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The Glass Menagerie (1950)
Call me crazy but after seeing all three available movie versions of The Glass Menagerie, I have always felt the 1950 version is the best!
I am a high school English teacher, and I have shown clips of all three movies to my classes. By far, this is one I like the best.
Gertrude Lawrence as Amanda, to me, is a believable woman. Yes, she is garrulous and nags, but she loves her children. She kisses Tom and hugs him in the movie. She wants the best for both of her children, but they confuse and perplex her. I think her performance is wonderful. She wasn't shrill or over the top like Katharine Hepburn's Amanda in 1976. My students couldn't stand Hepburn, nor could I. I am surprised at all the negative comments about Gertrude Lawrence's performance, but I still feel she deserved more praise. I think she was really quite wonderful.
I also liked Jane Wyman very much as well. Looking very much like Judy Garland in the 1944 MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, I think she turned in a subtle and believable portrayal of a shy and lonely girl. She too seemed real.
Arthur Kennedy was really way too old looking to play the part, but I did like what he did with the role. Again, I believed him as a real character. Whether Tennessee Williams was gay or not (and we know he was), it doesn't matter for the play to focus on Tom's sexuality. Sure, Tom goes to bars and wants to join the Merchant Marines. That doesn't make him gay. Tom seeks adventure and a career as a writer, not working in a warehouse. Therefore, Arthur Kennedy's version of Tom works for me. I saw the terrific Off Broadway revival starring Judith Ivey a few years ago, and Tom was presented in a subtle way as gay looking longingly as a sailor passed by on stage (which is not in the script). It worked that way too. A few students have picked up on this possibility and I then tell them that Williams was gay, and that yes Tom might be gay too.
As for Kirk Douglas, I also liked him. He was grinning a bit too much for my taste, but I liked his portrayal of Jim.
Opening up the play with scenes of Laura attending Rubicams Business College, Amanda's enjoying her time on Blue Mountain with her seventeen gentlemen callers, Tom working at the warehouse, Amanda and Laura shopping in a department store, Tom drinking in a bar, Jim and Laura going dancing across the street at the Paradise Dance Hall, and Laura buying her glass unicorn all added to the film. Remember, a film does not have to include only things from the play. It is allowed to open it up and expand on certain things.
As for the film's upbeat ending showing that Jim's visit and advice changes Laura, it is what it is. It was added to the film, despite Williams' objections. It did change his play in a big way, and maybe this was wrong. However, it was the director's vision to pursue this. I make certain to remind my students over and over that even though Laura has found the courage to change that it happens only in this movie version. In the play and the other two movies made, Laura's future is left uncertain. Will Jim's visit set her back more, or will it enable her to become a happier and more self sufficient woman? We have to think about it and decide on our own.
I have to re watch the 1987 Paul Newman directed version again, but I remember thinking it was a good version, but not in the same league as this one to me.
One thing I did learn from the Judith Ivey Off Broadway revival was how humorous Amanda Wingfield could be played. Yes, humorous. We didn't laugh at her, but we laughed at the humor she exhibited. Ivey blew me away in the role.
Watch all three versions, and search some clips of the various stage versions on youtube. Decide for yourself, but give Gertrude Lawrence a chance to impress you.
Gable and Lombard (1976)
If you can look past all the fictional aspects of the movie, it's fun to watch!
I saw this movie when I was a teenager when it first came out. I didn't know a lot about Gable or Lombard at the time, but I had seen some of their films since I was getting into old movies at the time. Since I only knew a little about them, I loved the movie.
Now watching it in 2013, I still enjoyed it, but I agree with many other reviewers that too much fiction was added for the sake of entertainment. I have read biographies of Gable and the book the film was based on, but that was YEARS ago, so now even watching it last night, I had forgotten how much was fiction and how much was reality. For example, I suspected that the courtroom scene when Lombard was coming in to defend Gable for his paternity suit in the manner she did was totally fabricated, but other parts of the film made me wonder whether they could have been true.
Someone in the board discussion posted a link where the screenwriter Barry Sandler discusses the film. I would like to post it here too since I enjoyed the insight I received from it. It helps to answer some of the many questions other reviewers have asked. It's: jeffcramer.blogspot.com and then click on the right where it lists names. Go to Barry Sandler.
Regarding the music, even though the Michel Legrand love theme was used very often, I have always enjoyed it. It didn't bother me that it was a bit repetitive.
Sure, it's a flawed film, but it's fun. If you can put aside the truth and watch it for the story, it's fine.
I do think Brolin did a magnificent job in capturing Gable's essence and I think Clayburgh (who died before her time) was also good.
The Glass Menagerie (1987)
Not my favorite film version but solid performances by all
I have taught the play many times to my high school English classes. I have also shown various movie versions to my students as well.
I enjoyed this version, but it's not the one I would show my classes.
I thought that Woodward's Amanda was softer and sweeter than Gertrude Lawrence and Katharine Hepburn. Some parts I would have liked to have seen her a bit more emotional, but I feel that Joanne Woodward turned in a touching performance. The character of Amanda can be quite funny; Judith Ivey did a wonderful job as Amanda on Broadway in the spring of 2010. I feel that Woodward brought out some of that humor in the role.
I also liked the other three too. All good performances, but the pacing of the movie slowed it down. Also the film looked quite dark. I know it's a memory play set in a dingy apartment, but it was a bit too dark, especially when the lights have been turned off.
What's up with Tom visiting the now vacant and abandoned apartment building?
Overall, I prefer the 1950 black and white version. Unlike many others, I really liked Gertrude Lawrence's Amanda. I also liked Arthur Kennedy and Jane Wyman. Kirk Douglas was a little bit too energetic but still good.
When I showed Katharine Hepburn's Amanda, my students begged to return to the black and white version. This - coming from kids who hate black and white movies.
I am glad I finally sat down to watch this version, but for me I will stick with the first film version, even if it has that insipid happy ending.
Inside Daisy Clover (1965)
An interesting look at the Hollywood studio system
I enjoyed the movie, even though it has its flaws.
One of the problems is that Daisy is really not a sympathetic character. Yes, you feel very sorry for her when Christopher Plummer's character informs her that she is no longer allowed to visit her mother in the asylum. However, she never seems to be grateful for her fame and monetary success. Instead she runs off with Redford's character when she is supposed to sing with a children's choir. She is being groomed for movie stardom the same way Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin, Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell, and countless other singing and non singing performers were as well. The viewer doesn't really feel sorry for her since she almost seems to create much of her unhappiness. It is true that teenagers don't always think maturely, but back then with her poverty and fatherless life, one would think Daisy might be more grateful with her chance for success.
Natalie's own voice was not good enough to be used for the songs (except for the brief introduction of "You're Gonna Hear From Me"), and it's evident when you listen to the FSM Silver Age Classics double CD recording of the film. I like Jackie Ward very much as a singer, but I don't think she sounded much like Natalie Wood. Carole Richards sang for Cyd Charisse in Brigadoon and Silk Stockings, and she sounded like Cyd. Rita Hayworth's vocal dubber Nan Wynn also sounded like her. If the film contained a more believable sound, I might have been more convinced that Daisy was more realistic. For fun, go to You Tube and look up the videos of lostvocals3. He presents the songs with Natalie's recorded tracks.
I have never been a huge Natalie Wood fan. I enjoy her work, and I have seen several of her films. I do think she turned in a good performance, even though she never looked fifteen years old. They could have made the character a bit older but then you would lose out on the parts where they commit her mom due to her being a minor and also Redford's marriage proposal isn't as necessary. However, she does turn in a solid portrayal.
I wish Redford's character could have been shown dallying with a handsome hunk, but it was 1965 after all. I enjoyed his performance, but I would have liked to have learned more about his character and his career. Was his career ever in danger due to his drinking and sexual partners? Was he protected as long as his box office stayed strong? I also wish I could have seen some real reaction from Daisy when he reappears long after he leaves her in Arizona. How can he just come back with flowers after dumping her? Well, it's the character all right. He is self absorbed and lacks responsibility.
Christopher Plummer's character is ruthless. After kissing Daisy and getting involved with a minor (after he chastises Redford's character on the same behavior), he later says he doesn't care what she does or what happens to after she completes the movie she is in the middle of shooting. That's it. Finish the picture and he can get a new girl to take her place. It's true. When Garland left MGM in 1950, there was Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, and Kathryn Grayson to fill in. I enjoyed Plummer's chilling performance.
I too wish Roddy McDowall had more to do, but he was fine with his limited screen time. I liked Ruth Gordon and Kathryn Bard was strong too.
I agree with the many reviewers and their comments on the hairstyles and clothing not being really from the 1930s. However, I still think the film does a good job at showing the studio system at that time.
Ringside Maisie (1941)
Maisie and the Boxing Ring
I have seen many of the Maisie films, and this one was another pleasant entry into the series.
When I watched the first Maisie film, I felt like I was watching Jean Harlow. I later learned that the Maisie character was intended for Jean; however I enjoyed Ann Sothern's performance as the sassy character.
Ann does a great job showing that a woman could handle herself in every situation and always land on her feet. She is smart, sexy, and savvy.
I am so grateful to TCM for showing these films, so that I can get the chance to see them for the first time.
I enjoyed it but prefer Red Dust
I won't rehash what so many of my fellow reviewers have said about the plot, but I will focus on some of their comments.
I found Clark Gable, still handsome and virile, to be too old to be the love interest for Grace's "27 year old" character. I suppose some might feel it worked, but I didn't.
I have never been a huge Grace Kelly fan, but she turned in a good performance here. I have no complaints. Her husband in the film was fine too.
Ava was the best overall. She seemed very natural and believable. Her sex appeal was transmitted well with her comic flair.
I found the first half of the film to be more interesting than when they leave and go on their gorilla expedition.
It was an interesting film with luscious Technicolor worth seeing but don't expect too much except for Ava who is the best thing in the film.
Congo Maisie (1940)
Maisie Goes to Africa
Congo Maisie is a cute little film from the Maisie series which features a great independent female character. Maisie is a woman who keeps her self respect, her dignity, and her good girl status through all of her adventures. Ann Sothern was very lucky to have come across this character. Maisie is a tough cookie with a heart of gold.
This film in the series is pleasant, even if isn't my favorite one. It does have similar aspects to Red Dust, but it really isn't a remake as Mogambo later was.
Maisie sings and dances and performs magic tricks. The audience gets to see her think fast on her feet and to use her natural intelligence. She may not be a highly educated person, but she is someone everyone would want to have in their lives.
Enjoy this trip to Africa, and don't forget to bring your umbrella!
She Couldn't Say No (1940)
A film to catch the great Eve Arden in a starring role
I am not crazy about the title of the film since it really does not connect with the movie itself. However, the film itself is a small gem.
I watched this simply to see the wonderful Eve Arden in a starring role rather than her usual supporting player status. Her wit is razor sharp as always, and her beauty is on display too.
The notion that she would accept being her husband's receptionist when she too has a law degree is a bit silly, but it was 1940 and a woman was more willing to do a thing like that, especially "to catch her man." The court case as presented was fun to watch, and the supporting players all added much to the film. I also enjoyed seeing the small town aspect shown.
It's a fun little film to see for its innocence.
Between Two Women (1945)
Penultimate entry into the Dr. Gillespie medical series
I enjoyed this entry into the world of Blair General Hospital, but what's with this terrible title? As I have stated before, if MGM were trying to have fans of the series know it was part of the series why did they not mention the connection with Dr. Kildare or Dr. Gillespie? Were they steering away from it since the series may at that time have run its course?
As for the film itself, Van Johnson and Key Luke return once again as the young doctors learning their trade. Finally, we get to see Sally (who in a note in the film is listed as "Sallie") have her most screen time yet. Marie Blake, always fun, gets sick in this film, and it's up to young Dr. Adams to diagnose and to try to save her. As for Dr. Gillespie, he is less critical and nasty in this entry. He is warmer and more human in his demeanor.
Some nice appearances by some of the MGM stock company include: blonde Gloria DeHaven who sings "I'm in the Mood for Love" in a nightclub; Leon Ames (Mr. Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis) who makes an appearance in a scene with Dr. Gillespie; and Marilyn Maxwell who returns once again as Dr. Adams' girlfriend.
War bonds, so crucial at the time, is a subject brought up in the film with perspective buyers at the nightclub given the chance to kiss one of six beautiful show girls. I like these films since they give us an insight into the 1930's-1940's culture of the time.
Between Two Women may not be great film, but as an entry into the world of Blair General Hospital, I would rate this as one of its most enjoyable entries.
Another interesting entry into the Dr. Gillespie medical series
I agree with other reviewers that this movie was riddled with subplots, but they were not hard to follow.
I was a bit surprised that Donna Reed's character had to stop and think if she still loved her psychotic ex-boyfriend, who was in prison. What kind of a nutjob (even in 1943) would continue to love a man who killed a dog in front of her, killed two men in another state, and then attempted to murder Dr. Gillespie? I know many of the old MGM plots were sometimes hard to swallow, but come on here!
I noticed also that Dr.Gillespie's character in this entry was softer and warmer in his interpersonal reactions. This was a more approachable Dr. Gillespie than ever before.
Marie Blake, always fun as the switchboard operator, was back again with her quips and acerbic comments. It would have been wonderful to have seen her in a film with more screen time. She had that Betty Garrett quality. Not beautiful but funny, perky, and winning.
I was surprised to see the actor who played Tobey in The Human Comedy playing the recasted role of the killer. I wonder why the other actor didn't continue. I assume he wasn't available at the time.
The movie held my interest, and it was a surprise to realize that when I saw Donna Reed playing the same character from before that this entry was going to focus on earlier events. Truly a way to entice a viewer to tune in to watch the characters tie up loose ends.
Overall worth watching, especially if you enjoy the Dr. Kildare/Gillespie series in its entirety.