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Personal Property (1937)
It's a shame
Too bad the Hays Code prevented this remake of "The Man in Possession" (1931) from being as saucy as the original, especially because there is some nice sexual tension between Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor here. Then, too, this version seems a bit padded, as if the writers or director decided that the film required more characters, more elaborate sets, more dialogue (sometimes funny, sometimes rather unnecessary) and a slightly more convoluted plot. Somehow it just doesn't gel.
Interestingly, two actors who appeared in MGM's 1931 version play their roles again here: Reginald Owen as the gold-digging prospective bridegroom and brother Claude, and Forrester Harvey as the bailiff. I definitely enjoyed the sexiness of the Robert Montgomery-Irene Purcell version much more, however--see that one, if you can.
I've gotta rebut what Holdjerhorses said...
Wow, one user comment from last year interprets "Carefree" as mean-spirited and finds it characterized mostly by low spots. Just goes to show how different perceptions can be. While I'm the first to admit that this isn't the most musically strong of the Astaire-Rogers pix, and that Tony Flagg (Fred Astaire) does seem misogynistic at first, I find a lot to enjoy in this movie.
What seems like Tony's ugly attitude toward women (in the remark Amanda hears on the Dictaphone recording) can partly be explained by a scene from the original shooting script that did not end up in the picture. In that, Dr. Flagg is visited by a vain and annoying female patient who severely tries his... well, patience. The deletion of that bit does make his attitude toward women seem harsher. In the movie as shot, until Amanda hears him assuming that SHE is "another maladjusted female," she actually is amused by what he says about the patient. The Astaire character's behavior throughout the rest of the movie does not support the idea that he is misogynistic, but I agree that some of the dialogue makes him seem so initially.
To read Ginger Rogers' character as having been "weakened" and "drugged" by Astaire's is to take this comedy too seriously. It was one of Rogers' favorite roles of their series together, because she got a chance to shine in a screwball role. And I think Ralph Bellamy, Jack Carson and Luella Gear offer good, if not sparkling, support here. The reason we seldom see Gear in the movies is that she did most of her performing on Broadway; she had appeared with Astaire before in "Gay Divorce" (in the Hortense role that Alice Brady played in the movie version).
I've shown Astaire's golf solo to many a golfer friend, and they never fail to be impressed. Maybe it isn't Astaire's most memorable dance sequence, but the fact that he hits such beautiful shots (he was a lifelong golfer with a score in the low 70s) while doing his impeccable tapping is worthy of admiration.
Amanda's dream dance ("I Used to Be Color Blind") is not something her doctor has forced upon her; maybe he can suggest her dinner selections, but he can't control the content of the dream! She's dreaming about him because he apologized (sorta) for his callousness during their bike ride, and they became friends during the dinner dance that evening. She began to find herself attracted to him. It's a gorgeous dance, filmed in slow motion and definitely showing off how beautiful and graceful Ginger Rogers is. I don't interpret their kiss to mean that she is "submitting" to anything--as a matter of fact, she initiates the clinch as she comes up from that deep backbend (as one writer puts it, it's her dream, after all).
Although I agree that "The Yam" is not a great song (the tune worked better as "Any Bonds Today?"), I'd rather watch the accompanying dance number than "The Piccolino" or the long sequences of chorus kids in "The Continental." Not that the signature steps are that attractive, but once The Yam gains momentum and wanders all over the country club, it's a blast. And I love the big finish, when Astaire props one leg on a series of tables and repeatedly swings Ginger over it (her idea, she said in her autobiography).
Now, about the hypnosis dance, to "Change Partners." Tony's attempts to medicate and hypnotize Amanda have had comic consequences (if they hadn't, there wouldn't be a screwball comedy), but there are two crucial differences when you come to this romantic dance: It isn't intended to be humorous, and what he is now trying to do essentially is UN-hypnotize her so that she is thinking for herself again.
I'll admit there is a submissiveness about her in the dance and that he is acting as a masculine force (and yes, Holdjerhorses, Astaire definitely had a strong masculine presence, non-macho though he was), but if ever there was a good cause, this is it. I find the number intensely sexy--he is mesmerizing her not because he wants to control her, per se, but because he loves her so much that he wants to get the "real" Amanda back. I also think it is significant that Tony cannot knock out Amanda, even for her own good. Far from a cop-out on the part of the writers, this was intentional and in character with the decidedly non-misogynistic character Tony has proved himself to be in all but the first couple of scenes of the movie.
The whole business about lovers hitting each other and getting black eyes is a staple of romantic comedy of the thirties, and it is NOT intended to be interpreted as serious approval of domestic violence. It is a comedy convention that represents the verbal conflict of relationships, mixed with good old-fashioned slapstick.
Finally, a last argument in favor of "Carefree:" despite the fact that this is a madcap comedy, there are some lovely, touching straight scenes in it that show just how strong Astaire and Rogers both were in the acting department. The scene during which she confesses to him on the dance floor that she loves him instead of Steve; and the one in his office, in which he gets her to admit that she dreamed about him, and she responds with grief when he tells her that he doesn't love her, are surprisingly moving, as is his dawning suspicion that he IS in love with her.
As wonderful as "The Gay Divorcée" and "Top Hat" are, it is moments like these, along with some of the dialogue in "Swing Time," that really show how multi-talented and underrated as actors these two musical performers were--yes, Fred as well as Oscar-winner-to-be Ginger.
Battle of Britain (1969)
How much did I dislike this? Let me count the ways...
1. I didn't care about any of the characters enough to care whether they survived the war, especially the so-called romantic couple, who fight and snark at each other so much that their love scene seems to come out of nowhere.
2. The anachronisms were outrageous. Some of the women working in the control center were wearing teased-up bouffant hair a la late '60s, while many of the RAF uniforms looked more like commercial airline pilots' uniforms.
3. There are many fine actors in this movie, but many of them seemed to be "phoning it in," especially Olivier and Redgrave.
4. There were way too many characters of which to keep track; the movie would have been much more compelling if only a few had been chosen for the subplot (and it would have helped if they were more sympathetic. All the Brits in this movie are so dashed snippy, that the German characters seem warm by comparison).
5. The music was cheesy and attempted to be manipulative. Just an awful score.
6. The sound was often not in sync, or seemed obviously to be created sound effects.
7. In battle scenes, it was often difficult to tell which fighters were German and which were British.
That said, the air fights were impressive, using real WWII planes and evoking the horrors of air combat. Maybe you could remake the movie using only the battle footage (with some new music, please), and you'd have something.
I'm not automatically against remakes...
I tried very hard to like this movie, because a dear friend of mine loves it. She's never particularly liked the original, while it has always been a favorite of mine. But I tried to view it with an open mind, because occasionally I will like a remake even more than the original (I like "You've Got Mail" better than "The Shop Around the Corner," for example).
But I think, even had I never seen the original "Sabrina," this version still would not have hung together for me. I thought Ormond and Kinnear were good, but found Harrison Ford (whom I usually like) unconvincing and unattractive in the role. (At his age, I don't think there would have been anything wrong with letting him look his best, even if he WAS a work-obsessed nerd.) What I most missed, however, was the light, magical and very funny quality (and probably writing) that Billy Wilder brought to the original. I felt very sleepy and bored watching this one, and I found the sexual tension that the director and actors tried to create rather forced. But my friend finds the movie very romantic. So I guess it depends upon the beholder!
A Big Annoyance for True Dancers
This movie held my interest, but it did three things that just bug the hell out of me, and I couldn't forgive it. First, it was teeming with anachronisms, from the dresses and hairstyles of the little girls in the "1960s" dance class (these scenes, it turns out, were filmed in 1990, which partly explains why everything looks so late-'80s), to a 1960s tyke declaring, "This sucks!" Second, it portrayed the past as an impossibly innocent, cornball, cheesy time when everyone's life was supposedly lived in terms of "Leave it to Beaver" meets prep school.
But the thing that most got on my nerves was that this was a movie supposedly dealing with dance, and it had not a single decent dancer in it. Not a soul in the film danced in time with any of the music played, and Carlyle's big scene in which he supposedly makes a big show of having loosened up enough to dance is played almost as if he is doing something impressive. Why do this when there are so many terrific dancers out there who could have been cast? I couldn't believe Steenburgen as a dance instructor, because she was a terrible dancer who could not keep time. I understand that the people in the class are not professionals, but none of them seemed to be learning any sense of rhythm or dance ability at all. The movie was not purporting to be a "Strictly Ballroom"-type parody, but it almost had that feel. If you really want to see a film about people learning to ballroom dance, and having their lives improved by it, watch the Japanese version of "Shall We Dance?" Oh, and West Coast Swing was not "an element that, with Charleston, went into the development of Lindy hop." West Coast swing derived from Lindy about 40 years after Lindy was born.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Not my idea of romantic
The reason I'm giving this film a 5 is that I didn't make it halfway through, so I don't feel quite qualified to judge it as a whole. I almost never give up on movies in that manner, but I found this one the opposite of what I thought it was going to be, which was intensely romantic and poignant. Instead of charming and wistful, the characters came over as jaded and pretentious. The looks exchanged by the two leads in the listening room felt contrived, and their first kiss was not built-up-to with any kind of real tension.
I often hear people say they prefer old movies to new ones because they aren't as sexually explicit, and I always find it a little ironic, because the sexual tension of the old ones is so much more appealing to me--guess I'm into the sublimation thing!
Dancing in the Dark (1949)
Don't judge musicals of the era by this one
This is the sort of movie that makes me think, "Please don't let some new viewer of musicals think that this is what great musicals are like." William Powell and Betsy Drake are horribly miscast, and the wonderful Dietz-Schwartz songs that shine four years later in "The Band Wagon" are staged here in unappealing, off-kilter ways. For example, the final number tries to jazz up the sexy ballad "Dancing in the Dark," renders it in a completely unromantic manner with some very odd dancing, and inserts a ridiculous Dutch couple skit in the middle of it in order to include the song "I Love Louisa" (which was conceived as a German-style song).
IMDb says the film was originally in color, but the print I saw looked for all the world like something that had been colorized! I am not dismissive of all Fox musicals, but thank heaven MGM got hold of the title and the songs and made a much better movie with them.
The Aviator (2004)
Good if you're not hung up on accuracy
I enjoyed this movie, though as a fan/scholar of classic films and pop culture history, I thought it missed the mark a lot. A few observations:
Though he looks nothing like Hughes, I thought DeCaprio did a fine job. He was especially startling when portraying the older Hughes.
I thought Cate Blanchett captured Katharine Hepburn pretty well. Maybe three times I heard an ever-so-slight trace of Australian accent (actually, it sounded rather southern U.S.!) that marred the New England aspect. I was kind of bothered by the portrayal of her family; I don't think they were rich and snobbish; just liberal and eccentric.
No one ever looked like Ava Gardner, nor could hope to, but I thought Beckinsale did a fair job of evoking her personality.
The costumes were stupendous, but the chronology of the music was all outta whack. The choices and the authenticity of the reproductions were great, and yet we were hearing early 1930s recordings (and renderings of music in that style--e.g., "Happy Feet") when it was already the mid-thirties. The mid/late thirties were skimmed with a Benny Goodman tune, and the 1940s suddenly seemed to explode on the scene without transition. Then in 1947 we hear Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade," a hit from many years before that was no longer in style by 1947. Nitpicky, you say? Mebbe, but would it have been that difficult to get it right?
I didn't know that much about Hughes, but I was aware that he didn't go into the reclusive/not-emerging-from-his-room mode until the 1950s.
But, hey--what biopic ever got it right? This was an entertaining movie. Well-made in many ways. Long. As Lina Lamont would say (chirpily) "I liked it!"
Have a Heart (1934)
I didn't much care for this strange little movie
I absolutely love early 1930s movies, but this one I thought was just awful. It has a quality of having been made up as the actors went along (perhaps it was made up as the writers went along!), and doesn't realistically address the problem of a disability, even for 1934.
Jean Parker has a speech pattern similar to Una Merkel's, and in appearance reminds me of Mary Martin, but somehow her personality lacks the spark that would have made me care more about her character's plight. I've always loved Una Merkel, and the film would have been deadly without her, but this wasn't anyone's best performance. It certainly is a cornucopia of character actors, though, as an earlier commenter said.