52 Before 62 — #42 Niagara (1953)

Niagara poster.jpgDirected by Henry Hathaway

Written by Charles Bracket, Richard L. Breen and Walter Reisch

Starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotton, Jean Peters and Michael Showalter

Marilyn Monroe is a legendary figure.  I won’t say she’s legendary as an actress, because that’s never really what people think about when they think about her.  She’s really legendary for her sex appeal, and as a sex symbol.

On the one hand, it’s fair she’s a legendary sex symbol – you only need to look at her, and her onscreen qualities, to get a sense of the heat she generates.  On the other hand, it’s unfair she isn’t also venerated for her acting.  After all, being a screen presence is not an easy thing to do – lots of charismatic people come across as stiff when the camera points at them but no more.  More than that, it’s hard to come across as convincingly sexy on film, which Monroe can do.  Having presence, and the wherewithal to be convincingly sexy, are skills a good actress possesses. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #41 The Song of Bernadette (1943)

The Song of Bernadette film poster.jpgDirected by Henry King

Screenplay by George Seaton, based upon the novel of the same name by Franz Werfel

Starring Jennifer Jones, William Eythe, Gladys Cooper, Vincent Price, Lee J. Cobb, and Charles Bickford

In cinema circles as of late, you hear a lot of complaining about how Hollywood doesn’t make films like they used to anymore.  These days it’s mostly in relation to how movies have become nothing but overhyped theme park rides – specifically, Marvel theme park rides.  And that movies for thinking adults just aren’t in Hollywood’s wheelhouse any longer.  If we’re honest, this is probably a complaint that’s been going on for the entire life of cinema, as one generation is always intent on sneering at the generations that follow it, arguing they are somehow doing things ‘wrong’.  But I digress. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #40 Odd Man Out (1947)

Odd-man-out-poster.jpgDirected by Carol Reed

Written by R.C. Sherriff, based upon the novel of the same name by F.L. Green

Starring James Mason, Kathleen Ryan, Robert Newton and Cyril Cusack

Believe it or not, it’s not always easy watching the movies in this series.  No, I don’t mean in terms of availability, like I’m out here picking movies that are basically unavailable and so it’s hard to watch them.  As if there is any sense to that.

No, I mean they’re difficult to watch in terms of hearing a film defined as ‘classic’, only to learn it actually doesn’t live up to the hype.  That instead of being rapt by this supposed-classic, I’m bored silly and constantly looking at your phone and counting the minutes until it’s over.  And at the end, you wonder if you just missed something about the film and it’s truly a classic, or if everybody else simply drank the Kool-Aid and you’re the only sane one left. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #39 3:10 To Yuma (1957)

310 to Yuma (1957 film).jpgDirected by Delmer Daves

Screenplay by Halsted Wells, based on the short story by Elmore Leonard

Starring Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr, Richard Jaeckel, Henry Jones, and Robert Emhardt

A courtly outlaw, Ben Wade (Glenn Ford), robs a stagecoach in rural Arizona.  In the robbery, the stage driver winds up dead.  When a posse is formed to catch the outlaw, a local rancher, Dan Evans (Van Heflin), agrees to join.  Only, after the outlaw is caught and it’s decided to take him to a neighboring town to be put on the train to Yuma, the posse chickens out.  Bluntly, they fear Wade’s gang will kill them.  The only one who sticks is Evans, who really needs the $200 he’s being offered for the job.  The question is: will Wade make it to the train, or will Evans be killed before finishing the job? Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #38 He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

He Who Gets Slapped.jpgDirected by Victor Seastrom

Screenplay By Victor Seastrom and Carey Wilson, from the play by Leonid Andreyev

Starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert, Marc McDermott, Ruth King, and Tully Marshall

First, a disclaimer: silent films are a big ask, and putting one into this series and expecting you to watch it is not something done lightly.  The problem with silent films is they are very much like puppies and babies, in that they need constant attention.  Unlike puppies and babies, though, they lack the essential cute and cuddliness that make the constant attention worthwhile.  Sure, a silent movie might be good, and that’s something.  But the only way you’ll know it’s good is through that constant attention.  Even then, that may not be enough.

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52 Before 62 – #37 Wuthering Heights (1939)

Wuthering Heights (1939 film).jpgDirected by William Wyler

Screenplay by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, from the novel by Emily Bronte

Starring Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, David Niven, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Flora Robson, Leo G. Carroll

The auteur theory of filmmaking is premised on the notion of a film having a single author.  That despite all other efforts from others contributors, including the screenwriter, there is ultimately just one person who ‘authors’ the film.  Usually, that person is presumed to be the director, because he is the one on set directing the action, placing the camera, and interpreting the script into a form that eventually winds up on film. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #36 A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

A letter to three wives movie poster.jpgDirected by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, based on the novel “A Letter to Five Wives” by John Klempner, adaptation by Vera Caspary

Starring Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern, Linda Darnell, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas, and Jeffrey Lynn

Here’s a little ‘behind the curtain’ info on this series – and really, this blog as a whole: I don’t own most of the movies reviewed here.[1]  I also don’t rent them – probably because that’s not a thing anymore.  The usual way I do it is take some from Amazon Prime and Netflix if they have ‘em,[2] then catch the rest either on TCM through Hulu, or from DVD’s I borrow from the library.[3] Continue reading

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52 Before 62 – #35 The More the Merrier (1943)

The More the Merrier - poster.jpgDirected by George Stevens

Screenplay by Richard Flournoy, Lewis R. Foster, Frank Ross, and Robert W. Russell, based on the story “Two’s a Crowd” by Garson Kanin

Starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn

War really messed with George Stevens – I’m pretty sure I noted this during my entry on I Remember Mama, but if I didn’t, I’ll say it here for the first time.  And if I did say it there, it’s good to say it again.

War really messed with George Stevens.

Before Stevens went off to work with the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, he was primarily a director of comedy and lighter fare – he came up through Hal Roach Studios and kept right on doing comedies, with the occasional Gunga Din thrown in for good measure. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #34 Stormy Weather (1943)

Stormyposter.jpgDirected by Andrew Stone

Screenplay by H.S. Kraft, story by Jerry Horwin and Seymour B. Robinson

Starring Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Lena Horne, Dooley Wilson, Cab Calloway, and Fats Waller

Bill Williams (Robinson), returns from WWI determined to make a go in showbiz.  Through a loosely connected series of vignettes, staged as Bill’s memories, and interspersed around a variety of musical numbers, we see his sputtering start as a dancer, his eventual ascent to fame and fortune, and his love with Selina (Lena Horne).

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52 Before 62 — #33 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral film poster.jpegDirected by John Sturges

Written by Leon Uris, based upon a story by George Scullin

Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, and Rhonda Fleming

Dennis Hopper had a very long career.  In the back of my head I’m always aware of this, because I know he was in Giant (1956), directed Easy Rider (1969), was in Apocalypse Now (1979), was in Blue Velvet (1986), was in True Romance (1993), and was in all kinds of things right up until his death in 2010.  Hell, it’s arguable he was even active after his death, but only on a technicality – he shot his part of The Other Side of the Wind back in the 70’s, even if it didn’t see the light of day until 2018.

Anyway, the point is while I knew he had a long career, I didn’t really make the connection that it was 50 years long until he popped up late in this movie – Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – as one of the Clanton boys, to be shot down at the O.K. Corral.  And the only reason that fact registered on my radar at all was because I’d just seen Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Continue reading

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