Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Office Wife from 1930 with Dorothy MacKaill, Lewis Stone and Joan Blondell
  • Early talky and pre-code with element of both that result in an good movie and an even more-interesting look at a moment in movie history

  • There's no soundtrack, little action, few sets and a lot of talking - basically, they filmed a souped-up play done in a fast sixty minutes

  • The subject is the "office wife" 1930 style: when a high-powered executive forms a bond with his secretary that is stronger and closer than the one with his wife, thus, threatening his marriage

  • Stone (who is a bit too old for the role) plays a publishing exec who encourages one of his top authors to write about the "office wife," but then ends up living the experience. To wit, his new wife loses interest in him, in part, owing to his long hours at work, while his new secretary (MacKaill) develops a romantic interest in him (and vice versa)

  • The rest is watching it play out - does he leave his wife for the secretary he's falling in love with (especially after he learns his wife is having an affair) and does his secretary leave her decent (if bumptious) boyfriend for her much older and wealthier boss? And since the movie's run time is all of sixty minutes, you don't have to wait long to find out

  • Despite its crude, by today's standards, production quality, the story's timelessness engages as does MacKaill, a talented and wanly pretty actress

  • But equally interesting are the pre-code curios such as:
    • A girl-on-girl, in-their-underwear, kiss (MacKaill and Blondell, see pic below)
    • A clearly lesbian author wearing men's-style suits and smoking cigars
    • MacKaill's inability to find a single bra to wear
    • Booze being readily consumed without condemnation despite Prohibition
    • Divorce accepted as just something that happens / not a big deal
    • In four short years, when the Motion Picture Production Code would be enforced, most of these situations would be verboten

  • Visually, the trip to 1930 is time-travel fun with Stone's outer office a wonderful example of '30s high Art Deco

Pre-code early 1930s enjoying a girl-on-girl kiss (it created a bit of a stir when the TV show Friends had a girl-on-girl kiss in 2001 - this one was seventy-plus years earlier):
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eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 48137
The Office Wife with Dorothy MacKaill, Lewis Stone and Joan Blondell
  • Early talky and pre-code with element of both that result in an good movie and an even more-interesting look at a moment in movie history

  • There's no soundtrack, little action, few sets and a lot of talking - basically, they filmed a souped-up play done in a fast sixty minutes

  • The subject is the "office wife" 1930 style: when a high-powered executive forms a bond with his secretary that is stronger and closer than the one with his wife, thus, threatening his marriage

  • Stone (who is a bit too old for the role) plays a publishing exec who encourages one of his top authors to write about the "office wife," but then ends up living the experience. To wit, his new wife loses interest in him, in part, owing to his long hours at work, while his new secretary (MacKaill) develops a romantic interest in him (and vice versa)

  • The rest is watching it play out - does he leave his wife for the secretary he's falling in love with (especially after he learns his wife is having an affair) and does his secretary leave her decent (if bumptious) boyfriend for her much older and wealthier boss? And since the movie's run time is all of sixty minutes, you don't have to wait long to find out

  • Despite its crude, by today's standards, production quality, the story's timelessness engages as does MacKaill, a talented and wanly pretty actress

  • But equally interesting are the pre-code curios such as:
    • A girl-on-girl, in-their-underwear, kiss (MacKaill and Blondell, see pic below)
    • A clearly lesbian author wearing men's-style suits and smoking cigars
    • MacKaill's inability to find a single bra to wear
    • Booze being readily consumed without condemnation despite Prohibition
    • Divorce accepted as just something that happens / not a big deal
    • In four short years, when the Motion Picture Production Code would be enforced, most of these situations would be verboten

  • Visually, the trip to 1930 is time-travel fun with Stone's outer office a wonderful example of '30s high Art Deco

Pre-code early 1930s enjoying a girl-on-girl kiss (it created a bit of a stir when the TV show Friends had a girl-on-girl kiss in 2001 - this one was seventy-plus years earlier):
View attachment 48139
Is the gal standing by the side of the "Girl on girl" kiss scene a young Joan Blondell? The cheek line and facial structure seems to indicate such. :icon_scratch:;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Is the gal standing by the side of the "Girl on girl" kiss scene a young Joan Blondell? The cheek line and facial structure seems to indicate such. :icon_scratch:;)
You are spot on - quite the "Eagle" eye you have there.

She, as always, delivers an enjoyable performance as a wisecracking, non-nonsense young woman who sees all the ridiculous going on around her. A role she'd play many times.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Clearly I am going to have to watch that movie. Is it another TCM presentation? ;)
Yes it is. They play it now and then. If I see it coming up, I'll let you know, but usually, it's a while between showings.

This was the first time I had watched it from beginning to end.

Dorothy MacKaill is one of my favorite all-but-forgotten actresses of that era. She's talented and beautiful, but I think it hurt her that she was a bit older than stars like Bette Davis or Loretta Young by the time the "talkies" started as she had less time to make her mark before "aging" out.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Law in Her Hands from 1936 with Margaret Lindsay, Glenda Farrell, Lyle Talbot and Warren Hull

B-movies can rise above their station to be outstanding films or they can be terrible efforts of weak acting, weak writing and weak directing. But a lot of them, like The Law in Her Hands, can be - with one big caveat - fun, quick (60 minute) "movies" that are really more like hour-long TV dramas.

Here, two young women (Lindsay and Farrell) - who worked their way through law school - graduate, quit waitressing, open a law office and try to find clients - tough to do in the Depression. The smarter of the two, Lindsay, is dating an assistant district attorney (Hull) who wants her to quit working, marry him and become a mother and homemaker. She resists (for God sakes, she just passed the bar) as her passion is to build a law practise, but despite their differences, they continue dating.

To smooth things over, Lindsay, a beautiful young woman whose every pore reads well-bred nice girl - but not spoiled - invites Manhattan-centric Hull out to her place in Brooklyn for dinner with this little gem of an exchange (the first sentence is a paraphrasing):

Lindsay: "If I can get you to leave Manhattan, come out to Brooklyn and I'll cook you dinner tonight."

Hull: "How far out in Brooklyn?"

Lindsay: "Oh, way out, where 'oil' is 'earl'."

That's it, but what an inside-New-York moment as she is basically telling him she lives in the part of Brooklyn where the dialect is full-on Brooklynese and Manhattanites rarely tread. It flies by, but it's great fun hearing Lindsay break from her WASP-perfect diction for one second to pronounce "oil" as "earl" with Brooklyn verisimilitude.

But back at the law office, with their practice not attracting clients and the furniture repo man knocking on the door, the women are offered a large retainer from a known mob boss (Talbot) that Lindsay's DA boyfriend has been trying to put away. After initially rejecting his offer, the women take on his business under certain conditions that allow them to think they are staying honest, but as we all know, you can't be a little pregnant.

From here, the women's practice thrives as Lindsay proves very good at lawyering for the mob, while her relationship with the boyfriend gets strained. But then, as we knew would happen all along, Lindsay and her mob-boss client have a come-to-Jesus moment when he wants her to defend the mob in a horrible child-poisoning case.

You'll guess the outcome ahead of time, but still, I have to note the following as a spoiler alert: Lindsay stands up to the mob even though it will hurt her business. Now, here's where the movie goes full-on Motion-Picture-Production-Code stupid.

After Lindsay - unwilling to fight dirty in this one - loses the case and her largest (but not only) client, she meets up with the DA boyfriend and, smiling like she means it (she's got a heck of an arresting smile), agrees to quit the law to become a homemaker and mother as he's wanted her to do all along. End of movie - puke.

It not only rings false, you can almost feel the Motion Picture Production Code stamp coming down on the film. A lot of women and men want to be homemakers - good for them, freedom of choice is a wonderful thing - but until this forced-auto-correct moment, everything about Lindsay's character said, "I want to succeed as a lawyer," as she comes alive preparing for cases and arguing in the courtroom.

Had this been a pre-code movie, Lindsay, like pre-code heroines Ruth Chatterton and Kay Francis (the latter's horrible diction balances out the universe for Lindsay's elegantly perfection diction) would have picked herself up from the floor, shaken off the dirt and gone back to work with, maybe, a pause for a "quicky" with her DA boyfriend. Now, that's how this fun-and-breezy B-movie / hour-long TV-style drama deserved to end.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Breaking Point from 1950 with John Garfield, Phyllis Thaxter (a favorites less-well-known actress of mine), Juano Hernandez and Patricia Neal

"You got that stubborn stupid look on your face you always get when you're going to do something you know isn't right, but you're going to do it anyway cause that's the way you are." - Phyllis Thaxter to husband John Garfield (and God bless her)


That fantastic line is also a pretty darn good summary of The Breaking Point. Garfield, up against it as a commercial charter-boat captain behind on his boat payments and house rent and with a wife and two kids to support, basically, spends the movie making one desperately stupid choice after another all the while sporting an arrogantly dumb look on his face while doing so. Fair or not, Garfield is unable to accept that, despite being a war hero, he is failing in civilian life.

I didn't much like this movie the first time I saw it years ago, but am revising my opinion up, a lot, as the story holds together well, the emotions in it are real, raw and powerful and the acting is outstanding, starting with Garfield, but including the entire cast.

Right out of the gate, Garfield ignores the advice and offers of help and support from his kind and decent wife (Thaxter) and equally kind and decent best friend and crewman (Hernandez) as financial problems mount. Instead, on his own, he makes the fateful decision to transport illegal immigrants into the country (yup, nothing's new) for an out-sized payday.

While a lot more happens after that, that's the trigger moment as that's when Garfield crossed the Rubicon from honest struggling family man to criminal covering his tracks. Throw into the mix that, as he distances his wife, he develops a friendship with a young wayward and pretty woman, Neal, who, like the illegal charter does for his money problems, seems to offer him a way out of his collapsing emotional world.

But wife Thaxter is no wallflower; she sees the danger Neal poses to her marriage and she fights to keep Garfield, if not faithful, at least wanting to return to her. But Garfield is a one-man wrecking crew who, despite a horrible first experience at crime, tries again, while also continuing to play footsie with Neal (the Motion Picture Production Code wouldn't allow it, but we all get that he's really sleeping with her).

From here, it's all more bad decisions and bad outcomes. But you stay with it because you're seeing, ugly at times, but viscerally real life exposed. And nothing is more real than watching Thaxter fight to save her family with grit: if she could have wrestled her husband to the ground to stop him from making another bad decision, you know she would have. Instead she delivers the quoted-at-the-top, fire-all-weapons line to try and prevent her husband from doing more stupid things.

Meanwhile, in his own misguided way, Garfield tenaciously and tragically fights to survive the consequences of his bad decisions as we watch a proud man crumble under the weight of all his awful choices. And in the end (spoiler alert), no one wins as Garfield survives, but is physically and mentally broken, while his best friend has been murdered. Sure, Garfield's wife keeps her family together, but despite the happy Motion-Picture-Production-Code forced spin, what's really left of it?

If you do watch it, stay with it to the end to see the child-alone-on-the-pier shot. I won't spoil it by giving you the what and why of the scene, just note that you want to see it because it is one of the most heartbreaking and poignant moments in any movie.

Maybe the real theme of The Breaking Point is that a man needs his family to not be alone in the world. But I'll go with Thaxter's crushing quote as a darn good close second, which says, effectively, some men are so stubborn that they'll make stupid choices, even though they know they won't work, rather than lose face.

N.B., Pay attention to the performance of Juano Hernandez as Garfield's first mate as it's different but equally powerful to the one he gave in Young Man with a Horn. This man is an actor. Had he worked at a time when there were more opportunities in film for black men, you have to believe he'd have been a major star.

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Peak and Pine

Connoisseur
View attachment 48332
The Breaking Point from 1950 with John Garfield, Phyllis Thaxter (a favorites less-well-known actress of mine), Juano Hernandez and Patricia Neal.
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The town where I spent most of my growing up, Cape Elizabeth, had a tiny wooden movie theater called The Cape. Was surprised to return a few years ago to find it a turned into a live stage theater and renamed The Phyllis Thaxter Theater, now home to the Portland Players. I grew up and buddied with a kid named Creighton Getchell. His mom's sister was Thaxter. I never saw her, probably in California.
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Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Special Agent from 1935 with Richard Cortez, George Brent and Bette Davis
  • A good-guys-win, code-enforced movie that still brings some verve with a reasonably believable Feds-vs-the-mob script and A-list acting from Davis, Brent and Cortez

  • Cribbing from the real-world takedown of Al Capone on tax evasion, undercover Federal Agent Brent sets out to convict New York City mob-boss Cortez on tax-fraud charges

  • The local police and prosecutors have repeatedly failed to nab Cortez on racketeering charges as he's good at hiding evidence of his illicit business and, when that fails, killing off any potential witnesses against him

  • The lynchpin in Brent's effort to bring down Cortez is Cortez's top bookkeeper - super smart, young and cute - Davis (note: she's a young woman acknowledge by all as a numbers and business whiz), who is portrayed as stuck working for Cortez as, as she says, "you don't resign from this job"

  • And while it works and makes sense, the story would have been better in pre-code land where Davis would have been sleeping with both Cortez and Brent and would have had to decide which one of her lovers to, ultimately, sell out

  • But alas, by 1935, the Production Code didn't allow good girls to sleep with bad men (or any they weren't married to), so the climax revolves around Cortez trying to kill Davis before she can testify against him. A lot of gun-play and bullets flying ensue

  • Brent, as always, is solid but stolid, Davis is too corralled in the role to really flex her acting muscles but Cortez shines as the oleaginous crime boss. He's polished, urbane, ruthless, evil and always wearing glove - this was seemingly a thing for mob bosses back then (see Bogey in All Through the Night)

  • It's an entertaining enough hour-and-fifteen-minute flick held back by the Production Code and not enough screen time for Davis
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 48432
Special Agent from 1935 with Richard Cortez, George Brent and Bette Davis
  • A good-guys-win, code-enforced movie that still brings some verve with a reasonably believable Feds-vs-the-mob script and A-list acting from Davis, Brent and Cortez

  • Cribbing from the real-world takedown of Al Capone on tax evasion, undercover Federal Agent Brent sets out to convict New York City mob-boss Cortez on tax-fraud charges

  • The local police and prosecutors have repeatedly failed to nab Cortez on racketeering charges as he's good at hiding evidence of his illicit business and, when that fails, killing off any potential witnesses against him

  • The lynchpin in Brent's effort to bring down Cortez is Cortez's top bookkeeper - super smart, young and cute - Davis (note: she's a young woman acknowledge by all as a numbers and business whiz), who is portrayed as stuck working for Cortez as, as she says, "you don't resign from this job"

  • And while it works and makes sense, the story would have been better in pre-code land where Davis would have been sleeping with both Cortez and Brent and would have had to decide which one of her lovers to, ultimately, sell out

  • But alas, by 1935, the Production Code didn't allow good girls to sleep with bad men (or any they weren't married to), so the climax revolves around Cortez trying to kill Davis before she can testify against him. A lot of gun-play and bullets flying ensue

  • Brent, as always, is solid but stolid, Davis is too corralled in the role to really flex her acting muscles but Cortez shines as the oleaginous crime boss. He's polished, urbane, ruthless, evil and always wearing glove - this was seemingly a thing for mob bosses back then (see Bogey in All Through the Night)

  • It's an entertaining enough hour-and-fifteen-minute flick held back by the Production Code and not enough screen time for Davis
Don't you miss the days when actors could really act, grabbing and holding out attention and not have to depend so heavily on special effects to hold the viewers attention? I do! In many ways the old films are still the best of the bunch out there. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Don't you miss the days when actors could really act, grabbing and holding out attention and not have to depend so heavily on special effects to hold the viewers attention? I do! In many ways the old films are still the best of the bunch out there. ;)
I'm seeing some of that acting quality return, oddly, to TV shows. As the major movie releases, anyway, seem to be very special-effects driven, TV shows are where the better stories and acting appear to have set up camp.

On another site, I posted these comments about these current TV shows. All have their issues - and all have some degree of obnoxious political correctness, identity politics and virtue signaling built in - but all are pretty good story and quality acting-driven efforts that are more engaging than most of today's "big" movie releases.

I noticed we don't have a TV thread and was going to start one when I posted this stuff on the other site, but then thought that maybe we don't have one because we don't want one. Heck, our movie thread doesn't get that much traffic as it is.

If you do watch any of these shows at some point, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Dead to Me
In season two, this well-acted mystery drama hasn't lost a step with lead Christina Applegate doing such an outstanding job that you wonder why she doesn't have a bigger career. And with episodes that are only thirty minutes long (an unfortunate rarity today), the crazy of murder, mayhem and mystery that is woven into regular family life here feels much like an updated version of those '50s Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV shows. Is it believable - no, but the characters are fun, the stories engrossing and the acting is fantastic.


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In The Dark
Season two (so far, three episodes in) is just as good as season one, but the plot is very bumpy as it appears the writers hadn't planned on a second season, so they've had to untie some loose ends they had tied up at the end of season one. The acting, like so many shows today, is outstanding, with Perry Mattfeld killing it as the beautiful young blind woman with a brilliant detective-like mind and self-destructive lifestyle. As with many modern shows, you can pick the unbelievable plot apart, or just go with it as the dialogue is smart, the storylines engaging and the acting excellent.


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Perry Mason
A solid '30s period drama that is beautifully filmed (with awesome 1930s' details), very well acted (with a parade of stars from other successful series), a story that's becoming more engrossing (two episodes in) and characters that are developing nuances and real personalities. Here, Mason is a private eye, not lawyer (yet), damaged from WWI and the Depression, but with a preternatural eye (aided by his always present camera) for details that other investigators miss. I was suspicious of this one at first, but it's winning me over. N.B. The Los Angeles funicular, Angels Flight (outstanding name), is fantastic to see and plays a major role in the plot.


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Godless
This 2017 TV miniseries (half way through) is a bit slow-moving-but-engaging offering in the 19th Century American West genre. The aging leader of a gang of outlaws takes his gang on the hunt for a former member who, he believes, betrayed him, which leads him right into a town of almost all women owing to a mine explosion that killed most of the men. Like so many shows today, it's beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted with an impressive list of well-known veterans - Sam Waterston, Michelle Dockery and Jeff Daniels deserve special mention - and up-and-coming young actors. The story and characters are well drawn and complex, with only the now-and-again virtue signaling of anachronistic modern political correctness and identity politics detracting from the narrative.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
^^
It strikes me that I need to expand my TV viewing beyond the nightly news on major networks and Fox News in general, Big Bang Theory reruns, American Pickers and.........I guess that's about it. Uh-Oh! ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Crossroads from1942 with Wiliam Powell, Hedy Lamarr, Basil Rathbone and Claire Trevor

A rising-star French diplomat (Powell) with a beautiful young bride (Lamarr) is on the verge of being promoted to ambassador to Brazil when he is accused of identity fraud owing to an amnesia-inducing car accident he had over a decade ago. While he wins the fraud trial, he is subsequently blackmailed by two individuals (Rathbone and Trever) claiming to be former accomplices in a robbery and murder all three supposedly committed before Powell's loss of memory.

They present Powell with, what they claim is, evidence of his former life and then demand a large sum of money in return for their silence. With that set up, the rest of the movie is watching Powell desperately trying to remember his past as he runs around Paris attempting to confirm the blackmailers' story while also trying to keep his wife unaware of his troubles and his career on track.

If this sounds Hitchcockian, it's because it is very Hitchcockian - amnesia, blackmail, important man's successful life at risk, dramatic trial, beautiful wife (albeit, not blonde), harrowing chase scene at the climax - but it misses the master-director's touch. Here, director Jack Conway does an adequate job, but he doesn't frame scenes with Hitchcock's eye for tension and fear, nor does he use Hitchcock's audience-friendly faster pace. Hence, the movie drags in several spots despite its charismatic stars and engaging story.

That said, it's still worth the watch, especially with the always lovely-to-look-at Hedy Lamarr playing the devoted and befuddled wife. Having seen Lamarr clearly comfortable being fully naked in 1933's Ecstasy, I always half expect her to take her clothes off in any movie she's in just for the heck of it. She always looks like she wants to - but alas, the Motion Picture Production Code scores another victory. Even with her clothes on though, she's still an enjoyable actress to watch.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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B.F.'s Daughter from 1948 with Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin (now that's a name), Charles Coburn and Keenan Wynn

Once in a while (almost never now), Hollywood makes a movie that looks at capitalism versus socialism (in this case, as a secondary plot) and, while giving the nod to capitalism (wait, what?), presents both sides with nuance and respect.

A wealthy industrialist's (Coburn) daughter (Stanwyck) drops her slowly rising businessman and father-approved fiance to marry a left-wing, socialist professor and writer (Heflin) who's the ideological antipode to her capitalist pater.

Her father describes himself thusly, "I'm a builder, the world needs builders," and if, in my life, I stood for something "I stood for rugged individualism." Somewhere Ayn Rand is smiling. Conversely, his daughter's new husband opposes wealth and capitalism and reflexively supports any group perceived as weak and needy regardless of facts and circumstances.

In a beautiful early scene, when the father and new husband meet, neither play to pat stereotypes: the father sincerely wants to understand the daughter's choice and the new husband sympathetically realizes the pain his marriage is causing the old man.

Modern writers would have flexed their virtue-signally progressive muscles by turning the scene into one of a cold-hearted capitalist disowning his daughter as the socialist son-in-law denounces everything the old man stands for. Here, the daughter isn't disowned and the son-in-law doesn't denounce - making the scene real and powerful.

And while the theme of competing economic systems will also indirectly drive the newlywed's bumpy marriage, the marriage itself is the main story. These newlyweds, like most newlyweds, enthusiastically believe their love will overcome all obstacles, the first ones being all but no money to live on and Heflin's career as a writer/speaker stuck in idle.

While Heflin refuses all offers of assistance from his father-in-law, Coburn covertly helps the newlyweds with money he passes to Stanwyck, while, also unbeknownst to Heflin, Stanwyck uses this money (and her father's influence) to jump-start Heflin's career. And as Heflin's career grows, his wife, combining her husband's new money with her father's, purchases a home and the other accoutrements necessary to place her and her husband in society.

As all this slowly dawns on Heflin, he and his wife become estranged as he resents her surreptitious aid and her social aspirations, but also has no intention of going backwards professionally. Instead, a modus vivendi takes place in the marriage as she stays in society in New York, while he goes off to join, his heroes, the New Dealers in WWII Washington.

With the marriage aging poorly, her father, on his deathbed, encourages his daughter to fight for her husband, despite his ideological disagreements with him as he knows her husband is a good man even if he hates his politics. And upon the old man's passing, Helfin reflects that he wasn't fair to a good man who saw the world differently than he does. The movie's strength is its nuanced balance of competing ideas and personalities versus the approach most movies today take of political and ideological purity (and virtue signaling).

Also running in the background are a couple of on-message subplots. Stanwyck, playing to type for a moment as the jealous society wife, assumes her husband is cheating on her when she finds bills in his things related to another woman's living expenses. Accusing without asking, she eventually discovers, to her embarrassment, her husband is helping a blind war refugee get a new start in America. So, we learn that even those who narcissistically put charity on the highest moral pedestal for all to see do some sincere and private good at times.

Conversely, a cocky liberal reporter (Wynn) and friend of Heflin's who denounces Ivy league commissioned officers as the pampered elite of the war - which starts another fight in the Stanwyck-Heflin household - has to eat crow as one of the "elites" he singled out for public mockery (a long-time friend of Stanwyck's) dies heroically on a voluntary mission. So, we learn that having been born to money and status doesn't define, perforce, a person as cowardly and callous.

And all of this reflects on the one question the movie asks repeatedly, can a marriage of ideologically opposed people work? The movie - until the Motion Picture Production Code forces a not-believable happy ending in, literally, the last thirty seconds - says no, while real life says it's hard at best. In our politically polarizing times, many married and dating couples are probably asking themselves the exact same question that 1948's B.F.'s Daughter debated so well.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Gambling Lady from 1934 with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, C. Aubrey Smith and Pat O'Brien

Another sixty-ish-minute-long movie that's the 1930's equivalent of today's hour-long TV drama - and that's meant as a compliment.

Barbara Stanwyck is the honest gambler daughter of an honest gambler father who managed to avoid the corruption, tricks, cheats and deceptions most gamblers of that time used. Also, a gambling syndicate - a mob group that controls the illegal betting in the city - regularly tries to recruit her father; however, he manages to play it straight and solo.

But Stanwyck will need all of her aleatory talents to survive and dodge the syndicate when her father passes away suddenly leaving her a young single woman with little money. Okay, she's Barbara Stanwyck, so a few men pop up quickly like gambling shark and syndicate member Pat O'Brien. He's a long-time friend who wants to marry her, but despite having affection for him, Stanwyck feels no spark.

Next up is wealthy society scion Joel McCrea; there's a spark, but also a rub - he's "class;" she's, well, not. And in a neat twist, this bothers Stanwyck, not McCrea, as he's just a sap in love, but she's thinking big picture and sees the challenges her background will create in his world.

But McCrea's father (Smith), a prominent industrialist with, like his son, a taste for gambling dens, after initial suspicions, supports his son's efforts. The father understands that Stanwyck - whom he's known for years, having met her while gambling - singularly has more character than any combination of five of the society debutantes chasing his son.

So, despite a few more typical 1930s movie misunderstandings, McCrea and Stanwyck find their way past all of it and get married. Things initially go pretty well even with McCrea's jealous streak, especially when it comes to O'Brien. To be sure, his society friends have mixed feelings about his new wife - the men love her (tip: men tend to love pretty women); the women look down on her especially since she stole away one of the catches of their clique.

But then O'Brien gets arrested and Stanwyck, despite husband McCrea's objection, comes to his aid out of long-time loyalty that McCrea mistakes for romantic affection. From here, more misunderstandings and a concealed self sacrifice all but doom the marriage, or do they?

And remember, while we are almost at the end, all of this happens in about sixty minutes. They really knew how to pack a lot of plot into these fast efforts. To be sure, the plot is mainly contrived and cliched, but still enjoyable especially when being propelled forward by pros like Stanwyck, Smith, O'Brien and McCrea.

Is it a great movie? No. But thought of as an hour-long show in a pre-TV era, it more than holds its own with most modern TV efforts. It provided a 1930s audience with at least as much escapism as television does for us today.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 48693
Gambling Lady from 1934 with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, C. Aubrey Smith and Pat O'Brien

Another sixty-ish-minute-long movie that's the 1930's equivalent of today's hour-long TV drama - and that's meant as a compliment.

Barbara Stanwyck is the honest gambler daughter of an honest gambler father who managed to avoid the corruption, tricks, cheats and deceptions most gamblers of that time used. Also, a gambling syndicate - a mob group that controls the illegal betting in the city - regularly tries to recruit her father; however, he manages to play it straight and solo.

But Stanwyck will need all of her aleatory talents to survive and dodge the syndicate when her father passes away suddenly leaving her a young single woman with little money. Okay, she's Barbara Stanwyck, so a few men pop up quickly like gambling shark and syndicate member Pat O'Brien. He's a long-time friend who wants to marry her, but despite having affection for him, Stanwyck feels no spark.

Next up is wealthy society scion Joel McCrea; there's a spark, but also a rub - he's "class;" she's, well, not. And in a neat twist, this bothers Stanwyck, not McCrea, as he's just a sap in love, but she's thinking big picture and sees the challenges her background will create in his world.

But McCrea's father (Smith), a prominent industrialist with, like his son, a taste for gambling dens, after initial suspicions, supports his son's efforts. The father understands that Stanwyck - whom he's known for years, having met her while gambling - singularly has more character than any combination of five of the society debutantes chasing his son.

So, despite a few more typical 1930s movie misunderstandings, McCrea and Stanwyck find their way past all of it and get married. Things initially go pretty well even with McCrea's jealous streak, especially when it comes to O'Brien. To be sure, his society friends have mixed feelings about his new wife - the men love her (tip: men tend to love pretty women); the women look down on her especially since she stole away one of the catches of their clique.

But then O'Brien gets arrested and Stanwyck, despite husband McCrea's objection, comes to his aid out of long-time loyalty that McCrea mistakes for romantic affection. From here, more misunderstandings and a concealed self sacrifice all but doom the marriage, or do they?

And remember, while we are almost at the end, all of this happens in about sixty minutes. They really knew how to pack a lot of plot into these fast efforts. To be sure, the plot is mainly contrived and cliched, but still enjoyable especially when being propelled forward by pros like Stanwyck, Smith, O'Brien and McCrea.

Is it a great movie? No. But thought of as an hour-long show in a pre-TV era, it more than holds its own with most modern TV efforts. It provided a 1930s audience with at least as much escapism as television does for us today.
If the movie is in black and white and was put out more than 40 years back, it must be worth watching. Besides Barbara Stanwyck is a handsome woman who traditionally played strong, sturdy women in her roles! Who has not watched an episode or two of Big Valley, the TV series? As always, an excellent review. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
If the movie is in black and white and was put out more than 40 years back, it must be worth watching. Besides Barbara Stanwyck is a handsome woman who traditionally played strong, sturdy women in her roles! Who has not watched an episode or two of Big Valley, the TV series? As always, an excellent review. ;)
Thank you. I was "introduced" to Ms. Stanwyck as a young kid watching "The Big Valley" repeats on TV in the early '70s. She seemed really cool even then as a women in her 60s.

It was only later that decade, when I started watching old movies that I "discovered" that Health and Nick's mom was really a big-time movie star from the '30s and '40s.

I agree, a naturally beautiful woman who, usually, played smart and formidable women. She's one of my favorites. You've probably noticed that I post a lot of her movies in this thread.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Night of the Iguana from 1964 with Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Grayson Hall and Sue Lyon

It's a play turned into a movie by Tennessee Williams that ends on an upbeat note. Wait, what?

Yup, the master of stories about broken people breaking some more, wrote a story about broken people healing somewhat and finding hope. And somehow, despite being about depressed people failing in life, The Night of the Iguana doesn't weigh as heavily throughout as other Wiliams' moribundity, such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Glass Menagerie.

A defrocked (or not, a bit unclear, but definitely on the outs with his church) minister (Burton) - he canoodled with a parishioner - makes a bare-bones living running tours in Mexico for, at least in the movie's case, Christian school teachers looking for a morally uplifting holiday.

Well, they chose the wrong guide. Richard Burton (who, just a side note, should never have been allowed to act in the same movie with Elizabeth Taylor) is pitch perfect here as the wayward man of God. Tested immediately, Burton spends the beginning of the tour trying not to sleep with comely-and-curvy blonde and come-hither teenager Sue Lyon, especially as her ascetic and dessicated chaperone, wonderfully played by Grayson Hall, breathes down his neck threatening to get him fired at every turn.

To escape her threats, the heat and the bus-load of bible-song-singing women, Burton, in desperation, breaks with the tour's itinerary and all but shanghais the women to a remote mountain hotel run by an old girlfriend, Ava Gardner. Here, Burton hopes to buy time to save his job. With the women grumbling, and Gardner not sure she wants her old boyfriend around, into the hotel walks a middle-aged sketch artist (Kerr) and her ninety-year-old poet grandfather.

The rest of the movie is, one, watching Burton, fueled with alcohol (supposedly, not just a fiction as he was said to reek of booze throughout the filming) fight his demons and conscience as this damaged man tries to use sex and drink to overcome doubts about Church and faith. Second, is Ava Gardner having her own mid-life crisis, but suffering no such pangs of guilt as she throws back liquor while sleeping with two young, buff local boys that she keeps on the staff, seemingly, just for her enjoyment.

But while Burton writhes in agony over his dilemmas, Gardner appears to almost enjoy having them as she wisecracks her way through each crisis. The third leg of this my-life-is-crumbling stool is the approaching-forty and still-virginal Kerr, broke and hiding from life as her grandfather's caretaker.

With the chaperone still trying to get Burton fired and the other women constantly caterwauling, Burton, Gardner and Kerr alternately support and berate each other through their personal crises. Yet, as opposed to most Wiliams' offerings, there's a little light and mirth mixed in with the angst and distress. You don't want to miss seeing Burton, first with cynicism, and then, with empathy, cajole middle-aged Kerr into telling him why she's still a virgin: it's real, raw, painful and, sadly, believable.

And it comes down to this: all three ultimately realize that life is agonizingly hard for everyone, but the trick is to find out how you can fight off your own pain and despair. You'll have to watch to see what each one decides to do, but as a hint, toward the end, the titular and metaphoric iguana - tied to a rope to be fattened up as a meal for the locals - is cut free by Burton with this declamation (and awful pun): "I just cut loose one of God's creatures at the end of his rope."

It's a good, solid story and the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography beautifully captures 1960s Mexico. But this is an actors' movie and Burton, Gardner and Kerr (with a healthy assist from Hall) all rise to the challenge by giving some of the best performances of their careers.
 

Peak and Pine

Connoisseur
That was good, Fast. Refreshed the whole thing to me, which I saw first-run in a theater on Staten Island when I was 19. With a bunch of rowdy college buddies. We were somewhat tanked. We always were. I remember a certain phrase, a euphemism that I've since used all my life, correct me here please, the big swim, for suicide by ocean. Is that in the film?

You of all people, and me, might like to know that starring in the play from which this is adapted, playing the Ava Gardiner rôle, a woman that I badly wanted to see on Broadway, but I was maybe 16 and still living in Maine (about a mile from where she once lived and on the same road), why that would be...Bette Daaaa-vis (in a poor attempt to imitate her cadence.).

Your review made the film seem bearable. I had never seen the then almost over-the-hill twin famousies, Ava Gardined and Deborah Kerr, and went because, though I disliked Williams and his southern gothic take on contemporary life, being then a White New England Supremacist which had nothing to do with looking down on Blacks since we looked down on everybody, went for Burton from whom I took voice lessons though he doesn't know that. His biggest young fan. And later coming to my senses, an enormous Tennessee Williams one as well. Night of the Iguana is not his best play, but is his best play title. Insightful review. Could have used you as a seat maybe, back in '64.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Ocean's Eleven from 1960 with Frank Sinatra, his Rat Pack and a bunch of other stars

I had never seen this one before (other than ten minutes here and there), but having just read a Frank Sinatra biography (see comments here: #814 ) that talked about this movie, when it popped up on TCM, I hit record.

I'm glad I did. Yes, it's silly and contrived, but it's not hiding any of that. This is a personality movie - you either like Sinatra, his crew and their Rat-Pack-ness or not. The fun is seeing the stars - Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. - basically play themselves (or, at least, their public personas) with nonchalance but not mockery.

The plot is simple enough: a group of WWII 182 Airborne Division vets, a decade and a half after the war, are pulled together by their former leader, Sinatra, to execute a heist of the five major casinos in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve. And the plot serves its purpose to give these guys a reason to be in a movie together, wear cool clothes, say cool things and run around a cool town.

Each star plays to type: Sinatra is the bit-angry, bit-sarcastic, but caring leader with women troubles (a reason to bring in hot-thing-of-the-moment Angie Dickinson who never gets to really do anything in the movie); Martin is relaxed cool; Lawford is the rich boy only in on the heist so that he doesn't have to keep asking his mother for money and Davis Jr. is the funny, smart guy who gets the joke all along but stays in on the heist out of camaraderie.

And in his best role ever (that I've seen him in), Cesar Romero plays a "retired" professional crook, now Lawford's rich mother's fiance who's tasked by the local sheriff with sussing out the who and what of the heist after the fact. It's kind of like the Rat Pack's father shows up to teach the boys a lesson. Romero is completely comfortable in his role, neither under nor over playing it, and seemingly having as much fun as the Rat Pack "boys" were.

The denouement is enjoyable, if not that original, with the closing shot so iconic that Tarantino riffed on it thirty-plus years later in Reservoir Dogs. I'm sure the public got the movie's joke at the time - just enjoy Sinatra and his buddies having fun and looking cool in Vegas and don't worry too much about the rest of it.

And that might be why it's aged pretty well as it was never a serious effort in the first place. It's a time capsule of early '60s cool when "cool" meant well-tailored dark suits, skinny ties, smoking, Vegas, cocktails in tumblers and crooners. By the end of the decade, all that would look "square," but it was cool in its day and it's cool to look back at it now.

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