitist jerk. Overall the film lacked the emotional gravity and nuance that would have me feeling invested in the characters and their journey.

Watch Coquette for the delightful Mary Pickford's talkie debut, for the utterly handsome and underrated Johnny Mack Brown and for Louise Beavers who has a small role as the Besant family maid and Pickford's confidante.



Coquette (1929) 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 Coquette's DVD debut. George, D.W. and Matt of the Warner Archive Podcast discuss this film in the Dynamite Dames episode.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I feature titles from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me copy of Coquette (1929).

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, May 15, 2019

Seven Days in May (1964)


"It was a time of tremendous tension and tremendous fear." - John Frankenheimer

Cold War stories are endlessly fascinating. There is something about the fear of nuclear annihilation and how it alters our perspectives on the future and guides our actions that became the perfect fodder for storytelling. It inspired authors Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II to write their political thriller Seven Days in May. Published in 1962, the book became a bestseller. Shortly after publication, Kirk Douglas’ Joel Productions and director John Frankenheimer's Seven Arts Production purchased the movie rights in a joint deal. The book was highly criticized by the Pentagon but it had one notable fan: President John F. Kennedy. According to Kirk Douglas’ memoir Kirk and Anne, JFK met Douglas at an event hosted by LBJ and encouraged him to make the film. JFK also gave Frankenheimer his approval to film outside of the White House.


In the not so distant future, U.S. President Lyman (Fredric March)  has signed a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, a move intended to prevent nuclear war, and is dealing with the aftermath of his decision. His approval rating has dropped to 29% and he’s garnered much criticism within the current administration. His biggest critic is General Scott (Burt Lancaster), one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A highly decorated military veteran, Gen. Scott has stirred up the opposition with his patriotic banter and his extreme right-wing politics. His aide Colonel ‘Jiggs’ Casey (Kirk Douglas) doubts his boss’ intentions and discovers a big secret. In seven days, Gen. Scott and the other Joint Chiefs of Staff will stage a military coup to seize the government and overthrow the President. Two of the president’s closest confidantes, his aide Paul Girard (Martin Balsam) and Senator Clark (Edmond O’Brien) are sent to investigate. Jiggs gets some help from Eleanor Holbrook (Ava Gardner), Scott’s ex-lover. She has in her possession letters that will incriminate Scott. Will Jiggs and the President’s team be able to uncover the plot and stop it before the seven days are up?

"The enemy's an age. A nuclear age. It happened to kill man's faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, a sickness of frustration, a feeling of impotence, helplessness, weakness. And from this desperation, we look for a champion in red, white and blue. Every now and then, a man on a white horse rides by, and we appoint him to be our personal god for the duration." - President Lyman, played by Fredric March







Seven Days in May (1964) is one of the finest political thrillers ever made. Frankenheimer’s film is beautifully shot and directed. Frederic March, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, among others, deliver stellar performances. I’ve watched this film several times but this recent viewing made me appreciate the pivotal March-Lancaster showdown even more than I had before. Every single second of that scene is powerful. If you’re not already a Fredric March fan, that one scene will make you a convert. Lancaster’s Gen. Scott is so calm that it’s incredibly gratifying seeing March’s President Lyman break him down. The film benefits from Rod Serling's terrific screenplay, a high caliber cast of players, amazing sets, a title sequence by Saul Bass, etc. It’s perfectly paced, brilliantly told and it reflects the real tension felt in America at the time. There is so much attention to detail but also a focus on the story at hand. There is no excess. Everything feels just right. In terms of Cold War movies, I’ll take Seven Days in May (1964) and Fail-Safe (1964) (review) over the more popular Dr. Strangelove (1964) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962) any day.



Seven Days in May (1964) is available on Blu-Ray 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!

The film has been remastered and is presented in 1080p HD. The Blu-Ray edition is crisp, clear and simply stunning. It includes a great commentary track by director John Frankenheimer who generously offered much information about the making of the film. I learned a whole lot from hearing him discuss various topics including:


  • his experience working with the different actors 
  • his collaboration with JFK
  • his background working for the Pentagon and how that influenced the set design 
  • why he preferred shooting in black-and-white 
  • descriptions of the different shots and angles 
  • how they used European cars so audiences wouldn’t recognize the vehicles and date the film


Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I feature titles from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me copy of Seven Days on May on Blu-Ray (hey that rhymes)!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Prize (1963)



Directed by Mark Robson, The Prize (1963) stars Paul Newman as Andrew Craig, a celebrated novelist with a penchant for booze and women. Having just won the Nobel Prize in literature, Craig is whisked away to Stockholm, Sweden to accept the honor and fraternize with his fellow laureates. Little does he know he'll be caught up an international web of intrigue. Among the laureates is physicist Dr. Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson) who mysteriously disappears and is replaced by a look-a-like in his stead. Stratman's niece Emily (Diane Baker) is in charge of the scheme and seduces Craig to keep his nose out of her business. She's got competition from Inger Lisa Andersson (Elke Sommer), the representative from the Swedish Foreign Ministry assigned to look after Craig. To complicate things, Nobel winning scientist Dr. Denise Marceau (Micheline Presle) is counting on the handsome Craig to help make her husband jealous. In the lead up to the award ceremony, Craig has several run ins with international spies who want him dead. Will he save Dr. Stratman, and himself, in time for the big day?

The Prize is a Cold War thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously but really should have. It's a convoluted mess of a film. The dramatic and comedic elements clash and on the whole the story feels disjointed. Had they stuck with the more serious elements of the story or completely revamped it into a silly 1960s comedy, it could have worked either way. But doesn't quite work as is. I had never heard of the film until recently and now I know why. It's not a notable film by any means.

It's still fairly enjoyable for several reasons. First there's Paul Newman. The character of Andrew Craig doesn't quite suit him but Newman could really do anything and make it look good. There is a hilarious scene when he's running away from two hit men and he finds himself at a nudist's conference. It's funny and charming and one of the highlights of the film. By the 1960s, Sweden had developed a reputation for being a sexually progressive culture and that's touched upon in this film. While Elke Sommer plays Newman's main love interest, Diane Baker as Emily Stratman is far more interesting as a character. She's duplicitous but you can tell something else is going on to make her that way. Baker plays her with a subtlety that's rare for that era. Sommer's Ms. Anderson is beautiful but quite boring. Baker was far more interesting. .

As much as I love Edward G. Robinson, he doesn't have much to do in the film and the swap between the real Dr. Stratman and the imposter was weak at best. Other notable actors include Kevin McCarthy who plays Dr. John Garrett, Nobel laureate in medicine, Leo G. Carroll as Count Jacobsson and Micheline Presle as the worldly and playful Dr. Marceau.

Shot in Panavision and Metrocolor for MGM, The Prize is visually stunning and looks spectacular on Blu-ray. If you're smitten with the 1960s aesthetic, like I am, you'll be pleased with this offering. The film was shot on location in Sweden and between the costumes, sets and the good looking cast, it's truly a feast for the eyes.



The Prize (1963) is available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection. When you use my buy link you help support this site. Thanks!

The film has been remastered (1080p HD with DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0). The Blu-ray has subtitles and a trailer but no additional extras.

 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 Prize (1963) on Blu-ray for review!

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