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15 Lennon-McCartney Compositions
This production, recorded at the start of November 1965 and broadcast 6 weeks later, was produced for Granada Television in an open television studio rigged up with corridor-like platforms suspended in space, reached by ladders and steep staircases, providing a compelling visual backdrop for the performances. Many of the numbers feature choreographed dancing by beautiful women, occasionally joined by men; the songs are all lip- synced.
The programme was presented in three parts, allowing commercials inbetween:
"I Feel Fine" | The George Martin Orchestra open with a medley which intersperses a number of "classic" musical works, such as the opening chords of Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto #1," with a brassy rendition of Lennon's "I Feel Fine." George Martin plays grand piano while perhaps a score other musicians are dispersed about the stage set .
Lennon & McCartney then begin serving as hosts, listening at first to brief snippets of recordings of their songs demonstrating the wide variety of artists who've covered their material. Recordings by The Rolling Stones, Ella Fitzgerald, Anthony Newley, Russ Conway, The Chipmunks and Honor Blackman are identified in a variety of comic ways.
"A World Without Love" | 20 months after the song first topped the UK charts, Peter & Gordon are still lip-syncing to it here.
"I Saw Him Standing There" | Lulu does a particularly raunchy-sounding version.
"A Hard Day's Night" | Alan Haven (on organ) and Tony Crombie (on drums) perform a jazzy instrumental interpretation, visually punctuated with shots of miniskirted dancers' legs, wearing tight white boots.
"I'll Get You" | A baroque chamber music take by Fritz Spiegl's Ensemble of Liverpool.
"Day Tripper" | The Beatles give a straightforward miming performance of their latest single release.
"Yesterday" | Though the very first bars are begun by Paul alone with his guitar, this quickly segues to Marianne Faithful who had just released this recording as a single. The arrangement is reminiscent, despite the overbearing use of a female choir, of "As Tears Go By" which had been her breakout hit earlier in the year. At the time of this broadcast, "Yesterday" was the most-covered Beatles song ever.
Recordings of cover versions in languages other than English are the next area introduced by Lennon & McCartney, via brief excerpts again. Paul tries to guess the language, always wrong with John correcting him. The first of these, "Sie Liebt Dich" by The Beatles themselves with Paul's vocal quite prominent, Paul pretends he thinks is Italian. A recorded Spanish version of "She Loves You" is then danced to in the flamenco style.
"Things We Said Today" | Performed (in French) by Dick Rivers.
"Bad To Me" | Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas. By this time this recording was 2-1/2 years old.
"It's For You" | Cilla Black performs a song McCartney wrote specifically for her back in '64.
"This Boy" | The instrumental arrangement by George Martin from "A Hard Day's Night" (released on the American soundtrack LP with the title "Ringo's Theme") is danced to.
"If I Fell" | Henry Mancini's sensitive piano interpretation of one of Lennon's most hauntingly beautiful melodies; unlike all other performances in the programme, this one's done live.
"And I Love Him" | Esther Phillips gets singled out by John Lennon in his introduction as having done "one of the best versions of one of our songs ever."
"A Hard Day's Night" | Recited by Peter Sellers, a satire as though performed by Richard III.
"We Can Work It Out" | The Beatles. Both this and "Day Tripper" were the latest single release by the group, and at the time of the broadcast both were #1 on the UK charts.
* Note: Marianne Faithful's last name is erroneously spelled as "Faithful" in the opening and closing credits of "The Music of Lennon & McCartney." Ironically, the IMDb's spellcorrect feature keeps substituting my attempts to spell it correctly (as "Faithfull") with "Faithful," preventing me from getting it right myself! Witness how it's spelled at the beginning of this note: I put two "l"s there, to no avail. Plus ça change
Between Two Women (1937)
Franchot Tone and Maureen O'Sullivan are in love, but also enmeshed in unsuccessful marriages. The demands of their work together--he as a doctor, she as a nurse--draw them closer together as the plot unfolds, as do the failings in their personal lives, but these two noble healthcare professionals have enough on their hands and avoid straying into the messy business of an affair.
There aren't any surprises in this picture, but there are exceptional performances from everyone involved and the script is tight and the plot engrossing. This picture is very similar to "Men In White" (1934), which starred Clark Gable and Myrna Loy, being about the dilemma a young surgeon can face making hard choices between personal and professional demands. But whereas the earlier picture sometimes came across as rather heavy-handed, with working in the hospital seeming unrelievedly oppressive, this picture is a bit lighter in treatment and makes good use of Leonard Penn's role as the irresponsible surgeon, Tony Woolcott, a dramatic foil to Tone's straight-and-true Meighan.
Virginia Bruce is perfect as the high society playgirl who at first falls madly in love with Tone, but soon tires of his dedication to his work. Her beautiful face--especially her eyes--are center stage when that's all we see of her in her hospital bed. Tone and O'Sullivan are beautiful together as they convincingly play at being apart--it is impossible not to fall in love with Maureen O'Sullivan!
Franchot Tone fans (myself included) who have been looking for a picture that allows this fine actor a starring role--finally!--to match his talents will enjoy this sentimental soap opera.
Two Against the World (1932)
Scandal, Snobbery & Romance
The unlikely romantic pairing of Constance Bennett and Neil Hamilton somehow works in this fast paced critique of privileged society. Constance is a spoiled rich girl (something she's always good at playing!) who tries to bend the rules once too often in a desperate attempt to protect her family. It doesn't help that Neil Hamilton, in one of his warmer performances as a do-gooder attorney, has to grill her on the witness stand despite his being in love with her. These two headstrong people are forced to bend a little in each other's direction as circumstances dictate: she learns that being privileged doesn't necessarily mean being better; he that being ethical may have its moral limits.
Constance Bennett's energy and wit find an unusual focus in her romantic pursuit of Hamilton. She may not be willing to give up caviar for the luncheon special beans he prefers, but she's game to keep on trying!
Vogues of 1938 (1937)
Entertaining Mix of Music & Fashion
The pacing and performances in this "varieties" package are just right: like a sumptuous buffet catered with style this packed entertainment serves up hot jazz, delightful dance, and considerable comedy along with the main course, splendiferous fashions. And all of it is seasoned with just a sprinkling of romance!
Those who have panned this picture as a "turkey" have decidedly missed the point: yes, the plot is as thin as some of the clothing on the models here on display--it's supposed to be! This rich mix demands a minimal story, since we're meant to enjoy the goings on with the same detached discernment which the tony patrons of the House of Curzon display in reviewing the season's outfits. The technicolor, as others have noted, is delightful (Joan Bennett's strawberry blonde hair being just one of the delicious shades on display) and the camerawork and direction are often quite innovative and at times inspired.
Like the opening sequence--a bevy of beautiful girls unroll the opening titles and credits on luxurious fabrics--Warner Baxter's first scene, where he improvises a fashionable hat for a demanding patron by sticking a feather into a rag he's plucked off the head of one of the cleaning ladies, sets the tone of the picture, as if to say: we've put together with panache and ingenuity a clever divertissement for you. Sit back and enjoy!
Bride by Mistake (1944)
Classy Remake of "The Richest Girl in the World"
This Norman Krasna story -- with one of his typical fairytale-like plots -- was filmed in '34 as "The Richest Girl in the World" with Miriam Hopkins and Joel McCrea. And this one works as well as the first one did because Laraine Day is just as perfect for this role as Miriam Hopkins was. Hopkins played the role a bit dowdier -- or maybe it's just that Laraine Day can't help shining like an incandescent bulb on camera!
Poor little rich girl Norah Hunter can't find a man who will love her just for herself, as opposed to her vast wealth. Used to allowing her personal assistant to pose as herself in public she decides to try out this "prince and the pauper" style switch in her private life as well and see if the man she's falling for can love her for herself alone.
In both films it's a tightwalk characters and audience tread as the "he loves me--he loves me not" twists and turns wrench us gently this way and that like an old fashioned roller coaster. The supporting cast in this later film have more fleshed out roles -- and comic bits -- than the original and play them with verve.
The plot was made contemporary for the WWII era by making the love interest a pilot and surrounding the radiant Day with handsome enlisted men who have both manners and dispositions which practically no one in our culture seems to carry anymore.
Krasna was always trying out variations on the "no one knows I'm really rich or a princess or a star or whatever -- and will they love me just the same??" theme. But there's something perfectly simple and charming about this particular variation. So much so that two delightful romantic comedies were made of it. And why not -- it's great fun!
Hearts Divided (1936)
A Hopelessly Misguided Mess!
Imagine Dick Powell--the all-American charmer--as Napoleon's brother! Have him serenade--didn't you know Jerome Napoleon was a crooner!--Marion Davies, miscast as his beautiful young American sweetheart. Add a romantic score in an attempt to lend credence to their implausible pairing and you end up with this misguided misadventure in movie-making. Everything in this picture rings as false as the fake "Sicilian" nose pasted onto Claude Rains' face. The picture's premise is that Napoleon's brother threw away everything, sacrificing the opportunity to become a King by marriage--thereby extending Napoleon's empire--to marry his true love, sweet Betsy Patterson. Faithful to this vision, the picture ends with star-crossed lovers Powell and Davies--reunited after a "Hearts Divided" separation forced by Napoleon--in each others' arms once again set to live happily ever after in America. But the historical Jerome Bonaparte was in truth an opportunist who actually DIVORCED this first American wife in order to go through with the politically-motivated pairing and become King of Westphalia! The movie is a handsome production, but the script expects everyone to mouth the most ridiculous platitudes about class, duty, patriotism, "true love", etc. ad nauseum--all played straight. In the best Hollywood tradition, Dick Powell courts Marion Davies disguised as her lowly tutor, only to reveal his true "imperial" self after she casts aside all trepidation about marrying below her station. But who really believes that American society would hold the brother of a military dictator in such high esteem? All of the classic elements of a great Hollywood romance are here, only the plot and actors are really just going through the motions against this implausible historical backdrop--and we the audience aren't fooled one bit.
Eddy & MacDonald "Pine" For One Another in the Woods!
Beautiful scenery provides a romantic backdrop for this musical love story. The role of a stout-hearted Canadian Mountie who "always gets his man"--and in this case, "his woman", too!--is ideal for Eddy, whose stiff mannerisms usually hold these MacDonald/Eddy vehicles back somewhat. As a "straight and true" type his stiffness becomes an asset. While MacDonald undresses in a tent, for example, this Mountie's mind is solely on his duty as he goes through every item of her clothes (as she peels them off) looking for the map that will tell him where his quarry is. It never once occurs to this over-sized boy scout that this beautiful woman is getting naked two feet away from him!
The opening half-hour or so is all Jeanette's and she is vibrant as a swell-headed prima donna whose every thought is of herself. MacDonald seems to really enjoy playing this caricature of a star. David Niven is barely discernible (he's not given one close-up) in his brief appearance as an unrequited suitor. His character goes from city to city to see Marie-- and to propose to her--only to be ushered to the door every time. There's also something deliciously wacky in the way Jeanette enchants everyone with her singing--they cluster around her the same way "100 Men" do around Universal's Deanna Durbin whenever she starts to sing.
But the heart of this romance is in the wilderness scenes, perched above the lakes and hills and beneath the stars, where it seems like time has stopped and all that exists are two lovers singing the echo-like "When I'm Calling You" number to one another. The story in this musical has a wonderful habit of dropping away--while the beautiful singing and orchestration draw these two hearts closer and closer until they finally kiss and profess their love. It doesn't get any cornier than this--but the rhythm of this movie is just right. The last scene with Eddy just standing there finally able to return the "call" he couldn't before is played perfectly--all in song.
The story has once again just dropped away and the two lovers are alone together again. There's a purity to this bonding that is hard to resist...
Where Danger Lives (1950)
Usually I laugh only while watching comedies but this "thriller" had me in stitches often! Laughing, that is, when I wasn't groaning in disbelief. Ignore the weighty "analysis" by the film noir experts--this movie, despite Robert Mitchum's best efforts to keep a straight face, is laughably bad. Without wasting a moment his character ditches his understanding and classy fiancee (played by director Farrow's wife, Maureen O'Sullivan) for a trashy suicide case. He soon gets hit pretty hard on the head and announces (he's a doctor, so he knows these things!) that he's got a concussion and he's going to be disoriented a lot and eventually end up paralyzed. So we're supposed to believe that he's led down this dark and dreary path by the "femme fatale" 'cause he's had a bad knock on the head--but he's already demonstrated a total lack of common sense and we've lost any identification we might've had as an audience with him. Incomprehensible, really.
The film starts with Mitchum telling stories to young patients, a likable and caring doctor. So why does he fall in love with this mad woman? 'Cause there wouldn't be a movie if he didn't. The film has nice black-and-white photography, good production values...hard to believe this much money was spent on such a lame-brain story.
I'm surprised to see so many raves here for this stinker. I have great respect for Bette Davis and--yes!--for Errol Flynn as well but they are woefully miscast as lovers here and the unease which others have noted that Flynn displays is one that I happened to share as well--and I only had to watch this thing, not act in it!
From the opening moments Davis overplays the part. If I'd seen it in a theater I would not have been able to stay seated because Davis's non-stop mannerisms and nervous energy would have made me squirm in my seat far more effectively than the electric wires that were rigged to the seats at screenings of "The Tingler!" But to be fair Davis's histrionics come out of the unrealistic lines she's given. It's ludicrous to expect that the Queen would be speaking her most intimate thoughts out loud to every one of her handmaidens and advisers ad nauseum the way she does here.
The opening pageantry is beautiful and a great showpiece--but this promise of an historical epic on the order of "Robin Hood" is never fulfilled. The bulk of the movie takes place in Elizabeth's court and private rooms: there are no dashing outdoor adventures (though there are a couple of unconvincing, plodding battle scenes) and very little humor to break the oppressive mood. In short, nothing that plays to both Michael Curtiz's and Errol Flynn's strengths. Everything feels very staged--betraying the scripts origins as a play.
And the play obviously wasn't any good, either. There's never any reason given for the supposed romance between these two. Although the conflict that tears Elizabeth apart--between her duty and her love--is endlessly worked over, it's all "tell" and no "show". The grim ending will leave you grieving not for the characters but for the entire enterprise: what a waste!
Maureen O'Sullivan Tames Another Tarzan
This sentimental M-G-M "gangster" film works like a "Tarzan" in reverse: here the seemingly incorrigible hood played by Montgomery, urbane and a touch cynical, finds his cold heart surely melting in the warm embrace of a simple farm family and their soothing workaday life.
In "Tarzan" Maureen O'Sullivan is the "outsider", and although she must adjust to life in the jungle the thrust of that story is that she "domesticates" the "ape man" even as she learns to accept the simpler pleasures of living "close to nature". Here Montgomery is the one out of his element and we find him mystified by the sounds of crickets in the evening--something almost as strange and foreign to him as the unpretentious caring ways of the Miller family. When Mom and Pop and little "don't call me" Willy (played by young Mickey Rooney) conveniently leave the farm for a day, Montgomery and O'Sullivan get to play "farm" (baling the hay, splitting wood) the same way Tarzan and Jane get to play "house" together. In both cases O'Sullivan has "tamed" the wild beast.
"Tarzan" was an adventure film, however--the journey takes place in the great outdoors and nature is a mirror. "Hide-out" is an inner journey, on the other hand--even as he's hauled off to prison Montgomery smiles because he's finally come "home".