Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is famously bizarre, but thanks to Gene Wilder, will forever be remembered as a classic.
Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) and his family all live in extreme poverty, but they never let it get them down. The only thing that has begun to make Charlie feel bad about his family's financial circumstances is when he he, and the rest of the world, hears of a contest being held by the mysterious and elusive Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder). Wonka has hidden five golden tickets in his chocolate bars, and the lucky people who find them will be given a tour of his factory, which has been closed to the public for years.
Charlie wants more than anything to be able to go to the factory, but as the golden tickets begin to be discovered, his hopes start to dwindle. Unlike the countless other people searching for the golden tickets, Charlie doesn't have the money to keep purchasing candy bars, and he truly feels he doesn't have a chance. However, fate is on his side when he discovers some money in a storm drain and he's able to buy himself a chocolate bar.
If you were to take the different elements of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory such as the Oompa Loompas, the psychedelic river cruise, and a man in a purple suit that makes children disappear, you'd think you'd have the makings of a very strange horror movie, but oddly enough, it all works as a children's film. Anyone who has read or seen anything that was inspired by the mind of Roald Dahl knows that his stories always toy with very peculiar themes, but that's just part of the magic. His plots are right out of a child's most vivid imagination, and that's why they have captivated readers and film audiences for so many years.
The character of Willy Wonka was really a precarious one, because it would have been so easy to go too far with it. There are many ways that this character could have been overdone. For example, Wonka could have rejoiced in the children's misfortune too much, but Wilder made the character so matter of fact about it, that the "mishaps" at the factory seem completely normal; like everyone should expect that all know-it-all kids will one day turn into blueberries. The fellow members of the factory tour are mortified by the events, but Willy Wonka doesn't bat an eye. Wonka is obviously supposed to be highly eccentric and hard to relate to, but Gene Wilder makes that possible, unlike Johnny Depp's take on the character. Wilder possessed the gift to not only make Willy Wonka seem like a real person, but also turn him into someone with an unexpected amount of heart as well as a beloved icon.
Any movie that involves food, must have the quality to make you crave whatever it is they are portraying on the screen, and if the film doesn't do that, then they've failed. Willy Wonka however is one that most certainly succeeds. Even though ninety-nine percent of the chocolate and candy they show in the movie doesn't actually exist, you can't help but have your sweet tooth kicked into overdrive, and find yourself reaching for whatever sugary indulgence you may have at arm's length. Part of this has to do with the magical essence that is brought out by Willy Wonka. I remember as kid watching this movie, so desperately wanting to be able to travel to Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but I knew that the closest I could come to was eating a plain old Hershey bar and hoping it could somehow match the decadence of the candy on the screen.
There are many people who do not enjoy Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and I would guess that they are people who are too out of touch with their inner child and sense of whimsy. Yes, Willy Wonka is very offbeat, but that's what makes it great. Aside from Tim Burton's more disturbing remake, there's really nothing like the original Willy Wonka, and I doubt there ever will be.
One of the most legendary musicals made to film, Grease has a reputation that is nothing short of iconic.
In the late 50's, the final days of summer are winding down, and Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) are having to say goodbye to their summer romance. Sandy needs to head back to her home in Australia, and Danny must go back to Rydell High for his senior year.
When the first day of school rolls around, Danny is shocked to learn that Sandy didn't go back to Australia, but in fact enrolled in his school. Knowing that his sappy summer fling will put a dent in his tough-guy exterior, Danny pretends that their time together never meant a thing, and Sandy is forced to make new friends with a group of girls who call themselves "the Pink Ladies". However, summer lovin' is hard to forget, and Danny realizes he will do anything to win Sandy back.
Even though Grease is technically based during the duration of a school year, I always find myself wanting to watch it as the summer months approach. I have seen this movie more times than I can count, but I never really seem to tire of it. There's something comforting in the familiarity of the music, the obvious mistakes made by the actors throughout the film, and the simplicity of a love story set in the '50s. I have said it before, and I will say it again, setting a movie's plot in any time period between the '40s through the '60s, will make it an almost guarantee for me to love it, regardless of how good it actually is.
Grease may go down in history as having the oldest cast to make up characters that are supposed to be in high school, but it definitely doesn't matter. So what if Stockard Channing was 34 when this film was made, she's great at playing Rizzo, and that's all that matters. She and the other members of the cast add the perfect amount of carefree silliness that is required to make Grease as much fun as it is. If you really focus in on the characters, a lot of them aren't exactly likable, but somehow that concept slips passed the audience, as you end up getting enthralled with the story, regardless of whether or not the supporting characters are actually good people.
When I think back on the movies that I watched as a child and remember the ones that made an impact on me, Grease is one of the first that comes to mind. I remember not only being enamored by the time period, but specifically by the music. At that time, I was under the impression that all songs from musicals had to be big, showy, and belted out at the top of the singer's lungs. Not saying that those types of musicals are bad, which they're not, in fact I quite enjoy them, but Grease was when I realized that musicals could be different. They could be silly but edgy at the same time, and their music could speak to a different type of audience. Every time I watch Grease, I find that my foot begins to tap and I start to sing without even thinking about it. It is a movie that's designed to be full of amusement and life, and I for one can't watch it without getting wrapped up in the energy of the music.
I know there are people out there who are not fans of Grease, and to each their own, but Grease will always be a favorite of mine. Even though when I watch it as an adult and can now see and recognize the plot points that the non-fans find problems with, I still can't help but to love the movie just as much as I did when I was a younger viewer and unaware of what was actually happening in the movie. What can I say, Grease is a film that I will always be hopelessly devoted to.
Another wonderful Christmas classic, White Christmas is a simple and joyful holiday film.
After fighting together in World War II, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), have become an entertainment duo that has taken America by storm. While doing a favor for an old army buddy, Wallace & Davis go to a nightclub to audition another duo act called the Haynes Sisters, consisting of Judy (Vera Ellen) and Betty (Rosemary Clooney) Haynes. Before the girls can be a part of any show produced by Wallace & Davis, they must fulfill their prior commitment to perform at a small inn. Through a series of events, all four entertainers find their way on a train heading to Vermont.
Once arriving at the Columbia Inn, Wallace and Davis are shocked to discover that the owner of the hotel is none other than their former general. Learning that the Inn is in trouble of closing, due to lack of snow and patrons, Wallace and Davis decide to bring their newest show to the hotel, and hope to help out General Waverly and save his business.
White Christmas is my most watched Christmas movie, and therefore it is the one that holds the biggest place in my heart. Though the movie itself doesn't actually discuss the holiday as much as other Christmas films, there is still something innately seasonal about the dancing and allure of a classic movie musical. Well, that and Bing Crosby; there's hardly anything more Christmasy than Bing Crosby.
Though there are countless pieces to White Christmas that I love, nothing in the film surpasses my love for Rosemary Clooney. Even if her dancing drastically pales in comparison to some of her costars, her voice and effortless charisma compensate for her lack of dance skills. There is a scene in the movie that has always stuck out to me, even though it is only about two seconds. In the song "Mandy", there's a brief moment where you can see the sheer joy on Rosemary Clooney's face as she performs the song with Kaye and Crosby. For me that is the essence of a great holiday film; entertainment mixed with unparalleled happiness.
In classic film, especially musicals, the use of painted sets was incredibly common. Though it is very obvious that the backdrops in White Christmas are made and not real, that is part of the charm of the film. By the movie having such a "studio" atmosphere, it gives the appearance of watching a staged musical, rather than a big budget film. Some may view this concept as distracting or cheesy, but I view it as old-fashioned and enjoyable.
Though I have seen it more times than I can remember, White Christmas will never grow old for me. With so many musical numbers, there's always something new to see and something new to love. Even if it may not be as flashy as other holiday movies, White Christmas will always be the film that I associate the most with the Christmas season.
Unexpectedly frightening with impressive special effects, The Uninvited is an excellent horror film from the classic movie era.
Siblings, Rodrick (Ray Miland) and Pamela (Ruth Hussey) Fitzgerald, have decided to purchase a large estate called Winward off the coast of Devonshire, England. While discussing the home's history with its' current owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp), the Fitzgeralds learn that the previous tenants left the property due to complaints of sinister sounds and mysterious happenings throughout the building.
Ignoring any type of warning, Rodrick and Pamela happily move in, along with their dog Bobby and their housekeeper Lizzie. It is not long after the siblings have settled into their home, that strange goings on begin to happen. Their dog will not go up the stairs, an ominous wailing is heard in the night, and an inexplicable cold can be felt in the studio. Fearing for their sanity and the safety of Commander Beech's granddaughter, Stella (Gail Russell), the Fitzgeralds begin a mission to discover the secret behind the haunting.
When it comes to films from the 40s that are intended to be frightening, sometimes in order to find it creepy, you have to look at it from the mindset of the viewers in that time period. The Uninvited is definitely not one of those cases. Though this film was made almost 75 years ago, it still packs a frightening punch. It proves that a film doesn't need to be graphic or filled with gore to be scary. The Uninvited induces fear using sound, lighting, and minimal special effects.
Though the use of visual effects in The Uninvited are few and far between, they are certainly impressive, especially considering this film was made in 1944. Whether it be a wine glass moving on its' own during a seance, or the dimming of a candle, the effects themselves, no matter how small, aid in the film's ability to create an unsettling atmosphere.
The Uninvited is visually, a very dark film. The hauntings that happen, most commonly come at night, so the movie is filled with scenes of the characters wandering about the property by candlelight, with their shadows flickering along the walls. It is the brilliant use lighting or lack there of, that makes the viewer almost sigh in relief once the sun rises in the film. It is also that impeccable tactic that earned the cinematographer an Academy Award nomination.
The Uninvited could certainly be branded as a horror film, but I would label it more of an ominous mystery. Yes, it definitely has its' frightening moments, but it also has an intriguing story line of three people trying to uncover a buried secret. The Uninvited is such a great film, that I am honestly sorry for myself that I hadn't seen it until a few days ago. If you haven't seen it yet, and you're a fan of the classics, do yourselves a favor and check it out.
A musical addition to the Crawford-Gable collection, The Dancing Lady is a fun and whimsical film from beginning to end.
Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) dreams of being a dancer, but the only work she has been able to get is doing burlesque. When the show she dances in gets raided by the cops, Janie has to go to night court. While there, a man named Tod Newton (Franchot Tone) takes an interest in Janie and bails her out of jail.
The next day, Janie decides that she is going to stop at nothing in order to become a real dancer. She goes to audition for a new musical being put on by famed director, Patch Gallagher (Clark Gable), but he refuses to give her an audition. Unbeknownst to Janie, Tod Newton has an "in" with the person financially backing Gallagher's show, and he sets up an audition for her. Though aggravated at first, once Gallagher sees Janie's talent, he agrees to give her a part in his show.
Dancing Lady is full of classic movie charm, and that is one of the many reasons that it is one of my favorite Joan Crawford films. Given the title, dancing is of course going to be a main focus in the movie's plot line. This movie was Fred Astaire's first on screen appearance, and as you would expect, he upstages every other dancer in the movie. It is Astaire's performance as well as the rest of the dancing cast that makes this film as entertaining and enjoyable as it is.
Even though the dancing in the film is great, it is the on screen chemistry between Crawford and Gable that steals the show. As it is with any of their other on screen collaborations, the scenes between the two stars seem effortlessly natural and romantic. There is a scene where the two are working out in a gym, and even though it is obviously scripted and choreographed, the acting between the two appears genuine and easily captivates the viewer.
The only reason this film didn't get a higher rating, was because of the bizarre nature of some of the dance sequences, and my general dislike for the Three Stooges, who made their film debut in Dancing Lady. I know that many people find the Stooges to be amusing, but slapstick comedy has never been a favorite of mine, so I found those scenes to feel a bit out of place with the rest of the movie's atmosphere.
If you have never seen a film that stars Joan Crawford and Clark Gable together, than this would be an excellent first choice; especially if you are looking for a movie of their's that's on the light-hearted side.
The Shop Around the Corner
One of the greatest romantic comedies from the classic era, The Shop Around the Corner is charming and entertaining.
Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) works at a store called Matuschek's, in Budapest. He is the head salesmen of the company and is also Matuschek's right hand man. The order of the store is thrown into disarray when a young woman named Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) comes in seeking a job.
Alfred and Klara do not get along, but rather tolerate one another while working. Unbeknownst to either of them, both are corresponding with a secret pen pal, slowly falling in love with the person they are writing to. As their letters to their mystery love interests start to grow more romantic, the two coworkers begin to dislike each other more and more. With Christmas season fast approaching, they must overcome their differences for the good of the company. Little do they know, that their secret correspondences will not only occupy their personal lives, but their work lives as well.
Before I ever saw this movie, I had seen You've Got Mail countless times. When I learned that one of my favorite romantic comedies was in fact based on a classic film, I knew I had to see it. Both movies are great, but The Shop Around the Corner has the charm of the Golden-Age of Hollywood to give it just enough of an edge to be the better movie.
Jimmy/James Stewart had the impressive skill set to be able to perform in a comedy and be just as intriguing and believable as he would be in a drama or thriller. His approach to comedy is not of the slapstick type, but rather done in a sarcastic and charismatic style; which works wonderfully well in this film. Margaret Sullivan was famous for her work both in Hollywood and on Broadway, and it is her talent as a stage actress that I believe helped her to make her portrayal of Klara to be so likable. She doesn't approach the character the way many Hollywood actresses would have, and turns Ms.Novak into the sweet natured, girl next door type and not an overly glamorized shop girl.
Though this movie could technically be deemed a Christmas film, it is great to watch at any time of the year. I really enjoy watching older romantic comedies, because they are made of a simpler and more innocent nature compared to the rom-coms of today. The Shop Around the Corner is a sweet film that proves that you don't need to go further than a love letter to make a memorable movie about romance.
Not to be confused with the 1931 Joan Crawford film with the same title, Possessed (1947) is a film noir full of romance, suspense and intrigue.
The film opens with a woman wandering aimlessly down the streets, muttering the name "David" to those who will listen. She finds her way into a cafe and becomes uncommunicative and is taken to the psychiatric department of a hospital.
At the hospital, the doctors inject her with medicine to make her coherent. It is then that they learn that the woman's name is Louise Howell (Joan Crawford). From that point on, Louise begins to tell the doctors of the events in her life that lead her to the state in which she is in now. It all began when was working as a live in nurse for a wealthy man named Dean Graham (Raymond Massey). While working, she fell in love with a mathematician named David Sutton (Van Heflin), who to her dismay, did not share in her feelings. Through a series of flashbacks brought about by Louise's recollections, her journey from being a nurse to finding herself in the hospital begins to be revealed.
One of the first things that makes Possessed an unusual film in the Crawford collection, is that in the opening sequence she is practically without makeup. Crawford was known for being in full glamour on and off the screen, and given her age when filming this movie, her dedication to making her role believable by leaving her face un made up, is something to be respected and admired. Adding to her unexpected appearance, her performance deserves just as much recognition. Possessed earned Crawford her second Academy Award nomination, and it was most certainly well deserved. She plays a woman on the brink of madness, but makes sure to not go too far as to be ridiculous, and makes her character's struggle seem as real as 1940's knowledge of mental illness would allow.
Possessed takes the typical noir romance and flips it around. Instead of a woman being chased by a man whom she does not have feelings for, Van Heflin is the one being constantly pursued and cannot seem to shake his admirer. Though Van Heflin's character is a bit of a tool, he plays the male version of a femme fatale quite nicely.
Visually, I really enjoy this movie. As with any movie in the film noir category, the use of shadows is going to be prominent in most of the scenes. The darkness of the cinematography mirrors the mental turmoil that the main character is going through. There is also a very brief scene in this movie in which Louise is looking out a rain covered window that I just absolutely love. The shot itself is only about 20 seconds if not less, but the way her breath leaves a mark on the glass enhances the emotional impact of the scene and of the film.
Possessed is one of my personal favorite film noirs. I have always appreciated a movie that follows the guidelines of its' genre, but makes its' own path as well, and Possessed definitely fits into that description. It is unique in many ways and an all around entertaining film.
His Girl Friday
A movie that is very understandably considered a comedy classic, His Girl Friday is an incredibly fast paced and well made movie.
Newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) goes to the newsroom where she used to work to inform her ex husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant) that she is getting married again. Much to Walter's dismay, Hildy also tells him that she is leaving the world of journalism.
Desperate for her to stay with his company, Walter devises a plan to keep her in the business. He tempts her with the juicy story of a man about to be executed for a murder he may or may not be responsible for. Unable to resist such a lead, Hildy agrees to do one final story before retiring her typewriter for good.
His Girl Friday is a famous film, and that is due to its' script more than anything. The dialogue goes by so fast that it is sometimes almost impossible to catch what is going on, but it adds to the hectic feel of life in the newspaper business.
As much as I love Cary Grant, it is Rosalind Russell that steals the picture for me. Comedic timing and humor seemed to come effortlessly to Russell, and her character appeared far more realistic because of it. I have seen Russell in a few other films, and in all that I've seen, she plays the funny lady wonderfully well. Russell is also able to keep up with the fast talking the script demanded in an impressive and skilled manner. Grant does have his funny moments in the film, but there were times where, to me, his character seemed too fake or unnatural, and the comedy a bit forced. Maybe its' just because up until this film I had only seen Cary Grant in dramatic or suspenseful roles, and his performance in His Girl Friday was a little jarring compared to what I had been used to. Nonetheless, his charisma and elegance still exude off the screen and he is consistently entertaining to watch.
His Girl Friday is most certainly considered one the great classic movies, and it is very clear why. With such an unusual style of script, all who worked on the film definitely had to have some tricks up their sleeves. Not only did the actors have to keep up with the pacing, but the crew members had to as well. I can only imagine the headache the people in charge of sound received while working on this film. They deserve every bit of recognition they can get, because they make sure that every conversation is overheard, even the ones where three people are talking at breakneck speed, all at the same time.
This is a movie that I know I will have to watch numerous times to catch all the lines of intrigue, jokes, and zingers that are packed into the film's runtime. If you have never seen a film with Rosalind Russell, this is a great one to start with. She is at her best in His Girl Friday and helps to make a movie that is quirky and enjoyable to watch.
Finding a classic film that has a woman as its' focus, let alone two, is very rare. Then add in the fact that this movie is a western, it makes Johnny Guitar a wonderful oddity in the film world.
Vienna (Joan Crawford) is tough as nails saloon owner who has recently hired a man named Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) to play for her customers. With their first encounter in the saloon, it is clear that Vienna and Johnny have more history than any of her workers know.
Frequent visitors to her business are the Dancin' Kid (Scott Brady) and his gang. When a stagecoach is robbed and Vienna's arch rival Emma's (Mercedes McCambridge) brother is killed, she is convinced that Vienna is part of the Dancin' Kid's gang and is responsible for the death of her brother. Emma begins a vendetta against Vienna, and will not stop until she feels that justice has been served.
In more ways than one, Johnny Guitar stands apart from the movies of its' time. It is a western on the outside with the spirit of a classic film on the inside. Though the story may involve gunslinging and horseback riding, the approach to the film score and the relationship between Johnny and Vienna follows the timeless style of a classic-movie era romance.
Both the protagonist and the antagonist are female and the men in the movie are just side characters to the rivalry between the two women. Johnny Guitar is able to tell the story of two tough ladies without compromising their femininity in the process. Had the casting not been done so well, the concept of the film may not have worked. Thankfully, both Mercedes McCambridge and Joan Crawford were more than equipped to handle the lead roles.
McCambridge brings a ruthless vengeance to her character, but is able to allow a glimmer of doubt or sorrow to leave her eyes; making Emma appear human and not just a mindless villain. Crawford makes sure to keep Vienna's tough exterior be what her enemies see, but knows when to let the soft hearted side of her character shine through. I had read that in real life the two women were not fond of one another, and perhaps that fueled their on screen rivalry, but even if what I read was not true, the hatred that the two characters feel for each other radiates off the screen.
Johnny Guitar was one of the first westerns that I ever saw, so it was quite the unusual way to get into the genre. I know that I can't expect every western to be so individual in its' concept or casting, but that's what makes Johnny Guitar so special.
Rear Window is either my second favorite Hitchcock film, or is tied for first with Notorious; I can never decide. Rear Window is a wonderful example of Alfred Hitchcock's brilliance and once again proves why he was the Master of Suspense.
Jimmy Stewart plays L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, a professional photographer who has been trapped in his apartment all summer due to a broken leg. To pass the time, he watches the people who inhabit the apartments across the courtyard and observes their daily life.
One night, while looking out the window, Jeff observes some odd behavior coming from his salesman neighbor with the invalid wife. With the help of his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), the three onlookers try and figure out if Jeff's neighbor's strange behavior is of a sinister and violent nature.
Alfred Hitchcock exhibited his talent for tension and suspense in different ways. With Psycho he showed he knew how to use music to enhance the fear a scene could bring. In Notorious he proved that he could make the ordinary appear thrilling. Rear Window displays his ability to set a small scene and make it visually stunning and chilling. Though there are truly only two sets in the film, Jeff's apartment and his view out the window, Hitchcock sets it up in a way that makes it seem more interesting than a film that would be based in a large city with numerous settings.
The plot of Rear Window has inspired many stories with very similar concepts, but they will never hold a candle to the original. In addition to its' ingenious storyline and setting, the performances by the cast, make this a movie that is so great, it is almost unfair to any other classic thriller. Grace Kelly gives her character the stunning combination of glamour and adventure. She is almost more curious to discover the secrets from across the street than Jeff is, and given that she is the one with the working legs, Lisa becomes the investigator while Jeff is forced to observe the unfolding action. Jimmy Stewart portrays Jeff's frustration of being confined to his wheelchair with an excellent amount of believability. His emotions as he looks on at Lisa's dangerous investigative endeavors add a level of tension to the film that surely aids in its' long lasting success.
Rear Window is one of the first Hitchcock films that I ever saw, and it is one of the films that got me hooked on the classics. It will always stand out to me as not only one of the best Hitchcock films, but as one of the best films from the classic era.
Reunion in France
Is Reunion in France historically accurate and realistic? No. Does it over glamorize World War II in France? Yes. Does that make it a terrible movie? Not so much.
In 1940's Paris, Joan Crawford plays Michele de la Becque, a french woman in love with a man named Robert Cortot (Philip Dorn). She returns from a trip away from Paris to discover that it has fallen. With her home in the clutches of Nazis, Michele flees in search of Cortot. When she arrives at his home, she discovers that it is mysteriously unaffected by the ongoing war. That night at a party, she learns that Cortot is now aiding the Nazi Party.
Stunned and furious, Michele leaves Cortot's side and tries to find a way to live in this new France. On her way home from work, she comes across an American soldier named Pat Talbot (John Wayne) who's plane was shot down. Knowing that he cannot stumble around the streets of Paris, Michele takes Pat into her home to recover. After he has recuperated, Michele and Pat begin to devise a plan that will get him out of France so he can rejoin the war effort against the Nazis.
Of course there are much better war films out there, but Reunion in France is the type of movie that you watch when you are in the mood for an exhibition of classic Hollywood era antics. The gowns are stunning, the plot is simple, the accents are intermittent or nonexistent, and the action is overdone, but for me, that's what makes it enjoyable.
Even if the movie itself is substandard, it is worth watching to see two Hollywood legends like Joan Crawford and John Wayne share the screen. At first, it seems very strange to see the two together, as their Hollywood personas don't exactly match up, but with two experienced performers like Crawford and Wayne, their on screen pairing quickly begins to work.
Reunion in France is probably not anyone's first pick for their favorite Joan Crawford or John Wayne movie, but it is still a decent film and a must see for fans of either of the starring Hollywood legends.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
In 15th century Paris, a hunchback rings the bells of Notre Dame, the King's High Justice Frollo loathes anything he deems evil or immoral, and gypsies have been banned from the city.
Being chased by the King's men, a young gypsy girl named Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) escapes to Notre Dame for sanctuary. Inside the church she meets Frollo, and though he tells her she should not be permitted within the walls of Notre Dame, he allows her to stay up in the bell tower, where she meets the hunchback Quasimodo (Charles Laughton). At first frightened at the sight of Quasimodo, Esmeralda later becomes one of the only people in Paris to show him any kindness. Quasimodo begins to fall in love with Esmeralda, but he is not the only one. Frollo starts to desire her, but feels that she has been sent from the devil to test his morals, but it is a test he is doomed to fail. Frollo becomes enraptured with Esmeralda, and decides that if he cannot have her, than nobody will.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a movie that you don't necessarily watch to enjoy, but rather to admire. The story itself is quite upsetting, but the direction, score, makeup, and performances make it one of the more impressive films that I have seen from the 1930s. The black and white cinematography creates a Paris that appears dirty, vulgar, and frightening.
Along with the technical skill that the film presents, the prosthetic work done to create Quasimodo is expertly done. It is impossible to see Charles Laughton beneath the makeup and when you add in Laughton's brilliant performance as the hunchback, you are given one incredible portrayal that completely tricks the mind into believing that Quasimodo exists. His scenes with Esmeralda, even though it was one of Maureen O'Hara's first film appearances, are the most captivating moments in the film. Together, they create a relationship between their two characters that feels compassionate and sincere.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame may not be for all people who enjoy classic films. It is very unlike the other movies of its' time, and can be off-putting and unsettling . However, if anyone is familiar with or intrigued by the plot of Hunchback and has never seen this version, than it is an absolute must, because it is quite the extraordinary adaptation of the story of Quasimodo.
In the concluding chapter to the films of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, Strange Cargo brings a story that is unlike anything they had ever done before.
On a remote island that has been turned into a penal colony, Verne (Clark Gable) is a convicted felon who wants nothing more than to escape the clutches of the island. Julie (Joan Crawford), a woman on the island with questionable morals, has caught the eye of Verne. One night, Verne escapes the prison and attempts to seduce Julie. She reports him to the authorities, but her good deed backfires, and she is told she has twelve hours to vacate the island, but has no way to pay for a ticket to leave.
Back inside the colony, Verne hears of a group of convicts who are planning an escape. Among them is a mysterious prisoner named Cambreau (Ian Hunter), who no one has any recollection of arriving on the island. In a moment of opportunity, the men flee the prison, running into the unknown dangers of the jungle. Verne, left to escape on his own, finds Julie and the two rush to catch up with the others and get on the boat that will take them to freedom.
When I first watched Strange Cargo, I was almost too distracted by the unusual storyline. The plot at first seems like it will be a variation on the adventurous swashbuckling theme, but it takes a sharp turn and heads towards a story about love, spirituality, and redemption. Had I been less focused on the unconventional nature of the movie when I first watched it, I would have been able to enjoy it for its' uniqueness and dedicated performances given by the cast.
In this final addition to the Crawford-Gable film collection, both actors are put into roles that are very different from the typical characters they would normally play together. In most of their collaborative films, they play two people who fall in love, but do so in a light-hearted and glamorous manner. In Strange Cargo, Joan Crawford is practically without makeup throughout the duration of the film and her character appears head strong and cold hearted. Clark Gable's character is gruff, demanding, and unshaven. It must have felt like a risk to change the formula for the Crawford-Gable films so drastically, but it makes Strange Cargo to be one of the best and most memorable films they did together.
Strange Cargo is one of those rare instances where if I had reviewed it when I first watched it, I would have most likely given it a lower rating. This is a movie that seems to grow on me every time I watch it, and now has become a film that I truly love.
Dance, Fools, Dance
In their first on screen appearance together, Joan Crawford and Clark Gable star in this 1931 pre code drama about crime, love, and family.
Joan Crawford stars as Bonnie Jordan, a young socialite who's main focus in life is partying and embracing her youth. Her privileged life takes a sudden turn when her father dies and she and her brother Rodney learn their family fortune was lost in the stock market crash. Both Bonnie and her brother have to get jobs and learn to live a very different kind of life style.
Bonnie gets herself a job as a small time reporter for a local paper. Rodney on the other hand, begins to work for a gangster and bootlegger named Jake Luva (Clark Gable). While Bonnie is learning to adapt and love her knew life as a working woman, Rodney finds himself getting deeper and deeper into the life of organized crime. Bonnie knows of Luva and his gang through her work at the paper, but has no idea of what they are capable of, that is until she is asked to go under cover and find out.
I found Dance, Fools, Dance to be short but containing a really decent story. It focuses on topics that are both dark and intriguing, and contains a female character that is unusually bold and progressive for its' time. It is the subject matter and characterization in Dance, Fools, Dance that makes me wonder what the classic films of Hollywood would have been like had they not had to adhere to a strict censorship code starting in 1934.
Though this was their first film together, Crawford and Gable play off each other's performances with obvious comfort and ease. It is very clear to see why MGM continued to pair them together for seven films after this one. In Dance, Fools, Dance Clark Gable was still quite new to Hollywood, but you would never know it based on his scenes with Joan Crawford.
This is definitely one of the lesser known films in the long spanning career of Joan Crawford, but it is certainly one that is worth seeing. If you don't watch it based on the fact that it is a compelling story with a racier approach to romance and crime, at least watch it for the novelty of seeing Clark Gable without his iconic mustache
The Parent Trap (1961)
Both versions of The Parent Trap are an enjoyable and entertaining films, but I have always been partial to the original that came out in 1961. Though both movies have practically identical plots and dialogue, the original has just a tad more charm.
Hayley Mills stars as both Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick, twin sisters who don't know of each others' existence. By sheer coincidence, the two are at the same summer camp and meet one another. At first, the girls hate each other, but when they are forced to bunk together in isolation, they begin to form a friendship. As they discuss their lives away from camp, the two realize they are twins and begin to devise a plan to get their estranged parents back together. For their plan to work they must switch places, so Sharon goes to California to be with their father and Susan heads to Boston to meet their mother.
Once in their places, the two put their plan into motion. Susan is elated to be able to spend time with her mother, but Sharon isn't having as much luck. Sharon quickly learns of her father's engagement to a much younger woman and informs Susan of the hitch in their plan. Knowing they must act quickly, Sharon and Susan go deeper into their deception in order to get their parents back together so they can once again be a family.
In a time when Disney was putting out countless live action family features, The Parent Trap still remains memorable. It was pretty much guaranteed that a film with Hayley Mills was going to be a hit, but adding Maureen O'Hara and Brian Kieth to the billing no doubt aided in its' success. The comical and delightful performances given by the actors makes the semi-silly plot seem quirky yet believable. As much fun as it is to watch Hayley Mills argue, laugh, and connive with her split screen self, it is the scenes with O'Hara and Kieth that stand out. Though the story is designed for the audience to want the parents to reunite, it is the couple's on screen chemistry that makes the you want them to be together just as much as Sharon and Susan do.
I remember watching The Parent Trap (1961) as a child, and I still find it just as fun watching it as an adult. Watching it now, I can appreciate the time and effort it must have taken to make it appear as if Hayley Mills truly had a twin, and the movie most definitely succeeded. There is a lot to love about the Parent Trap, and it is one Disney Classic that should never be forgotten.
Joan Crawford's most famous work was her role in Mildred Pierce, however the movie Humoresque equals and may even surpass the Academy Award winning film.
Common to many movies, Humoresque is told primarily in flashback. Paul Boray, played by John Garfield, sits in his apartment, clearly defeated by an unknown cause. He is about to give up on his career as a professional violinist, but then he thinks back to where it all began and remembers where his love for music came from. The flashback begins with Paul as an eleven year old boy getting his first violin. Through a brief montage, we see Paul's skill increasing and soon he is an incredibly gifted violinist.
Paul, now an adult and desperate to make a career out of music, is told by his pianist friend Sid that he should go to a party with him and play his violin. At the party, Paul is introduced to Helen Wright (Joan Crawford), a wealthy woman infamous for her drinking and adultery. Helen takes an interest in Paul, at first only to help him advance his musical career, but soon Helen's interest in Paul turns romantic, and Paul reciprocates her feelings. Due to Helen's marriage, she and Paul know their romance can't be. They try and suppress their feelings and keep a professional relationship, but their attraction to one another is too strong. They begin an affair with one another, but Helen begins to realize that her love for Paul may not be enough, and that music may be his true soulmate.
When I first watched Humoresque, two questions immediately popped into my head. One; why did this not receive multiple Academy Award nominations, and two; why is this film not considered a classic alongside movies like Casablanca or Laura?
There are so many beautiful pieces to Humoresque, that it just baffles me that it is not more well known. The actors give some of the most dedicated performances that I've seen from classic era movies, and there are scenes where the black and white cinematography is just mesmerizing. I have often felt that for a scene to be considered captivating and unique, it has to feel natural and not forced, and Humoresque is filled with scenes that fit that exact description.
I could gush on and on about this film, but I will stop on this final note. Humoresque makes me remember why I love classic film. It is the passion in the performances, the romance of black and white, and the simplicity of a movie made for the purpose of telling a great story and not attempting to be more extravagant than it needs to be.
Earning Ingrid Bergman one of her three Academy Awards, Gaslight is a classic film that should be seen be all.
After discovering the body of her aunt, Paula Alquist (Bergman) is sent to Italy to train her voice in hopes of becoming a famous singer. Ten years later, she is still in Italy, and has been practicing her music, but finds herself distracted. Her music no longer seems of great importance, as she has fallen in love with her piano player, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer).
Once the two are have decided to be married, Gregory convinces Paula to move back, not only to London, but to the same house in which her aunt's murder was committed. Though hesitant to the idea, Paula agrees, hoping to overcome the demons of her past.
As the newlyweds settle into their new home, their happiness begins to shift. Though she has no memory of it, Gregory insists that Paula has been forgetting and misplacing objects around the house. Slowly, Paula feels that she is drifting into madness, but has no recollection of how or why.
It is no secret that Ingrid Bergman was one of the greatest actresses to come out of the Golden-Age of Hollywood. In Gaslight we see her immense acting skill as she takes Paula from an elated newlywed to a distraught woman on the verge of lunacy. When it comes to playing any form of madness, it is not uncommon for an actor to push the role too far, and have their character be more ridiculous than believable. However, Ingrid Bergman's interpretation of Paula's distress is hauntingly convincing.
Alongside Bergman's award winning performance, Charles Boyer brings a frightening level of charisma to his role. The subtlety of his performance is quite unsettling and adds to his character's ability to seem easily trusted, yet leaving you with the feeling that there is more than what meets the eye.
Whether its' the intelligence behind the plot, the eerie portrayal of the gaslit fog among the London streets, or the remarkable performances given by the two leads; Gaslight is one of those beautiful instances in the history of film, where every aspect of the movie combines together to transport the viewer into the world that has been created on the screen.
1945 Best Actress Winner- Ingrid Bergman
Chained is another installation in the eight Crawford and Gable films that came out of MGM. Like Possessed it has a very short runtime, but with its' snappy dialogue and irrefutable chemistry between its' leads, it makes for fast paced and overall enjoyable movie.
Joan Crawford plays Diane Lovering, mistress to the successful businessman Richard Field, played by Otto Kruger. Richard has an unhappy marriage and has asked his wife for a divorce, but she refuses to give him one. Diane tells Richard that she doesn't mind being a mistress forever, as long as the two of them can be together. To make sure her feelings are true, Richard asks her to take some time to travel and gain some clarity. Only if her feelings towards him remain the same after the trip, will he agree to let the relationship continue.
While on her voyage to Buenos Aires, Diane meets a rancher named Mike Bradley (Clark Gable). Though her feelings towards Mike are cold at first, Diane soon warms up to him, and they begin spending every waking moment on the boat together. As with any good romantic triangle, Diane realizes that she is in love with Mike, but knows that Richard is still in love with her. Torn between what her heart and conscience are telling her to do, Diane must choose which man is the right one for her.
The problems that I had with Chained had nothing to do with the performances given by the two leads, but more to do with how quickly the movie went along. In the beginning of the film, it seems that there is an incredible rush to get to Joan Crawford's character on the boat. There are hints of information and past events that the characters know about, but the audience does not; but the speed in which its' presented makes it difficult for the audience to get any sense of the characters' lives prior to the opening scene of the film. If I had to take a guess, I would say that this was done in order to get Crawford and Gable on the screen together as soon as possible.
Once again, Joan Crawford and Clark Gable bring to the screen a performance that is full of natural chemistry and allure. Together they are able to pull the movie out of its' rocky beginning, and make the rest of it enticing and entertaining.
It is always worth watching a Joan Crawford and Clark Gable collaboration, even if the movie itself isn't great. Luckily with Chained, it doesn't have to rely solely on the guaranteed screen magnetism of Crawford and Gable. Though it may be too fast in parts, Chained is a movie that is compelling and full of old Hollywood charm.
If you've ever watched Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and wondered what Blanche Hudson (Crawford) was watching in the beginning of the film, well here's your answer; it was Sadie McKee.
Sadie (Joan Crawford), starts out the movie working as a maid in the Alderson mansion. Her mother has been the cook for the family ever since Sadie was a child and she was raised within the walls of the Alderson home. Michael Alderson (Franchot Tone), was a childhood friend of Sadie's and has returned home after being away for many years. At first Sadie is overjoyed to see Michael after so long, but while serving dinner, she overhears him speaking ill of her boyfriend Tommy, who was fired by the Alderson factory. Sadie, who now wants nothing to do with the Alderson family, decides to runaway to New York City with Tommy.
Once in New York, both Tommy and Sadie decide they are going to find jobs and get married. However, their plans to not go as expected. Now alone and in need of money, Sadie must figure out a way to survive in the big city of New York, and she will discover that there are many barriers that will get in her way to happiness.
When it comes to some of the films in the earlier part of Crawford's career, there are definitely ones that don't make much of an impression, but Sadie McKee isn't one of them. Right from the beginning, it is clear that Sadie is going to be one of the more memorable Crawford roles. What makes the movie successful is a combination of the camaraderie between the actors, the confidence that Joan takes in her character, and the directing that makes for a very enjoyable film from the classic era.
One of the things that I enjoyed about this movie was that it didn't stick to one basic genre. At first it seemed that Sadie McKee would be another movie about a typical love triangle romance, but then it changed directions and became a poignant drama that focused on how far a person would go to help a someone they love.
Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone did seven films together, but to me, this one seems to be their best. In their scenes, it is easy to forget that Crawford and Tone are acting, and don't in fact actually loathe each other as much a the two characters seem to in the moment. It is their performances and the fluidity the director brought to the story that makes Sadie McKee a Joan Crawford classic.
As someone who has been an avid fan of Alfred Hitchcock's work for many years, I'm commonly asked which one is my favorite. Honestly, that's an almost impossible question to answer, but if I had to pick one, it would be Notorious.
Ingrid Bergman stars as Alicia Huberman, who's father has just been convicted for treason against the United States. To drown her sorrows away, she decides to host a party. At that party she meets a man named Devlin (Cary Grant), whom she learns is a government agent. Devlin has been assigned the task of getting Alicia to join a government mission of infiltrating a group of Nazis working out of Brazil. Though hesitant at first, Alicia agrees to join Devlin and they head out for Rio de Janeiro.
After arriving in Brazil, Devlin and Alicia are waiting to here of their assignment, and they quickly realize they are falling in love with one another. When they learn that Alicia's assignment is to make an old Nazi friend of her father's fall in love with her, their romantic relationship must cease and a professional one must take its' place. Once she has secured her position, Alicia and Devlin's work of espionage truly begins.
One of the reasons that I feel Notorious is one of the best Hitchcock films, is that it uses subtlety to create suspense. A wine bottle, a tea cup, and a key; not the typical objects you would associate with fright, but that's what makes Notorious so brilliant. By focusing on such mundane and everyday objects, the plot seems all the more realistic. It is the way that those ordinary items are presented into the plot that prove why Hitchcock is still considered to be one of the greatest directors of all time.
Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant both give performances that are so honest, there are times when you forget that the actors were not each other's real life love interests. In many scenes, the characters are unable to talk to each other in fear of being overheard, so they must communicate with only the glance of an eye or the subtle use of body language, and it is in those scenes that the tremendous talent of the actors can be observed. Neither Ingrid Bergman nor Cary Grant were nominated for an Academy Award for Notorious, and I think that is one of the greater Oscar snubs that there has ever been.
I truly love most Hitchcock films, but Notorious has always stood out for me. There is an indescribable quality that it has that will always pull me into the story, no matter how many times I've seen it. Maybe its' the acting; maybe its' the directing. Or maybe its' just the wonderful combination of all the things that can combine together to create movie magic.
An excellent film for fans of Rebecca.
Possessed (1931), is probably the most famous Joan Crawford and Clark Gable collaboration, and they did eight films together, so that's saying something. I wouldn't say its' famous for the plot or the dialogue, but it is most likely the undeniable chemistry between the two actors.
Marian Martin (Crawford), is an unhappy woman who works at a paper box factory. She dreams of a better life, and decides that New York City is the place that she's going to find it.
Upon her arrival into the city, she meets a wealthy lawyer named Mark Whitney (Gable). Flash forward three years, and Marian is no longer dreaming of a better life; she has it. Mark and Marian have been an item for those three years, however due to the humiliation he felt after his first marriage, he refuses to marry again. Marian appears to be fine with their arrangement, but all that changes when an old boyfriend from her hometown comes to visit her in New York.
As far as the plot goes, its' actually a tad confusing, not because it is an overly complicated story, but because the movie has a very short runtime (76 minutes). With such a quick movie, some of the major details of the plot seem to be mentioned so briefly that they're easy to miss. Had the movie been a bit longer, the story could have been stretched out enough to add more detail and allow the movie to not feel as rushed.
As mentioned before, what makes this movie memorable are the two leads. In the scenes that Crawford and Gable share, it is clear why they were in so many films together. Their romance seems effortless and they play very well off each other's performances. Specifically in the scene where Marian is putting on her jewelry before going to a party. The relationship that they portray seems incredibly real, even if the dialogue they speak does not. It is the subtle looks they give one another that make the movie come to life.
Overall, it isn't one of the best Joan Crawford movies that I have watched, but certainly not the worst. It is a must see in the Crawford-Gable film saga, and given the fact that it is so short, it won't take much of anyone's day to give it a watch.
Sorry, Wrong Number
An unusual story in both presentation and plot, Sorry, Wrong Number is a memorable addition to the world of Hollywood Classics.
Barbara Stanwyck stars as Leona Stevenson, a bedridden invalid who has found herself home alone for the night. Her husband Henry (Burt Lancaster) was supposed to be home with her, but he is nowhere to be found. She is on the phone with the operator, trying to reach her husband or find out where he is, when she is patched through to a call and accidentally overhears a conversation between two men planning a murder. Naturally, Leona attempts to inform the police, but due to the lack of detail she obtained from the call, they are unable to help.
Leona continues her attempts to reach her husband, frantic for him to come home. She places call after call, only to learn of the mysterious secret life Henry has been leading. Leona begins to realize that there is more to Henry's absence than she could have ever imagined. Attempting to connect the information she's been given, Leona's terror starts to rise. Once a place of rest and comfort, her bed has become a prison to which she is desperate to escape, but knows she cannot. With only a telephone to help her, Leona is at the mercy of the operator in her struggle to uncover the truth.
Sorry, Wrong Number is a stand out movie for numerous reasons. One, the movie is done in real time, meaning that all the events of the movie take place in its' 87 minutes of run time. Two, the main character is bedridden, which is a definite challenge for both the actor and filmmakers. The movie is carried out through a series of stories that are presented as flashbacks. With every phone call that Leona places, she is told more information about the secrets her husband has been keeping. Each call transports the scene from Leona's bedroom, to wherever the caller's story takes place. Not only does this give the viewer more information about Leona's previous endeavors, but it keeps the story interesting and not contained to one room. There are times when the movie feels a bit slow due to the heavy amount of dialogue, but the last twenty minutes make up for any sluggishness that may have occurred in the film's duration.
Sorry, Wrong Number seems to have created a new type of suspense-thriller. Its' not filled with action, romance or revenge. Instead, its' somber and intense, giving it a feeling of unease rather than fright. Its' a truly unique film and should be seen by all classic movie fanatics.
Flapper, western, and musical-three words you probably thought could never describe one movie. Montana Moon, though quite bizarre and silly, is still a fun product of its' time.
The movie starts out with a private train leaving New York and heading to Montana. Joan Prescott (Joan Crawford), is a wealthy socialite who's father owns a very large ranch in Montana. While on the train, her sister confides in her that she is in love with a man named Jeff. Unfortunately, Jeff doesn't feel the same way, and makes a pass at Joan. To save her sister any grief, at the next station, Joan decides to leave the train and head back to New York. While waiting for the train, Joan wanders off into the Montana wilderness and stumbles upon a singing cowboy named Larry, played by Johnny Mack Brown.
Larry and Joan, whom he has nicknamed Montana, fall in love beneath the open Montana sky, and soon become married. She meets his fellow singing cowboy companions, and he meets her socialite friends. With two very different premarital lives, tension begins to develop between the newlyweds.
Montana Moon came somewhat early on in Joan Crawford's career, and she was being commonly cast as the exuberant flapper, and though she rides a horse through many of her scenes, that youthful dancer still makes her way on the screen. She is playing a character that is roughly six years younger than her actual age at the time, but it still works quite well. Attempting to play an eighteen year old, Crawford could have fallen into a trap of making Joan/Montana obnoxious and too adolescent; instead she brings out a character that is naive, impressionable, but still strong willed. Johnny Mack Brown's portrayal of Larry is a bit simplistic, however he does make a very sweet and lovable cowboy.
Montana Moon was the first movie to ever introduce the singing cowboy to the screen. Being the first of its' kind, it makes sense that the music and cowboy portrayals are pretty stereotypical. Most of the cowboys seem as if they have never gone to school beyond the first grade, and their singing seems impossibly well harmonized, but that just adds to the nostalgic feel that Montana Moon has.
Some would say that Montana Moon is a bad movie, but I think they are overlooking its' hidden charms. Ok, so the movie has a few scenes that last too long, the plot is quite simple, and Larry is about as real of a cowboy as Woody from Toy Story, but somehow the flaws don't seem to matter. Montana Moon seems to have been made to be fun and entertaining, and it does a good job at accomplishing that goal.
A Woman's Face
With a career that spanned over 80 films, some of Joan Crawford's work is more memorable than others, and a Woman's Face is definitely one that stands out from the crowd.
Joan Crawford plays Anna Holm, a disfigured woman who has been reduced to a career of blackmailing others in order to survive. One day she encounters a man named Torsten Barring (Conrad Veidt), and he seems completely unaffected by the deformities on her face. With Torsten in mind, Anna is now looking to gain more money from those she is blackmailing; hoping to be able to purchase more expensive clothes in order to impress Torsten. Anna then goes to the home of a woman named Vera Segert. Vera has been having numerous affairs, and her secret love letters have found their way into the possession of Anna and her fellow blackmailing associates. While Anna is explaining the terms of her blackmail, Vera's husband comes home. By a chance of fate, Vera's husband is not only a doctor, but he is a surgeon who specializes in facial reconstruction. Anna agrees to undergo several procedures, in the hopes of freeing herself from the scars that have held her prisoner since the age of five. Once the surgeries have been completed, Anna returns to the home of Torsten Barring. Having lived such a sheltered and hardened life, Anna falls into Torsten's deceptive charm. Soon she finds herself as a partner in a plot to murder Torsten's four-year old nephew who is the heir to Torsten's uncle's fortune.
A Woman's Face is told in a series of testimonial flashbacks. At the beginning of the movie, we see Anna being brought to court on trial for murder. As the witnesses are called to the stand, each of their testimonies give us pieces of information that propels the viewer through the story. There is a great sense of mystery throughout the film as motive, means, and victim are all yet to be revealed.
Joan Crawford's performance in A Woman's Face has to be one of the more challenging characters of her career. She's in extensive special effect make-up for a good portion of the film, and the character of Anna Holm has numerous layers that are slowly revealed throughout the movie. Anna begins in the flashbacks as a woman with a hardened heart who has no regard for the lives she may be destroying with her blackmail. As the flashbacks progress, the true Anna Holm begins to reveal herself. Crawford has Anna's character naturally develop throughout the film, but makes sure not to forget where she began, allowing for small echoes of her past self to come to light when Anna is feeling threatened or scared.
A Woman's Face proves that sometimes the most simple scenes can be the most effective. There are a few scenes that are a practically silent except for the sounds of a waterfall or a horses' running steps; and in those moments it is the acting and the direction that creates a remarkable amount of tension and uncertainty that keeps you on the edge of your seat. A Woman's Face may not be as well known as other classic suspense-thrillers such as Notorious or Rear Window, but it deserves a much bigger spotlight than it currently has.
The Women (1939)
The Women, directed by George Cukor, is a very unusal movie for its' time(1939). What makes it so unusual? There is not a single male role in the entire film, not even the pets in the movie are male.
Norma Shearer plays Mrs. Stephen Haines, a woman who thinks that she has the most perfect life. She has a husband who loves her and a daughter whom she adores. Everything seems ideal, until Mrs. Howard Fowler (Rosalind Russel) is gossiping with her manicurist and is told that Stephen Haines is stepping out on his wife. Eager to spread the world, Sylvia Haines immediately phones her friend Edith and between the two of them, the rumor spreads like wildfire.
Now, who is this notorious Stephen Haines having an affair with? That would be Crystal Allen, played by Joan Crawford. Crystal is a salesgirl at a perfume counter, who met Mr. Haines while he was buying perfume for his wife, therefore she is well aware of the fact that her current love interest is married and she couldn't care less.
What starts out as one rumor of an unfaithful husband, turns into several relationships being put to the test for the very same reason. The Women follows the gossip from beginning to end, with many touching, comical, and eccentric female fronted scenes throughout.
This has been the second time that I have watched the Women, and I definitely enjoyed it more the this time around. Given that almost 95 percent of the characters in the movie go by their husbands' names, it can be a little difficult to follow the plot now again, so re-watching definitely added some clarity.
Considering the incredibly large cast, over 130 roles, there are some main characters that seem to get lost in the sea of females, and a few that stand out from the cast more than the others others. Most notably, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russel who give two performances that are impossible to forget. Crawford plays a character that is very unlike her roles up to this point in her career. She is a woman who knows what she wants and doesn't care who she has to trample to get it. The confrontation scene between her character and Norma Shearer's is one for the movie history books. It is perfectly timed, acted, and written and in my opinion is the best scene in the movie. Russel's character brings the slapstick comedy that is definitely needed in some of the more dialogue heavy scenes, and is definitely welcome while the characters on the ranch in Reno.
With such a standout concept, it is no surprise that the Women became a film classic. It is a lot of fun to try and pick out some of the celebrity cameos throughout the movie, and the unexpected technicolor fashion show adds an extra element of creativity. Though this movie has a few scenes that seem to run a bit too long, overall it is a great movie event that is worth experiencing.
Above Suspicion is a lesser known romance-spy thriller starring Joan Crawford and Fred McMurray. It is a fun, puzzle solving ride that is lovable more for its' characters and charm, rather than its' ability to be deemed a "classic".
Frances and Richard Myles are a newlywed couple about to embark on their honeymoon, but are thrown a curveball when an old college friend of Richard recruits him to become a spy to aid in the war effort against Germany. Richard agrees, as does his wife, and they are sent to Germany on their errands of espionage. On their mission, they encounter many puzzles, riddles, and suspicious characters. All of which they must overcome if they are to learn about the new weapon that the Germans have obtained.
What may seem like a story of just straight up suspense, it is actually quite humorous. The two main characters are almost giddy at the prospect of being spies, and the only way I can think to describe the way they carry out their mission is gripping and adorable.
Of the many, many Joan Crawford movies I've seen, I think this is one where her charm and powerful presence is really put to good use. Frances makes me think of Grace Kelly's character in Rear Window. She refuses to sit back and watch the action unfold. In fact, she demands to be a part of it, and proves to everyone that she can be just as strong and savvy as her male counterparts.
I truly enjoy this movie, and that can be proven by the number of times that I have watched it. It isn't a thriller in the Hitchcock sense of the word, but it is a great ride and definitely an old movie worth watching.
Laura is a Hollywood Classic that has been one of my favorites for years, so it is with great excitement that I get to write a review about it.
Dana Andrews plays Detective Mark McPherson. A no nonsense man of the law who has been assigned to investigate the murder of Laura Hunt, who was found dead in her apartment from a gunshot to the face. Detective McPherson must interview those who spoke with Laura on her last days, in hopes to uncover the true murderer.
This movie is a hard to review because it has so many different plot elements that I would hate to spoil for anyone who hasn't seen it. So I will focus on all the wonderful elements of the movie that I can, without giving anything away.
Of the many things that I love about Laura, one is Vincent Price's character. Like many movie fans, I had been used to seeing Vincent Price in classic movies of the horror persuasion, so when I first watched Laura, I was very surprised to see him playing such an ordinary man. His performance in this movie proves why he is one of the greats of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He can do more than scare, he can promote concern and intrigue for the characters he portrays.
Similar to Mildred Pierce, we are given an idea of the story's preceding events through flashbacks, and it is in those flashbacks that the stunning Gene Tierney gives us a glimpse of who Laura really was. This movie also makes me think a lot of Rebecca, specifically in how the movie's namesake is idolized by the other characters, and how the use of shadows in the scenes create some truly beautiful movie moments.
Watching Laura is akin to reading a great book that you can't put down. The story is so compelling that you can't take your eyes from the screen and it contains about 5 of some of the most tense minutes in movie history. With the numerous plot twists and the masterful performances, I find Laura to be one of the greatest films of its' time.
When most people hear the name Lucille Ball, they immediately think of sitcom gold, I Love Lucy, which makes 1939 film noir suspense-thriller Lured such a wonderful surprise.
Lured is the story of Sandra Carpenter (Lucille Ball), a taxi dancer who's friend and coworker mysteriously disappears. Sandra goes to the police to offer help in the search for her friend, only to be offered a job with Scotland Yard. Sandra must now act as bait to lure out a poetic serial killer who has been sending letters to the police containing poems that hint at who his next victim will be.
Through clever forensic work, the force at Scotland Yard learn that the killer is finding his victims through the personal advertisement section of the newspaper, so they send Ms.Carpenter to meet every lonely soul in London who is using a newspaper ad to find a companion; hoping that one of those lonely souls is the killer they have been seeking.
This movie came as a big surprise to me. I have been a die hard I Love Lucy fan for as long as I can remember, so I was really excited to see Lucy in a different type of roll, and I was definitely right to be excited. Lucille Ball tackles the roll of Sandra Carpenter in a way that is very different from the "classic" noir actress. She has a unique blend of spunk, class, and sarcasm that makes her performance one to be remembered. Though this movie was made before her I Love Lucy fame, you can definitely see those classic Lucy Ricardo expressions, and it makes the movie all the better.
I actually found this movie on accident one day, and what a good day it that turned out to be. I would love for Lured to become a well known movie, but it is not the easiest movie to find. However it can be found on Amazon, so I would strongly encourage any fan of Lucy or old thrillers to take the time to find it online and give it a watch, its' definitely worth it!
A movie of romance, intrigue, intellect, and suspense. What more could you ask for in a classic film?
Sudden Fear stars Joan Crawford as Myra Hudson, a successful playwright and heiress. The opening of the movie shows Ms.Hudson overseeing the rehearsal of her newest play, only to discover that she doesn't agree with the director's casting of the leading man, Lester Blaine (Jack Palance).
Once the role has been recast and opening night proves her show to be another success, Myra goes back home to San Francisco, only to bump into Lester on the train. What follows is a whirlwind romance, leaving Myra thinking that she is the luckiest woman in the world.
At this point, Myra is overjoyed in the path her life has taken. Her play is a success, she is a newlywed who adores her husband, and she is looking forward to working on her next big hit. Everything is perfect, or is it? What follows is an intense ride of deceit, trickery, and revenge that keeps the viewer completely engrossed in this hidden gem of the classic film era.
Sudden Fear is definitely in my top 5 Joan Crawford movies. The acting in it is top notch, and even earned Ms.Crawford her 3rd Oscar nomination. One of the things that stood out to me in this movie was the intelligence behind the characters. I find that in many thrillers, both old and new, the victimized character makes very poor choices, and does so only to move the plot along, and this movie definitely does not fall into that trap. Instead, it shows a female lead that shows a determination and cleverness that can sometimes be seldom found.
I have seen this movie more times than I can count, and it is one that I will most definitely be watching many times in the future. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven't already. You won't be disappointed.
Good for fans of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and Midnight Lace
Our Dancing Daughters
Silent films, I am honestly still a little new to the genre as I have only seen a few before this. It is very interesting that when starting a silent movie, all you can focus on is the absence of talking and the intertitle that tells what the actors are saying. As you get into the depth of the movie, the on screen words and vaudeville style acting seem completely normal, not unlike the experience of watching a foreign film.
Our Dancing Daughters follows three young women of society, trying to spread their wings and find their place in the world. Most notably would be the character of Diana, played by Joan Crawford. Diana is considered the "wild girl" of the bunch, and loves nothing more than to dance and embrace her youth to its' entirety.
Diana begins to fall in love with a young man named Ben, who is being pulled in two different directions. He has feelings for Diana, but is unknowingly being hoodwinked by Anna, a young lady who has practically been trained by her mother on how to hook a husband.
Our Dancing Daughters is said to be the film that shot Joan Crawford to stardom, and now that I have seen it, I can understand why. Joan's character is definitely made to stand out amongst the others, and her uncanny ability to command a scene proves that she was destined to survive the transition from the silent movies into the talkies.
Of the silent films that I have seen, I really enjoyed this one. There is something very charming about the simplicity of the characters, and the ties to the days of vaudeville that it portrays. I can definitely say that this movie has increased my desire to explore more films of the silent era.
Daisy Kenyon is a very unique movie of its' time. Starring Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda, and Dana Andrews, this movie isn't quite sure what type of genre it is. Is it a film noir? Is it a romance? Is it just a wonderful combination of both? Yes it is.
Daisy, played by Crawford, is a strong-willed career woman who is in love with a married man. At the beginning of the movie, Daisy is attempting to rid herself of her immoral love affair, but finds herself unable to when Dan, played by Dana Andrews, turns on his charismatic charm.
To complicate the plot, enter Peter Lapham, played by Henry Fonda. Peter is a tormented veteran who has begun to fall in love with Daisy. Daisy struggles as to where she should turn and has to rely on her heart as her compass.
As mentioned in a previous review, I am a major Joan Crawford fan, and this movie was actually one of the first movies of hers that I had seen. Watching it for the second time, now that I have seen roughly 95% of her films, I can say that this is definitely one of Crawford's better performances. She became famous for playing rags to riches roles, so it is a bit of a breath of fresh air to see her play a character that starts out the film as a woman who is already a success.
What this movie does better than some, is portray a love triangle in an original way. Daisy's suitors don't fight or change themselves to win her over, and in turn, Daisy remains true to herself throughout the film.
Daisy Kenyon really seemed to be ahead of its' time in the way that it tackled many topics such as feminism, racism, and mental health. Topics that are not usually spoken of in the "classic film" era.
If you have ever been interested in exploring any of Joan Crawford's many films, this one is a definite must see.
For those who don't know me, I am a HUGE fan of Joan Crawford. This is one of her films that I have seen at least five times, and I can't seem to get enough of it.
Mildred Pierce is told almost 100% in flashback. We start out with a gunshot, a cry for "Mildred", and a woman at the end of her rope. The movie then follows Mildred, played by Crawford, telling the story of her life that lead up to the gunshot.
As part of the flashbacks that tell the story, we see Mildred going day to day as your typical 40's housewife who bakes, cleans, and cares for her children. Her average life is put through a change when her husband loses his job and tension rises in their family unit.
Not only does Mildred now have to find a way to support her family, but she feels obligated to keeping up the high class standards that her daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) has come accustomed to.
What could seem like a mundane plot, is brought to life by the natural pull Joan Crawford brings to the screen. It has been said that if Joan Crawford was on the same screen as Cary Grant or Clark Gable, the whole audience would still be looking at Joan. She has the ability to steal a scene no matter whom she shares it with, and it is that indescribable pull that earned her the Oscar for Mildred Pierce.
Not to be forgotten is the performance by Eve Arden has Mildred's boss turned friend and partner, Ida. She brings a wit and comedic timing to the film that I find refreshing for the era. I had been a fan of Arden from other works she had done, but I truly began to love her after watching Mildred Pierce.
A classic if there ever was one, this movie is one that all fans of black and white cinema should see. From its' 1940's dialogue to its' quick paced plot, this film truly transports the viewer into another time.
1946 Best Actress Winner- Joan Crawford
Night of the Hunter
What felt like a bizarre combination of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and To Kill a Mockingbird , the movie Night of the Hunter is a unique film experience that I will never forget, nor would I want to.
Robert Mitchum stars as Reverend Harry Powell who meets a man named Ben Harper whom he shares a jail cell with. Powell overhears Harper mumbling in his sleep about the $10,000 that he stole, but the whereabouts of this fortune never leave Harper's lips.
The story truly gets its' start once Rev. Powell is released from jail and begins his formidable quest to find the money.
Unlike many horror classics, this movie does not follow the adults of the film. Instead, the movie spends most of its' focus on Ben Harper's son John, who was sworn to secrecy by his father to never tell where the money was hidden.
John is played by Billy Chapin, who never acted in many roles after this movie that received any sort of recognition, but don't let that fool you, Chapin's performance is so honest and riveting that you can't take your eyes from the screen.
This movie, at least to my knowledge, seems to be a first of its' kind in presenting the slow and relentless killer. Throughout the film, Billy and his little sister are constantly being pursued by Rev. Powell, and it seems they can never get away. The rambling perseverance of the of the villain and the low melodic hymn that announces his arrival are a combination that creates an atmosphere of fright that I had personally never experienced before.
With stunning and unique scenes, groundbreaking concepts, and an excellent supporting performance by Lilian Gish, this is a film that demands to be watched.