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Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)
Nicely Turned Melo
Take a journey back to the mid-40s and enjoy this weepie about lost love and balancing pleasant memories against present endowments.
Colbert's character must wrestle with what she "lost" twenty years ago and what treasures she now has. Welles' character is there to assist in her deliberations, while Brent offers a conciliatory bridge between what was and is now.
The casting couldn't be bettered: what a treat to see Colbert and Welles working together. This provided Orson with one of his most sensitive roles, and he plays it with great compassion. Colbert and Brent are both excellent, and young Natalie Wood offers a most impressive performance as a war refugee. Richard Long is likewise fine as an idealistic young man wanting to do his part to make this a better world.
Max Steiner's score is unusually rich, complete with high voices mixed with strings, and a romantic main theme highlighting the essence of this sentimental script.
Irving Pitchel's direction is on target for this emotional material. Very beautifully rendered.
Music, Play On!
Three quarters of this Porter portrait is like a musical tree, full of song and dance, with dramatic ornaments dangling cheerfully from its branches.
We're treated to a delightful roster of Cole's tunes and lyrics and, yes, they're delicious and delectable.
I particularly liked the spirit and spunk of the performers, and the way Director Irwin Winkler allowed the music to carry the day. He also kept the film moving with quick editing and scenic changes.
After Porter's riding accident and the decline of his spouse, Jay Cocks' script allows the drama more leeway, and the tone turns more poignant. Still, a few upbeat numbers are cleverly inserted in the latter part to balance things out.
Kevin Kline offers a heartfelt characterization of this beloved composer, and the entire production honors Porter's greatest asset--his absolutely marvelous musical creativity.
We in the audience tap our feet, hum some tunes, and applaud a most de-lovely film.
The House I Live In (1945)
Early Sinatra Short
This eleven minute film that came out toward the end of WW2 conveyed a message of religious tolerance and acceptance of people's differences.
It's notable in that it featured a young Frank Sinatra, singing two very beautiful songs, "If You Are But a Dream" and the title song. Both have rich orchestral arrangements by Alex Stordahl, one of Sinatra's favorite music directors at the time.
Earl Robinson, composer of the title song, was also noted for his "Ballad for Americans," which Paul Robeson made famous. In spite of these two nobly patriotic compositions, Robinson was one of the "blacklisted" artists (along with Robeson) by the House of Un-American Activities, which today seems ironic.
Not available on DVD or VHS at this writing, "The House I Live In" was seen on tv following a showing of Sinatra's debut film, "Higher and Higher." Although Frank's voice is lighter here than generally remembered, it still exhibits his trademark smooth lines, firm breath control and clear diction. His acting forecasts his later work, and the film makes its admirable points within a short time frame.
Daisy Kenyon (1947)
David Hertz's screenplay on Elizabeth Jenneway's paperback novel focuses on three very empty-headed characters. They're impulsive, confused, and extremely lacking in self understanding and appreciation.
Is it any wonder "Daisy Kenyon" reeks of a kind of gloomy hollowness? The shadowy lighting of the production merely amplifies the emotional state of these pitiful characters.
Although three full-fledged stars--Crawford, Andrews and Fonda--bring their unique talents to this enterprise, what their characters say and do doesn't really make much sense.
I couldn't help but pondering what a glum experience this must have been for these three actors, limning roles that probably did nothing to make their own private lives happier. Each reportedly could be considered in the "dark star" category, with alcohol, divorce, and depression playing a large part in their profiles. (While Crawford's and Andrews' situations have been well documented, Fonda's lackluster private life is more recently emerging: one of escaping reality by continuously burying himself in his work.)
The charismatic leads all look fine and give their all to this endeavor, making "Daisy Kenyon" seem much more substantial than it really is. Otto Preminger's direction is serviceable.
Little Man Tate (1991)
Tough Being 'Different'
In many respects savants, polymaths and autodidacts are in the same fix as slow learners, retards and idiots. They're all "special ed" cases, estranged from "normal" society by their intellectual "superiority/inferiority."
They share similar problems in classrooms; namely, the tendency to be bored, frustrated and/or disruptive. It's not easy being either too advanced or slow.
"Little Man Tate" dramatizes the plight of a "super-gifted" seven-year-old, subtly played by Adam Hann-Byrd. Little Fred Tate must cope not only with normal problems of childhood but also his extraordinary mental gifts which set him far apart from fellow children his age.
After feeling a lack of empathy from his mother (caringly portrayed by Jodie Foster) and his teacher-mentor (sensitively executed by Dianne Wiest) Fred reaches out to a college student who befriends him. Unfortunately, that relationship comes to a disappointing end when the older chum tells him that he must seek out kids his own age.
Scott Frank's script may have its peaks and valleys, yet its heart's in the right place, and he concludes his little drama on a happy (if tidy) note. Jodie Foster directs with concern and reveals genuine promise.
Since You Went Away (1944)
As I watched this recently on Turner Movie Classics, a number of trivial points ran through my mind. David O. Selznick certainly had a knack for making clear statements and making sure that everything in his productions (at least up to this time) was easily understood by viewers of all levels.
As his cinematographer, Lee Garmes, was noted for his tendency toward dark images, I was constantly aware of the many shadows in his shots. For his actors to move from one position to another they walk through at least one area of total darkness. There are many shadows on their faces, many profiles, and sharp light and dark contrasts in the background. While Selznick reportedly didn't appreciate Garmes' signature style for GWTW, David certainly tolerated it here, and this dark ambiance gave "Since You Went Away" a quality of depth and substance it might not otherwise have had.
David's effort to get the "perfect" cast paid off. With Colbert anchoring the enactment with a great performance, the film was also blessed with excellent work from Cotten, Jones, Temple, Wooley, McDaniel, Moorhead, et al.
It looks like Colbert's preference for being photographed from the left side is valid. On my system, motion can be stopped and slowly forwarded, observing her from the right side when she turns. In real time one only glimpses; in slow motion one can see her point.
Max Steiner's themes are quite haunting (one of his main ones reveals generic influences of the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde--another the basis for a later Christmas song) and his careful underscoring of every action works well here. TMC Channel's inclusion of the complete Overture and Entr'acte enhances the presentation's effectiveness. It's a joy to see material once cut from so many "classics" now sensitively restored.
Knowing what the Walkers were going through in real life (marital separation) during this filming does indeed make me further appreciate the fine quality of their work. Though Jennifer reportedly often left the set in tears, not a hint of that shows. That indeed is strong acting.
The volume of sad and tragic events depicted in this film now seems, by the end, a wee bit much. Still, this "tear jerker supreme" continues to be enjoyed by many viewers, and "Since You Went Away," remains a nostalgic enactment of an emotional period in American history.
The Karen Carpenter Story (1989)
Same Old Story
The same fate which befell Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys was bestowed upon Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard.
How to negotiate and balance super-successful careers with normal, healthy lives? Although this pattern's been repeated time and again, it's still tough when it happens to young, "green," people coping with "pro" pressures.
Had Karen remained "hidden" behind that trap set, instead of being "exposed" out front (where everyone could see how "pudgy and plump" she was) things might have gone better. It was no accident that she protested leaving those drums ("That's where I belong . . .") for that may well have been her true place.
As soon as she stepped to the front mike and solo spot, things began to change--for the worst. However, neither management nor peers realized the great price she'd have to pay, until too late.
This biopic has good casting, and a sumptuously beautiful soundtrack, with Karen's (and Richard's) vocal and instrumental ringing out with their greatest hits (including the ravishing "The Masquerade").
The film does omit their college period (c. '66-'70) at California State University at Long Beach, and the subsequent inclusion of their vocal director from CSULB, Frank Pooler, who greatly enhanced their tour work.
It also avoided dramatizing the death of Karen, making the mood less sorrowful, and ending on a more optimistic note with her mother's expressing her love for Karen.
So, another story of the high price of fame, and a touching memorial to the life and times of The Carpenters.
Fans of mystery fare such as "Sleuth" are most likely going to find this creepy tale engrossing.
The scenario's credibility depends on whether the viewer buys Rex's compulsive desire to satisfy his curiosity about missing Saskia--which is fully exploited and utilized by abductor Raymond.
"Spoorloos" is a thinking-persons' sort of tale, especially geared for intellectual types, who'll most likely accept the "reverse logic" of Rex in finally imbibing the crucial "witch's brew."
Scripter George Sluizer and writer-novelist Tim Krabbe obviously put a lot of effort into creating this macabre yarn. Apparently, judging from ratings by critics and public alike, a goodly number viewers bought into its strange predestination rationale which comprises the denouement.
It's the sort of thing even an Edgar Allen Poe might savor.
The finale of this New Orleans melodrama has always left me a-gaga. By what logic does Julie think she can save Preston by going with him to that restricted island?
The quarantined area, according to the film's description, is tantamount to a leper colony. There's no apparent hope for its indigent inhabitants and, with no known cure available, it's all downhill from there.
So when Julie pleads and persuades Amy to let Julie go and tend Preston, is this supposed to exonerate her from her past selfish and manipulative acts? Can this ultimate sacrifice finally wrest her from her Jezebel sins?
To me, it only makes her look foolish and, frankly, I thought Julie had more sense than that. Then again, within the world of wet period romance, perhaps 'tis a far, far better world to which she now goes than whatever might await her back on the ol' plantation.
Bigger Than Life (1956)
There's more going on here than just a father/husband abusing a prescription drug.
What drove him--a full-time schoolteacher--to secretly moonlight as a cab dispatcher? What motivated his quest to clothe his wife beyond their means or drive his young son to the breaking point to shine in football and math? For that matter, what urged his over indulgence in Cortisone in the first place?
Could it be a deep-seated depression in trying to measure up in mid-50s suburbia, to keep up with the Joneses and gain acceptance with the in-crowd through posturing as superior--all the while wrestling in elitist middle class values?
Nicholas Ray's "Bigger Than Life" is a scathing expose of the underbelly of this period and lifestyle. Things certainly weren't as cozy as previously painted, and the insatiable drive toward peer acceptance may be the underlying cause of the hero's problems.
James Mason offers a powerful portrait of a very pathetic suburban victim; Barbara Rush is his dutiful wife, and Christoper Olsen his sympathetic son.