Recently Watched & Favorite Movies: Personal Reviews & More

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Legend of Bagger Vance from 2000 with Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, Bruce McGill and Joel Gretsch


Charm and whimsy are hard to build a movie around, especially if you don't want to end up with a treacly mess on your hands. But it works in The Legend of Bagger Vance because part of director Robert Redford's brand is doing period films with charm and whimsy that know their limits.

Who wouldn't want super cool, kindly and insightful Will Smith as a guardian angel? While Will Smith anchors the charm and whimsy here, an equally talented cast moves this two-hour effort about a mythical Depression-era golf match along with enchanting ease.

Charlize Theron, the wonderfully named southern-bell-with-grit Adele Invergordon, facing bankruptcy as her deceased father's luxurious golf resort struggles to stay afloat in the 1930s, hits upon the idea for an all-star golf match.

The challenge is she needs to convince her estranged husband, former young golf phenom, Matt Damon to be the local star player joining famous golf champions Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen.

Damon, a World War I vet, suffering from what we'd come to know is post traumatic stress disorder, hasn't played golf or, well, with his estranged wife, Theron, since returning from the Great War. Yet, without his participation, the creditors won't support Theron's Hail Mary to save her resort.

In one of the movie's highlight scenes, Theron offers herself up to a mildly drunk and dispirited Damon in return for his agreeing to play in the tournament. But Damon, knowing he's lost his golf swing - sure it's a metaphor for his post-war life and sex drive - rejects a beguiling and disrobing Theron. Wait, what? Yup, she had to put her dress back on and leave untouched.

Enter Will Smith as Bagger Vance, the ethereal philosopher caddie. Playing Damon's conscience and spiritual advisor, Smith forces Damon to confront his demons and decide if he's ready to fight to get his golf swing and, by proxy, his life back.

With the tournament now on, Smith deftly guides Damon through the emotional preparation for play as well as offering real caddie advice. The movie could have coasted from there into a quick match focused on Damon's resurrection.

But Bobby Jones, played with professional cool by Joel Gretsch, and Walter Hagen, played with perfect zeal by Bruce McGill, take the movie up another notch.

The tournament becomes a metaphor for different approaches to golf and life itself with Jones representing the consummate and methodical professional; Hagen, the gambler player making great errors and great saves; and Damon, the underdog comeback story of a man finding his way in life again.

(Spoiler alert) Sure it's a well-crafted adult fairy tale, but as Damon reclaims his swing, you can't help cheering him on. When he and Theron re-unite afterwards dancing under the stars, you feel happy.

Charm and whimsy, as noted, can overwhelm a movie, but with Redford at the helm, wonderful source material (a novel by Steven Pressfield) and a talented cast, The Legend of Bagger Vance strikes a balance that leaves you smiling.


N.B. The movie is 1920s and 1930s eye candy from beginning to end. The cars, clothes, architecture and other period details are beautiful, which, combined with Redford's directing, make the era look prettier than it probably ever really did.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 60691
The Legend of Bagger Vance from 2000 with Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, Bruce McGill and Joel Gretsch


Charm and whimsy are hard to build a movie around, especially if you don't want to end up with a treacly mess on your hands. But it works in The Legend of Bagger Vance because part of director Robert Redford's brand is doing period films with charm and whimsy that know their limits.

Who wouldn't want super cool, kindly and insightful Will Smith as a guardian angel? While Will Smith anchors the charm and whimsy here, an equally talented cast moves this two-hour effort about a mythical Depression-era golf match along with enchanting ease.

Charlize Theron, the wonderfully named southern-bell-with-grit Adele Invergordon, facing bankruptcy as her deceased father's luxurious golf resort struggles to stay afloat in the 1930s, hits upon the idea for an all-star golf match.

The challenge is she needs to convince her estranged husband, former young golf phenom, Matt Damon to be the local star player joining famous golf champions Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen.

Damon, a World War I vet, suffering from what we'd come to know is post traumatic stress disorder, hasn't played golf or, well, with his estranged wife, Theron, since returning from the Great War. Yet, without his participation, the creditors won't support Theron's Hail Mary to save her resort.

In one of the movie's highlight scenes, Theron offers herself up to a mildly drunk and dispirited Damon in return for his agreeing to play in the tournament. But Damon, knowing he's lost his golf swing - sure it's a metaphor for his post-war life and sex drive - rejects a beguiling and disrobing Theron. Wait, what? Yup, she had to put her dress back on and leave untouched.

Enter Will Smith as Bagger Vance, the ethereal philosopher caddie. Playing Damon's conscience and spiritual advisor, Smith forces Damon to confront his demons and decide if he's ready to fight to get his golf swing and, by proxy, his life back.

With the tournament now on, Smith deftly guides Damon through the emotional preparation for play as well as offering real caddie advice. The movie could have coasted from there into a quick match focused on Damon's resurrection.

But Bobby Jones, played with professional cool by Joel Gretsch, and Walter Hagen, played with perfect zeal by Bruce McGill, take the movie up another notch.

The tournament becomes a metaphor for different approaches to golf and life itself with Jones representing the consummate and methodical professional; Hagen, the gambler player making great errors and great saves; and Damon, the underdog comeback story of a man finding his way in life again.

(Spoiler alert) Sure it's a well-crafted adult fairy tale, but as Damon reclaims his swing, you can't help cheering him on. When he and Theron re-unite afterwards dancing under the stars, you feel happy.

Charm and whimsy, as noted, can overwhelm a movie, but with Redford at the helm, wonderful source material (a novel by Steven Pressfield) and a talented cast, The Legend of Bagger Vance strikes a balance that leaves you smiling.


N.B. The movie is 1920s and 1930s eye candy from beginning to end. The cars, clothes, architecture and other period details are beautiful, which, combined with Redford's directing, make the era look prettier than it probably ever really did.

My friend, the two of us seem to have similar tastes in the movies that we choose to watch. I have seen The Legend of Bagger Vance, two times, I think, but having read your well written and arguably perfectly organized review of the movie, I find myself motivated to see it again. I think it is the background comments that you add, throughout your review that amp up one's interest in watching it again. Thanks for another great review.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
My friend, the two of us seem to have similar tastes in the movies that we choose to watch. I have seen The Legend of Bagger Vance, two times, I think, but having read your well written and arguably perfectly organized review of the movie, I find myself motivated to see it again. I think it is the background comments that you add, throughout your review that amp up one's interest in watching it again. Thanks for another great review.

Thank you very much for your kind comments. This was my second viewing as I had seen it on cable close to when it was released. I found it incredibly enjoyable. It's a beautiful movie without all the loud noice and gratuitous sex and violence of many modern movies. If time allowed, I could watch it again today.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Unfaithful from 1947 with Ann Sheridan, Lew Ayres, Eve Arden, Zachary Scott and John Hoyt.


The Unfaithful is a good movie that could have been much better if it had decided what kind of movie it wanted to be. Instead, it's a little bit noir, a little bit crime drama, a little bit soap opera with a tiny bit of mystery wrapped in. It's all just a little bit too much for its straightforward plot.

With her husband away on business, happily married Ann Sheridan is attacked by a man in her home late one night and she kills the intruder. The initial police investigation is reasonably consistent with her story of self defense against an unknown burglar, but a few loose ends dangle.

Immediately after the murder, Sheridan's lawyer, Lew Ayres, is approached by an art dealer offering to sell him a sculpture of Sheridan - at a very high price - which, he tells Ayres, was made by the dead man who, we learn, was an artist.

Ayres immediately gets the implication of this threatened blackmail, but at times, the movie acts as if the audience wouldn't have connected those simple dots. But we get it; Sheridan had an affair with the artist while her husband, Zachary Scott, was fighting overseas. She met Scott two weeks before they married and he shipped out.

The bulk of the movie from here is watching Sheridan, with some help from lawyer Ayres, trying to keep the affair a secret from her husband, while the police investigation, led by a young and well-cast John Hoyt, slowly grinds toward the truth.

Playing on in the background is the social aspect of the murder as most of Scott and Sheridan's middle-class friends happily wallow in the rumors and salacious implications ("she killed her lover - teehee"). No "friend" does the schadenfreude routine better than Eve Arden, who blows in and out of scenes with a verve and cynicism that leaves everyone flat in her wake.

Arden didn't quite have the Hollywood looks to be a leading lady, but she did carve out a heck of a niche as a character actor, usually playing the friend or sidekick with a sharp tongue and loose morality. Here, she comes across as Sheridan's frenemy, but you think there's more to her and are rewarded later on for believing so.

When all the details of the murder eventually spill out, as they always do, Sheridan's husband is shocked, society is (happily) rocked and Sheridan is arrested for murder. After a darn good trial - smartly filmed in quick, impactful snippets - (spoiler alert) Sheridan is acquitted, but her marriage wrecked.

(One more spoiler alert) It takes Ayres as the insightful lawyer and Arden as the, deep down, better friend than most to get Sheridan and Scott to see that (God knows how this got passed the censors) one mistake made by a newlywed, under the extreme stress of years of war-time separation, does not negate an otherwise happy marriage.

Perhaps so much went on, on the home front, when the men were away fighting, the usually hidebound Motion Picture Production Code realized it needed to excuse some behavior to save a lot of marriages. That or the censor was asleep when The Unfaithful was being previewed.

It's a good movie with solid acting that would have been even better if it had picked one or two styles to go with - noir, crime-drama, mystery or soap opera. Despite that, as with most Warner Bros. movies from the era, the studio packed a lot of story into a reasonably short time. Even with its flaws, The Unfaithful moves by quickly and enjoyably.
 

Vecchio Vespa

(aka TKI67)
Good on Paper (Iliza Schlesinger)...standup comedienne encounters Mr. Perfect who pursues becoming her boyfriend. The perfection is feigned. Hilarity and thoughtfulness ensue. Margaret Cho is over the top good.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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A Damsel in Distress from 1937 with Fred Astaire, Joan Fontaine, George Burns and Gracie Allen


Sign: Do Not Finger Art Objects.

Gracie Allen: Well I don't blame Art, if I was Art, I'd object too.

Even under the code, stuff slipped by the censors.


Overall, I like Fred Astaire movies, but each one is a high-wire act betting that the magic and whimsy and dancing will overcome the silly plots, unbelievable situations and wash-rinse-repeat storylines. All that gets harder to do without, as in A Damsel in Distress, Ginger Rogers or a co-star of equal dancing talent.

To make up for the missing Ms. Rogers, Damsel has the comedy team of George Burns and Gracie Allen, whom I've always kept at arm's length. But to be fair, they are pretty good here filling in Rogers' gap. (Any comment Gracie?)

Also filling in for Rogers is Joan Fontaine looking insanely cute and doing her best, but she's no dancer. In the one number she does with Astaire - that there is only one duet says it all - she almost looks pained, as most humans would dancing opposite Fred freakin' Astaire on screen.

Burns and Allen have more numbers with Astaire and while Allen struggles like Fontaine to hold her own with the master hoofer, Burns looks pretty smooth and comfortable dancing with Astaire. But even these movies need some kind of plot to hold it all together.

The plot here, which is the same plot in half or more of the Fred Astaire movies, is Astaire pursuing some pretty woman who may or may not like him. Then, owing to a series of mix ups, they each think the other is seeing someone else at crucial times.

Throw in some love foils, parents who get in the way, a bunch of silly contretemps and all hope is lost until a last minute save. You know, it's a Fred Astaire movie.

In A Damsel in Distress, Astaire is a successful American performer traveling in London who accidentally meets and falls in love with the daughter, Joan Fontaine, of a Lord.

That's followed by all the usual just-noted Astaire-movie confusion and mix ups. Burns and Allen were the only thing that held the movie together between the mostly good-not-great solo Astaire dance numbers, which missed a talented partner like, say, oh I don't know, Ginger Rogers.

A Damsel in Distress starts one level above farce and slowly slips until it's in full-farce mode by the last third or so. There's enough good stuff to just overcome its many weaknesses, but that's less an endorsement of the movie than of Astaire, with an earned assist to Burns and Allen.
 

ran23

Super Member
She passed in 2013, probably just a year or two before I was there. I didn't recognize the name until I went downstairs and all her movie posters were in the halls. Not too far from her house was another I was let into. Adams? when I went into the darkroom, large Ansel Adams prints were everywhere. One more? Large white house, but Betty White wasn't in that days.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Sea Wolf from 1941 with Edward G. Robinson, Alexander Knox, John Garfield, Ida Lupino and Barry Fitzgerald


"Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven"

- John Milton Paradise Lost


How is this movie not better known? It is a gem of a psychological and philosophical drama wrapped inside a good "cruel captain commanding a ship of outcasts and criminals" story set in the early 1900s.

The Ghost, Captain Edward G. Robinson's eerie San Francisco-based clipper ship, which seems to only sail in fog, takes on an additional hand, John Garfield, wanted by the police, just before leaving port. Once at sea, it then picks up two survivors of a wreck.

One survivor is Ida Lupino, an escaped convict; the other is Alexander Knox, a well-bred urbane professional writer. Garfield, Lupino and Knox quickly realize they are on some sort of ship from hell with a captain suffering from Nietzsche's Superman complex and a crew of cowed but violent, amoral men.

Knox, in one of the best roles of his career (ditto Robinson, Lupino and Garfield), immediately butts heads with Robinson, who can size men up and find their weaknesses with frightening alacrity.

Robinson dismissively sees Knox as his opposite, a man who makes his living sitting in comfort while typing out words; whereas, Robinson successfully captains his ship using physical violence and psychological intimidation over "inferior" men.

When these two debate the world, the philosophies get muddled a bit as Nietzsche, Freud, Darwin and Christianity are all kinda mixed up and mixed in. Knox represents the "civilized" moral man who believes in honest competition and charity. Conversely, Robinson is the might-makes-right-as-the-only-way-to-survive man.

Mocking Knox's "soft hands" (foreshadowing Quint making fun of Hooper's "city-boy hands" in Jaws), Robinson tells Knox he'll be a selfish and violent man by the time the voyage is over. Knox rejoins that his beliefs and character are not that malleable.

In Robinson's book-filled cabin, Knox and he debate the morality of rule by force - Robinson proffers the famous Milton quote about reigning in Hell being preferable to serving in Heaven. Knox responds with tenets of Christian kindness, brotherhood and fair play.

These two aren't going to find common ground. While Knox and Robinson argue round after round, Knox discovers Robinson suffers from crippling headaches and bouts of temporary blindness - the latter Robinson hides from his crew.

As they sail on, Garfield repeatedly tries to thwart Robinson with physical attacks, but he loses every time. Finally, Garfield and Lupino, the latter's natural delicateness looks outright fragile on this floating den of thieves, along with Knox, ask Robinson to be put off at the next port.

Robinson, who, on the Ghost, has created his own Hell in which to reign, has no intention of letting anyone off as he tries to break all three of his new "passengers."

After seeing Robinson cruelly drive the ship's alcoholic surgeon to suicide, Garfield leads a mutiny that almost works, but incredibly, Robinson retakes command. In a brilliant move of psychological warfare, Robinson lets all the mutineers off without punishment as if to say, "you still are no threat to me."

Further pushing the psyops, he punishes his own stool pigeon who helped him break the mutiny, the ship's cook, Barry Sullivan. Sullivan plays his evil-gnome role here to the hilt. Having never seen Sullivan in anything but kindly roles - sympathetic priest, sensitive horse trainer, understanding father - his turn here as a scary, pathological sycophant to Robinson is chilling and impressive.

But Robinson's reign is threatened as a more powerful ship, captained by his brother (a fascinating thread never developed), mortally damages The Ghost. In a last grasp at cruelty, Robinson - now all but blind, yet still stunningly in control - locks Garfield in a storeroom as the ship sinks, which forces Lupino and Knox to stay on board as they try to free him.

This sets up Knox and Robinson's final encounter. With the philosophies a bit scrambled again, Robinson asserts, to the end, his might-makes-right ideology, while Knox argues for kindness and compassion.

The outcome sorta gives the nod to Knox, but Robinson's impressive finish, despite being blind on a sinking ship, and a deception Knox has to make to win, results in a less-than-total philosophical victory for Knox.

The Sea Wolf is Warner Bros. at its best. Using its top-talent, an okay budget (Jack Warner rarely fully opened up the wallet like Mayer did at MGM) and strong source material (a Jack London novel), Warners delivers a tense psychological and philosophical action-adventure movie that forces you to think while it entertains. Why this gem isn't better known today is a mystery.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 60981
The Sea Wolf from 1941 with Edward G. Robinson, Alexander Knox, John Garfield, Ida Lupino and Barry Fitzgerald


"Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven"

- John Milton Paradise Lost


How is this movie not better known? It is a gem of a psychological and philosophical drama wrapped inside a good "cruel captain commanding a ship of outcasts and criminals" story set in the early 1900s.

The Ghost, Captain Edward G. Robinson's eerie San Francisco-based clipper ship, which seems to only sail in fog, takes on an additional hand, John Garfield, wanted by the police, just before leaving port. Once at sea, it then picks up two survivors of a wreck.

One survivor is Ida Lupino, an escaped convict; the other is Alexander Knox, a well-bred urbane professional writer. Garfield, Lupino and Knox quickly realize they are on some sort of ship from hell with a captain suffering from Nietzsche's Superman complex and a crew of cowed but violent, amoral men.

Knox, in one of the best roles of his career (ditto Robinson, Lupino and Garfield), immediately butts heads with Robinson, who can size men up and find their weaknesses with frightening alacrity.

Robinson dismissively sees Knox as his opposite, a man who makes his living sitting in comfort while typing out words; whereas, Robinson successfully captains his ship using physical violence and psychological intimidation over "inferior" men.

When these two debate the world, the philosophies get muddled a bit as Nietzsche, Freud, Darwin and Christianity are all kinda mixed up and mixed in. Knox represents the "civilized" moral man who believes in honest competition and charity. Conversely, Robinson is the might-makes-right-as-the-only-way-to-survive man.

Mocking Knox's "soft hands" (foreshadowing Quint making fun of Hooper's "city-boy hands" in Jaws), Robinson tells Knox he'll be a selfish and violent man by the time the voyage is over. Knox rejoins that his beliefs and character are not that malleable.

In Robinson's book-filled cabin, Knox and he debate the morality of rule by force - Robinson proffers the famous Milton quote about reigning in Hell being preferable to serving in Heaven. Knox responds with tenets of Christian kindness, brotherhood and fair play.

These two aren't going to find common ground. While Knox and Robinson argue round after round, Knox discovers Robinson suffers from crippling headaches and bouts of temporary blindness - the latter Robinson hides from his crew.

As they sail on, Garfield repeatedly tries to thwart Robinson with physical attacks, but he loses every time. Finally, Garfield and Lupino, the latter's natural delicateness looks outright fragile on this floating den of thieves, along with Knox, ask Robinson to be put off at the next port.

Robinson, who, on the Ghost, has created his own Hell in which to reign, has no intention of letting anyone off as he tries to break all three of his new "passengers."

After seeing Robinson cruelly drive the ship's alcoholic surgeon to suicide, Garfield leads a mutiny that almost works, but incredibly, Robinson retakes command. In a brilliant move of psychological warfare, Robinson lets all the mutineers off without punishment as if to say, "you still are no threat to me."

Further pushing the psyops, he punishes his own stool pigeon who helped him break the mutiny, the ship's cook, Barry Sullivan. Sullivan plays his evil-gnome role here to the hilt. Having never seen Sullivan in anything but kindly roles - sympathetic priest, sensitive horse trainer, understanding father - his turn here as a scary, pathological sycophant to Robinson is chilling and impressive.

But Robinson's reign is threatened as a more powerful ship, captained by his brother (a fascinating thread never developed), mortally damages The Ghost. In a last grasp at cruelty, Robinson - now all but blind, yet still stunningly in control - locks Garfield in a storeroom as the ship sinks, which forces Lupino and Knox to stay on board as they try to free him.

This sets up Knox and Robinson's final encounter. With the philosophies a bit scrambled again, Robinson asserts, to the end, his might-makes-right ideology, while Knox argues for kindness and compassion.

The outcome sorta gives the nod to Knox, but Robinson's impressive finish, despite being blind on a sinking ship, and a deception Knox has to make to win, results in a less-than-total philosophical victory for Knox.

The Sea Wolf is Warner Bros. at its best. Using its top-talent, an okay budget (Jack Warner rarely fully opened up the wallet like Mayer did at MGM) and strong source material (a Jack London novel), Warners delivers a tense psychological and philosophical action-adventure movie that forces you to think while it entertains. Why this gem isn't better known today is a mystery.

Several of the scenes you describe sound vaguely familiar....I may have watched the Sea Wolf at some point in my past...way back in my past, but I am really not sure. However, after reading your review, it seems a psychological imperative that I lay hands on a DVD of that movie or watch it through Amazon Prime as soon as it can be arranged. The review above has really got my interest revved up! ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Several of the scenes you describe sound vaguely familiar....I may have watched the Sea Wolf at some point in my past...way back in my past, but I am really not sure. However, after reading your review, it seems a psychological imperative that I lay hands on a DVD of that movie or watch it through Amazon Prime as soon as it can be arranged. The review above has really got my interest revved up! ;)

I was really impressed with this one, especially since I don't remember ever hearing about it. It's a really well-done movie that deserves more attention. I look forward to hearing your thoughts after you see it.
 

Vecchio Vespa

(aka TKI67)
We watched two relatively new action/comedy flicks recently: This Means War and The Hitman's Bodyguard. In This Means War two government agents (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) who masquerade as a travel agent and a cruise ship captain, compete for Reese Witherspoon, a product tester, in a very formulaic plot, but Reese's sister, played by Chelsea Handler, is a trip and makes it fun. In The Hitman's Bodyguard, Ryan Reynolds must get the hitman, Samuel "Leather jacket" Jackson, from England to the Hague to testify against the evil despot played by Gary Oldman. A ton of fun. Salma Hayak as SLJ's wife. Wow.
 

Oldsarge

Moderator and Bon Vivant
Being one who much favors documentaries and 'educational' films over drama I still managed to come across "Wartime Farm" on Amazon Prime. It's an eight episode depiction of what it was like to be a British small farmer during WWII. Not only very interesting and educational from a historian's standpoint, there are lots and lots of '40's clothing and tweed. I am enjoying it immensely.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
iaccuse1958.78752.jpg

I Accuse! from 1958 with Jose Ferrer, Leo Genn and Donald Wolfit


A long time ago, I read an account of the Dreyfus Affair. Based on that faulty memory (and a quick Google refresh), the story in I Accuse! seems consistent with the broad outlines of the facts, although Hollywood added its flourishes and twists to "improve" the story. The good news is, today, this miserable event is widely seen as a mark of shame on France and a cautionary tale about prejudice, such as, in this case, antisemitism.

In 1894, the French Jewish military officer, Henry Dreyfus, is knowingly unfairly court martialed for espionage because of antisemitism. Many in the military command wanted to get "the Jew." Also, it was a convenient "solution" to an embarrassing spy scandal for the military, which needed a fall guy.

Once the ball got rolling against Dreyfus, there was no turning back, so even as the evidence mounted over the years that he was innocent, the military dug in its heels through a few more court-martials over the next decade.

After spending five years in the hell that was Devil's Island prison and being found guilty at a second rigged court martial, Dreyfus accepted a pardon - an unpleasant compromise that kept him from going back to prison, but could have been construed as an admission of guilt. Fortunately, five years later, he was exonerated and reinstated in the military.

All along, his case was kept alive by his family, friends, several French intellectuals and members of the Press, which, eventually, turned public opinion mainly in Dreyfus' favor. The famous 1898 open letter I Accuse! to the President of France, published in a newspaper (and the title of the movie), is widely seen as an act of personal courage by its author Emile Zola and a turning point in the case.

Although dated by its wooden style, even by 1958 movie standards, I Accuse! still does a respectable job capturing the venality of the French military command and the ugliness of its antisemitism, while highlighting the heroism of Dreyfus, his family and his supporters.

Jose Ferrer plays Dreyfus as a wound-tight and pretty-aloof character, which seems consistent with historical accounts. But the real acting gem in this one is Leo Genn as Major Georges Picquart who risks his career to defend Dreyfus.

Also giving a strong performance is Donald Wolfit as General Auguste Mercier. Mercier never wavers in his known-to-him-from-the-start dishonest defense of the military's mendacious slandering of Dreyfus. That you hate him so much is a testament to his acting ability to humanize his evil.

Despite those strong performances, I Accuse! is not an actors' movie, but a historical-event effort whose lesson is, especially with antisemitism reportedly on the rise again in several countries, sadly still relevant today.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Olivia deHavilland and Dirk Bogarde - Libel.png

Libel from 1959 with Dirk Bogarde, Olivia de Havilland, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Robert Morley


Libel is a good movie, with a good story and it's well acted, but it feels forced. After a decent start, you begin to sense yourself being manipulated by the writer and director. It's as if they thought they were so shrewd, they could craft a "smart" story, believable or not, and you'd just go along. They almost got away with it.

In post-war England, WWII-veteran Lord Mark Loddon played by Dirk Bogart, and his American wife, Olivia de Havilland, live in a five-hundred-year-old estate chockablock with family portraits and history. They seem to have the perfect life until Loddon is accused of being an imposter by a former POW buddy.

Since coming back from the war, Lord Loddon has suffered from headaches, large gaps in his memory and a recurring nightmare all compassionately attended to by wife de Havilland. But those symptoms would also be a great cover were Loddon an imposter.

Loddon's accuser believes that a third POW bunkmate and lookalike to Loddon - an actor who studied Loddon's mannerisms and family history when they were POWs - is presently masquerading as Lord Loddon.

When the story breaks in the press, the British tabloids have a field day, which forces Lord Loddon to bring a libel suit to clear his name. After all the usual pre-trial legal and public-relations machinations, the movie's long climatic trial begins.

Up until now, you're going along with the somewhat complicated, but entertaining story. Then, so many crazy twists happen and hard-to-believe details come out at the trial, it becomes just a bit too much hooey to hold together.

The acting is engaging as old pros Robert Morley as Lord Loddon's attorney and Wilfrid Hyde-White as the tabloid's lawyer match wits in that wonderfully understated way the British have, especially in court, of body slamming their opponents with equanimity and surface politeness.

That's the fun part - think The Paradine Case - but you're also asked to look past too many plot flaws, coincidences, reverse-engineered explanations for Lord Loddon's potential doppelganger and "surprise evidence" at trial. By the end, you've become cynical.

There are worse ways to spend an hour and forty minutes; several scenes in it are very good. Plus, suspending belief is pretty much part of almost every filmmaker-audience contract. Yet in Libel, the plot flimflam overwhelms by the end.


N.B. The location shots of London and its surrounds provide wonderful time travel to England in the 1950s.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 61071
I Accuse! from 1958 with Jose Ferrer, Leo Genn and Donald Wolfit


A long time ago, I read an account of the Dreyfus Affair. Based on that faulty memory (and a quick Google refresh), the story in I Accuse! seems consistent with the broad outlines of the facts, although Hollywood added its flourishes and twists to "improve" the story. The good news is, today, this miserable event is widely seen as a mark of shame on France and a cautionary tale about prejudice, such as, in this case, antisemitism.

In 1894, the French Jewish military officer, Henry Dreyfus, is knowingly unfairly court martialed for espionage because of antisemitism. Many in the military command wanted to get "the Jew." Also, it was a convenient "solution" to an embarrassing spy scandal for the military, which needed a fall guy.

Once the ball got rolling against Dreyfus, there was no turning back, so even as the evidence mounted over the years that he was innocent, the military dug in its heels through a few more court-martials over the next decade.

After spending five years in the hell that was Devil's Island prison and being found guilty at a second rigged court martial, Dreyfus accepted a pardon - an unpleasant compromise that kept him from going back to prison, but could have been construed as an admission of guilt. Fortunately, five years later, he was exonerated and reinstated in the military.

All along, his case was kept alive by his family, friends, several French intellectuals and members of the Press, which, eventually, turned public opinion mainly in Dreyfus' favor. The famous 1898 open letter I Accuse! to the President of France, published in a newspaper (and the title of the movie), is widely seen as an act of personal courage by its author Emile Zola and a turning point in the case.

Although dated by its wooden style, even by 1958 movie standards, I Accuse! still does a respectable job capturing the venality of the French military command and the ugliness of its antisemitism, while highlighting the heroism of Dreyfus, his family and his supporters.

Jose Ferrer plays Dreyfus as a wound-tight and pretty-aloof character, which seems consistent with historical accounts. But the real acting gem in this one is Leo Genn as Major Georges Picquart who risks his career to defend Dreyfus.

Also giving a strong performance is Donald Wolfit as General Auguste Mercier. Mercier never wavers in his known-to-him-from-the-start dishonest defense of the military's mendacious slandering of Dreyfus. That you hate him so much is a testament to his acting ability to humanize his evil.

Despite those strong performances, I Accuse! is not an actors' movie, but a historical-event effort whose lesson is, especially with antisemitism reportedly on the rise again in several countries, sadly still relevant today.

I watched I Accuse on you-tube, yesterday. The experience was well worth the one hour thirty one minutes and 56 seconds it took to watch the show (LOL). Over all, I was struck by the incredible arrogance and self serving mentality of the French General staff, reminding me of the same characteristics showcased in the movie Paths of Glory, staring Kirk Douglas that was put out in 1957. In Paths of Glory, it might be remembered three soldiers were selected at random to be executed by firing squad, to atone for a failed attack on an enemy emplacement called the Anthill. In fact the attack failed because, as the pre attact estimates reflected, a 65% casualty rate was the morbid reality of the foolish endeavor (the aforementioned attack) . As I recall, the French command staff in an effort to cover up the ineptitude of the Colonel who had ordered the attack and prevent the French General Staff from suffering the political embarrassment of having backed the wrong pony in the scapegoat derby that had been the foil brought into play, was the primary objective of the most senior officers and politicians.

It is sad to get these all too frequent glimpses of the clay feet of the political leadership structures found throughout the world, then and even more so, now!

I sense the catalyst for bad behavior in I Accuse was at first antisemitism and in the end a combination of antisemitism and tragic level of egotism. In Paths of Glory it was pure stupidity and outrageous egotism that resulted in the three brave soldiers executed by firing squad.

At the end of both films the good guys won, but at what cost and why?

I Accuse...a great flick! Thanks for bring it to our attention.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I watched I Accuse on you-tube, yesterday. The experience was well worth the one hour thirty one minutes and 56 seconds it took to watch the show (LOL). Over all, I was struck by the incredible arrogance and self serving mentality of the French General staff, reminding me of the same characteristics showcased in the movie Paths of Glory, staring Kirk Douglas that was put out in 1957. In Paths of Glory, it might be remembered three soldiers were selected at random to be executed by firing squad, to atone for a failed attack on an enemy emplacement called the Anthill. In fact the attack failed because, as the pre attact estimates reflected, a 65% casualty rate was the morbid reality of the foolish endeavor (the aforementioned attack) . As I recall, the French command staff in an effort to cover up the ineptitude of the Colonel who had ordered the attack and prevent the French General Staff from suffering the political embarrassment of having backed the wrong pony in the scapegoat derby that had been the foil brought into play, was the primary objective of the most senior officers and politicians.

It is sad to get these all too frequent glimpses of the clay feet of the political leadership structures found throughout the world, then and even more so, now!

I sense the catalyst for bad behavior in I Accuse was at first antisemitism and in the end a combination of antisemitism and tragic level of egotism. In Paths of Glory it was pure stupidity and outrageous egotism that resulted in the three brave soldiers executed by firing squad.

At the end of both films the good guys won, but at what cost and why?

I Accuse...a great flick! Thanks for bring it to our attention.

You draw a great connect between the two movies. "Paths of Glory" is a gem of a film. I'm glad you enjoyed "I Accuse." It's a bit slow in spots and definitely an older style of film making (for the time), but still darn good.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
butterfield-8-DXJ8PN.jpg

Butterfield 8 from 1960 with Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey, Dina Merrill, Mildred Dunnock and Eddie Fisher


Every period has its take on "the fallen woman," which is closely associated with the always fun and overwrought Madonna-whore complex, both of which drive Butterfield 8.

In the lightly censored movies of the pre-code early 1930s, "the fallen woman" could often stand herself back up and go on living because, sometimes, that's what happens in real life. But once the Motion Picture Production Code was enforced in the mid-1930s, "the fallen woman" needed to be punished to have any shot at redemption, but usually, it was easier to just kill her off.

Butterfield 8 was made at a time when the code was wobbling but still holding on, so its quasi prostitute, Elizabeth Taylor, is kinda, sorta sympathetic, yet still, punishment must be meted out.

Taylor plays a darker cognate to Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's. She's a model slash partygirl slash early social media "influencer" (she gets paid to wear designer dresses to hot night spots so they will be noted in the next day's newspapers) who also, (the movie elides this a bit) sleeps with men for money.

Darker than Golightly how? When we first meet Ms. Taylor, she's waking up after having been railed by some guy who left in the early morning. So, disheveled and still wearing last night's makeup, she stumbles out of his bed wrapped in nothing but a sheet, looks for a cigarette, throws an empty pack on the carpet, finds a loose cigarette, lights up, inhales, starts coughing, pours herself a good-sized shot of whiskey and has the first drink of the day. Good morning.

Today, we take a more understanding and sympathetic approach to almost all human failings (except for the ones current day has deemed unacceptable). Yet back then, the heavy moral disapproval of "the fallen woman" (with a prostitute being about as far as you could fall) meant something, even if it all floated on a narrative of hypocrisy and inconsistency, just as a lot of what we believe today also floats on shaky narratives.

So, when upstanding businessman, Laurence Harvey, married to social-registry wife, Dina Merrill (the blonde Madonna in our story), falls in love with his girl-on-the-side Taylor (the brunette whore), all sorts of things get smashed up, starting with poor Dina Merrill.

Beyond being ridiculously attractive, Merrill is an unbelievably understanding wife who tries to give Harvey "space" to find his way back to her. Most women's definition of "space" in this case would be a bullet with their husband's name on it, but Merrill loves her husband and wants to save the marriage.

She believes marrying into her wealthy family - which gave Harvey instant status, wealth and a job with a fancy title at her family's firm - destroyed his self esteem. Harvey plays the "victim" role to the hilt. He angrily mopes his way through the movie as the aggrieved party because, well, his wife made his life too easy for him. We now have a winner in the "rich people's problem" contest.

Maybe Harvey really loves Taylor or maybe he just wants to spit in his wife's face, but Taylor believes she loves Harvey and sees him as the moral lustration she needs to scrub clean her past life of sin and debauchery.

Just as Harvey is about to ask his wife for a divorce so that he can marry Taylor - a do-I-leave-the-Madonna-for-a-whore moment - he comes face to face with Taylor's past. He knew about it, but to this point, had done his best to make believe it didn't exist. Yet he can't ignore, when in a bar, several men casually joke with him about his new "girlfriend" Taylor by saying, "welcome to the fraternity, we meet once a year in Yankee Stadium." Ouch.

Harvey, it turns out, belongs to that odd niche of men who knowingly fall in love with prostitutes - nothing wrong with that, everyone should find love where they can - but then begin to hate the object of their affections because she's slept with a whole lot of men. In logic, that's called a "category error," as Harvey is angry at something for being exactly what it is. It's like hating a top for spinning.

As the movie climaxes, Harvey, even when he breaks with Taylor, wrecks his marriage to Merrill. Taylor, meanwhile, leaves New York to start afresh with wholesome intent, this time, in Boston. But don't forget the Motion Picture Production Code which, basically, (spoiler alert) says, "The Whore Must Die!"

So, at the end of a silly and forced car-chase scene, where Harvey pursues Taylor in an attempt to get her back, she is killed as her very cute two-seater Sunbeam Alpine flies off the road. Taylor is dead; the Code is satisfied; Harvey is crushed and, unbelievably, wife Merrill is willing to take him back.

It's saponaceous melodrama on steroids with an overlay of fire and brimstone condemnation. But tucked inside and countering the "bad whore" narrative are Taylor's mother, the wonderful Mildred Dunnock, and Taylor's childhood best friend, Eddie Fisher, who provide a sympathetic view of Taylor's life.

The Code was buckling a bit in 1960, but it was not yet ready to let the whore live. However, in about a decade, the 1970s would bring a new and forgiving perspective to the prostitute.


N.B. Butterfield 8 is wonderful time travel to early 1960s New York City from the Village to the fancy apartments of Fifth Avenue, including many of the bars, restaurants and nightclubs in between. There's even a neat moment where, in the background of super-lit-up-at-night Times Square, you can see a movie marquee advertising Ben-Hur.
 
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