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Parisian prostitute Shirley MacLaine (as Irma La Douce) does a brisk
business. She acts demure, wears sexy green outfits and carries a
little pooch named "Coquette". After her clients pay, Ms. MacLaine
specializes in sob stories that elicit a tip. Handy hotels, a friendly
barroom and "on the take" police make it a happy situation for the
streetwalkers and their partners. Suddenly, the successful sex trade is
dealt an arresting blow. Honest policeman Jack Lemmon (as Nestor
"Tiger" Patou) is put on patrol. Initially unaware of the sex action,
Mr. Lemmon informs MacLaine her dress in unbuttoned. When he sees all
the women in provocatively slit dresses and low-cut tops, Lemmon
realizes they are hookers...
Attracted to MacLaine, Lemmon gets into a fight with her pimp, brawny Bruce Yarnell (as Hippolyte), and gets lucky. Lemmon surprisingly inheriting Mr. Yarnell's position. Since he really loves MacLaine, Lemmon invents the British secret identity "Lord X" and proceeds to buy up all MacLaine's bedtime. The madcap situation leads to fun and tragedy...
From director-writer-producer Billy Wilder, this story is derived from a French musical, with the songs dropped. It's obviously not as good as Mr. Wilder's other works, being too slow and lacking in laughs. Lemmon undressing for MacLaine and later donning her ex's jacket and brown derby are comic highlights. The original idea to cast Marilyn Monroe might have produced something more interesting, had the recently deceased actress overcome her addictions (the songs would have been included for Ms. Monroe, of course). MacLaine is sexy, smart and chain-smokes. The photography by Joseph La Shelle and art direction by Alexander Trauner are strengths. Casual sex is celebrated and paid for, but never shown.
***** Irma la Douce (6/5/63) Billy Wilder ~ Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Bruce Yarnell, Lou Jacobi
Bosomy blonde model Samantha Jones (as Lisa) agrees to smuggle a doll,
sewn up with heroin, from Montreal to JFK Airport. After arriving
successfully in New York City, a man startles Ms. Jones and she asks
kind-looking Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (as Sam Hendrix) to hold the doll.
Jones disappears, so Mr. Zimbalist takes the doll home to his Manhattan
apartment. He goes off on a photography assignment in Asbury Park,
leaving totally blind wife Audrey Hepburn (as Susy) alone with the
misplaced doll. While she is out, a psycho crook from Scarsdale, Alan
Arkin (as Harry Roat), searches the apartment. He doesn't find the
Next to arrive are small-fry criminals Richard Crenna (as Mike Talman) and Jack Weston (as Carlino). Hired by Mr. Arkin to find the missing doll, they find a dead Mrs. Roat, instead. The three crooks believe the heroin must be somewhere in Ms. Hepburn's apartment, but nobody can find the doll. They terrorize the blind woman, but Hepburn either can't or won't produce the doll...
Writer Frederick Knott's Broadway play "Wait Until Dark" was intricately plotted and beautifully presented, by Arthur Penn, in 1966. It starred Lee Remick, Robert Duvall and Mitchell Ryan and was obviously headed for the big screen. Surprisingly, only Julie Herrod (as Gloria) was retained from the original cast; as the teenager upstairs, she is quite helpful...
This film version is thoroughly engaging and suspenseful. Winning several "Best Actress" of 1967 nominations, Hepburn delivers one of her best performances. Arkin is as award-worthy, but received less acclaim. He once said, "You don't get nominated for being mean to Audrey Hepburn." They and director Terence Young have their best moments in the classic climax, which makes grand use of light and darkness. A second viewing provides answers to plot questions, leaving a husband's failure to rush over to embrace his wife the only bothersome detail. You are almost thinking he was part of but, that would be another story...
********* Wait Until Dark (10/26/67) Terence Young ~ Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston
When his intellectually-challenged companion is committed to the state
mental hospital, deaf mute silver engraver Alan Arkin (as John Singer)
decides to move to a nearby Southern town. He rents a room, for $20 per
week, from a family trying to make ends meet after an accident puts
breadwinner Biff McGuire (as Robert Kelly) in a wheelchair. The room
given to Mr. Arkin belonged to pretty blonde teenager Sondra Locke (as
Margaret "Mick" Kelly). At first she resents Arkin renting her room,
but Ms. Locke gets to know, and like, Arkin. His host family continues
to struggle financially, and it appears Locke may have to quit school
and help support the family...
Arkin gets to know others in the small town, most notably physician Percy Rodrigues (as Benedict Copeland) and his daughter Cicely Tyson (as Portia). Arkin is able to convince Mr. Rodrigues to treat alcoholic Stacy Keach (as Jake Blount), although the black doctor usually refuses to treat white people. Rodrigues tells Akin the tragic secret he is concealing from his daughter...
The combination of small screen (TV) director Robert Ellis Miller and veteran motion picture photographer James Wong Howe works magic on this story, based the best-selling novel by Carson McCullers and adapted by Thomas C. Ryan. The film should have been considered for one of those "ensemble" acting awards given in more recent years, which honor minor cast members...
Arkin and Locke were considered for several 1968 awards. He won the lead "New York Film Critics" award and she was noted in as one of the year's best supporting actress. It should be noted, however, Locke is the lead actress in this film; arguably, Ms. Tyson should be considered the main supporting actress. In her first role, Locke impersonates a younger woman very well...
Like real life, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" shows everyone as afflicted, or challenged, in some way. The characters in the story face physical, financial and mental challenges. Some are successfully managed. Some are not. There are lessons about drawing and giving strengths to each other. While the story is outstanding, one serious weakness stands out. This is the film's never showing us Arkin's companion Chuck McCann (as Spiros Antonapoulos) in a positive light. He is revealed as trouble-maker in each appearance. Some scenes showing the mentally challenged man's positive traits would have made Arkin's final decision even more powerful.
********* The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (7/31/68) Robert Ellis Miller ~ Alan Arkin, Sondra Locke, Percy Rodrigues, Cicely Tyson
From Ireland, grandfatherly dancer Fred Astaire (as Finian McLonergan)
and his singing daughter Petula Clark (as Sharon) arrive in the
southern American state "Missitucky" (a combination of Mississippi and
Kentucky). After helping bushy-haired tobacco farmer Don Francks (as
Woody Mahoney) pay his back taxes, Mr. Astaire is rewarded with a lot
of land. This is where he plants a pot o' gold acquired from cheery
leprechaun Tommy Steele (as Og). Astaire believes that being near the
US Fort Knox will make the gold multiply. Problems arise when the
magical Mr. Steele arrives to reclaim his gold. If he does not get it
back, Steele will turn into a human...
Director Francis Ford Coppola accomplishes something difficult, herein. He manages to suck all the charm out of a Fred Astaire musical. This is a daunting task. Happily, the director would keep working and ultimately deliver "The Godfather" with a rediscovered Marlon Brando. The "Finnian's Rainbow" Astaire is obviously older, but in good physical condition. It's criminal to see his skills wasted. There is a well-meaning racial sub-plot, mainly essayed by Keenan Wynn. Unfortunately, Mr. Wynn is left out on a limb and shouts through his role. Steele also ends up shouting his characterization. This musical should have been whimsical, not obnoxious.
*** Finian's Rainbow (10/9/68) Francis Ford Coppola ~ Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele, Don Francks
In the midst of an explosive revolution are leader-type Peter Finch (as
Richard Conway) and his way younger brother Michael York (as George
Conway). They escape in an airplane with a small group, headed for Hong
Kong. Unfortunately, the plane is hijacked and crashes in a remote area
of the Himalayas. Fortunately, the travelers make it to Shangri-La, a
paradise where people live in perfect health and age very slowly. It's
not exactly Hollywood, but there is an all-star cast. On board are song
and dance man Bobby Van (as Harry Lovett), uptight photographer Sally
Kellerman (as Sally Hughes) and gold prospector George Kennedy (as Sam
Mr. Finch is attracted to singing schoolteacher Liv Ullmann (as Catherine) while Mr. York prefers pregnant dancer Olivia Hussey (as Maria)...
Wise old Dalai lamas John Gielgud and Charles Boyer are befriended by Finch. He moves closer to the secret of Shangri-La. York mostly wears regular clothing. This is symbolic because he wants to leave with Ms. Hussey, though she may revert to her true age. Many people felt older after sitting through "Lost Horizon". To make it a musical for producer Ross Hunter, the popular songwriting duo Burt Bacharach & Hal David contribute some of their least memorable songs. Charles Jarrott directs with catatonic seriousness. Picturesque photography by Robert Surtees is a relative strength. All told, this re-make of "Lost Horizon" is a lost cause.
*** Lost Horizon (3/14/73) Charles Jarrott ~ Peter Finch, Michael York, Olivia Hussey, Liv Ullmann
After winning World War II, the United States sends enthusiastic Glenn
Ford (as Captain Fisby) to Okinawa, Japan. His mission is to build a
schoolhouse and turn the local Japanese people into an Americanized
Democracy. Translating for Mr. Ford is savvy Asian-mannered Marlon
Brando (as Sakini). He doubles as our host. Trouble is, the locals
don't want a schoolhouse shaped like the US Pentagon. They want the
Americans to build them a traditional teahouse, instead, with geisha
girls like beautiful Machiko Kyo (as Lotus Blossom). Comedy results
from the Americans unexpectedly succumbing to Japanese culture...
Director Daniel Mann enjoyed much success bringing stage dramas to the motion picture screen, but was less successful with comedy...
This one may dip due to the lack of bigger comedians in the roles, but Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford are closer to original Broadway players David Wayne and John Forsythe than they would be to Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Brando likely saw a kindred spirit in Mr. Mann. His make-up is too obvious, but Brando could hardly have played the part by squinting and faking an overbite. The method actor impersonates an Asian man without offending, but hindsight unmasks his endeavor as a distraction. The sly humor works, but scenes go on too long without amusing; most of this material should be shorter and snappier on film.
***** The Teahouse of the August Moon (11/20/56) Daniel Mann ~ Marlon Brando, Glenn Ford, Eddie Albert, Paul Ford
This episode of MGM's "A Pete Smith Specialty" series of shorts looks
at film showing real events and incidents that were not staged. "The
Camera Caught It" is narrated and produced by "a Smith named Pete."
Unusual weather begins the documentary. Today, these weather extremes
are more common. Demolition activity is next, as we see structures
demolished. Amateur aviation receives much attention, as man makes
several attempts to fly like a bird. We end the long aviation segment
with a "Sky Car" hopping up and down. Race cars are a popular sight
(still are), and the secret desire to see a crash is fulfilled. We're
told nobody was hurt in the tragedy shown, but a fiery race-car makes
you wonder if that statement is true. Last and most interesting, a new
bridge collapses in strong winds.
*** The Camera Caught It (10/9/54) Pete Smith ~ Pete Smith
After his London-based "Amalgamated Industries" suffers a devastating
loss, American businessman Dane Clark (as James "Jim" Nevill) decides
to end it all. This is going to be a strange suicide, however. In order
for his wife to benefit from a life insurance policy, Mr. Clark asks an
old friend to commit the murder. At first, sleazy hit-man Paul
Carpenter (as Paul Kirby) refuses. But Clark makes Mr. Carpenter mad
during a fight, and threatens blackmail, too. Finally, Carpenter agrees
to kill Clark, within five days. Once the deal is set, Clark's failed
business deal reverses. Now, he must stop himself from being
Writer Paul Tabori adds a couple of surprises to this formulaic story. You can make accurate predictions, but you'll need to revise them. Director Montgomery Tully does well in dark alleys and seedy diners. Second-billed secretary Cecile Chevreau (as Joan Peterson) sends out the right signals, indicating she's interested in her boss. Clark is faithful to pretty wife Thea Gregory (as Andrea), however. Not seen as often as partner (spouse equivalent) Dirk Bogarde, tall blond Anthony Forwood (as Peter Glanville) is impressive. British players shine in small, uncredited roles.
****** Paid to Kill (6/25/54) Montgomery Tully ~ Dane Clark, Cecile Chevreau, Paul Carpenter, Anthony Forwood
Self-described American "hack novelist" Alex Nicol (as Mark Kendrick)
is living in England. Hoping to avoid women and alcohol in order to
finish a book, Mr. Nicol rents a small bungalow outside of London.
Across the lake from his residence, Nicol observes partying. Very
quickly, he joins the celebration and gets drunk. If you're guessing a
woman is up next, you're correct. Nicol surprisingly passes over pretty
young Susan Stephen (as Andrea Forrest) and succumbs to the advances of
her step-mother Hillary Brooke (as Carol). Her wealthy and unhealthy
husband Sidney James (as Beverly Forrest) plus a pianist lover aren't
enough for Ms. Brooke, apparently...
This seems like "Double Indemnity" with a dash of "Sunset Boulevard". Director Ken Hughes adapted the screenplay from his own novel, which was undoubtedly more clearly drawn. Nicol and the setting work, and Mr. Hughes moves it quickly. The main characters' sexual relationships are not convincing, however. Throwing in a couple lines indicating Nichol had a brief affair with Ms. Brooke years ago might have helped us believe his attraction, and Ms. Stephen seems too desirable for her role. Most irritating, there is a character inappropriately held responsible for an act of murder, and we're not sure why this person simply doesn't state the facts before the story ends.
**** The House Across the Lake (4/16/54) Ken Hughes ~ Alex Nicol, Hillary Brooke, Sidney James, Susan Stephen
After he is apparently shot and hit by a car, we meet shady Dane Clark
(as Jim Forster). An American in London, Mr. Clark operates a
successful gambling casino. Clark served three years in prison because
he got "crazy drunk" and beat a man to death. He would like to be
accepted in polite society, but Clark still has a temper. He also talks
like a Warner Brothers movie gangster, which doesn't help in "manners
school." Clark decides to end his affair with common nightclub dancer
Kathleen Byron (as Pat) and get intimate with classy socialite Naomi
Chance (as Susan Willens). Underworld types give Clark a hard time...
Writer Sam Newfield delivers some interesting characters here, especially upper-crust Anthony Forwood (as Peter Willens), who could be a con-man, and mean-looking henchman Meredith Edwards (as Dave Davies), who has a devilish haircut. Still, the production is weak. The women should be more interesting, but are late and sketchy. It would have been nice to see more of both Ms. Byron and Ms. Chance. Byron could easily have been in more of the early scenes, to establish her upfront as Clark's precarious moll. The opening turns out to be a teaser; later in the film, we get see who wanted Clark dead. Sadly, you may not care.
***** The Gambler and the Lady (12/26/52) Sam Newfield ~ Dane Clark, Naomi Chance, Anthony Forwood, Meredith Edwards
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