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This British TV movie is a must for fans of classic Britcoms who will
recognize Penelope Keith from various TV series. Here, she plays a
60-something widow who lives in a posh neighborhood that has been the
target a recent break-ins. While he cleaning lady (June Brown) is
working one day, they catch a punk in the midst of robbing the house.
Keith smashes a vase over his head. They think he's dead. What ensues
is a comic romp as the mismatched women run from the police. After all,
a neighborhood watch meeting recently warned home owners that British
laws do not favor them when they defend their homes and lives.
As the women race across the countryside in a beat-up Fiesta, they each learn a whole lot about each other, even though Brown has been Keith's cleaning lady for decades. Aside from hiding from the police, they have to deal with Brown's diabetes and the fact they left the house without any money or credit cards.
Also good are Adam Godley as Keith's repressed son with a cleaning fetish, Roger Lloyd Pack as the detective counting the days til retirement, Peter Vaughan as Brown's smarmy husband, and Martin Freeman as the dumb sergeant.
The ending is quite funny as the ladies travel by train to Blackpool with a bunch of George Formby and Elvis Presley impersonators, the perfect touch for their surreal journey.Just outside Blackpool, they make a discovery that changes their lives and destinies.
Keith and Brown work very well together and are a delight to watch as they get deeper and deeper into trouble, in turn bickering with and rescuing each other. For those who know Penelope Keith only as Margo or Audrey, this film will be a real treat.
Hard to find, but I finally found this on DVD from UK.
THE FOUNTAIN is a sombre film set during WW I with Ann Harding as an
English woman married to a German officer. She meets, after many years,
an old friend (Brian Aherne) and falls in love. He's British, but
they're staying at the house of her relatives in Holland (neutral
during WW I) after he's been "pardoned" from a prisoner of war camp (an
odd extended opening sequence that goes nowhere).
Everything seems fine since she never loved her husband (Paul Lukas) but then they get word he's been hideously wounded and is coming home to die. What ensues brings out the best and the worst in various household members. Co-stars include Jean Hersholt, Violet Kemble Cooper, Sara Haden, Ralph Forbes, Ferike Boros, and Frank Reicher.
Harding is radiant and lovingly photographed. She gives a sad and touching performance here. Harding remains one of the most undeservedly forgotten stars of the 30s. Lukas gives one of his best performances. Aherne is solid and utters the final line, one of hope, "England is beautiful in the spring."
Excellent romantic drama starring Ronald Colman and Vilma Banky as
star-crossed lovers. He's a gypsy and she's a princess. Their paths
cross when an evil Duke (Montagu Love) uses his "privilege" of a night
of love with new brides. He takes Colman's gypsy bride but she kills
herself rather than submit. Later, when the princess arrives to marry
the Duke, she's abducted by Colman as revenge his his bride's death.
They are finally captured by the Duke and his army but just as Colman
is about to be burned at the stake a miracle happens. Beautifully done
with breathtaking close-ups of the stars.
Others in the cast include Sally Rand as the gypsy dancer, Natalie Kingston as the evil Beatriz, and John George as the jester.
Banky was discovered by Sam Goldwyn and nicknamed the Hungarian Rhapsody for American films. She was a hit in her first Hollywood, THE DARK ANGEL. Of Banky's 28 films, only 8 survive in complete form or in fragments. Colman, of course, was a major actor in silents and moved easily into talkies.
Myrna Loy and Don Ameche star in this excellent comedy/drama based on
stories about real-life inventor Hiram Maxim's life. Episodic storyline
has Loy leaving her rural pig farm and heading to the city to marry a
rich man. Instead she meets and marries a poor would-be inventor and
raises a family.
Loy looks great and is excellent as Jane. She gives a warm and funny performance. Ameche is also good as Maxim, the slightly off-center inventor who marches to his own drummer. His inventions are mentioned in passing but show that he becomes a famous and wealthy man. The real story of Maxim and his legal problems with women and many failed inventions is not told.
Bobby Driscoll gives a solid performance as son Percy (who would eventually write the stories the film is based on), a boy definitely in the mold of his father. Others in the cast are Molly Lamont as the cousin, Richard Gaines as blowhard Josephus, Rhys Williams as the artist, Sara Padden and Renie Riano as maids, and Howard Freeman as the committee chairman.
Excellent period production sets and costumes and two star performances make this one a unknown gem worth looking for.
Interesting Brit talkie starring Gerald du Maurier as a prison escapee.
The film is also notable as the beginning of the end of Mabel Poulton's
career. She gets second billing after 2 talkie bombs in 1929. But her
billing is misleading as the billing is based on order of appearance.
While she is perfectly fine as "Girl of the Town," it's obvious that
her speaking voice undermines her silent-screen image, especially as
Tessa in The Constant Nymph. She never had another leading role in a
Poulton aside, what we get is the perfect Hitchcock theme sans Hitchcock. After an extended British hunt scene showing du Maurier as a sensitive soul (he feels sorry for the fox because he himself had escaped the Germans in the war), we see him accosted by Poulton in Hyde Park. Nothing happens but a cop (Ian Hunter) tries to arrest her for soliciting. Du Maurier intervenes and strikes the cop. He falls, hits his head on a wall and dies. Du Maurier is sentenced to 5 years. He escapes and the rest of the film follows his flight across the moors and the people he meets.
Du Maurier was a legendary actor of his time, knighted in 1922, and totally forgotten now. He made only 10 films and this was his talkie debut. So while the film marks a solid starring talkie debut for du Maurier, it also signals the complete collapse of Mabel Poulton's film career (she having been one of England's biggest silent stars).
Also in the cast are Edna Best, Madeleine Carroll, Nigel Bruce, Gordon Harker, Austin Trevor, Marie Ney, Jean Cadell, and Felix Aylmer.
Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding made 7 films together. At their best,
they were paired in glossy, stylish musical comedies like MAYTIME IN
MAYFAIR, which is a remake of ROBERTA.
Here, Wilding plays a penniless charmer who inherits a dress shop. The shop is managed by stylish but aloof Anna Neagle. He knows nothing about clothes but is instantly smitten. Along for the ride is his friend (Nicholas Phipps) who gets drunks and divulges details of the fall collection to a rival (Peter Graves) who insists on singing all the time.
After the papers break the news of the new fashions, Neagle takes off in a snit with Graves, leaving Wilding to fail and sell the business. Will things get straightened out? The film's highlights are two musical dream sequences. In one, Wilding imagines the beautiful Neagle as a famous model. In the other, Neagles imagines a slow-motion dance with Wilding. Bother are well done. There's also a big fashion show sequence with all the major London designers represented.
Neagle and Wilding are a perfect team. Neagle has a regal beauty, a good sense of humor and a decent singing and dancing talent. Wilding has a goofy charm that goes well with Neagle's icy demeanor and also dances well. They were hugely popular with British audiences in the 40s and 50s. Phipps is fun as the dopey friend but was also an accomplished director and writer (he wrote the script for this film).
Co-stars include Tom Walls as the inspector, Thora Hird as Janet, Mona Washbourne as Lady Levenson, and Colette Melville as Priscilla.
Fun film. Listen closely to Wilding's jokey asides. Funny!
PAID IN FULL boasts terrific work from two underrated actresses,
Lizabeth Scott and Diana Lynn, here playing sisters. Scott is the older
one, the sensible sister who has raised Lynn after their mother died in
childbirth from something called placenta previa. Scott works in a
department store as an illustrator while Lynn, a spoiled little witch,
works as a model. Lynn is trying to hook a rich husband but when that
fails she grabs upwardly mobile Robert Cummings, who works with Scott
and is Scott's secret love. But it's no secret to Lynn.
Lynn has a baby, but she's psychotic with jealousy and hates sharing the child with Cummings or anyone. After a few plot twists which lead to divorce. Scott marries Cummings and has a baby even though she has the same disease her mother had.
Scott often played rotten ladies, sort of a queen of noir films in the 40s and 50s, but here plays the goody good girl, while perky Lynn, often cast in kid sister roles, seemingly exults in playing the witch. Cummings stands around. Eve Arden plays the man-hungry co-worker, Stanley Ridges the kindly doctor, and Carol Channing makes her film debut. A rather lurid women's picture but well worth catching.
Catherine McLeod gives a terrific star performance as the luscious
center of this ambitious romance film from Frank Borzage.
McLeod plays a young pianist of promise who comes under the wing of a famous and slightly crazed pianist (Philip Dorn) whose demands are limitless. She leaves behind her father's farm and the man (William Carter) who loves her selflessly. Will she marry the mad musician or the simple farmer? More than a standard "woman's picture" or romance, this film features role reversals among the male characters with the lusty, aggressive pianist battling the effete and quiet farmer for the girl's affections. There's also this weird synergy between the girl and the pianist because they share the same passion for music while she seems to have nothing at all in common with the farmer .... except love.
McLeod gives a star-making performance and looks great, but her career never quite took off. Dorn and Carter are perfect as the men orbiting her. Co-stars include Maria Ouspenskaya, Fritz Feld, Felix Bressart, Elizabeth Patterson, Lewis Howard, Vanessa Brown, and Cora Witherspoon. And yes that's the young Andre Previn as the student Dorn dismisses.
Maybe not a masterpiece, but this film from Republic, filled with great music and filmed in lush Technicolor, shouldn't be among the forgotten.
Shirley MacLaine is excellent in this underrated, brassy musical based
on the Italian classic film, NIGHTS OF CABIRIA.
MacLaine plays Charity Hope Valentine, a sweet but rather clueless woman who works in a dance hall but yearns for love. She's constantly linking up with men who use her, take her money, dump her. The film opens with Charity in Central Park with her "boyfriend." Sitting on a bridge, she chirps about making a wish and throwing something off the bridge. The creep shoves her into the water.
She has two wiser-but-cynical pals, played by Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly. They seem resigned to their fates as dance hall girls but there's still an ember of hope for a better life.
Charity meets an Italian film star (Ricardo Montalban) and spend the night with him ... in his closet. She then meets a repressed man (John McMartin) in a stalled elevator and seems to have found happiness at last..... But is happiness in the cards for Charity? MacLaine seems to channel Gwen Verdon (who starred in the show on Broadway and who worked with MacLaine on the dance numbers) and excels in the many productions numbers, especially "If They Could See Me Now" and "Somebody Loves Me at Last." MacLaine also has a spirited rooftop dance number with Rivera and Kelly as they opine "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This." The show-stopper is probably the "Big Spender" number which features MacLaine, Rivera, and Kelly with a line of dance hall girls who try to lure men to be their partners. It's a sensational number that shows Bob Fosse's choreographic skills and also demonstrates the cynical life of a dance hall girl.
Other great numbers include MacLaine and Montalban's visit to the Pompeii Club where the dancers go through a series of landmark Fosse dances. The lead dancer here is the sensational Suzanne Charny. Among the dancers are also Ben Vereen, Lee Roy Reams, and Chelsea Brown.
Sammy Davis turns up the heat with the "River of Life" number which shows Charity and Oscar (McMartin)seeking meaning and discovering the 60s counter culture. Then there's Stubby Kaye as the dance hall manager who throws Charity a wedding party and sings "I Love to Cry at Weddings." This is a hugely underrated musical filled with great music and production numbers. Big, bright, brassy, and brazen, what's not to love? MacLaine won a Golden Globe nomination.
Nearly 40 years later, this musical looks better than ever.
First off, the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman make this one of the great Broadway musicals, which happens to be based on a great play. The 1950s play and film version starred Rosalind Russell in one of the great roles of her estimable career.
The 1960s Broadway musical was a smash hit for Angela Lansbury, but Lansbury wasn't a big enough name to star in a lavish film version of the musical. In 1974 there were probably a lot of "middle-aged" stars who could have put this over, but Mame was a role Lucille Ball chased for years.
At the end of her long film and TV career, MAME should have been her crowning achievement, but nothing could mask the fact that she couldn't really sing, although in the final version they were able to piece a vocal performance together, Ball doesn't do Herman's music justice.
That aside, the 63-year-old Ball looks great and easily carries the comedy of the role, and she's in nearly every scene. The sets and costumes are lush and loud, and Ball gets great support from Beatrice Arthur and Jane Connell (Vera and Gooch from the Broadway show) and Robert Preston as Beau.
The rest of the cast is serviceable if not memorable. Don Porter and Audrey Christie as the Upsons, Bruce Davison as the grown Patrick, John McGiver as Babcock, Doria Cook as Gloria, Joyce Van Patten as Sally Cato, Lucille Benson as Mother Burnside, and George Chiang as Ito.
Ball and Arthur won Golden Globe nominations. Te film earned no Oscar nominations. The film opened to big numbers but fell off after a few months. Usually considered a bomb, the film did not lose money.
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