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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52 Before 62 — #32 Red Dust (1932)

Red-Dust-1932-film-poster.jpgDirected 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

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52 Before 62 — #31 Macbeth (1948)

Macbeth-1948-Poster.jpgDirected 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

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52 Before 62 — #30 The Fastest Gun Alive (1956)

Fastestgunposter.jpgDirected 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,[1]because many Oscar winners have limited range.[2]  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

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52 Before 62 — #29 The Hanging Tree (1959)

Poster of the movie The Hanging Tree.jpgDirected 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

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52 Before 62 — #28 I Remember Mama (1948)

I-remember-mama-1948 poster.jpgDirected 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.[1]  He might not even be in the top 20. Continue reading

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