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I can think of only two trucker movies that treat these noble knights
of the road in a realistic manner, "They Drive By Night" and the
foreign-made " Le Salaire de la peur, aka The Wages of Fear." The
others I have seen, such as "Convoy" and "Smokey and the Bandit" though
popular with truckers everywhere, are fantasy features with almost no
relationship to a real teamster's job. Even "They Drive By Night" turns
into wish fulfillment during its second half, a trucker's dream of
staying at home and working on big rigs.
The first half of "They Drive By Night" concerns itself with the dangers, rigors, and loneliness of life on the road driving an eighteen wheeler. Joe and Paul Fabrini (Raft & Bogey) are brothers who make long hauls together sharing a truck that is about to be repossessed. Joe is carefree and single yet ambitious, whereas Paul is happily married and would be satisfied with a day job that paid enough dough to support a family. Both are honest and hardworking with rather high morals. Joe falls for a truck stop waitress, Cassie Hartley (Ann Sheridan), who like Joe is hardworking, honest, ambitious, with morals. Having witnessed the death of a fellow trucker who falls asleep at the wheel, Paul is determined to get out while he can. His brother, Joe, however, talks him into staying which leads to tragedy when Paul loses an arm in an accident. Because of a new hookup with a former driver, Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale), who has made good and now has his own trucking business, Joe prospers. To complicate matters, Ed has a screwy but sexy wife, Lana (Ida Lupino), who has the hots for Joe. Joe has fallen in love with Cassie whom he plans to marry. Jealous Lana decides to fix things up so she can get her paws on Joe. This leads to murder, lies, and a somewhat overly convenient denouement for the film.
"They Drive By Night" is a film buff's dream movie. There's Bogey before he became an icon, when he is still playing second fiddle, this time to George Raft who would later regret turning down choice roles that Bogey would accept and run with. Two of the best actresses in Hollywood at the time, Ann Sheridan and Ida Lupino, both have juicy parts that challenge their acting abilities. They pass with flying colors, each giving an outstanding performance. And what a roster of character actors to back up the leads! Alan Hale, Roscoe Karns, who is funny this time rather than obnoxious and is an effective foil for Alan Hale's shenanigan's (watch for the scene where the two dance with each other while under the influence), John Litel (Nancy Drew's father), Frank Faylen (Dobie Gillis' father), Eddie Acuff, Paul Hurst--to name a few. Gale Page does well in a small part as Paul's set upon wife.
Even if the movie is somewhat disjointed and at times degenerates into soap opera melodrama, there's enough action and thrills to make up for it. Director Raoul Walsh makes sure of that. One of the writers is Jerry Wald who went on to produce some of Hollywood's best feature films. Not to be missed, especially by Bogey fans.
Before his indiscretion in Mexico where he when inebriated urinated
from above on a passing military procession which gave a whole new
meaning to the term raining on your parade, Tracy was one of the top
actors in Hollywood. When trying to find an image of Tracy on the net
recently, I could barely find reference to his name much less a
picture. This almost forgotten screen star was a versatile player who
was eventually nominated for an Oscar for his performance in "The Best
Man." He was also for me the definitive "Martin Kane" in the early TV
series "Martin Kane, Private Eye." "Behind the Headlines" was made
after his fall from grace when he was trying to jump start his fading
There is much chemistry between Tracy and his leading lady Diana Gibson, who unfortunately had a fairly brief movie career. They play two rival reporters, Eddie Haines and Mary Bradley respectively, who were once apparently an item. Mary works for a New York newspaper, Eddie for a radio station where he tries to get the latest scoop before she can get it printed for the morning edition. She and her henchmen attempt time after time to sabotage his on-the-spot broadcasts by either stealing or scrambling the portable box with microphone that he carries with him or hides.
A novel aspect of "Behind the Headlines," many a year before James Bond's "Goldfinger," has the bad guys planning a heist of gold bars in transit from Washington, D.C., to a new depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Mary, up to her old tricks to outmaneuver Eddie, finds herself kidnapped by the gold thieves headed by Potter played by character actor Donald Meek who surprisingly makes an effective heavy. She is held hostage in a cave hideout. It's up to Eddie to rescue her. In the end it's still Mary who has the last word.
This programmer stays lighthearted and carefree to be a winner all the way. The inspired teaming of Lee Tracy and Diana Gibson somewhat foreshadows the later teaming of Spencer Tracy (no relation) and Katharine Hepburn.
This is one of those rare Hollywood films that works in all
departments. Even its nearly four-hour length is just right, any
shorter and the required leisurely pace with emphasis on the
Remington-like photography which makes one think of a moving painting
would have been lost, any longer and the movie would have become
boring. "Dances with Wolves" is one of the few occasions when the long
time slot is required to tell the story the way it should be told
("Greed" is another example). Kevin Costner is not much of an actor but
he is one hell of a director. "Dances with Wolves" will stand up
against any western John Ford made. Even Costner's acting is much
better than the low point it would reach in his next film, "Robin Hood:
Prince of Thieves."
Though not all that original, the story approaches its subject from a fresh angle. A somewhat mentally distraught cavalry lieutenant who was driven nearly insane by action during the Civil War is assigned a distant frontier outpost by a deranged commander who proceeds to p*ss his pants and shoot himself. The post has been recently deserted. So Lt. John Dunbar (Costner) lives as a hermit, befriended first by a lone wolf, then later by a tribe of Sioux. Living with the tribe is a white woman to whom Dunbar takes a liking. The tribe is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the buffalo for survival. The encroachment of the white man begins taking its toll with the buffalo slaughtered for tongues and hides, leaving the meat to rot. Dunbar must decide which way to go.
Though long, the film moves with not a moment of respite from beginning to end. The viewer becomes part of the story and is carried along by the sweep of the lonesome, beautiful, and at times deadly, great plains, inhabited by native Americans who like all humans live lives of pleasure, pain, fleeting glory, desperation, and dreams, now threatened by outsiders who want the land and its creatures for themselves.
This almost seventy-five year old programmer holds up amazingly well
due in large part to the skilled acting of the leads, a witty script
that keeps everything lighthearted, and the masterful direction of
William A. Wellman. The title may sound silly but if the viewer watches
the entire film, "Love is a Racket" is explained by Douglas Fairbanks
Jr. at the very end via a harangue on the ephemeral nature of romantic
Filled with cynicism draped with roses Fairbanks learns about love from all the wrong people, in particular from the wily, ambitious Mary Wodehouse (Frances Dee), who has been spoiled rotten by her Aunt Hattie Donovan. Seems Mary has been bouncing checks and wants Jimmy Russell (Fairbanks) to bail her out. When he attempts to retrieve the hot checks by asking the holders to wait a while before cashing them, he learns that a mobster has picked them up already. When Jimmy finds the mobster dead, he takes possession of the checks and makes it all look like a suicide unawares that his columnist buddy, Stanley Fiske (Lee Tracy), is watching.
This little gem from the early days of the Great Depression is well worthwhile and still entertaining even after seven decades.
Top billing for "Railroaded!" goes to the great actor John Ireland who
plays the coldblooded killer Duke Martin. Today, Ireland is perhaps
best remembered for his role as the gunslinger, Cherry Valance, in the
John Wayne western classic "Red River" and for his Academy-Award-
nominated performance as a reporter in another Hollywood classic "All
the King's Men." Duke Martin, as with most of the heavies in noir
flicks, is a misogynist. But this time the woman hater doesn't get away
with it completely. Both Clara Calhoun (Jane Randolph) and Rosie Ryan
(Sheila Ryan) put him in his place. When Duke misquotes Oscar Wilde,
"Some women should be beaten regularly, like gongs" (it was actually
Noel Coward who used the line), Clara is quick to respond to the effect
that if that line belonged to Oscar Wilde, then let him have it. When
Rosie and Duke first meet at Duke's club, Duke calls women "dames."
Rosie responds sharply, "I don't like that term." Duke backs up and
uses the still somewhat derogatory "gals."
The plot involves Rosie's brother, Steve, portrayed by unknown actor Ed Kelly, who only made three films to my knowledge. Duke and his girlfriend, Clara, frame Steve for a bookie heist, during which time a patrolman is killed. The police are after a quick conviction and are getting ready to go to trial and ask for the death penalty when Police Sgt. Mickey Ferguson (Hugh Beaumont, aka Ward Cleaver) falls for Rosie and decides that her brother may not be guilty after all. Ferguson attempts to help Rosie find the real murderer when Rosie decides to conduct her own investigation by becoming chums with Duke. This all leads to more murders until the ultimate confrontation between Ferguson and Duke. The film is fast-paced and somewhat violent for its day.
The creative use of darkness and shadow was an important ingredient of noir cinema, but as one IMDb reviewer has already noted, there is so much darkness in "Railroaded!" that at times it is difficult to see what is happening. One reason for this may be viewing the film on a TV screen. Perhaps on the big screen there was no problem. Outside of this minor weakness, "Railroaded!" is a winner all the way.
This is a near-brilliant spoof of "Jaws" which owes as much to the
witty script by John Sayles as it does to the artful direction of Joe
Dante, with lines of the caliber, "The piranhas are eating the guests,
Sir." There is actually not as much blood and gore as the viewer might
expect, coming from the crypt of Roger Corman. The attacks of the
piranhas are shown close up and even seen in wide screen, water with
splashes of red intermingled with the carnivorous fish is about all
that is shown. There is one scary part when suddenly a piranha comes at
the screen in an almost subliminal manner. If watched on TV, be sure
and see the unedited version without commercial interference.
It's fun to see actors of the old school of horror and sci-fi such as Kevin McCarthy ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers"), Barbara Steele ("Pit and the Pendulum"), Keenan Wynn (TV's "Twilight Zone"), and Dick Miller ("It Conquered the World"). Veteran actor Bradford Dillman plays the lead character Paul Grogan with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek to give the entire film a feel of lightheartedness, even amid the horror of a lake full of kids being attacked and some killed by deadly mutant piranhas.
I watched "It Came From Outer Space" when it first came out in 3-D. I
distinctly remember the spacecraft coming out of the screen. That
scared me, but what frightened me most was the scene in town when the
two electrical repairmen, Frank and George, appear as zombie-like
following their alien abduction. Veteran actor, Joe Sawyer, and
Gilligan Professor, Russell Johnson, are amazing in their
transformation which involves no extra makeup or special effects. This
shows that good actors can be creepy and ghoulish without any physical
Seems that John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and his lady love, Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush), he a scientist, she a teacher, see what looks like a meteor fall while they are gazing at the skies through a telescope. They drive to investigate. Putnam goes down into the crater and discovers what appears to be a creature from another planet. He returns to tell Ellen. She believes him though they can't convince anyone else of what was seen, including a nosy reporter and the sheriff. When towns people begin to take on a strange aura and behave oddly, the sheriff, the reporter, and others start to suspect aliens have landed in the desert.
The Alien is shown several times during the movie and is truly eerie. The music which sounds similar to the later Twilight Zone's is extremely effective in providing the necessary background for the strange happenings.
3-D comics were also popular at the time. Several of the sci-fi flicks such as "The Man From Planet X" were given comic book treatment. I recall one filler that was a page long in one of the comics. Using the 3-D classes, if you covered the right lens (red) the Americans welcomed the aliens. The aliens then proceeded to make slaves out of the humans. If you covered the left lens (blue), the Americans killed the aliens. In the hands of one of the aliens was a letter of introduction stating that the aliens wanted to be friends and teach humans all the technological advances that would end poverty and misery. Sci-fi movies of the day dealt with aliens in the same way. Watch and see if the alien in "It Came From Outer Space" is a friend or an enemy.
Hopefully, this classic which gave Clark Gable one of his best acting
roles will be shown quite often on TV this year, since April 18, 2006,
will be the centennial for one of the greatest natural disasters in
American history. Though it may be inappropriate to use the term
celebrate, the term memoriam for those who lost their lives in the
quake is better, the film is a treat and a tribute to the great city.
Hopefully, New Orleans, will receive a similar honor.
Gable became a screen icon. Therefore, at times it's hard to view his career in objective terms. Certainly he was a fine actor with many good films to his credit. He also made a few turkeys and at times his acting was not the best. However, he personifies Blackie Norton as no other actor of the period could have, with just the right amount of scoundrel and fallen angel to make the part believable. He also plays well with leading lady Jeanette MacDonald, whose personality ran opposite to Gable's. His soul mate, Carole Lombard, was the type person he needed. Still, the MacDonald, Gable pairing fits the parts of Blackie and Mary Blake so well that it works magic for the film. We also get to hear Jeanette MacDonald perform several wonderful selections, including the title song. Gable and Spencer Tracy also work well together as childhood pals who went their separate ways, one a gambling womanizer, the other a priest; yet still are as close as brothers.
The story begins with the arrival of Mary Blake asking for a job in Blackie's establishment. The two opposites fall for each other from the beginning, but realize how different they are from one another. Mary wants a career in opera. When given the opportunity, Blackie doesn't want to let her go. When Blackie tries to make a showgirl out of Mary and use her as he uses other women, Father Mullin (Tracy) steps in and gets slugged by Blackie. Mary in retaliation leaves Blackie and marries his arch rival Jim Burley (Jack Holt) to live on Nob Hill. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 changes the entire situation forever.
The special effects showing San Francisco engulfed in flames following the quake and its aftermath were high tech in 1936 and are still effective today. The quake takes place at a key point in the film toward the end. Because the audience becomes enthralled in what is taking place on the screen, the quake is totally unexpected--though waited for since the beginning of the movie. Director W.S. Van Dyke does a masterful job of bringing the quake to bear at just the right moment for full effect. Today's disaster flicks such as "The Day After Tomorrow" should take a lesson from this.
The success of this film is due largely to Dick Powell's analogy that
international violence is caused by many of the same forces that
trigger personal violence. Some might say the nation is the individual
writ large. His pairing a detonation of an atomic bomb in preparation
for a possible conflagration that would eliminate the human race with
the escape from prison of a perverted hostile trio of killers hiding
out in a deserted western town is indeed inspired. Add to this a
clever, telling script written largely by Irving Wallace, who knew how
to make today's headlines into entertaining stories, and the result is
a near classic film for its genre.
Some of the best lines are given to Jan Sterling in the role of a good-hearted showgirl, Dottie Vale, who has been ridden around the block a few times. At one point in carefree desperation, she states, "looks like we're caught between the devil and the bright red bomb." The ambiance of nonchalance permeates the entire picture and helps to lessen the tension caused by the split second count down to Armageddon for the trapped hostages. Even more humor is introduced with the character of Asa Tremaine, a desert rat who attempts to tell tale tales not unlike those of Gabby Hayes. Played by Arkansas native Arthur Hunnicutt (He's buried at Greenwood, Arkansas), Asa plays a pivotal role near the conclusion of the film. The rest of the cast is effective, particularly Stephen McNally who portrays the coldblooded killer with no morals, Sam Hurley.
The story involves an assortment of personalities who unwittingly end up kidnapped by three escaped killers, one of them mute. The root of the plot centers on the interaction among the characters when their lives are stripped bare with doomsday at 6:00 am the next morning. They hold up in an abandoned town waiting for a doctor who happens to be the husband of a two-timer who is traveling with her boyfriend, now held captive by the killers. There is much edge-of-the-seat suspense as the clock clicks away the minutes.
This is one of the great movie farces of all time. I would rank it very
close to my all time favorite "Dr. Strangelove." There are several
tiers of interpretation as is true of any noteworthy satire. It is not
only poking fun at the stupidity and vanity of Nazism, but at
aggressive war in general. Referring to Joseph Tura (Jack Benny)
playing Hamlet on stage, Colonel Ehrhardt (Sig Ruman) states, "What he
did to Shakespeare we are doing to Poland." Only someone with the comic
genius of Ernst Lubitsch could compare the Thespian rape of Shakespeare
with the physical rape of a country and make it work.
Jack Benny, although one of the most popular entertainers of all time, never got his just deserts for his acting abilities. Though he utilizes many of his physical mannerisms that worked so well for his comedy routines on radio, in the movies, and later on TV, he also does some very fine acting in "To Be Or Not To Be." He is teamed with the multi-talented Carole Lombard yet keeps up with her all the way. The two work well together. Had Carole Lombard not been tragically killed in a plane crash while serving her country just before the release of this film, she would possibly have been teamed with Benny again. The rest of the cast, including newcomer Robert Stack, keep up the pace and give all the support needed to make Lubitsch's film a winner, in particular the histrionics of Sig Ruman, the definitive Nazi stooge, later parodied in the popular TV series "Hogan's Heroes."
The script which Lubitsch himself helped put together blossoms with hilarious one-liners such as "So they call me Concentration Camp Ehrhardt?" To read a few of the most famous ones, see IMDb quotes for the film. Better still, rent or buy a copy of this classic and watch it a few times to hear them for yourself. IMDb only lists some, not all, for that would take several pages.
The story sounds like one for a typical romantic or screwball type comedy. A troupe of Shakespearean actors in Warsaw, Poland, appear to be on the road to success due to the fame of the leading lady, Maria Tura (Carole Lombard). Her husband, Joseph (Benny), seems to be in her shadow, though he does his best as the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet. Yet each time he does the famous soliloquy that begins, "To be or not to be," the same man gets up and walks out. This leads Joseph to think he is a failure as Hamlet until later in the film he learns that the young man, Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack), is leaving each time for a rendezvous with Joseph's wife, Maria. At this point Hitler invades Poland and the theater is closed as the Nazi's come to town. A Nazi professor, Prof. Alexander Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), flies in with a list of names of traitors (Polish patriots) who are to be taken care of by the local Gestapo headed by Col. Ehrhardt (Ruman). It is up to the Shakespearean troupe to keep these names out of the hands of the Gestapo and then to escape with their lives. So they use their acting talents to impersonate Gestapo officers and even Hitler himself. Joseph becomes Ehrhardt but botches it when the professor brings up the relationship between Maria and Lt. Sobinski who is now in Warsaw also. The rest of the film involves several funny mix-ups and mistaken identities filled with satirical buffoonery.
Though this was somewhat controversial when first released because some, including Jack Benny's own father, misunderstood the satire, the film is possibly even more funny and relevant today than during World War II when the Nazi menace was for real. Because Lubitsch made the spoof universal in nature, "To Be Or Not To Be" transcends time and space.
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