eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 48792
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.

View attachment 48793
The remake of Ocean's Eleven in 2001, starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon could hold a candle to the original production with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
The remake of Ocean's Eleven in 2001, starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon could hold a candle to the original production with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. ;)
I've never seen the remake and, after having seen the original, am indifferent to seeing it.

The original is special because of the actors and place at that time; the story was unimportant. Hence a remake is basically taking the least important element of the original movie - the story - and using that as the basis for a new movie - meh.

I have nothing against the remake and might watch it if it happens to come on when I'm flipping through channels or something. Although, your comment isn't encouraging me.

A more interesting concept would be to make a movie about the making of the original movie that focused on Frank's and the others' lives at the time they made "Ocean's Eleven."

Then you'd have a story to tell as Frank and Sammy both had some serious stuff going on in their lives at that time and you'd also have the fun of recreating a wonderful time and place. Expand the timeline and you could even make it into at TV series today.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
I've never seen the remake and, after having seen the original, am indifferent to seeing it.

The original is special because of the actors and place at that time; the story was unimportant. Hence a remake is basically taking the least important element of the original movie - the story - and using that as the basis for a new movie - meh.

I have nothing against the remake and might watch it if it happens to come on when I'm flipping through channels or something. Although, your comment isn't encouraging me.

A more interesting concept would be to make a movie about the making of the original movie that focused on Frank's and the others' lives at the time they made "Ocean's Eleven."

Then you'd have a story to tell as Frank and Sammy both had some serious stuff going on in their lives at that time and you'd also have the fun of recreating a wonderful time and place. Expand the timeline and you could even make it into at TV series today.
I wholeheartedly concur with the post above. In my post #442 above, I intended to say the remake could not hold a candle to the original movie. Alas I left out the critical word NOT! Sorry about that. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I wholeheartedly concur with the post above. In my post #442 above, I intended to say the remake could not hold a candle to the original movie. Alas I left out the critical word NOT! Sorry about that. ;)
I got it from context especially since I make typos, leave words out, etc., all the time.

Hey, there is so much streaming and so much demand for "content" maybe a Sinatra period show will happen at some point.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington from 1939 with James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold and Guy Kibbee

I'm not above sentimentality and melodrama in movies (or books) - I've seen The Bishop's Wife and Shop Around the Corner more times than I care to admit - I'm just not a big buyer of director Frank Capra's particular brand of mawkishness. Maybe it's too obvious or too grandiose or too in love with itself, but I find my cynicism, not optimism, is awakened by his "single knight charging the corrupt citadel" stories.

So when naive Jimmy Stewart is plucked from political obscurity to fill the vacated junior senator seat of a Western state because the state's corrupt political machine believes it can control him, you know, immediately with Capra, what you are in for.

Every point is exaggerated and pounded in with a sledge hammer. The political machine isn't just corrupt, but so corrupt that the state's governor (Kibbee) and senior senator (Rains) snap to attention at every order from the machine's boss (Arnold). And Arnold, who made a career playing venal fat cats in the '30s and '40s, is at his most venal fat cat-ness here - demanding, pushing, shoving, fulsomely charming, bribing and threatening everyone so as to line his pockets.

But Stewart is Arnold's ridiculously innocent opposite. Upon arriving in Washington, he gushes over every building, every statue of a Founding Father and every inscription propounding the ideals of America (modern progressive won't be filming a remake of this one). With that set up - and the catalyst of a political-machine-sponsored corrupt dam bill butting heads with Stewart's "boys camp" bill (a '40s Fresh-Air-Fund-like idea) - Capra has his David-versus-Goliath narrative in place.

And I'd have yawned and rolled my eyes all the way through except for the movie's truly saving grace, Jean Arthur. As the experienced secretary to both senators - Rains (the movie's second saving grace) and Stewart - she knows the ins and outs, peccadilloes, cheats and inside baseball of the Senate. With her femininely husky voice, smart eyes and blonde pulchritude, she tries to warn Stewart about the real "ideals" and machinations of the Senate to prevent him from getting cut up into little pieces.

But this cynical city girl - she can drink with the boys or spot a dirty deal a mile away - starts to like the virtue in Stewart while seeing anew, and disliking, the mendacity in Rains, Arnold and that crew.

While a lot is fake or caricatures here, Arthur's character's personal life rings true. Despite being past her prime marrying age, this single and intelligent woman has a male suitor, a goofy-but-good-guy reporter, begging her to marry him, but she's in no hurry and is not worried. Feminist icons can be secretaries who sincerely like men, but play the game by their own rules and timeline.

Also, let's not kid ourselves, part of why Arthur rejects the offer of marriage is because she has eyes for someone else. And that someone else is Stewart who, after initially getting mauled by the political machine, is coaxed back to his feet by Arthur who will also guide him as coach and mentor for his next attempted broadside.

And in that fight, Stewart's closing Senate speech - we've lost our way from our founding values - is outstanding acting, but it's also designed bravura to be the shining moment of the movie. However, it's Arthur's nuanced and mirthful performance as his stealth Senate tutor during his speech that is the heart, soul and joy of the picture. She's too smart for either of the men in her life, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

The movie is all Capra; if you love his stuff, you'll love Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. If you, like me, are a lesser fan, then Jean Arthur's performance will carry you through the Capra schmaltz. And there's also the fun time travel to iconic 1940s Washington to keep you engaged while cloyingly good battles comic-book evil.


Ms. Arthur, what do you think of all these smart men in Washington?
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Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Two from TCM's Nina Foch Day
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Thanks for watching my movies. Yours truly, NF



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The Dark Past from 1948 with William Holden, Lee J. Cobb and Nina Foch
  • Decent noir / Freudian psychodrama

  • Escaped convict Holden and his gang (including Foch) take psychiatrist Cobb and his family and friends hostage at their country house

  • All the usual hostage-in-the-country-house stuff happens: a few escape attempt are thwarted, some secrets come out, tempers flare amongst the crooks and hostages, somebody gets shot, etc. - probably fresher material in '48

  • The hook in this one, though, is when Cobb begins to psychoanalyze Holden who resists at first, but then gives in, because one reoccurring nightmare has been haunting criminal Holden his entire life

  • Cobb's professional approach is Freudian-dream-analysis-as-cure on steroids: find the childhood reason for the nightmare and the patient is cured (and criminal reformed). If only, but it was a fairytale that several movies told at the time

  • Hint: the solution is creepily close to an Oedipal Complex

  • Cobb and Holden are engaging antagonists / their psychodrama battle makes the movie worth watching

  • Foch, looking all sunshine and cleanliness, is miscast as the gun moll, but she gives it the college try


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My Name is Julia Ross from 1945 with Nina Foch, Mae Whitty and George Macready
  • This is B-noir at its finest blending elements of Gaslight and Jane Eyre

  • Ms Foch is the innocent young lady hired into a "dream job" in London as the personal secretary to the lovely old lady (Whitty). However, on day two of her new job, she wakes up to find she's in a different house (a classic gothic mansion on a sea-side cliff), being called by another name and, effectively, being held prisoner, but with no idea why

  • Throw into the mix a creepy adult son with an abnormal passion for knives and violence, secret passageways, dispassionate servants and, maybe, a friend on the outside looking for her (or not) and all the elements of a good "I can't get out of this crazy place" movie are present

  • From there it's failed escape attempts, followed by tighter lock-downs, followed by more harrowing attempts, all while Ms. Foch tries to unravel the reason that she's here

  • It's a fun, occasionally tense, fast sixty-plus-minutes film where Ms. Foch shines as the distraught ingenue, while talented Mae Whitty, looking like every one's kind grandmother, is perfect as the mastermind of the nefarious plot


N.B. Executive Suite from 1954 (re-teaming Foch and Holden) is my favorite Nina Foch movie (it was on, but I didn't see it this time). It has a solid story where, shockingly, Hollywood takes a somewhat balanced look at how business and politics in the executive suite really work. Its all-star cast is pitch perfect, including Foch as the super-efficient, loyal and smart executive secretary. Yes, she's as buttoned-up as her bosses, but she lets her sexual passion peek out from her icy blondness now and then. Hitchcock missed on never casting this tall, aloof, flaxen-haired beauty in one of his films.
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Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Here Come the Huggetts from 1948 with Jack Warner, Diana Dors, Petula Clark, Susan Shaw and Jane Hylton

Post-war English cinema is a treat. Lacking the funds of Hollywood, British filmmakers relied on strong stories, smart dialogue and talented actors to make engaging movies. They had to as they didn't have the budget to paper over weak efforts with whiz-bang special effects, gripping action-adventure sequences, exotic location shots or glamorous star power.

Here Come the Huggetts is not the best of these efforts, but it's still a small gem of a movie - kind of the British version of America's Four Daughters. The Huggetts are a middle-class family living at a time when England had won the war but was losing its Empire and economic might.

So, despite pater Huggett being the number two man in a small manufacturing firm, there's little opulence in their household as evidenced when we see the fuss made by his three daughters and wife over the installation of their first telephone. Which was only ordered because the father's boss wants to be able to get in touch with his employee after work hours (not unlike how firms were "giving" employees Blackberrys twenty years ago).

It is real day-to-day issues like getting a telephone put in or the family camping out overnight to get a good location to see the Royal Wedding (Grandma's corporeal demands defeat that effort at the last minute) that make the Huggetts real and relatable. Just like when mother and daughter fight over the morality of "black market" food that they both know they'll, eventually, shut up about and just eat (rationing continued for many years after the war in England) or when the oldest daughter has doubts right before her wedding.

The plot - if there is one in this slice-of-life story - involves the arrival of cousin Diana (Diana Dors) who's staying with the Huggetts temporarily while her mom has an operation. Teenager Dors, looking still baby-fat chubby to my eye, is supposedly a va-va-voom girl that throws the house in a tizzy as she kinda steals one of the daughter's boyfriends while nearly costing Mr. Huggett his position with her sloppy effort at the job he obtained for her at his factory.

But it's really the daughters who bring the interesting teen spirit, in particular, a pre-stardom Petula Clark as the smart but not snarky youngest who gets the craziness of her house. But she loves her family and its nuttiness and shows it when she wonderfully stands up to her dad's intimidating boss on his behalf. And why anyone is looking at a bit lumpy Diana Dors when blonde, lithe and angular middle daughter Susan Shaw is around makes no sense, but watching Shaw go from slightly stuck-up to aware and kinder when her taken-for-granted boyfriend drops her is life made real.

If you do see it, look for the scene when a gentleman caller, who's not her fiance, shows up for kind-of-engaged oldest daughter Jane Hylton. Few words are exchanged when dad opens the door, but the young man's attempt to overcompensate for his nervousness with a quirky offer to dad of a produced-from-his-coat-pocket peach as dad stays stone faced until giving just an inch of warmth with the slightest hand gesture is writing, directing and acting at its nuanced best.

The joy of the Huggetts are sincere moments like that or the wonderful relationship Mr. and Mrs. Huggett have as they occasionally grumble at each other, but it's clear that, underneath, their marriage is a well-oiled machine based on love and respect without a lot of having to say it.

The budget for Here Come the Huggetts was probably a fraction of the average Hollywood offering at the time, but it proves again that filmmaking is at its best when it focuses on telling real stories about real people in a relatable way. All the attention-grabbing big-budget stuff can be fun and enhancing, but nothing beats old-fashioned storytelling done well. I only learned afterwards that this is the second in a series of four Huggett movies; I'll now be on the lookout for the other three.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Sorority House from 1939 with Anne Shirley, J.M. Kerrigan and Barbara Read

1939 deserves its reputation as the greatest year for movies ever, but it was not because of this effort. To be fair, Sorority House is a fine college-fluff B-movie with some engaging moments, but unfortunately, it takes the easy, two-dimensional way out of too-many difficulties.

It starts out with promise as we see a small-town widower and grocery-store owner (Kerrigan) quietly borrow money to surprise his devoted daughter (Shirley) with a last-minute opportunity to go to college. So off to an institution of higher education goes perky and optimistic Shirley not realizing that women's colleges (at that time) were mainly a connected and clubby rich girl's affair socially driven by the cliquish sorority system.

Stuck in the social wasteland of a college boarding house, Shirley quickly learns about and yearns to join a sorority as "rush week" begins. One of her roommates, a mousy looking girl (by Hollywood standards as they put thick-framed glasses on cute-as-heck Barbara Read) who knows she's not "sorority material," provides wonderful balance to Shirley's newbie enthusiasm as Read points out all the foibles and snobbery of the sorority system. Shirley's other roommate is a "legacy" student desperate to live up to her family's expectations that she'll be pursued by a top sorority.

After Shirley unintentionally catches the eye of one of the big men on campus (BMOC), he starts a rumor that Shirley comes from money in a naive attempt to help her chances to be rushed. As a result, Shirley - pretty, now presumed rich and dating the BOMC - is inundated with offers. Realizing she'll need more money from her dad to join - having nice clothes and funds for social events are, basically, a sorority requirement - Shirley is about to give up until her really nice dad shows up with the needed funds.

And the night of his arrival provides the movie's best sequence. When Shirley, at a sorority rush party, realizes that everyone thinks her dad is rich, she tries to tell them otherwise (good girl), but when her dad actually shows up and she sees he won't fit in with his shabby suit and aw-shucks manner, she pushes him away from the party (bad girl), but then realizes her mistakes and runs after him to apologize and invite him back (good girl).

Here is where this relatively good movie flips to quickly messaging a bunch of sugary stuff as salt-of-the-earth dad sets the just-rejected and now-depressed legacy roommate straight about what's important in life. He also gently lectures the three girls about not becoming the same snobs the sorority girls are when they pursue their plans to form an anti-sorority club.

Meh, it went from telling a story to pontificating in an effort to wrap things up in a hurry. But to be fair, it does an okay job as a sixty-minute-long effort better thought of as the equivalent of today's hour-long TV drama than a major-movie release.

N.B. There were a series of girls-at-college movies in the '30s, with the best one being the surprisingly challenging and real These Glamour Girls that is very much worth seeing. (Comments here: #24172 )
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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This Land is Mine from 1943 with Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Walter Slezak, George Sanders and Kent Smith

The word propaganda, like so many things, has been tainted by its association with Nazi Germany, but its core meaning - promoting a particular, usually political, point of view - is also part of what we call freedom of speech.

It's dangerous when the state - as in Nazi Germany - controls speech and promotes only its point of view, hence the taint, but in a free society, where everyone advocates for his or her own beliefs, everyone, effectively, is propagandizing for his or her own viewpoint and ideas.

So it is as a compliment that I say, This Land is Mine is outstanding propaganda.

"Some town" in Europe is occupied by the Germans, but as the Germans did in several places, they wanted this to be a "soft" occupation where they collaborate with willing locals to leave a patina of self-governance in place. Many opportunistic and many just understandably scared locals go along, but a few resist by printing an underground newspaper while others physically resist through sabotage.

Cowardly mamma's boy and schoolteacher Charles Laughton plays by the new rules and looks the other way until his hero, the school's headmaster, is arrested for promoting "unacceptable" ideas at the school. Later, the headmaster is chosen as one of ten hostages to be executed by the Germans in retaliation for a murdered-by-the-resistance German soldier.

Laughton, meanwhile, stumbles upon the body of a collaborator, George Sanders, whose conscience drove him to suicide after he turned his fiance's brother in for sabotage and the brother is killed trying to avoid arrest. Laughton, having found the body, is then arrested and charged with the murder of the collaborator. Adding to the complications, the collaborator's fiancé is a school teacher, Maureen O'Hara, with whom Laughton has been secretly in love.

This brings Laughton into direct conflict with the town's Nazi overseer beautifully played by Walter Slezak. Slezak is no cardboard Nazi thug. He's an educated man who quotes and clearly respects the leading philosophers of Western Civilization; a man who would prefer not to use force, not to kill the innocent. But he is also a shrewd and, when necessary, ruthless Nazi willing to kill ten innocent locals in retaliation for one murdered German soldier - order must be maintained.

Slezak doesn't want to have Laughton put on trial, but if he must be tried and found guilty of murder to maintain the fiction that the collaborator's death wasn't a suicide, then, so be it. Having the public know that collaborators are committing suicide over guilt is not in the Nazi's interest.

It takes two thirds of this better-than-average WWII propaganda film to get to this point, but then it only gets much, much better.

With his fears almost realized, Laughton, on trial in an all but rigged court for a murder he didn't commit, finds his inner fortitude, in part, when he sees, from his jail cell awaiting trial, his former headmaster executed in the prison's yard by the Nazis.

In dramatic courtroom fashion, with the prosecutor screaming to have his defense speech shut down, Laughton - disheveled, a bit nervous, but clearly not scared anymore - quietly and methodically exposes and dissects the evil of the Nazi occupation, the hypocrisy of the collaborators and his own cowardice to date.

It's not only a speech of hammering logic, it's a tour-de-force acting performance as you forget everything else as this fat, rumpled and awkward man single-handedly eviscerates all the evil fictions holding the town in its grip. And just when you think he has nothing left, this shy man, who's never expressed romantic love or passion for another in his entire life, in open court, declares his love for O'Hara and, at this point, you realize she's a lucky woman.

But there's still a little more movie left. Despite being knocked back on their heels with their immorality exposed by Laughton, Nazis are gonna Nazi, so they respond with brutal force. And Laughton is given one last moment before the inevitable, which he uses to teach his students the value of keeping the ideals of freedom and individual liberty alive in your head and heart even if all around you others are trying to stomp them out. Basically, he teaches that a book can be burned, but an idea can't be removed from your mind.

Is it propaganda? Sure, and This Land is Mine should be darn proud of it.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 49108
This Land is Mine from 1943 with Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Walter Slezak, George Sanders and Kent Smith

The word propaganda, like so many things, has been tainted by its association with Nazi Germany, but its core meaning - promoting a particular, usually political, point of view - is also part of what we call freedom of speech.

It's dangerous when the state - as in Nazi Germany - controls speech and promotes only its point of view, hence the taint, but in a free society, where everyone advocates for his or her own beliefs, everyone, effectively, is propagandizing for his or her own viewpoint and ideas.

So it is as a compliment that I say, This Land is Mine is outstanding propaganda.

"Some town" in Europe is occupied by the Germans, but as the Germans did in several places, they wanted this to be a "soft" occupation where they collaborate with willing locals to leave a patina of self-governance in place. Many opportunistic and many just understandably scared locals go along, but a few resist by printing an underground newspaper while others physically resist through sabotage.

Cowardly mamma's boy and schoolteacher Charles Laughton plays by the new rules and looks the other way until his hero, the school's headmaster, is arrested for promoting "unacceptable" ideas at the school. Later, the headmaster is chosen as one of ten hostages to be executed by the Germans in retaliation for a murdered-by-the-resistance German soldier.

Laughton, meanwhile, stumbles upon the body of a collaborator, George Sanders, whose conscience drove him to suicide after he turned his fiance's brother in for sabotage and the brother is killed trying to avoid arrest. Laughton, having found the body, is then arrested and charged with the murder of the collaborator. Adding to the complications, the collaborator's fiancé is a school teacher, Maureen O'Hara, with whom Laughton has been secretly in love.

This brings Laughton into direct conflict with the town's Nazi overseer beautifully played by Walter Slezak. Slezak is no cardboard Nazi thug. He's an educated man who quotes and clearly respects the leading philosophers of Western Civilization; a man who would prefer not to use force, not to kill the innocent. But he is also a shrewd and, when necessary, ruthless Nazi willing to kill ten innocent locals in retaliation for one murdered German soldier - order must be maintained.

Slezak doesn't want to have Laughton put on trial, but if he must be tried and found guilty of murder to maintain the fiction that the collaborator's death wasn't a suicide, then, so be it. Having the public know that collaborators are committing suicide over guilt is not in the Nazi's interest.

It takes two thirds of this better-than-average WWII propaganda film to get to this point, but then it only gets much, much better.

With his fears almost realized, Laughton, on trial in an all but rigged court for a murder he didn't commit, finds his inner fortitude, in part, when he sees, from his jail cell awaiting trial, his former headmaster executed in the prison's yard by the Nazis.

In dramatic courtroom fashion, with the prosecutor screaming to have his defense speech shut down, Laughton - disheveled, a bit nervous, but clearly not scared anymore - quietly and methodically exposes and dissects the evil of the Nazi occupation, the hypocrisy of the collaborators and his own cowardice to date.

It's not only a speech of hammering logic, it's a tour-de-force acting performance as you forget everything else as this fat, rumpled and awkward man single-handedly eviscerates all the evil fictions holding the town in its grip. And just when you think he has nothing left, this shy man, who's never expressed romantic love or passion for another in his entire life, in open court, declares his love for O'Hara and, at this point, you realize she's a lucky woman.

But there's still a little more movie left. Despite being knocked back on their heels with their immorality exposed by Laughton, Nazis are gonna Nazi, so they respond with brutal force. And Laughton is given one last moment before the inevitable, which he uses to teach his students the value of keeping the ideals of freedom and individual liberty alive in your head and heart even if all around you others are trying to stomp them out. Basically, he teaches that a book can be burned, but an idea can't be removed from your mind.

Is it propaganda? Sure, and This Land is Mine should be darn proud of it.
As always you review is informative and well written, but given your past reviews, that is what we've come to expect from you with your current offering(s). However, the incredible level of detail(s) you are able to incorporate in your reviews is truly remarkable. I would have to watch a movie at least a half dozen times to be able to recall the level of detail you routinely report. With all sincerity I greatly respect that ability! ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
As always you review is informative and well written, but given your past reviews, that is what we've come to expect from you with your current offering(s). However, the incredible level of detail(s) you are able to incorporate in your reviews is truly remarkable. I would have to watch a movie at least a half dozen times to be able to recall the level of detail you routinely report. With all sincerity I greatly respect that ability! ;)
Thank you very much - that's very nice of you to say. If you do see the movie, I think you'll enjoy it - it's a really good one.

As to the memory thing, I'd bet if you started to write about movies, you be surprised at how much you really retain. I've been writing professionally (only as a side gig to my real job) for decades, so my mind kind of sees things consciously and subconsciously with a thought as to how I would write about them. That's why I'd bet that if you started doing it, after awhile, you'd find your recall is good too.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Man Bait from 1952 with George Brent, Diana Dors and Peter Reynolds

With a small budget and at a-little-over an hour in length, this effort feels more like a TV drama than a full-length movie. Book store owner, George Brent, with an invalid wife that he sincerely loves has the briefest of weak moments and shares nothing more than one consensual kiss with his employee: young, flirting-hard and looking-for-trouble Diana Dors.

From this tiny mistake, all hell eventually breaks loose for Brent. Dors' just-out-of-prison new boyfriend, Peter Reynolds, learns of the kiss and Brent's inflated bank account as he just cashed in an insurance policy to take his wife on a needed-for-her-health vacation. While far from the sharpest tool in the shed, Reynolds, as most bottom feeders will, can see the opportunity in these two disparate facts.

Okay, you can probably guess a lot of the rest as that setup leads to soft blackmail, then hard blackmail, a cruel letter to the invalid wife, a double cross between the blackmailers that goes horribly wrong, murder, a falsely accused Brent, a flight from justice, weird allies and enemies popping up in the book store and that wonderful British invention, the put-upon, understated, but-does-his-job-ridiculously-well British detective (who has a seven-word job title including "superintendent," "chief" and a bunch of other words).

With a reasonably satisfying conclusion, it's worth the watch in the same way any good hour-long TV drama is. Plus you get to see old-acting-pro George Brent carry a small movie while a young Diana Dors wears very tight-fitting clothing.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Yesterday from 2019 with Himesh Patel and Lily James
  • This answers the never-asked question of what would a rom-com powered by The Beatles songs be like

  • The answer is a fun two hours of mindless escapism as some sort of global "electrical" anomaly leaves the world unchanged except that only one English failing-but-talented singer-songwriter, Himesh Patel, remembers The Beatles - to the rest of the 2019 world, they never existed

  • Patel slowly realizes the musical gold he has in his hands and, with the support of his long-time friend and manager, Lily James, sees his career begin to take off as he starts to leverage "his" "new" songs like "Let it Be" and "Yesterday"

  • James, who has been carrying an unrequited torch for Patel since forever, passes on Patel's offer to go with him as his manager to record in LA as she knows it's his journey not hers. Plus, you can only love someone without being loved back for so long

  • From here, it's off to rock stardom for Patel, but with nagging doubts about the morality of passing off The Beatles (now never-existed-before) songs as his own and leaving behind James whom he slowly realizes he has feelings for

  • Throw in a rapacious LA manager, some fun Beatles references, plenty of their songs and all the usual-to-a-rom-com just-missed opportunities for, and last-minute efforts of, Patel and James to get together and a fun, silly time is had by all

  • With the one sour note being, as always, moral preening by the writers who preach that walking away from money is a virtue; although, I'd bet real money, they don't do that in their own careers
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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They Drive by Night from 1940 with George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart and Alan Hale

There's a lot that's good here, but the parts are assembled in a bumpy way with some awkward-style and abrupt-narrative shifts that almost feel like you've been taken to a different movie. But still, overall, it's a heck of an effort even if held back by its odd transitions.

The first part of the movie is the story of two brother truckers, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart, trying to remain as independents (versus taking safer salary jobs with a trucking company) as they hope to build up their one-rig effort to a multi-truck profitable business.

This is good stuff as you see and feel the hardscrabble existence of the independent trucker, his struggles financially to cover his costs (including paying off his truck's mortgage), physically to drive these early difficult vehicles (and stay awake on long runs) and personally to maintain a family life. From the truck stops, to the camaraderie, crashes and negotiations with shippers, it's a good window into 1940s trucking.

And just as things are looking up for brothers Raft and Bogart, a crash destroys their uninsured truck while disabling Bogart. Raft, perforce, takes a job at a big trucking concern, but owing to the intervention of the company owner's wife (Ida Lupino), seemingly a former girlfriend of Raft's, he's given a lucrative management job.

Despite Raft having a girlfriend (Sheridan) and Lupino; a husband (Hale), Lupino charges hard at Raft as she all but flirts with him in front of her decent, albeit harmlessly bombastic, husband. But Raft is playing it straight; he's happy to have a good job, be able to support himself, gainfully employ his disabled brother and spend time with Sheridan. However, Lupino is having none of that.

Awkward shift number one is when you suddenly realize the story's moved from basic Horatio Alger drama to crazy ex-and-now-married girlfriend who won't take "no" for an answer. It's not the smoothest transition, but Lupino is so enjoyably malicious and sexually wanton in her need for Raft, that you just go with it as she's a volcano that you know is going to blow as each one of his polite rejections only enrages her more.

And blow she does (spoiler alert even if it's in most of the movie's descriptions) when she stumbles upon a way to kill her husband and make it look like an accident. Borrowing heavily from the plot of 1935's Bordertown, Lupino uses the old technology of carbon monoxide combined with the relatively new technology of automatic garage doors to off her husband. She wants to give Raft a clear flightpath. Conveniently, the police buy the accidental-death explanation.

But Raft's still not interested as any man with normal-in-the-head Ann Sheridan wouldn't be in off-her-rocker Lupino. Pre-dating Glen Close in Fatal Attraction by forty-plus years, Lupino left nothing on the table in her psycho-woman performance as Raft ducks and dives her every advance. And just when you think she couldn't, Lupino ups the crazy more by - get ready for it - telling the police that Raft forced her to kill her husband.

Pause on that for a moment. Here's a woman married to a wealthy man she no longer can stand, so she kills him and the police buy her "it was an accident" story. So, she gets to keep the now-dead husband's substantial money, but the man she hoped she would get afterwards rejects her advances. Instead of pocketing her victories and licking her one wound, she goes to the police with a false confession that implicates her in a murder simply to hurt the man who said "no" to her. That's loco.

From here, it's on to a trial where Lupino, fully lost in her crazy, is the star witness against Raft. It's a good courtroom scene (one more spoiler alert) with Lupino completely melting down and, effectively, exonerating Raft. That's followed by another awkward movie transition to a Capra-like ending of rainbows and unicorns for Raft, Sheridan, Bogart and the truckers at the company Raft now owns. It's right up there with the townspeople bringing their money back to George Bailey's bank.

Even with its jarring narrative and stylistic shifts, there's so much to enjoy here that you just shake off the occasional story arc concussion. The acting by almost all the principals is top notch - Raft is a bit wooden at times - even if Lupino is given the scene-stealing role. Not only is it, overall, engaging, but the window into 1940s trucking is time-travel heaven. It's flawed, but well worth the watch.


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Forty plus years before Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, Ida Lupino plays a scary, crazy woman who won't be ignored in They Drive by Night.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Prisoner of Second Avenue from 1975 with Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft based on a play by Neil Simon
  • Watching this was a spur of the moment decision as the opening credits are superimposed over street scenes of New York City, so I gave it a shot as I enjoy seeing how places I know in the city looked in the past

  • And the street scenes throughout were wonderful time travel - thoroughly enjoyed them as they even included one of the office buildings I worked in years ago - but the rest of the movie, despite being billed as a comedy, was only occasionally funny and often times grating

  • I'll admit, I'm not a big Niel Simon fan (I like some of his stuff), but this was a miss if comedy was its purpose. The premise - a middle aged couple, Lemmon and Bancroft, living in downwardly spiraling 1970s NYC, question their reason for staying especially after Lemmon loses his job - led to a movie of anger not humor

  • Fair enough, living in a failing city and losing your job are reasons to be mad, but that did not seem to be the intent of the movie; however, Lemmon played it genuinely angry most of the time, so it was hard to laugh as his jokes came across as bitter and snide. Maybe that was the intent; if so, mission accomplished

  • Also, it's hard to adjust to Bancroft, who played the uber-WASP woman - emotionless even during sex - in The Graduate, play, in this movie, a kinda neurotic NYC wife, running the gamut of human emotions often in just one scene

  • As noted, there is great NYC time travel here to a not-fun-but-real period in NYC history - bell bottoms and polyester suits, garbage-strewn sidewalks, graffiti everywhere and street hustling you can see and feel - but the rest just wasn't my cup of tea

  • N.B. There is a fun scene with a just-pre-Rocky-fame Sylvester Stallone
 

Big T

Senior Member
Maybe not "best movies", but still great: a drive-in, about twenty miles away, has a double feature tonight! Blazing Saddles and Caddyshack! The Missus wants to go! Maybe a triple feature!
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Maybe not "best movies", but still great: a drive-in, about twenty miles away, has a double feature tonight! Blazing Saddles and Caddyshack! The Missus wants to go! Maybe a triple feature!
Blazing Saddles and Caddy Shack are both great movies and the old Drive In theaters, featuring box seats as we sait in our respective vehicles, allow one to see such entertainment in a public venue and still maintain the social distancing required by the Pandemic. Here's hoping you all have a lot of fun! ;)
 

Big T

Senior Member
Blazing Saddles and Caddy Shack are both great movies and the old Drive In theaters, featuring box seats as we sait in our respective vehicles, allow one to see such entertainment in a public venue and still maintain the social distancing required by the Pandemic. Here's hoping you all have a lot of fun! ;)
Chaperoning will be provided by GRAND KIDS!!!!!!
 
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