Directed by George Seaton
Screenplay by George Seaton, based upon the novel by Arthur Hailey
Starring Burt Lancaster, George Kennedy, Dean Martin, Jacquline Bissett, Helen Hayes, Maureen Stapleton, Van Heflin and Barry Nelson
Back in the days before I was a cord-cutter, and before the channel stopped playing movies sans commercial breaks, I watched a lot of the IFC channel. To date it, this was back in the Matt Singer/Allison Wilmore days, both of whom have gone on to do other things, including the excellent Filmspotting SVU podcast.
Anyway, part of what I enjoyed about IFC was it’s eclecticism. Where else would you find blackspoitation classics like Foxy Brown and Coffy, rubbing shoulders with modern TV classics like Arrested Development? The other part I loved about IFC was it’s array of documentaries. I’m pretty sure that’s where I first saw This Film Is Not Yet Rated, and also The Bus Movie. And it’s where I was first introduced to Jon Ronson’s documentary, Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, which I love so much I bought the blu-ray of Full Metal Jacket, which I already had on DVD, simply because it has that doc on it. Continue reading
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Screenplay by William Rose
Starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Houghton, Isabel Sanford, Roy E. Glenn St., Beah Richards and Cecil Kellaway
In an alternate timeline, racism in America has been solved. There is no disharmony, everybody gets along, and whatever differences they do have aren’t based on bullshit things like race or gender or sexual orientation.
Three cheers for irrational hostility based on looking different being a thing of the past! Continue reading
Available in both ebook and paperback — buy one of each!
The original idea for this blog was there was no idea – I had no grand unified vision, only wanted some place to dump out the various non-fiction thoughts rolling around in my head. Primarily those thoughts would be about movies, but they might very well be about anything. I did not envision having columns, or features, or even having readers. I just wrote what I felt like, when I felt like writing it, and chose this place to deposit it whether or not somebody was there to get it.
In a way, this blog was meant as a peek into my id. Continue reading
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Screenplay by Ranald MacDougall, based upon the novel by James M. Cain
Starring Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth and Bruce Bennett
Everything I know biographically about Joan Crafword comes from two sources:
- Mommie Dearest, the camptastic movie based on Christina Crawford’s ‘true’ story of life with her adopted mother, which paints Joan less as a human being and more as a wire-hanger hating nutcase. Faye Dunaway played Joan in that movie and while she doesn’t bother trying to make Joan ‘real’ or even give a nuanced performance within the ‘facts’, she definitely gives an unforgettable performance.
- The Six Degrees of Joan Crawford series from the podcast You Must Remember This, which doesn’t necessarily paint Joan as any less severe or career driven as Mommie Dearest, but does a much more effective job showing Joan as remarkably complicated and an almost-tragic figure in her own right.
While the two portrayals differ on the child abuse she’s alleged to have inflicted, both agree Crawford’s drive for success knew no bounds. You Must Remember This spends a bit more time going into what lurked beneath that drive and did yeoman’s work trying to humanize Crawford in a way Mommie Dearest never would, but at least both properties agree on this particular facet of her personality. Continue reading
Directed by Fred Zinneman
Written by Robert Anderson, based upon the novel by Kathryn C. Hulme
Starring Audrey Hepburn, Peter Finch, Dame Edith Evans, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, and Dean Jagger
Over the course of film history we recognize dozens of genres and spilled copious volumes of words over them. By way of example there are noirs, musicals, war films, monster films, gangster films, westerns, spaghetti westerns, horror, Italian horror and…and the list goes on and on. There’s so many different genres it’s understandable when one slips through the cracks, especially when they aren’t exactly fashionable. Which is how Biblical films can feel like the forgotten step-child of genre cinema to most cinephiles, even as it was one of the original film genres.
Ben-Hur was first produced in 1907 as a one-reeler, remade in 1925 with Ramon Novarro and remade again in 1959. H.B. Warner, better known as Mr. Gower the druggist in It’s A Wonderful Life played Jesus in the silent version of The King of Kings. And Carl Theodor Dreyers 1928 film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, might still be the granddaddy of all religious/Biblical films, with Renee Jeanne Falconetti giving the performance to end all performances.
Directed by George Stevens
Screenplay By Michael Wilson and Harry Brown, based on the novel “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser, and the stage play “An American Tragedy” by Patrick Kearney
Starring Montgomery Clift, Shelly Winters, Elizabeth Taylor and Raymond Burr
George Stevens is an interesting character. He started his film career as a cinematographer for Laurel and Hardy, then moved on to directing comedy, his big break being Katherine Hepburn’s Alice Adams. After that it was on to Astaire/Rogers movies, and even the classic action/comedy, and obvious inspiration for Indiana Jones, Gunga Din. By 1940 he had a nice little thing going, and could have gone on doing it forever, had World War II not intervened and changed it all up.
In the war, Stevens was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, contributing to various war documentaries, and shooting footage of D-Day and the concentration camps. By all accounts he saw many harrowing things, which is why when he came back, he didn’t have the taste for comedy any longer, turning instead to straight drama. Some of his post-army films were weepies, some were not, but none had anything in them resembling comedy. Continue reading
Directed by George Cukor
Screenplay by Albert Mannheimer, from the play by Garson Kanin
Starring Judy Holiday, William Holden and Broderick Crawford
It was only a few short weeks ago I mentioned the sorta-coincidence of doing back-to-back entries in this series on Best Picture losers starring William Holden. I also speculated it was likely we’d soon see another, given Holden starred in a good number of Best Picture losers in the 1950s. Well, whaddaya know – my prediction came true! Meaning we’ve now gone three-out-of-four with Best Picture losers starring William Holden.
So here, I give you Born Yesterday.
Directed by Sam Wood
Written by Dudley Nichols, based upon the book of the same name by Ernest Hemingway
Starring Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Akim Tamiroff and Katina Paxinou
Hollywood has a long, distasteful history of white actors playing ethnic characters. Rock Hudson played a Native American in Winchester 73, Luise Rainer won an Oscar playing Asian in The Good Earth, and in perhaps the most odious example, Mickey Rooney donned bucked-teeth to play the Japanese photographer, Mr. Yunioshi in the otherwise-charming Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In some instances, the portrayal is largely benign – H.B. Warner plays a beatific Tibetan in Lost Horizon – while others are far more rotten, see Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Continue reading
Directed by Joshua Logan
Screenplay by Daniel Taradash, based on the play by William Inge
Starring William Holden, Kim Novak, Betty Field, Susan Strasberg and Rosalind Russell
The method by which I choose the films to cover in this series is pretty low-tech. I simply look up the streaming availability for films for a given set of years – lately it’s been the 40’s and 50’s – and if they’re not streaming, then I check to see if they’re on DVD/Blu-Ray at my local library. In this way, I can usually find something to write about, because – no surprise – Best Picture nominees are generally available in some way.
In some sense, the movies chosen are random, in that I pick the ones most interesting from the most readily available. But in another, given I tend to look for a bunch of years all at once, then watch those films, then move on to others, the randomness is confined to small slivers of time. So, even while it’s somewhat random what I choose, it’s also not. The point I make here? There’s no real serendipity to me managing to go back-to-back in this series with Best Picture losers starring William Holden. The first, Our Town, was from early in his career, back before cigarettes and booze did a number of his voice. This one, Picnic, came later, from his peak years of 1950-1957. I’d really love to take on one from his later years, to maybe get a Three Stages of William Holden thing going on, to see how he was as a young man, an old man, and somewhere in between. Unfortunately, he only had two late-career Best Picture Also-Rans – Network and The Towering Inferno – and since I’ve already seen them, you’re out of luck if reading my takes on them, and his career, appealed to you. But even if you don’t get a long piece on that, I will sum up what I think my assessment would have been: Continue reading
Directed by Sam Wood
Screenplay by Thornton Wilder, Frank Craven and Harry Chandlee, based on the play by Thornton Wilder
Starring William Holden, Martha Scott, Fay Bainter, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell, Guy Kibbee, Stewart Erwin and Frank Craven
The notion seeming to underlie the “Make America Great Again” slogan is a desire to return to a different, simpler time in our history, when the grass was always greener and everybody was prosperous and people knew their place. In other words, it years for a fictional time in our history where life was never tough for anybody, especially for white people.
In other words, it desires the world of Our Town, minus the tragedy. Continue reading