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I love this film.....not so much for the story which is pretty basic but for a two minute dance between George Raft, the ultimate gigolo and a young Carole Lombard. The use of Ravel's Bolero has been used many times from the ghastly Bo Derek film of the same name to the beautiful 1984 Olympic Gold Medal winning ice dance by Torvil and Dean. But this is the grandaddy of them all and it is sexy beyond belief. Granted, dance doubles were used in the long shots for the difficult lifts but it is very well done and there is enough of Raft and Lombard to retain authenticity. Raft was a dancer in another life so he had the moves and if Lombard was not a dancer, she does a damn good imitation. The plot of the film has been discussed in detail by the other reviewers so I will just call attention to the dance sequence which makes it all worthwhile.
The Killer Is Loose (1956)
Wendell Corey as a Psychopath??????
Are you kidding me? Wendell Corey usually played the boring, uptight second lead in his film roles so his character in this little "B" noir is a huge surprise. I never thought he was much of an actor but he really lets loose here as the bank clerk who goes off the rails and comes out killing everyone in sight. He is out for revenge on Joseph Cotten who sent him up the river for his participation as the "inside man" in a bank heist which resulted in Corey's wife being killed accidentally. After his escape from an Honor Farm where he was serving the remainder of his sentence, he starts stalking Cotten and his wife (Rhonda Fleming) with a few incidental murders along the way. The film ends as you would expect......it's not a complicated film but is somehow believable. A great addition to your noir library.
The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947)
Evil, Evil, Evil
This is a little-seen film noir that doesn't quite live up to its hype but comes pretty damn close.
Starring that quintessential bad guy, Lawrence Tierney (who was a bad guy in his personal life as well which eventually sank his career)this film is truly deranged. Tierney goes on a killing spree and ties up with an innocent and very gullible salesman, played by Ted North, whoever he was. They go careening up the California coast, picking up a couple of hitchhiking girls on the way and end up in a beach house where they hide from the police. Some more killing takes place and then it ends. Doesn't sound like much, does it? But what makes it a part of noir history is the chilling performance of Tierney. He may have been the toughest looking, meanest guy in B-movie history and he plays it to the hilt. He is the reason to search out this film.
Old Acquaintance (1943)
The Star vs "the star"
There is no contest here.....the Star, Davis runs off with the film while "the star", Hopkins rants like a drunken fishwife and makes herself look like a contestant at amateur night. I have never been a Hopkins fan and this film validates my opinion........she is shrill and over the top.
The film is another of those "women's pictures" so popular in the 30s and 40s and holds up well in that genre. I won't repeat the plot as it has been covered in other reviews. Davis is looking good as the professional woman that she portrays and although she does her typical schtick with cigarettes and hand gestures, she is a little more subdued than usual. You can almost believe her affair with the boyish Gig Young and her sorrow as it ends. You, however, can never believe that the elegant John Loder could have been married to Hopkins.......he belonged with Davis but it was not to be. My favorite scene has to be when Davis shakes the snot out of Hopkins and since it has been reported that they didn't like each other, I'm sure it was Bette's favorite scene as well.
If you like soap operas and sacrifice, then this film is for you. It's not as bad as it appears initially.
"I'm what you made me, Christine"
Speaking this line is the only time that Claude Rains shows his true feeling for Bette Davis in this overwrought but oh so enjoyable film. Rains, playing a vitriolic maestro, has the time of his life with this role as he spits venom all over the set. Even Davis has a hard time holding her own with this old pro, who was a favorite co-star of hers. The plot of this film has been repeated already in these boards; suffice it to say, Bette is petrified that Rains will spill the beans on their long affair to her new husband Paul Henried.
Nobody could be as naive as Henreid when he finds Davis living in a fantastic loft apartment surrounded by art treasure and furs and not suspect something beyond her explanation that she "takes pupils" for music instruction. She piles one lie upon another until the chickens come home to roost and Rains, rejected and highly ticked off, threatens to tell all to the innocent and obviously stupid husband. Murder then ensues. Claude Rains is the only actor who could have played the part of the maestro without looking like a total ham. He was such an elegant actor who swept all his co-stars off the screen and this role was one of the highlights in his long career. Frankly, I don't apologize for loving this overblown soap opera!!!!
The Dawn Patrol (1938)
The War To End All Wars
Unfortunately this was not the war to end all wars and the world was on the brink of WWII when this film was made. It revisits the horror of the slaughter of WWI and in this case, concentrates on the British flying aces of the air. It's a study in contrasts but underneath the camaraderie and black humor of the pilots, lies the bitterness and futility of their job. Sent on doomed missions, they were fodder for the war machine.
The British cast is excellent and contains most of the British actors then working in Hollywood film........(the only person missing is C. Aubrey Smith). Errol Flynn proves here that he can act and has great support from David Niven, Basil Rathbone and Donald Crisp. Also present are Barry Fitzgerald and Melville Cooper. Both Flynn and Rathbone are given a chance to show their serious side as they are faced with sending green recruits to certain death against a superior German air force, led by von Richter (von Richtofen I suppose).
This is an excellent film and director Edward Goulding may be forgiven for lifting the extremely realistic dogfight scenes from the 1930 original starring Richard Barthelmess (also a film worth watching). I highly recommend it.
American Madness (1932)
You could have knocked me over with a pin
Add this one to your list of favorite Capra films. Of course, it is dated and runs on banks are things of the past (we hope!!) due to the FDIC. Here is a film that was made in those Depression days when banks were going under on a daily basis and people's lives could be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Capra captures that crisis although the film's ending does not represent what really happened........but, hey, it's Frank Capra so all is forgiven.
Walter Huston is, as always, absolutely perfect as the kind hearted bank president who is caught in his worst nightmare.....after a bank robbery, rumors fly that the bank is failing, that Huston is somehow involved and the amount stolen escalates as the rumors spread. Pat O'Brian, his trusted employee, is wrongfully accused and the madness begins. To add to the problems, throw in the suspicion that Huston's wife (Kay Johnson) may be involved in some hanky-panky with one of the bank's vice president played by a very smarmy Gavin Gordon.
The rush on the bank by thousands of panicked citizens is a highlight of the film but makes we wonder if everyone who lived in the city and surrounding counties was a depositor.
The film has good support from Sterling Holloway, of the"knock me over with a pin" phrase and Robert Emmett O'Conner in his familiar Irish cop role. All's well that ends well.......O'Brian is vindicated, the bank is saved, the crook is caught and Huston's wife is proved innocent of fooling around (altho' anyone who would go to Gavin Gordon's apartment is guilty of a lack of good taste). This is a movie that deserves more than one viewing and is another star in Capra's crown.
The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933)
A Strange Tale of Infidelity
If you only know Frank Morgan for the Wizard of Oz and his other comedic roles of the 30s and 40s, then you don't want to miss his performance here. It's an entirely different Morgan, as the love besotted lawyer married to Nancy Carroll,and defending his best friend Paul Lukas who is accused of murder. I had to look twice to be sure it was him and not his brother Ralph who might have been more at home in this type of role. It's hard to relate to Frank Morgan in a torrid embrace with Carroll who is the nominal star of the film. But that aside, he is rather attractive and does a pretty good job even though the film has the typical over-acting of the early talkies.
Gloria Stuart, in an all too short appearance, is simply gorgeous (why don't they make clothes like that anymore?) as the erring wife of Paul Lukas, and lover of Walter Pigeon (in a very small role). Lukas puts three bullets into her and the murder trial is on with Morgan as the defense lawyer. He uses the "unwritten law" defense and his client is acquitted. As all this is happening, Morgan discovers that his own wife, Carroll, is having an affair with Donald Cook (good grief!!) When Morgan learns of it, he contemplates putting a few of his own bullets into her and using the same defense at his own trial. But reason wins out and he abandons the plan Since this is a pre-code film, Carroll is forgiven, falls into Morgan's arms, and doesn't have to pay for her sins, as she would have in Code films beginning the following year.
If you can get past the sometimes hammy acting styles and the "dearest" and "darling" dialogue, this isn't a bad film. In fact, I rather enjoyed it but then I am a sucker for films of the early 30s.
I'm All Right Jack (1959)
British Comedy At Its Best
How insane is a movie that begins and ends in a nudist colony? That just sets the stage for this brilliant British comedy/satire of labor troubles at Missiles Ltd. All is not what it appears in management as the less than honorable Director and his cronies arrange for conditions that cause the workers to strike, thereby benefiting the bosses in their nefarious plans.
Ian Carmichael is the wide eyed innocent, penniless but upper class young man who is the catalyst for the madness that ensues. Carmichael is spot on in his characterization and those who only know him as Lord Peter Wimsey, will be surprised at his light comedic touch. Even his name, Stanley Windrush, is whimsical.
Peter Sellers is a standout as Kite, the Union boss who has delusions of grandeur and sports an Adolph Hitler moustache. His use of the Queen's English is less than perfect and his long-winded pronouncements are priceless.
The supporting cast is unparalleled........Terry-Thomas is hysterical (as always) as the head of the Works Committee and his reading of the contents from the suggestion box is a small highlight of the film..........Liz Frazer as Kite's very blonde daughter, who asks "Who do you think you are, Diana Dors?".........Dennis Price, always the sophisticate, and Richard Attenborough as his oily partner in crime, are delightfully dishonest and also sport strange moustaches....John LeMesurier as the twitchy time management expert. The list goes on and on.
You don't want to miss this film. It is a showcase for some of Britain's finest film actors and is truly a delight.
Double Harness (1933)
The "Business" of Marriage
I really liked this film (with the unusual title) due to a couple of things. First and foremost is the elegant sophistication of Anne Harding, a star in the early years of film but somewhat forgotten now. She is not your typical 1930s actress.......with her strangely attractive but outdated hair style and unusual beauty, she is very different from other screen icons of the time such as Greta Garbo or Jean Harlow. Playing a character who could have descended to hysteria and shrewishness, she underplays the part to perfection. I feel that she is sadly overlooked when the films of the 1930s are discussed.
Secondly, of course, is William Powell. One of my favorites, he does not disappoint here as the jaded playboy who seems to have unlimited amounts of money (as do all the characters). Not quite reflective of the Depression gripping the country at the time this film was made! His character is not very attractive as he philanders his way through cafe society but he does it with such style that he can be forgiven. Plus, his apartment is a decorator's dream!!! The story revolves around Harding trapping Powell into marriage, which she considers only "business". Needless to say she falls in love with him along the way and complications arise. It all ends well albeit a little abruptly. This is a film that reflects the end of the pre-code period with its straightforward approach to sex outside (and inside) of marriage. Very enjoyable.