Directed 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
Directed 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).
Directed 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
Directed by Victor Fleming
Screenplay by John Mahin, based upon the play of the same name by Wilson Collison
Starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlowe, Mary Astor, Gene Raymond, and Tully Marshall
Here’s a question: when you think of Clark Gable, what’s your flavor? With, or without, mustache? In my world I can only picture Gable with a mustache, largely because I most closely associate him with Gone With The Wind, where his mustache was so front and center it was basically the defining characteristic of Rhett Butler. And while Gable didn’t win an Oscar for that role, it is his signature role, so if the mustache defines the role, so it defines him.
Which means it might come as a surprise to realize he wasn’t completely tied to the mustache. History says he originally hated the facial hair as a sign of uncleanliness, but when it became part of his star, he then hated shaving it. Now and then, though, you’d catch him on screen with a bare upper lip. They were rare, but happened. Most notably he went without in Mutiny on the Bounty – a fantastic film – and also in his supporting turn in A Free Soul. Relevant to this entry? He doesn’t have a mustache in Red Dust.
Let’s dig in. Continue reading
Directed by Orson Welles
Screenplay by (No Credited Screenwriter) based upon the play by William Shakespeare
Starring Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan, and Dan O’Herlihy
I don’t know why I bother with Shakespeare anymore. Yes, I know he’s one of those great writers we have to learn about – or supposedly-great. So, there’s that. Then, for a moviegoer there’s all these adaptations of his works, which means you inevitably have to contend with him in some way as more than just a dusty book on a shelf. I don’t want to bother, yet there’s often no way around it.
The truth is, I mostly find Shakespeare impenetrable. People can rave over the poetry of the plays and all that junk, but for me, the poetry and other junk keep me out. This was a fact I noted in my The Also-Ran’s Project entry about Henry V, and rather than beat that horse to death here, I’ll quote myself: Continue reading
Directed by Russel Rouse
Written by Russel Rouse and Frank D. Gilroy, based on Gilroy’s teleplay, “The Last Notch”
Starring Glenn Ford, Jeanne Crain, Broderick Crawford
Broderick Crawford winning Best Actor for All The King’s Men (1949) is probably one of the stranger choices to win an acting Oscar. Not strange in the sense he was an actor of limited range,because many Oscar winners have limited range. Which is a less-backhanded way of saying that winning an Oscar is not usually proof of an actor’s quality. If anything, winning an Oscar is merely ratification of the zeitgeist in the moment, and is also why the Oscars are essentially meaningless and good acting cannot truly be appreciated in the moment. Continue reading
Directed by Delmer Daves
Screenplay by Wendell Mayes and Halsted Wells, from the novelette of the same name by Dorothy M. Johnson
Starring Gary Cooper, Ben Piazza, Karl Malden, Maria Schell, and George C. Scott
Gary Cooper was a movie star of the highest order, with a career lasting something like 35 years, coming up as an extra and even appearing in the first Best Picture winner, Wings. Career longevity aside, though, he always felt like a wooden actor to me. Of course, being a movie star, and being a good actor, are frequently two different things: acting requires the ability to act, being a movie star is more about charisma and charm than anything else. And it almost feels idiotic to argue he was a wooden actor, given he won two Oscars, and was nominated for three others, so somebody thought he had skills. But I say he was a wooden actor, and so he was. Continue reading
Directed by George Stevens
Screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen, from the play of the same name by John Van Druten, which was based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Forbes
Starring Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel Geddes, Phillip Dorn, Steve Brown, Peggy McIntyre, Oscar Homolka, Ellen Corby, and Edgar Bergen
George Stevens might be one of the most underrated directors in history, which is sort of an insane thing to think about a man who has two Oscars for Best Director. But ask anybody to name ten directors working before 1960 and you’d probably not hear his name mentioned once. He might not even be in the top 20. Continue reading
Directed by Irving Rapper
Screenplay by Alan Le May, adaptation by Alan Le May and Harold Sherman, with additional dialog by Harry Chandlee, all from the play by Harold Sherman
Starring Fredric March, Alexis Smith, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, and John Carradine
Is Mark Twain a great novelist? That seems the single question asked by this film, which is purportedly Twain’s life story. Given the movie about Twain is asking the question, it’s no surprise it answers that, yes, he was a great novelist. And, though Twain does not start writing in earnest until maybe 30% of the way through the film, after moving from one successful career to another – riverboat pilot to newspaperman – if we did not come to the same conclusion, then what was the point of making a movie about him in the first place? Continue reading
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, from the novelette by Ernest Lehman
Starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, and Susan Harrison
Sydney Falco (Tony Curtis) is a New York City press agent, desperate to place items about his clients in J.J. Hunsecker’s (Burt Lancaster) gossip column. Just a mention there carries enough weight to make, or break, a career, which explains all the anxiety and jockeying for position that follows Hunsecker. But while Falco and Hunsecker usually have a shark-and-remora relationship, Hunsecker has lately frozen Falco out, insisting Falco be the hatchet man ruining the relationship between Hunsecker’s little sister, Susan (Susan Harrison), and the guitar player, Steve Dallas (Marty Milner), who Hunsecker has no appreciation for. As days go on and the end does not come for Susan and Steve’s love, Hunsecker grows vicious toward Falco, pushing Falco even deeper into his desperation. Eventually, both men hit a version of rock bottom