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And So They Were Married (1936)
Above average romantic comedy.
Recent divorcée Mary Astor (Edith Farham) and daughter Brenda, spend Christmas at a fashionable mountain hotel - ski lodge. At the same time, Melvin Douglas (Stephan Blake) a long time widower arrives awaiting his ten-year-old son, also to spend their Christmas holidays together. Brenda is a man hater, apparently because daddy left her and mommy. When Steve's son (Tommy) arrives both children take an immediate dislike of one another -- to the point of physically beating each other up! Both children can't stand the fact that Edith and Steve are becoming attracted to each other, and both are determined to derail any chance of Steve and Edith becoming a couple. In most romantic 1930's comedies kids are not as mischievous or in fact, as delinquent as this pair is, but it's done in funny ways that keeps the kids from becoming obnoxious. A good cast with fine supporting actors drives this film merrily along. Columbia Pictures was good at making comedies. This is worth a look, if you like that genre.
Second rate at best.
I saw this movie in 1954 as a child, and frankly, at that time it seemed to me to be both
amateurish and boring. I knew that Jack Webb had written, produced and directer it, and that's usually a pretty good prescription for a failure. Fifty-five years later, I still feel the same. This motion picture was made only because "Dragnet" (the TV series) was popular enough to draw in an audience, or at least, I'm guessing that the folks putting up the money thought so . If in fact "Dragnet" made a profit (I have my doubts) it was only because it was made on a very slim budget. What the movie audiences got for their money was just a thirty minute TV show that had been blown up -- filmed in color -- and little more. "Dragnet" was like a lot of films or TV shows that caught on at a particular time. They were different, rather than they were particularly good. "Dargnet" isn't something that holds up over time; rather, it becomes a curiosity, something that has to be defended. Several comments have have been made that this film reflected both the 1950's and Joseph R. McCarthy. Well, actually this film reflected Jack Webb, and his conception of movie making. If you see Joe McCarty here, it's because you want to see Joe McCarthy. This movie is not political unless you just think that policing is just a reflection of closet fascism.
Starlit Days at the Lido (1935)
I'm guessing that this short was made for MGM as an experiment to gain experience with full color film. Or maybe it was produced by the Techincolor Corp. to show off the quality of their product. Earlier color films lacked the spectrum of vibrant colors, but this film was beautiful. I did not know how good Technicolor was in 1935. Another thing that was interesting was that unlike most Technicolor films of the 1930's, this was not a costume picture. We saw many scenes of ordinary people eating, dancing, or lounging around a swimming pool in all kinds of dress. In other words, it was a full color look into the past. I haven't mentioned the script because, there really wasn't one. The band music was nothing special, so too, were the vocalists. Several comedy bits ranged from corny to plain bad. I might add that movie buffs would enjoy seeing shots of various film stars that were part of the crowd.
Colorado Sunset (1939)
Gene Autry fans should enjoy it.
A typical pre-World War II Gene Autry film, filled with lots of music, action and good production values. Republic Pictures was willing to spend extra here -- well above the average for a B-Western -- because Autry's films were always profit makers. In fact, Gene Autry was one of the most popular film stars of the late 1930's. Here too is the usual anachronistic mixture of horses and old western towns populated with trucks, motor cars -- even a radio station. Some will see this as ridiculous; personally, I find it rather charming. This well directed film featured a very exciting chase scene done with a polish that many big budget action films failed to achieve.
Awful, but interesting.
This "Vitaphone Verities" is dreadful, and so crude (as entertainment) that I was surprised it was made in 1930. It looked more like one of the Warner Brothers first attempts with sound experimentation. The opening credits indicated that it was filmed in Technicolor, however the surviving print was in black and white; likely the color print is lost forever.
As a poster commented, the cigar smoking fat guy who introduced various singing and dancing acts by young girls was one creepy character, or should I say -- one very "silly man"? No, I wouldn't want him baby sitting my kids or anyone else's.
A lesbian subtext.
We know that Mrs. Danvers was in love with Rebecca, the question is was Rebecca involved sexually with Mrs. Danvers? Hitchcock made pointed references to the fact the Rebecca was often a cold and sexually unresponsive wife . There is the assumption that Rebecca was at least bi-sexual. To really appreciate the subtlety of this film it helps to factor in this possible relationship between the women. Hitchcock working under the censorship code of the time could only hint at it. However, with this in mind, one doesn't have to look hard to connect
the dots. Rebecca is wonderful story telling with a first rate cast and is beautifully photographed. One of the classics from Hollywood's golden age.
Worth watching for the dance number.
I've read film buffs quoted as saying that Eleanor Powell's Hawaiian dance number in the movie "Honolulu" was the sexist dance ever filmed. Well, I've watched many musicals over the years, and I can't think of one that smoked like that one did. To the driving beat of drums, Miss Powell, barefoot and wearing a grass skirt, overpowered the stage with her athleticism and seductive movements. You gotta see it -- I can't describe it and do it justice!
All and all, it was an enjoyable film simply because of a good cast that was able to overcome a rather threadbare script. Robert Young delivered his usual fine performance playing two characters impersonating one another. The radio comedians George Burns and Gracie Allen were along for the ride: with Geacie fairly enjoyable in her usual role of the slightly daffy friend to Miss. Powell. As another poster here said, Eleanor Powell was best when dancing alone; however, that was enough.
Sworn Enemy (1936)
Above average crime drama
A young man; Hank Sherman (Robert Young) is determined to avenge the murder of his influential benefactor by crime syndicate boss Joe Emerald (Joseph Calleia). With fine acting by Young, Louis Stone, Samuel Hinds and Joseph Calleia; along with the feminine charms or Florence Rice all add greatly to this films enjoyment. Although the movie is pretty much into the 1930's MGM type of formalistic film making, i.e. overcoming huge odds to catch the bad guys: it's filled with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. We are told early in the film who the villain is: the object is to find out where he (Emerald ) is hiding his cash and records, in order prosecute him for income tax evasion. MGM's production here was slick and filled with quality actors. I would rate the film's entertainment value as high.
Something New (1920)
One does wonder if in fact, the Maxwell Moror Car Company, might have financed this film, because it is a terrific commercial for that brand. Basically, the plot concerns the typical rescue theme, but there are bits that are historically engaging. Nell Shipman is not your ordinary passive heroine -- no, when she shoots a Mexican bandit, she comments: "well that takes care of one." What is interesting to me was the long automobile trek over a western desert, and to see how well this 1920 Maxwell car could handle ditches and boulders. Today, only the likes to a Toyoda Land Cruser, Land Rover or that type of auto could do it. Of course, the cars of that vintage were made with a very high ground clearance to handle unpaved country roads; which was the norm of the times. The film is primitive, but not boring. For those who are students of, or just enjoy early silent films, check it out.
The Phantom Plainsmen (1942)
A period piece
"The Phantom Plainsman" is an example of the Saturday afternoon kids film. These "B-Oaters" served the purpose, at the time, of supplying product to theaters in small towns and rural areas. The fact that it was made by Republic Pictures, usually meant that at least the production values would be decent -- and they were. As with their serials, Republic Pictures placed action over script, and this film's script is silly; without any trace of imagination. I don't know how to rate a film like this. It was made for a young audience, who'd never seen television, and wanted to see an action packed Western at their local movie theater. I'd ask the question; did "The Phantom Plainsman," entertain the kids of 1942? I'd guess the answer would be -- yes, it did.
Buy Me That Town (1941)
A forgotten gem.
"Buy Me That Town" is comedy that now seems to be sadly locked away in Twentieth Century - Fox's film vault. Hopefully , it still exists, and will be rediscovered some day. The script was based on a Damon Runyon story about a racketeer, played by the always excellent Lloyd Nolan, who buys a bankrupt small town, in order to exploit it for taxes, and make it an asylum, or a safe haven for crooks needing protection from the law. Crooks, that is, willing to pay big bucks for that privilege! The local jail turns in quite a place. Bread and water is replaced champagne and steak. As the word gets around, felons from all over descend on the town for safety, and a darn good time. Of course, there are lots of complications, and this cozy relationship of housing big time criminals turns out to have negative aspects -- to say the very least! Eventually, the cynical Nolan turns in to a nice guy, and even brings in a war plant to revive the town's economy. A wonderful cast, and excellent direction from veteran Eugene Forde make this film a delight.
Star of Midnight (1935)
Yes, "Star of Midnight" is a bit of RKO Radio Pictures reworking, or ripping off, MGM's "The Thin Man," but so what? It's good in it's own right. William Powell plays rich and debonair lawyer, Clay Dalzell, who gets involved in a murder, and is himself, a suspect. At his side, Ginger Rogers, co-starring as Powell's romantic companion. This pairing of Powell and Rogers is not as perfect as was Powell and Loy, it's a good match up, never-the-less . The mystery centers around the disappearance of of an actress -- the star of a play entitled "Midnight" -- hence from which the film get its title. All this mystery is wrapped with over- the - top elegance, and sophisticated humor, that was so typical of Hollywood films of the 1930's . You may guess who the murderer is, but the motive should come as a surprise -- and neat one it is !
Hangmen Also Die! (1943)
Fritz Lang At His Worst
This 1943 film, inspired by the real life assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi ruler of Czechoslovika, is disappointing, namely for the waste of talent. The fact that the film bears no relationship to the historical facts, is excusable; this is after all, a World War II propaganda film; few films of that period accurately portrayed the events of the time. No, the worst thing about the film was Fritz Lang's heavy handed direction. Lang was the most German of the German film directors, who migrated to Hollywood during the nineteen twenties and thirties. Here, Lang reverts to the old high style German touch of strange angles, and 1920's post-war Weimar expressionism, to gloss over a Hollywood pot-boiler. It doesn't work. The film is totally self conscious of it's own "artiness." Lang did great work in some American films -- this was not one of them.
The Thin Man (1934)
One of my favorite films
I've watched this film many times and still find it quite entertaining; only a handful of movies would do that for me. What you get with "The Thin Man" is the delightful combination of mystery and humor. William Powell and Myrna Loy have great chemistry; while director, Woody Van Dyke, propels the action along at a fine pace. One thing about the film that I find interesting is the apparent illogical snow scene very early in the film. This occurs shortly after Maureen O'Sullivan says good-by to her father, before his disappearance. As she getting into a taxi, it's snowing. Later at Christmas time, we learn that her father has been missing for three months! If so, we have to accept a mid-September snow storm in New York City! -- that requires a goodly suspension of disbelief. :) I'd love to know why the snow scene was ever shot? or, why it wasn't later cut out of the finished film?
Das Boot (1981)
"Das Boot" or "Das Boat" is a gritty saga about a German submarine during World War II. The director strives to show the claustrophobic conditions that the crew had to endure -- crammed as they were, into what one feels is basically a floating coffin. There is no doubt that care went into to the making of this film. The weakest part, however, is the script. One never feels that the writing rises to much more than going through the motions. This is certainly not a bad film, but I didn't like the directors "fetish for footage" (the shooting length) while the constant repetition of similar scenes begins to ware thin over time. Another criticism I would make, is
the film's finality is pretty well telegraphed -- you kind of know how it will end. On a positive note, one is left with no illusions that war is glamorous. I would say a superior i.e, more entertaining war film about a German U-boat is "The Enemy Below." Check that out!
Make Your Own Bed (1944)
Enjoyable little B-comedy
Good comedians like Jack Carson, Jane Wyman and Alan Hale make this little film funny for those who don't demand high art. Would-be detective Carson, and girlfriend, Wyman take on jobs as domestics to a wealthy businessman (Hale). The fact that it's World War II, and servants are supposedly hard to get, is the meat of the story line. Wyman can't begin to cook a decent meal,
and Carson is worthless as a man servant. Despite this, the desperate Hale won't fire them -- lousy help is better than no help. Eventually, bumbling detective Carson, finds out that Nazi spies are house guests, and despite almost getting Hale and Wyman killed, captures them. This film is funny, and that's enough for me.
Where Sinners Meet (1934)
It didn't work
Despite a first rate cast, this feeble -- very feeble British comedy, falls flat. Even great actors can't work with nothing, and this film offered nothing in the way of wit or interest. One might watch it only to see the lovely and classy Diana Wynyard, who could read a phone book and be worth the watch. However, here, H.W. Hanemann's adaptation of an A.A. Milne play is as interesting as a telephone book. My rating: #2
The Women in His Life (1933)
Above average crime melodrama
Otto Kruger stars as a gifted criminal defense lawyer, Kent Barringer, in this well directed and fast paced crime drama. Barringer is a troubled, cynical man, who's wife left him ten years before for another man. He must now face his past when he is shocked to discover that his ex-wife was the victim of the man that he's defending for murder. This is a well plotted little budget film with an excellent cast, with MGM's usual first-rate production values. Staring along with Kruger, are old pro's like Una Merkel, Roscoe Karns and surprisingly Isabel Jewell, usually typecast as a gum chewing bimbo -- here getting to play a good girl with brains.
All Mine to Give (1957)
If you like a good cry
Well, I don't, so this is a film I'll pass on. But, it is a fine film and as someone indicated sadly overlooked. There is that fear all children have of losing your parents and having no one to care for you. Since this film is based on a true story the impact of loss is heightened. If you get a cathartic emotional release in a good cry, here is a film for you. A super chick flick and that is meant as a compliment.
The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
A waste of film
The best thing about this movie is watching a young Gene Tierney before she became famous. Here she was young, beautiful and classy. It was obvious that she had star potential. Beside that, the film is pretty much a mess. The principle reason being von Sternberg's inability to demonstrate even the semblance of directorial ability. It's rather easy to see why von Sternberg's career as a director was so limited, after you watch this film. I should also mention the script is about as amateurish as you can get, the dialogue is both banal and silly. If you think this film couldn't be as bad as I indicate, rent it and see for yourself.
You'll Find Out (1940)
Yeah, it's dumb
Yeah, it's pretty corny and most people won't like it -- but it's my kind of film! OK! Kay Kyser and his band invited to perform in a spooky old mansion may not be a show stopper; but throw in Bela Logosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre -- play it for laughs, and you've got a surprisingly good film. Karloff, and especially Lorre, are a maniacal hoot! Had they been more screen time this would be a super Halloween film must. I'll give it a *7 1/2*. If others don't like it, well to bad! :)
You Gotta Stay Happy (1948)
Decent little comedy
Well, this wasn't "It Happened One Night" but, the plot line was similar. Rich girl (Joan Fontaine) secretly hops aboard a transport plane to escape a loveless marriage. Jimmy Stewart, the pilot, finds her and is annoyed to have a pretty girl hiding on board. In Hollywood guys always get mad finding a pretty stowaway, yeah, right. Anyhow, after a plane crash and lots of hanging around, nature takes over ... and you know... Actually, I enjoyed it. A little escapist comedy, that managed to entertain. Eddie Albert is good too, as Stewart's side-kick. I'd rank it a respectable 6 1/2. Also, Fontaine is as always, very feminine.
The Vanishing Virginian (1942)
Warm and Nostalgic.
This is a warm, humorous and sentimental film, based on Rebecca Yancy Williams' memoir of her family in small-town Virginia, circa 1905-1929. The essence of the story is centered on her father, Colonel Bob, and his life long public service. The film also lightly and humorously delves into the issues of the time, i.e. prohibition and women's suffrage. What makes this film a winner for me, is the fine acting of Frank Morgan as Colonel Robert Yancy, and Spring Byington as his wife. Well directed by Frank Borzage, and with MGM topnotch production values, it's worth a look, if sentimental films appeal to you.
The Parent Trap (1998)
Good family entertainment
I can think of only a few films that can kids enjoy that won't bore intelligent adults and vice versa. This film is a pleasant exception. Director Nancy Meyers, was right on spot, and took an older film and made it better than the original, a bit unusual. The cast was excellent. Lidsay Lohan, who played the role of the twins, was cute without being grating, while Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson had wonderful chemistry with each other, as well as with Lohan. The strong point of this film was the fine acting by the entire cast. I'll give it a solid *10*, because family films are rare.
Life Without Dick (2002)
I saw it for free
Well, almost -- I do pay for the cable. Now, if I were to plunk down eight bucks at the theater, that would be one thing, but sitting a home eating a ham sandwich, 'tis another thing. This movie is just plain dumb, but sometimes that works. It worked for me because Sarah Jessica Parker, is a good comedian, that can do a lot with very little. The rest of the cast added nothing, especially Harry Connick, Jr. This boy is not ready for movie prime time, and never will be. I'd give the film a *5* only because of S.J.P.