Category Archives: 52 Before 62

52 Before 62 — #50 Little Caesar (1931)

Little Caesar (1931 film poster - Style A).jpgDirected by Mervyn Leroy

Screenplay by  Francis Edward Faragoh and Robert N. Lee, based upon the novel of the same name by W. R. Burnett

Starring Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Rico (Edward G. Robinson) is a criminal with ambition.  Too bad he’s small-timing it out in the sticks, making ends meet robbing gas stations with his partner, Joe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.).   But a man with his ambition won’t be small-time for long and within the space of the transition from one scene to another, Rico is joining one of the top criminal outfits in Chicago.  His partner Joe comes to the city too, but he puts aside his criminal dreams for dancing shoes.[1]  Because he’s ambitious, and ruthless, Rico rises quickly through the organization, eventually installing himself as boss.  Unfortunately, to rise that quickly you have to step on a lot of toes, which doesn’t end well for the man doing the stepping.

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52 Before 62 — #49 The Major and the Minor (1942)

MajorAndMinorPoster.jpgDirected by Billy Wilder

Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Bracket, based upon the play “Connie Goes Home”, by Edward Childs Carpenter, and the story “Sunny Goes Home” by Fannie Kilbourne

Starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland

If I asked you – and I mean you specifically – to name Billy Wilder’s greatest films, chances are you’d name some, or all, of the following:

  • Double Indemnity
  • The Lost Weekend
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • The Apartment
  • Ace in the Hole
  • Stalag 17
  • Some Like it Hot

And because the Billy Wilder oeuvre runs so deep, there’s even room for the contrarian, or smartass, to include some of Wilder’s lesser films and not be laughed off for it.  So, you go ahead and do you, and throw The Fortune Cookie and One, Two, Three into the mix.  Me, I’m throwing Avanti![1]

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52 Before 62 — #48 The Farmer’s Daughter (1947)

The Farmer's Daughter (1947 film).jpgDirected by H.C. Potter

Screenplay by Allen Rivkin and Laura Kerr, from the play by Hella Wuolijoki

Starring Loretta Young, Joseph Cotton, Ethyl Barrymore, and Charles Bickford

Here’s a new thing: let’s start this entry by just carrying on the discussion from the last entry on Mogambo.  But don’t you worry – I promise it will circle around to being about this entry’s film, The Farmer’s Daughter.  But first, let’s take a sidetrack into yoga. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #47 ½ Mogambo (1953)

Mogambo.jpgDirected by John Ford

Screenplay by John Lee Mahin, based upon the play “Red Dust” by Wilson Collison

Starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Donald Sinden

A confession to start – I did not finish Mogambo.  I know how it begins, but not how it ends.  Although, because it’s a remake of Red Dust, which I have seen, I can probably guess how it ends.  This is how it went: I started it, watched about 35 minutes in the first sitting,[1] then spent three weeks slogging through the next 25 minutes.  And then, at roughly the 1 hour mark, facing down the possibility of having to watch another hour of the movie, I gave up.  That’s why this entry is 47 ½ and not 48.  And is also the why the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to quit things that no longer give you pleasure.  How ever you define pleasure.

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52 Before 62 — #47 The World, The Flesh and the Devil

World Flesh Devil 1959.jpgDirected by Ranald MacDougall

Written by Ranald MacDougall

Starring Harry Belfonte, Inger Stevens, and Mel Ferrer

Sigmund Freud was a famous proponent for the subconscious and imagery of dreams – he might not have been the first to subscribe to the idea, but he’s the only one most people know about, so he might as well be first.  Of course, being a proponent of symbols and the subconscious does not mean he thought everything was symbolic or a result of the subconscious – that reading just stands to reason.  After all, if everything is a symbol then nothing is a symbol.  Anyway, to put it the way Freud was purported to say himself: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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52 Before 62 — #46 Let’s Make Love (1960)

Lets make love.jpegDirected by George Cukor

Written by Norman Krasna, with additional material by Hal Kanter

Starring Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, Tony Randall, Frankie Vaughan, and Wilfrid Hyde-White

Several entries ago we tackled what was probably the first big hit of Marilyn Monroe’s career – Niagara.  Or, at least the first hit of her career that was attributable to her.  She’d been in other films before – All About Eve, especially – but the success there was not her’s.  She was merely incidental.  Niagara, though, was the first that succeeds off of her and part of the reason for that is because Monroe is so desperately beautiful and magnetic you can’t help but want to see her.  It would’ve been insane if it failed to make money. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #45 The Vikings (1958)

Vikings moviep.jpgDirected by Richard Fleischer

Screenplay by Calder Wilingham and Dale Wasserman, based upon the novel by Edwin Marshall

Starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, James Donald, Frank Thring, and Janet Leigh

When Kirk Douglas died a couple weeks ago it was almost literally the final expiration of old-style Hollywood stardom.  That’s what happens, I guess, when you live to 103 — whether you like it or not, your death is literally the end of something.

Douglas made his name in films from the late-1940’s onward, just before the ‘method’ style of acting came into vogue and the traditional notions of who could be, and who could not be, a movie star gave way to a system dominated more by unique faces and character actors.  In other words, the age when guys with a sense of stylization to their acting stopped winning Oscars — see e.g. Laurence Olivier — and guys with a touch of naturalism started winning.  Guys like Ernest Borgnine. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #44 Heidi (1937)

Heidi (1937 film) poster.jpgDirected by Allan Dwan

Written by Julien Josephson and Walter Ferris, from the book of the same name by Johanna Spyri

Starring Shirley Temple, Jean Herscholt, Arthur Treacher, Mary Nash, Marcia Mae Jones, and Sidney Blackmer

Shirley Temple is probably the proto-child actor.  Her, or Jackie Coogan.  One of the other.  But really, just Shirley Temple, if only because she set the standard for how a child actor’s career tends to go.  Get in the business almost at birth, make it big at a young age, only to see that career stall irretrievably at the brink of adult hood, when puberty turns the cute little kid into something the general public can’t handle, i.e. sexual. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #43 Butterfield 8

Butterfield8 movieposter.jpgDirected by Daniel Mann

Written by John Michael Hayes and Charles Schnee, based upon the novel by John O’Hara

Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey, and Eddie Fisher

Elizabeth Taylor is a rare thing in Hollywood history – a kid actor who grew up to have an adult career.  Most only fade away before then, or just drift into fitful employment – looking at you Henry Thomas.  Some, though, carry the fame forward.  Sure, the life of, and demands of, being an actress probably warped Taylor immeasurably – how else would you possibly explain her eight marriages – and probably led to her struggles with addition.[1]  But somehow, she managed to come out of that as well as one probably could. Continue reading

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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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