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A Summer Place (1959)
All Hail Bart Hunter: Ne'er-Do-Well Extraordinaire!
SPOILER When I first saw this film as a youngster in 1960 (sitting along with my parents and brothers in the family car at a drive-in on the New Jersey shore), I enjoyed the music, the scenery and, of course, a lovely local girl by the name of Sandra Dee.
Watchng "A Summer Place" today, I am extremely impressed by the performance of the late Arthur Kennedy, arguably cinema's greatest cynic of all time. Mr. Kennedy was an actor who excelled at portraying wry and sarcastic (not to mention largely unsympathetic) characters during his distinguished film and stage career. Whether as the shifty arms dealer in "They Died With Their Boots On," the hardened and world-weary newsman in "Lawrence of Arabia" or as the truly loathsome "father" in "Peyton Place," Mr. Kennedy was at his best playing heels from all walks of life.
In "A Summer Place," Mr. Kennedy portrays Maine island innkeeper Bart Hunter, a man rarely without a drink in his hand or without a mordant comment to make. I loved the dinner scene in which Bart informs straight-laced and unbelievably repressed guest Helen Jorgensen (portrayed by the wonderful Constance Ford) of the "aphrodisiac qualities" of the island's flora. "Haven't you ever swum in the raw with your husband, Ken (actor Richard Egan)?" inquires Bart, further shocking Mrs. Jorgensen. "There's nothing like running bare-bottomed into the waves!" Bart declares. (You know, Bart IS right about that one!) When Bart later discovers that good-guy Ken Jorgensen and Bart's long-suffering wife Sylvia (portrayed by the radiantly beautiful Dorothy McGuire) are past lovers, who have renewed their love affair at the inn, Bart publicly excoriates his wife, calling her a slut. (Only Bart could call the kind and gentle mom from "Old Yeller,"Swiss Family Robinson" and most of all, the Blessed Virgin Mary from "The Greatest Story Ever Told," THAT epithet!) Yet, when Bart's son Johnny (portrayed by the stolid Troy Donahue) informs his father how much he loves his now-pregnant girlfriend Molly Jorgensen (portrayed by the lovely Sandra Dee) and wants to marry her, a tipsy Bart replies that "they're all the same in the dark." Note how Johnny uses the word "supercilious" to accurately describe his drunkenly insensitive dad during this scene.
Yes, by all means, I heartily recommend "A Summer Place" in order to see Arthur Kennedy's tour de force performance as Bart Hunter, a man who makes even the late, great H.L Mencken seem like Mr. Rogers by comparison!
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
A Wonderfully Wry Film Comedy
Initially, I thought that "Callaway Went Thataway" was going to be a well-intentioned, cornball/hokey 1950's film. What a delight to find that the film is a charming comedy, leavened with a wickedly mordant wit. Stars Dorothy McGuire, Howard Keel and Fred MacMurray (playing against his usual good-guy, Steve Douglas - "My Three Sons" type) are all superb. Of course, the Hollywood nightclub scene, in which Howard Keel's character, cowboy Stretch Barnes, has absolutely no idea at all who the unbelievably-stunning Elizabeth Taylor and the uber-macho Clark Gable are, is uproariously funny! As previous posters have pointed out, look for such future, noteworthy television comedic actors as Hugh Beaumont (Ward Cleaver of "Leave It to Beaver"), Natalie Schaeffer (Mrs. "Lovey" Howell of "Gilligan's Island") and a remarkably then-ectomorphic John Banner (Sgt. Schultz of "Hogan's Heroes") to appear in the film. "Callaway Went Thataway" is a gem that will not fail to delight and amuse you.
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Acceptance, Forgiveness, Love!
Oh, wow, what a great film, with comedians Jackie Gayle, Morty Gunty, Will Jordan, Sandy Baron, among others, reminiscing (hilariously!) over lunch, about the irrepressible Broadway Danny Rose! Mr. Allen is such a poor (but, extremely-likable) nebbish, who you just cannot help rooting for, as he contends with an egotistical, has-been singer named Lou Canova (portrayed by Nick Apollo Forte, who looks a heck of a lot like former New York Ranger hockey great, Phil Esposito), and the singer's "wise-guy widow" girlfriend, Tina Vitale (portrayed by the wonderful Mia Farrow, as the no-nonsense Jersey-girl with really big, blonde hair!). I'm grateful that several of the other posters here, have explained the meanings of so many of the Italian and Yiddish words used in this uproariously funny flick. I got a big laugh, when that wise guy's over-protective mother, flashed a Universty of Texas Football-like "Hook-Em, Horns!" gesture at poor Danny in front of everyone at that lawn party, and shouted: "Corno d' oro!" as in the Italian expression, "Horns of Gold," meaning that the entirely-innocent Danny had made a cuckold of that lady's gangster-son, by getting to "know" Tina in the "Biblical sense"! And, Mr. Allen exhibited a keen eye for New York/New Jersey details, when he had Danny driving a humble Chevy Nova (a real "Jersey-mobile"!) over the George Washington Bridge on his way to pick Tina up for Lou, in Bergen County, N.J. Tina's Garden State apartment, with the majestic view of the New York City skyline, looks as if it's located in either Fort Lee or Cliffside Park (next to the world-famous amusement park, formerly situated in Palisades Park, N.J.), all just south of the G.W. Bridge. Alas, the Liberty View Diner in Jersey City (where the two thugs "rearrange" Danny's beloved Nova in the diner parking lot with a couple of baseball bats) is no longer there. The now-demolished diner was just off of the "beautiful" N.J. Turnpike, and next to Liberty State Park, which affords visitors an absolutely spectacular view of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan along an extensive walkway on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. How could you not like a film that features the eclectic likes of Howard Cosell, Milton Berle, Sammy Davis, Jr., New York City's venerable, former "Mr. Late-Night-Local T.V. Talk Show Host," Joe Franklin, a very young Ricky Schroeder, and, the film's comedic "dark horse," the one-and-only, Barney Dunn, ventriloquist/unwitting romantic "beard" par excellence!?!
The Enchanted Cottage (1945)
A Sublime Film For All Time!
Dorothy McGuire as Laura Pennington and Robert Young as Oliver Bradford, are both absolutely superb as the (initially) unlikely, yet ultimately, extremely passionate and joyous lovers. I enjoyed Mr. Young's dramatic performance in this film, as the battle-scarred and deeply-embittered air force pilot, very much. (Certainly, a far cry from Mr. Young's best known role as the unfailingly pleasant and upbeat Mr. Anderson on t.v.'s "Father Knows Best.") Ms. McGuire delivers her customary understated and appealing performance as the gentle and kindhearted Laura. (Although, I agree with several of the previous posters, in that Ms. McGuire STILL looks quite beautiful, even with the frumpy clothes and makeup!) The distinguished Herbert Marshall (who portrayed novelist W. Somerset Maugham in the film "The Razor's Edge") is outstanding as Mr. Hillgrove, the blind, but sage and insightful pianist, who befriends Laura and Oliver. "The Enchanted Cottage" is a marvelous film, which will, no doubt, elicit tears of joy from the viewer as the heartfelt film reaches its profoundly moving conclusion. Bravo to a wonderful cast and film!
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
UFO's AND Joan Taylor: Beam ME Up!!!
Certainly, the renowned/redoubtable Ray Harryhausen's special effects are absolutely superb in this 1956 sci-fi film. As several of the previous posters have already pointed out, the late Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe (one-time director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenonema, based in Washington, D.C.) served as technical adviser to this film. In fact, Maj. Keyhoe always maintained that alien (?) spacecraft HAD buzzed our nation's capital, during the summer of 1952. Veteran actors Hugh Marlowe, Morris Ankrum and Donald Curtis (who, I believe, portrayed "Prince Barron" in one of the final Flash Gordon serials) appear in the film. However, the wonderful and voluptuous Joan Taylor also appears as Carol Marvin (Hugh Marlowe's new bride in the film). Now, Ms. Taylor also appeared as the medical student granddaughter (?) of a scientist in another 1950s sci-fi flick, "20 Million Miles to Earth." And, I MUST say that Ms. Taylor looked terrific in those shorts of hers, as she and her granddad were conducting scientific research in sunny Sicily, when that U.S. space ship returned, rather abruptly, to Earth. (Seeing her perambulate through the verdant Sicilian countryside, I felt like singing Dean Martin's "That's Amore!") Yet, my favorite scene in "Earth Versus the Flying Saucers," was at the film's conclusion, when, Ms. Taylor and Mr. Marlowe are sitting on a beautiful beach as the sun is starting to set, and she says to Mr. Marlowe: "Do you think that the aliens will ever return to Earth?" To which, Mr. Marlowe (looking at his beautiful bride, attired in her extremely-flattering one-piece bathing suit) dreamily replies: "Not on such a beautiful day as this." And, hands held-together, they both happily and somewhat, "saucily" scamper into the water!
Dorothy McGuire Is "Ordinary" Looking and "Uninteresting"?
First, let me say, that I am delighted that there are so many other admirers of this truly talented and beautiful performer of the screen (that's Ms. McGuire, and NOT Van Johnson. Sorry, Van!). Of course, Ms. McGuire delivers her customary and, unfailingly, consummate performance as Ellen Pierce. But, could you really buy her character saying, that she thought of herself as ordinary-looking and, even, uninteresting to men? I mean, it was difficult enough, not to be mesmerized by those beautiful eyes and cheekbones in "The Enchanted Cottage" (in which the film studio make-up professionals "tried" to make Ms. McGuire look "plain" and "dowdy"). Yet, in "Invitation," Ms. McGuire is at her drop-dead gorgeous (not to mention, enticingly-eloquent) best. I mean, you literally cannot keep your eyes off of her, she's such a vision of beauty and elegance! And, with all due respect to nice-guy, actor Van Johnson, he's hardly Errol Flynn or Robert Taylor in the looks department or very "compelling" either, although, he was excellent in "Battleground." (Ellen really found HIM so irresistible? Oy vey!) Heck, any chance to see this great lady of the screen perform IS an absolute joy and delight. Still, I much prefer seeing Ms. McGuire in such wonderful and truly memorable films as "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn," "The Spiral Staircase" and "Till The End Of Time." "Invitation" gets an "8" because of the presence of its luminous star (no, NOT the "boy-next-door," Van Johnson, the unbelievably zaftig Ruth Roman (who, by the way, is outstanding as a particularly vindictive virago) or even the distinguished Louis Calhern!).
In his book, "Van Johnson: MGM's Golden Boy," author Ronald L. Davis wrote: "'Invitation,' Johnson's next film, had character actor Louis Calhern attempting to persuade Van to romance his invalid daughter, played by Dorothy McGuire. While the movie was cloaked in MGM gloss, it was a tearjerker with little to commend it except competent performances from a strong cast." Yes, tearjerker is the apt description of the maudlin "Invitation."
The Giant Gila Monster (1959)
Chase Winstead: Hot-Rod Hero!
Wow, I remember watching this film on television as a kid, back in the 1960s, and being literally glued to the set! "Several" years later, I still think that this is a terrific flick! We first meet Chase Winstead (actor Don Sullivan), good-guy mechanic/aspiring correspondence-school engineer/hot-rod driving enthusiast AND hopeful rock & roll superstar! I mean, this guy is such an outstanding individual, that he's almost like Wally Cleaver of "Leave It to Beaver," fame (except, that instead of having a precocious, little brother like "The Beaver," Chase has an adorable, little sister, who is bravely battling polio AND no Ward Cleaver, as a wise and venerable father figure). In addition, we soon meet the paternal Sheriff Jeff (portrayed by veteran cowboy actor/stuntman Fred Graham, who, if I recall correctly, once got into a barroom brawl with Kirk Douglas and Dewey Martin in the great Howard Hawks' epic western, "The Big Sky"). Sheriff Jeff and Chase are soon on the trail of all of these truly-puzzling missing person cases in the area. Of course, the "culprit" behind these disappearances is a giant gila monster (which, according to a recent Animal Planet Channel special on this film, wasn't even a gila monster, but some other lizard type, that I just can't quite seem to remember at the moment). I love the part in the film, in which Sheriff Jeff (in attempting to provide some pseudo-scientific, mumbo-jumbo-like explanation for the lizard's humongous size) comments that "scientists have recently found some 'unusual' salt deposits in Lake 'Tang-an-yee-kee' over there in Africa." (One has to wonder if, instead of the New Mexico-born Mr. Graham delivering that memorable line/lake mispronunciation, one of my fellow New Jerseyans, like, for example, actors Joe Pesci or John Travolta, had tried to correctly pronounce the name of that famous, east-central African body of water, Lake Tanganyika (pronounced "Tang-guhn-YEE-kuh"!?!), in a Garden State "patois"? Anyway, after singing some cool and heartfelt songs ("My baby, she rocks and rolls..."), Chase saves the day in, ironically enough, his brand new, soup-upped hot-rod. I think that I'll always remember that scene, where we see that uber-cool hot-rod, with Chase "Mr. Sangfroid" Winstead resolutely behind the wheel, as some truly classic rock & roll music (sounding like something from the soundtrack of "Eddie and the Cruisers") is blaring away! I tell you, when I "grow-up," I want to be just like Chase Winstead, with a "hot" French girlfriend, and an even "HOTTER" hot-rod!!!
Till the End of Time (1946)
A Memorable Post-WW II Tale of Romance
I believe that the New York Times once referred to "Till the End of Time" as a "poor man's 'The Best Years of Our Lives.'" Well, I certainly disagree with the Times' almost dismissive opinion of this greatly underrated film. Guy Madison, as Cliff Harper, a troubled, returning U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and Dorothy McGuire, as Pat Ruscomb, a gentle and wistful war widow, were wonderful in their respective roles. As one of the previous posters pointed out, this is a film that definitely strikes a meaningful chord with returning war veterans. I remember watching that incredibly moving scene in the ice skating rink coffee shop with my own father, an infantry veteran of the fighting in North Africa and Europe during World War II. When Cliff and Pat come to the aid of the young soldier (actor Richard Benedict), sitting alone there and obviously undergoing the effects of "shell-shock," my father just sat there quietly, as if he understood completely, what that young G.I. was going through. Director Edward Dmytryk very deftly captured the soldier's angst and Cliff and Pat's selfless act of kindness towards that young veteran. I agree that the film's "barroom brawl" scene/finale is handled in an almost, too-hurried manner. Nevertheless, I think that the film's greatest strength, lies in the extremely appealing and gradually developing romantic relationship between Mr. Madison and Ms. McGuire, who, with those limpid eyes and unbelievably beautiful cheekbones of hers, would make any guy's heart melt in a second (bad hair style or not, notwithstanding!). Maybe it's sounds overly maudlin (as, I believe, Pat playfully says to Cliff, when she first meets him, recounting wartime experiences with one of his old high school buddies in a local tavern), but I predict that you'll find yourself rooting for Pat and Cliff as the film nears its heartfelt conclusion. Kudos to Mr. Madison, and, especially, to the great Ms. Dorothy McGuire for an especially moving and compelling film!