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Following a loveless wedding rehearsal, automobile designer Herbert
Marshall (as James "Jim" Buchanan) has a bad day with his "Buchanan
Motor Co" board of directors and goes for a walk in the park.
Contemplating life on a park bench, Mr. Marshall meets attractive
blonde Jean Arthur (as Joan Hawthorne). Assuming Marshall is likewise
unemployed, Ms. Arthur shares the "Help Wanted" classified ads with
him. She thinks they might improve their luck by responding to a "cook
and butler" job offer together. They get a job working for shady Leo
Carrillo (as Michael "Mike" Rossini) at "Rossini Manor", but must
pretend to be husband and wife. When he discovers Marshall and Ms.
Arthur are not sharing the bed in their living quarters, Mr. Carrillo
decides to move in on Arthur...
Of course, Marshall and Arthur discover they mutually attracted. Partially because it's so expected, there is little interest or investment in Marshall and Arthur as a couple. The co-stars have a few good moments curiously, they are more appealing when they are not sharing the screen. The story seems to slow down as it progresses. Gravel-voiced Lionel Stander (as Flash) adds some much-needed spark. "If You Could Only Cook" is more famous as the film Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn falsely promoted abroad as a Frank Capra Production. The successful filmmaker was understandably miffed at the studio mogul.
****** If You Could Only Cook (12/25/35) William A. Seiter ~ Herbert Marshall, Jean Arthur, Lionel Stander, Leo Carrillo
Exceptionally handsome fashion designer Stephen Forsyth (as Jonathan
"John" Harrington) specializes in bridal gowns. He also has a
compulsion to kill his beautiful models by slicing them with a meat
cleaver. We know about the killing from the opening, as Mr. Forsyth's
narration explains his proclivities. He may not know why, but it
becomes fairly obvious. There is some unintentional confusion, however,
in the casting of Guido Barlocci as Mr. Forsyth's character at a
younger age; because they look nothing alike, you initially wonder what
connection the blond boy has to Forsyth's psyche. The script in this
Italian-made film is nothing special, but it's dubbed well, at times.
Directed and photographed by Mario Bava, style is heightened over
substance. The best scenes involve Forsyth and Mildred, his shrewish
wife played by Laura Betti.
Il rosso segno della follia (6/2/70) Mario Bava ~ Stephen Forsyth, Dagmar Lassander, Laura Betti, Jesus Puente
Los Angeles telephone operator Anne Baxter (as Norah Larkin) dresses up
and celebrates her birthday with a photograph and letter from her
handsome sweetheart in Korea. She expects they'll marry, when he
returns to the USA. After receiving some startling news, Ms. Baxter
accepts a date with lecherous sketch artist Raymond Burr (as Harry
Prebble). He specializes in getting women drunk and taking sexual
liberties. Events lead up to one character striking another with a
fireplace poker. The killer called "The Blue Gardenia" is
enthusiastically pursued by "Chronicle" newspaper columnist Richard
Conte (as Casey Mayo). Baxter's roommates are chain-smoking Ann Sothern
(as Crystal Carpenter) and paperback reader Jeff Donnell (as Sally
Ellis). It helps that they are directed by Fritz Lang and photographed
by Nicholas Musuraca. She doesn't really fit the role, but watching
Baxter drown her sorrows and fend off Mr. Burr engages the viewer. A
too tidy ending makes much of the preceding drama less interesting.
Singing the title song beautifully, Nat "King" Cole makes a welcome
****** The Blue Gardenia (3/23/53) Fritz Lang ~ Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Raymond Burr, Ann Sothern
Multi-millionaire soap industrialist Frank Morgan (as Rudolph Tobler)
holds a slogan contest for his company, with the winner and runner-up
prizes awarded a two week vacation at his ritzy Palace hotel in the
Swiss Alps. Unbeknownst to all, Mr. Morgan has entered his own contest
under the name "Edward Schultz" and come in second place. First place
winner is Robert Young (as Fritz Hagedorn), an unemployed American in
Vienna who is several months behind in his rent payments. Morgan
decides to go on the vacation and see how poor people live. Concerned
about her eccentric boss receiving less than spectacular service, his
possessive housekeeper Edna May Oliver (as Mrs. Kunkel) calls to let
the hotel staff know Morgan is arriving incognito...
Due to a mix-up, the staff thinks Mr. Young is the soap tycoon. Both men attract attention from fortune-hunting divorcée Mary Astor (as Irene Mallebre). Long-time MGM editor-turned-producer Sam Zimbalist scores a real winner with this comedy. It started with the common "rich/poor" switcheroo, given a good treatment by successful story-teller Erich Kastner. Hollywood writers added some fine lines for the marvelous cast. The skiing segments reveal a less than spectacular budget, but these type of silly skiing scenes were common, at the time. Under the circumstances, not having Edna May Oliver mug and take a tumble on the Alps would have been filmmaking blasphemy. Everything is skillfully managed by director Edward Buzzell.
******** Paradise for Three (2/15/38) Edward Buzzell ~ Frank Morgan, Robert Young, Mary Astor, Edna May Oliver
At a New York party, bright and attractive secretary Mary Astor (as
Mary Linden) has fun with wealthy and attractive Ricardo Cortez (as
Ronnie Wales). The two seem like an ideal couple, but Mr. Cortez is
married and can't get a divorce. Besides, Ms. Astor has set her sights
on playboy businessman Robert Ames (as James "Jim" Duneen). When her
boss retires, Astor recommends Mr. Ames as replacement. Ames is up for
the job as head of the paper distributing company where they work.
Astor continues as the president's secretary and Ames shows little
interest in her sexually. Instead, he beds trampy job applicant Edna
Murphy (as Daisy Presby) and proposes to snobby heiress Catherine Dale
Owen (as Ellen Robinson). Astor must consider drastic actions to win
her man. "Behind Office Doors" is a dated, but gamely presented early
talking picture; however, this doesn't combine in a way that makes it
**** Behind Office Doors (3/15/31) Melville Brown ~ Mary Astor, Robert Ames, Ricardo Cortez, Edna Murphy
Returning to his London home after a lengthy hospital stay, blustery
barrister Charles Laughton (as Wilfrid Robarts) has been advised to
give up cigars, brandy and female companions. The first two are a
problem for Mr. Laughton, who is recovering from a serious heart
attack. Moreover, he has also been advised to stay away from his
specialty stressful criminal cases. Trying to keep Laughton away from
his vices is talkative live-in nurse Elsa Lanchester (as Miss
Plimsoll). She is no match for Laughton as an intriguing case arrives.
The client is all-American nice-guy Tyrone Power (as Leonard Vole), who
was seen at the home of wealthy widow Norma Varden (as Emily French) on
the day she was murdered. An aspiring inventor, Mr. Power looks even
guiltier when he inherits a generous sum from the lonely older woman.
Power's alibi is expected to be his wife, German actress Marlene
Dietrich (as Christine Helm Vole). However, Laughton expects Ms.
Dietrich's supportive testimony will be dismissed because she is the
"Witness for the Prosecution" is wildly entertaining and engaging, from start to finish. This began with a story from the great mystery writer Agatha Christie. It's re-worked perfectly for the big screen, with the extraordinary Billy Wilder as guiding force; this man knows how to make movies. Producer Arthur Hornblow Jr., photographer Russell Harlan and editor Daniel Mandell should also be proud. Laughton is in fine form and likely would have won some "Best Actor" awards had it not been for the fact that he's so often this good. Dietrich received great notices and was certainly worthy of the "Academy Award" nomination many expected her to receive. In his last finished film, sadly, Power might have been more celebrated as a "Best Supporting Actor" had he not been billed as the lead. Added for humor and building up Laughton's part, Ms. Lancaster was rightfully praised for her support. The smaller roles are just as wonderfully cast. The film ends with a voice-over advising viewers not to reveal the ending to anyone so don't.
********** Witness for the Prosecution (12/17/57) Billy Wilder ~ Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, Elsa Lanchester
After applying glossy color to her full lips, 17-year-old high school
student Nina Dobrev (as Justine Douglas) meets her 21-year-old blond
boyfriend Steve Byers (as Brent) and his wavy-haired brother James
Gilbert (as Reggie) for a weird date. The two young men work as
automobile mechanics. They rob the jewelry store where Ms. Dobrev's
mother Jennifer Grant (as Denise) works as a manager. For some reason,
Dobrev is immediately employed as the getaway car lookout, although she
has just learned about the crime and acts like a flight risk. Turns
out, she can be trusted to go along with the plan...
After the robbery, Ms. Grant frets about daughter Dobrev's increasing strange behavior. Grant is the real-life daughter of Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon. She should worry, because this TV Movie is incredibly dumb. Even worse is the level of responsibility the story allows the daughter to take for her participation in the crime. For what it's worth, Mr. Gilbert does well with his sleazy character and Catherine Mary Stewart is always an attractive police detective.
*** My Daughter's Secret (10/7/07) Douglas Jackson ~ Nina Dobrev, Jennifer Grant, Steve Byers, James Gilbert
After their mother suffers a massive coronary, working mom Kristin
Davis (as "Billie" Clark) takes over as caregiver for her mentally ill
sister Tammy Blanchard (as Elizabeth "Baby" Davis). The smart
schizophrenic woman moves in with Ms. Davis, handsome husband Joel
Gretsch (as Rick), cute teen son Alexander "Alex" Le Bas (as Davis) and
outspoken pre-teen daughter Mackenzie Aladjem (as Mollie). At first,
the family manages to get along with only a few problems. Smoking is
only allowed on the porch, for example. However, some increasingly
bizarre outbursts from Ms. Blanchard take their toll on big sister
Davis and others. The sisters have unresolved problems to deal with,
and new issues threaten and disrupt the family in unexpected ways...
There are so many movies wherein mentally challenged people are portrayed as either lovable pets or homicidal maniacs, it's nice to see something more realistic. Carefully directed by Jim O'Hanlon and nicely written by Richard Friedenberg, this "Lifetime" TV Movie is one of their best. The key performance is delivered sensitively by Ms. Blanchard, who surprisingly did not receive an Emmy Award nomination. There is a small role for lovable Louise Fletcher and everyone is fine, with young Le Bas quite a surprise as the loner son who identifies with Blanchard. If there is one regret, it's that this family is unusually wealthy. Their jaw-dropping estate and ranch look like a show-places and it's difficult to believe they don't have the money to hire some professional help.
******* Of Two Minds (3/10/12) Jim O'Hanlon ~ Tammy Blanchard, Kristin Davis, Alexander Le Bas, Joel Gretsch
One night in New York City, leather-clad delivery man John Barrymore
Jr. (as Robert Manners) bludgeons to death a young woman as she gets
into her bathtub. Relax, it occurs off-screen. The perpetrator a
mother-fixated "Psycho" serial killer, targeting women who order
feminine accessories from the drugstore. The sensational story of "The
Lipstick Killer" is circulation gold for newspapers, with occasionally
intoxicated "Sentinel" reporter Dana Andrews (as Edward "Ed" Mobley)
getting the big scoops. Taking advantage of the situation, media mogul
Vincent Price (as Walter Kyne), decides to promote his best worker to a
financially rewarding position. Vying for the job are managing editor
Thomas Mitchell (as John Day Griffith), wire service head George
Sanders (as Mark Loving) and top photographer James Craig (as "Honest"
"While the City Sleeps" boasts a great group of characters, taken from Charles Einstein's original story "The Bloody Spur" and kept lively by Casey Robinson's screenplay. They intertwine well, as directed by Fritz Lang. He moves everyone around multiple sets and a shadowy subway terminal. Sexy female roles go to fashion conscious Ida Lupino (as Mildred Donner), double dipping Rhonda Fleming (as Dorothy Kyne), and tightly attired Sally Forrest (as Nancy Liggett). A weakness is, however, that the "chemistry" between various players doesn't always work; the individual stars seem greater than the sum. The best couple is formed by Ms. Lupino and Mr. Andrews, but sparks aren't often flying like they should. In smaller roles, "silent" film stars Mae Marsh (the killer's mother) and Robert Warwick (the expiring Kyne) are used exceptionally well.
******* While the City Sleeps (5/16/56) Fritz Lang ~ Dana Andrews, Thomas Mitchell, John Drew Barrymore, Ida Lupino
In picturesque Africa, rugged animal hunter Clark Gable (as Victor
"Vic" Marswell) is annoyed to discover alluring Ava Gardner (as Eloise
"Honey Bear" Kelly) has undressed and made herself comfortable at his
jungle ranch. He is hot under the collar, but she is hot under her
robe. After nature takes its course, Ms. Gardner is surprisingly sent
packing you see, Mr. Gable is not the marrying kind. Thanks to a
shipwreck, Gardner returns. This wouldn't be worth watching without
her. Also arriving is prim and pretty Grace Kelly (as Linda Nordley),
the wife of a British anthropologist who wants to hunt gorilla with
Gable. Although she pretends to be happily married, Ms. Kelly comes
between Gable and Gardner...
Gone are the days when you could see a movie like this so much about sex, but showing so little sex. The story is even tamer than the original "Red Dust" (1932), which also starred Gable. All of this serves to make "Mogambo" more interesting. Now firmly in his 50s, Gable is still an attractive and appealing leading man. Kelly certainly holds her own against MGM's big man and their sexy co-star. Reportedly, director John Ford was unhappy with the film and his leading players. However, it is plainly obvious how his cameras favor Gardner in all of her glory. Note, for example, how she is filmed getting off the lifeboat. If you've ever wondered what the fuss about Ava Gardner was all about, look here.
****** Mogambo (9/23/53) John Ford ~ Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Donald Sinden
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