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We shall not see it's like again
This is not only a superb effort at Film Making but it is perhaps something that we may never be able to do again without CGI. A tale of the Second World War told and shown without Graphics. It is a Milestone film that will stand with epics like "The Longest Day" and "The Battle of Britain", the latter to which I believe Christopher Nolan gives homage to both for the aerial sequences and the fact that the two Films must be companion pieces forever in telling of the events of the time.
Shot in 70mm as were the others (a very expensive process that only a money making Director could get approval for) There is an amazing and thankful lack of CGI in this Film and is used only where absolutely needed. Those are real Spitfires, Bf-109s, Heinkel-111 bombers engaged in air combat. They are nearly extinct and getting this made is a historic document that likely can not be repeated. Mr. Nolan is known for films which rely heavily on CGI and here he proves that he does not need it to make film.
It's relentless, when you think you might get a bit of comic relief or calmness you get hit again. It's harrowing and there is no other word. Making history unrelenting is far harder than making fantasy exciting and Nolan has proved his "Chops" as a Film Maker with this film.
It is hard to call out from what is essentially a flawless cast so I won't try other than to say the ensemble is perfect. Probably the best coming together of British Actors in many a year. If this doesn't get Best Picture both at the BAFTA's and the Oscar's its a crime.
Not a spoiler but an Easter Egg: Early on when the Spitfires are communicating with Fighter Command the voice of same was very familiar. Michael Caine :)
Broadway Bad (1933)
A great pre-code with an impossible cast!
This very little known pre-code is quite a find. While it is a bit creaky it also pretty amazing. I stumbled upon it while searching for a decent print of another PD film ( The Hitler Gang 1944). As I am always on a quest to see Warner Brothers material (I estimate I have seen every WB "A" of the Classic Era and 70% of the "B"s still known to exist) I read the cast with growing excitement:
Joan Blondell Ricardo Cortez Ginger Rogers Donald Crisp
Has to be Warners! So I got it and when the credits rolled I was astounded to learn that this 1933 cast of WB contract players was somehow loaned to (William) Fox Pictures! It is going to be another of my quests to find out how this came about. There was certainly no love lost between Jack Warner and William Fox (for that matter between anyone and Fox) Production values at Fox weren't on par with Warners and it shows in this picture. That would change just a few years later when Warners brilliant Production Chief Darryl F. Zanuck, having had JL try to pull a fast one on him defected and partnered with Fox which then became 20th Century-Fox).
On to the picture in question. If you are a Joan Blondell fan you will love her here. Instead of a brassy sidekick she gets to be the romantic lead for probably the only time in her career (and to the earlier reviewer who reviles her, you Sir, are an ass). Ricardo Cortez, who had been born Jakob Krantz came to Hollywood in the '20's a Warners poor mans Valentino. He survived well into the sound era and was one of WB early leading men in talkies. He would later play hard and evil men (See Wonderbar 1934 if you can find it). Here he is perfectly cast as a wealthy wooer (and user) of beautiful women, but who turns out to have a heart of gold.
Ginger Rogers is also, as usual, good as Joans sidekick just before her own breakout role in "42nd Street" Donald Crisp is seen only briefly in a forgettable role through no fault of his own. The rest of the cast is adequate and for some reason IMDb lists Victor Jory in the cast, which has to be a mistake.
Summation? It's the best pre-code sizzler Warner Brothers never made. What I like to call a"Nugget".
Nobody does Catholic like Jack Warner.
I'm going to review this film on it's merits as to production only without religious comment, though a bit of politics will creep in.
By 1952 Warner Brothers were right upfront on the Red Baiting bandwagon since first being castigated for wartime propaganda films now deemed subversive by the HUAC and Joseph McCarthy. Warners paid a very heavy penance for "Mission To Moscow (1943)" a positively ludicrous pro-Soviet, pro-Stalin nightmare that the studio had made at the behest of no less than FDR himself. It is a travesty to say the least. So the political element in this film is given a decidedly Anti-communist vent not historically true to the events. The portrayal of one Portugese "Commissar" (no other word suffices) is so malevolent, threatening among other things to boil a child in oil, that you might not think that Oscar Homolka might have filled the part nicely. But he was busy enough being a commie ogre in other films.
Leaving that behind this is one of the best A pictures of the period with little spared. Not a lot of star power but a tightly directed and scripted reverent film. Regardless of one beliefs to watch this film without considering faith is to reveal a fine Motion Picture. I recommend it highly.
While the entire cast is excellent it is the always marvelous Gilbert Roland who, not unusually, steals the picture. The screen comes alive whenever "Amigo" is in the frame. He was larger than life and lasted from silents in the early '20's right up until the 80's...not without good reason!
Two Smart People (1946)
An unfairly labeled little gem with three smart stars.
Somewhere during the formation of the Film Noir cult somebody decided to include Two Smart People in the Genre and that has hobbled it's reputation ever since. Sure, it is Directed by Jules Dassin and had two of the great stars of Noir, the indispensable LLoyd Nolan and John Hodiak, who had teamed in the great Noir Somewhere In The Night just prior to this film. But none of that means it MUST be Noir and it isn't, nor was it intended to be.
What it is is a bit of a charming Romantic Fantasy inside of a Morality Play wrapped in a minor Crime Drama. In feel it very much reminds me of Remember The Night. Lots of smiles, no belly laughs. There is a small bit of violence, but other than that it's a fantasy.
Hodiak is great as a charming rogue with a heart of gold and penchants for fraud and gastronomics. He is perfect for the role and plays it with great amusement. Someone else had said that this is the nadir of Lucille Ball's days at MGM and I couldn't disagree more...if they had been giving her roles like this right along she would have been a major Star, something which would have to wait for television. Nolan steals the picture which is to be expected from one of the very best character actors Hollywood has ever been fortunate to have.
Lloyd Corrigan is in it but if you blink you miss him, Elisha Cook is the real bad guy and is terrible, which makes it so much better when he gets his. Solid supporting cast including Hugo Haas who has a nice turn and Vladimir Sokoloff playing yet another ethnic part...this time he's French! I liked it, glad I saw it and it's going to be on my favs list...I was lucky enough to recognize it for what it is early in and settled down to enjoy it. Wouldn't make a bad double bill come Christmas with Remember The Night. If you want Noir. look elsewhere.
Out of the Fog (1941)
Broadway hits a Dead End in Burbank.
As my username might suggest I like just about all things Warner but my Film Nut soul has to accept that not everything that came out of Burbank during the Classic Days was great. "Out Of The Fog" is an example. Despite an A budget and a cast of normally terrific actors, a Director who had helmed some of my very favorite films and photographed by no less than James Wong Howe it falls flat. Just flat.
First, it is insanely stage-bound due to it's Broadway origins, very much like "Dead End" had been, though that film had much more interesting material and developed characters. It portrays , supposedly, life in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. This is accomplished by a pier along side the water tank. A persistent fog seems to prevail over lovely Sheepshead Bay...which helps to disguise how stagy the entire production is. I'm not sure what came first, the fog or the title. It isn't helped by Howe electing to use a soft effect which blurs the whole thing. (OK, it may be the only print is needing restoration). The comparison to "Dead End" is magnified by the presence of Leo Gorcey.
Next we have John Garfield. I only know of two films in which he played a truly bad guy, this one and "He Ran All The Way" in which he is terrific. Here he gets to be a total Sociopath. Ripe for an Actor? Character development? A dark complex performance? Nope. He walks on, reads the lines (and plays to the back of the house like he is back on Broadway) and manages only to make some overcoats look good. Supposedly Bogart (who at the time was less of a star at Warner's than Ida Lupino OR Eddie Albert...which would change after "High Sierra" and "The Maltese Falcon) was to play the Gangster part and Ida Lupino pulled weight to get him off the picture. I think Bogie was lucky, his days playing thankless bad guy parts was about to be over. He dodged a bullet on this one.
And then we have Ms. Lupino, who I adore, the magnificent Thomas Mitchell and the always perfect John Qualen. Qualen gets a walk playing a Fisherman who would materialize in whole on an Airliner in "The High And The Mighty" 15 years later. Lupino is very obviously not happy to be here, and her English accent slips out quite a bit more than usual. And Thomas Mitchell is given such a drivel ridden script that even he can't overcome it. Kudos to George Tobias (as ever) who gets to do a monologue that belonged on Broadway and sinks here. He is great, it stinks.
Why did I give it a 6 instead of a five? I like overcoats.
Roughly Speaking (1945)
Jack and Roz having a fine time!
Roughly Speaking was a pleasant little surprise when I caught it recently, like a lot of others I had never heard of it before. Russell is her always competent self and there is a bit of her future role of Auntie Mame in this performance. I have come to appreciate Jack Carson much more than I used to now that I am seeing a larger body of his work thanks to TCM and he is terrific in this playing against his usual type. IMHO it's his best performance at Warner's, just squeaking out his in The Hard Way.
There is chemistry galore between Roz and Jack and that's what makes the picture work. They do indeed seem to be enjoying it and without Carson this could have been a boring weeper. Supporting cast is excellent, particularly the great Ray Collins. The only exception is Robert Hutton as the Son. Mr. Hutton was always hampered by the fact that he couldn't act.
I think it rates a solid 7.5 Lastly, is it me, or does this film decidedly not feel like a Michael Curtiz helmed picture? Someone else tried to contrast it to Mildred Pierce which is wholly unfair...they are distinctly different types of films.
Flowing Gold (1940)
I want to echo an earlier comment and say that this clearly was written for Pat O'Brien and James Cagney who had terrific chemistry (Ceiling Zero, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Fighting 69th, Torrid Zone and the sublime Boy Meets Girl).
Instead we get O'Brien, nearing the end of his Warners career with John Garfield who was just becoming one of the Studios biggest Stars, along with Francis Farmer as the love interest. It seems no one is willing to be critical of Farmer because of the tragic occurrences of her off-screen life, but I just plain don't care for her in this, partially because the Director gives her a hollow role and partially because she has zero chemistry with Garfield. In one rather unfortunate scene she and Garfield are riding in an open car and it is painfully clear that she is taller than Garfield...it looks like he needs a booster seat!
Having said all that, it is a good if formulaic A-, it's pure Warner's from beginning to end, has a great supporting cast and it's great fun to watch. A good solid 6 and for Warner's fans an 8. But you can't but wonder what Cagney would have made it.
Affair in Trinidad (1952)
"Why would a man kill himself if he had..."
Much has been said about 'Gilda" and "Notorius" in relation to "Affair in Trinidad" and they are really necessary as there is not the slightest doubt that this is a deliberate effort to exploit both. Unsuccessfuly. However it stands alone as a middle of the road production, particularly if you haven't seen the other two.
In 1946 the bad guys were Nazi's hiding out in South America. By 1952 it was the Red Menace, and that is ridiculously forced into the plot, such as it is. Time had not, sadly, been good to Rita Hayworth and she is given a thankless and empty role here, sans script and direction. And that may be the answer...it's one of those films where you wonder how good it might have been with another at the helm. The whole thing is quite listless, really.
It's missing a few things, like Cary Grant, Claude Rains, George MacReady,Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Calleia, Alfred Hitchcock and 'King" Vidor.
There is one reason to make this a must see: The "I've Been Kissed Before" dance number. Though her voice was dubbed this is the damn best number Gilda never did. It's Hayworth at her best. It's worth the whole movie.
Roxie Hart (1942)
A wild Screwball Comedy from "Wild Bill" Wellman!
First off I am a big fan of William Wellman who isn't exactly known for Comedy. Here he does a bang up job of it. Second, I am not a big Ginger Rodgers fan but this has instantly become my fav film of hers. I always liked her in her blonde dame days at Warners more than in the RKO Musicals. I think that is one of the problems some reviewers have with "Roxie Hart". The other, apparently, is people who insist on comparing this to "Chicago". What a waste of time. "Chicago" is a modern Musical and "Roxie" is a fast paced, cynical Comedy. When you see this, just forget about "Chicago" and pay attention to this film, because it requires and deserves attention. There is a lot of little "business" going on and a second look is recommended.
It isn't a musical yet it has one of the best musical numbers ever, the memorable "Black Bottom" which the entire cast absurdly and marvelously breaks out into in the prison. Probably the only time you will ever get to see Lynn Overman and George Montgomery singing and dancing! It also has a tour de force tap number for Ginger Rodgers on a metal staircase.
Ginger is great and is aided by a super cast of dependable actors. The comments about Menjou's age are ridiculous and again stem from comparison with "Chicago". George Montgomery is actually good as well and I am far from a fan of his but like him here. William Frawley is well used here and keep an eye on him, he uses his face and his hands subtly in reaction. One of the great character actors.
It isn't "Chicago" nor a Fred-and-Ginger. If you sought it out expecting either you will be disappointed. Sit back and enjoy it for itself and you will love it.
The Hard Way (1943)
Confession: I am a (Long)life-long Warners junkie, a huge Ida Lupino fan and have been in love with Joan Leslie since I was a kid. And somehow I managed to miss The Hard Way until today, for which I am deeply regretful. Many of my own thoughts are presented in earlier reviews so I will add only a few, particularly that Jack Carson is given his second best dramatic role at Warners after Mildred Pierce plus he is given the shortest, most poignant and best delivered line in the picture, which you can easily miss: "Thanks." Dennis Morgan has his by far best dramatic performance, period. Makes you wonder if he might have done some later '40's noir. And the big "IF", was Vincent Sherman not the best choice to helm this? I sat here longing for the whip-hand of Michael Curtiz...the edges and pacing under Sherman are too soft. That might have been a 10, but as is an essential 8 at least. WB never failed and this is from the golden age. Happy 88 to Miss Joan Leslie!