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The Goddess (1958)
Expectations are everything -- and I expect more from Chayevsky
*Marty,* *Network,* and... *The Goddess*? I was looking forward to viewing this film by Paddy Chayevsky, who I admire, and whose script was nominated for an academy award. But it plays like an adaptation of a much richer novel, or perhaps a stage play. On the plus side: Chayevsky assumes that the viewer has a certain level of intelligence, a courtesy not always offered by Hollywood. Characters deliver long, well-written speeches, trusting the viewer both to pay attention and to draw more inferences than than most modern *or* classic films allow. That said, the story feels undeveloped,as if Chayevsky was asking us to his work for him. An important character undergoes a religious conversion without explanation. Marriages end off-scene. The film moves forward choppily, superimposing the year ("1930," "1942") on screen to ground us -- but not very successfully. The camera is on Stanley for almost the entire film and very few performers can sustain our interest for that long -- at least not without a very strong script. To end on another positive note: a studio exec acknowledges that Stanley's character isn't very pretty, but that she has warmth and sensuality with which to engage her audience. The same might be said of Bette Davis or even (gasp) Meryl Streep. I appreciated that bit of honesty.
Dark Passage (1947)
Bogey and Bacall must be watched, but as for the plot....
I just have to see Bogey's face to give a film a 7. Add Lauren Bacall and some of the best footage of San Francisco (my home town) I've ever seen from the period and we're up to 8, easy. However, this film doesn't ask you to suspend disbelief -- it requires you to put it into a medically-induced coma. Bogart escapes from San Quentin to be rescued by Lauren Bacall, a landscape artist who just "happens" to be painting nearby and "happens" to have a personal interest in his case. Later, when he leaves her apartment and hails a cab, the driver recognizes him as the escapee, but volunteers to help him by taking him to a back-alley plastic surgeon to *completely reconstruct* his face. In a 45 minute operation. (The $200 cost is believable enough; after all, when you adjust for inflation that's something like $6.5 million dollars.) After the operation, Bogart appears for the first time. The surgeon says he made him look 10 years older, possibly to help explain the romance between Bogey and Bacall in spite of their age difference. Ironically, this is one element that doesn't need to be made believable, since almost every viewer knew that the two stars were married in real life. Bogart, who was imprisoned for the murder of his wife, finds the real killer in a plot that swings between fantastic and difficult to follow. And yet, I'd watch the film again tomorrow. One of several high points: When the police stop Bacall as she approaches the Golden Gate Bridge, the camera stays on her face as she bluffs her way through their search of her station wagon (Bogart is hiding in the back). The combination of this unconventional direction with her acting is riveting.
Waterloo Bridge (1940)
I'm not a fashion designer, but...
I love this movie for all the reasons my fellow fans do. I, too, wish Vivien Leigh had made more movies. Her husband, good old Larry, thought the theater was where it was, and that this new-fangled celluloid wasn't meant for the great stuff. And he would have been right... except that no one can see Vivien Leigh on stage any more, while her screen performances will last as long as digital re-mastery. BUT -- what's with the costumes??? Somebody help me! All but a few minutes of the film take place during and immediately after WWI, but the characters are dressed in contemporary (1940) clothes: mid-calf, tailored suits, shoulder-length hair. I've heard complaints about Taylor's accent -- another glitsch, as far as I'm concerned -- but the jarring sight of women in wedgies in the nineteen-teens is what keeps unsuspending my disbelief. Am I missing something?