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Nora Prentiss (1947)
Promising But Not Entirely Rewarding
A married man's obsession with a nightclub singer plots to leave his old life behind, such is the gist of this Ann Sheridan film. Kent Smith meets Ann Sheridan quite by accident, as he is a doctor, coming to her aid. As his life seems to have become rather monotonous and she represents a change, he is mesmerized by her. When a dying patient who can't be helped suddenly drops dead, Kent of course seizes the opportunity to take full advantage of this odd situation. What begins as an enjoyable film with some good moments between Ann and Kent suddenly goes beyond the point of no return. A lightweight and well-made film, also featuring Robert Alda and Bruce Bennett, suddenly feels very heavy-handed and ultimately no one wins. That about sums it up.
The Big Clock (1948)
The John Farrow Touch at Work with Great Actors!
"The Big Clock" is an example of an otherwise simple film made exceptional by masters at work, such as Ray Milland and Charles Laughton, but especially director John Farrow and his crew of technicians. Black and white photography, scenes gliding into each other, and taut direction of the action highlight this story of writer Milland working for publishing tycoon Laughton and getting caught up in a murder scandal. By way of flashback, we see how it all began, why Milland is on the run, and how clocks play a part in this sinister and fun film. With a solid supporting cast of George Macready, Henry(Harry) Morgan (who's spooky in a non-speaking role,) Maureen O'Sullivan (Farrow's wife in real life,) Rita Johnson (who I always liked in movies with her own little sparkle), and Elsa Lanchester (Laughton's wife in real life) in a scene-stealing role. In fact, Laughton seems to be the type of actor who doesn't emote much, but steals the scene from others in little ways. The plot unfolds and develops intricately but simply and it's delicious the whole way. This film really gets you in the mood for another film and another film, immersing yourself in the age of the old-fashioned movies they just don't make anymore. Period.
The Unfaithful (1947)
The Dramatic Side of Ann Sheridan
One night coming home, Ann Sheridan is accosted at her front door by an intruder who pushes her in and begins to beat her. Fade out. Fade in. There's a body on her living room floor. We would be more intrigued by this scenario, had it not been for the title, and also for the fact that we can tell by her mannerisms and the way she looked at him that she knew the guy. Husband Zachary Scott has been serving his country, but happens to be coming home the morning the body is lying in their living room. She is questioned by the police and friend-of-the-family/lawyer Lew Ayres and she sticks to her story that she defended herself against a stranger. But, after Lew has done a little sleuthing for himself and cornered her, she tells more but still not all. Costarring Eve Arden and Jerome Cowan, this is a very unflinching and real take on infidelity. Ann Sheridan didn't get many chances to show off her acting chops, as she was usually given musicals or comedies; but here she is able to convey depth in a rare dramatic role. The fact is though we usually liked Ann Sheridan in her comedies, but here she is placed in a rather unpleasant, unsympathetic position. The film, as it progresses, is well made and well mounted, but the deeper she gets, the more we feel it's the bed she made for herself. (Sleep in it.) Eve Arden is on hand as usual with her quick one-liners, but we don't like her either as she comes across as catty and mean to Ann. I liked its less-is-more ending with a somber but hopeful look towards the future rather than a pat happy ending with cheery smiles. The main criticism I have of the film is that, while Lew Ayres was rather good and suitably cast as the lawyer with high ideals (as he was a conscientious objector to WWII), his words of wisdom (near the end of the picture) for the couple with a rough road ahead seemed a bit preachy and/or sanctimonious to me. But otherwise, "The Unfaithful" was a very entertaining film, directed by Vincent Sherman, who once again delivered the goods in fashionable style.
Discover This Forgotten Silent Film!
"Crainquebille" is a street vendor who sells vegetables in the heart of Paris, but, when a misunderstanding leads him to be arrested, his security and health decline. The complications leading up to it are somewhat petty and irritating, but interestingly enough, the film has a haunting hold on the viewer with its wistful little score and in watching the lead actor go about his way throughout the boroughs and ways of Paris. You believe in what you see with a good feel for time and place and with good supporting characters throughout the film, most notably a young boy with his dog, who befriends the old man at the end of the film. The film is a bit aloof or distant from the old man's predicament, that is until one desperate act finds him needing and getting help. The last moments make up for any slowness or meticulousness in setting up the film's beginning. By the end of the movie and long after it, you will feel you have witnessed the craftsmanship of a great director and be in awe of the range of the lead actor and how it all came together. "Crainquebille" is a must-see silent film for any serious silent film lover.
Tomorrow, the World! (1944)
Fredric March Provides the Heart of this Story
Fredric March, Berry Field, Agnes Moorehead and young Skip Homeier stars in this film about a young boy who's been brainwashed by Germans. When both of his parents have died, he is taken to his uncle, played by Fredric March, who was his mother's brother. (Fredric's sister had married a German.) Young Skip comes to America with fixed hard convictions, trusting no one and hating everyone but Germans. The subject matter will obviously affect the viewer intensely and can provoke much discussion, but I am mainly addressing the cinematic aspects of the film and how well it entertains the viewer. The film is fascinating and the cast is exceptional, especially Fredric who always gave thoughtful and deeply felt performances. Young Skip is good and is at times eerily effective, but I felt that his character's complexities were probably too much for him to really convey. An added plus is the presence of Agnes Moorehead as a member of the family, who had a bad feeling about him coming from the beginning. It's quite an interesting film and one that had been on my to-watch list for some time, when I finally got around to it. I'm glad I did and I would watch it again. Kudos to a well-written and thought-out film with another great performance by Fredric March.
The Dark Horse (1932)
Bet on Bette Davis and Warren William!
Warren William and Bette Davis star in this film about electing a dark horse in office. The term, "a dark horse" in political jargon refers to someone running for office who's not unlikely to win or not likely to get the peoples' or favorite vote, not one to bet on, in terms of horse racing. When the party is not happy with their candidate because he's lost the confidence of the people, they come up with the name of an average Joe, who may be able to do what their man can't - keep their party in office, the main goal at election time. Guy Kibbee is "The Dark Horse," who appears with his usual ease and affability, here even more simple-minded than usual. When it's decided they need a publicity man to sell him, Bette Davis says she knows just the man, but he's in jail. They get Warren William out of jail and put him to work. William is ideally suited for the role, with his forceful voice and imposing demeanor. Warren is center stage with his complications of his love life with Bette and his ex and him trying to sell Guy Kibbee to the people. People may see this, because it's a Bette Davis film, but it belongs to Warren William. Warren William has, for the most part, been forgotten, except by those who frequently watch TCM. He was the first actor to play Perry Mason in film, and was known for his deep voice and the firm conviction he gave to his characters - usually lawyers and people of influence, but not always on the side of the law or good. For an introduction to Warren William and for good entertainment, watch "The Dark Horse." Its antics may come across as silly and simple, but its heart is there, and Bette and Warren make for an exciting couple to sit back and enjoy.
The Super Cops (1974)
The Super Cops a Winner
Not doing what they're told? Not behaving? Not going by the usual by-the-book rules? They don't care. David Selby and Ron Leibman are "The Super Cops." They get their man, by going undercover, by getting their hands dirty, by putting themselves in harm's way, by not caring what the boss says. They are really traffic cops who go where the action is and are busting drug traffickers and pushers and getting themselves in trouble in the process. After one time, they are transferred to a less-than-desirable district where they are welcomed reluctantly. But when they start doing what they know best, their new supervisor is secretly pleased with their results and wants them to keep it up, making them even more hated by their fellow cops. This is a very entertaining film with both Selby and Leibman's affable personalities complimenting each other. The film doesn't so much end with a finality to anything, as much as it shows a new change and challenge to their daily working day. For an entertaining and exciting look at a 1970s day in the life of two unusual cops, based on real people, sit back and enjoy David and Ron mixing it up and getting drugs off the streets.
Once a Thief (1965)
Disappointing Ending Mars Promising Alain Delon Flick
Alain Delon has a record as a thief, despite the fact the police do not have enough against him to keep him in stir. So Alain lives and works and struggles like other people with a wife, played by Ann-Margret and a daughter. But a robbery gone bad (or did it!) implicates Alain, with one person dead. When the law goes to his work to question him, he loses his job and has to find another one. Jack Palance is good as his ex-con brother and has one last heist to retire on, and he needs Alain to pull it off. Alain won't do it. He comes to find out that his own brother was framing him for that robbery/murder just so he would help him. What a brother! When Alain can't find another job, he resorts to what he said he would never do again. Van Heflin is also good as a police detective, who has his agenda in putting Alain away. It seems Alain shot him years ago during a robbery, but the circumstantial evidence wasn't good enough; but Van Heflin knew Alain did it. What starts as a promising and interesting film with Alain and Ann-Margret's chemistry culminates to a very depressing end. In fact, I liked the film on the whole up until the last 5 or so minutes. Granted, any film about ex-cons or people on the run never has a "good ending." But some are better than others. It could have had an ending with integrity and a hope for a better day. But no! You've been warned. Some people just exist and
An Excellent Film Noir Entry
Aldo Ray is being followed. Is he wanted by the law? Is he a criminal? Has he killed somebody? James Gregory is watching him and talks to him on the street corner trying to make casual conversation. Who is James Gregory? What does he want with Aldo Ray? Brian Keith and partner are also following Aldo. They obviously look like real bad guys. Anne Bancroft is introduced into the mix, but is it innocent? Does she have ulterior motives? Who can Aldo trust? By way of a flashbacks we see him and friend Frank Albertson (who's a doctor) on a fishing trip. When a car goes out of control and off the road, the doctor aids the hurt Brian Keith and they find out that they stole money and now they know too much. Aldo obviously gets away and due to a mistake they made (in leaving the money behind), they have to find Aldo and their money. With excellent use of time and place; good character actors; and good use of their environment in telling the story, we feel we are there ourselves and really sympathize for Aldo and the characters become so real and well defined that I felt I knew them all. The viewer never second guesses the film, as it plays out very logically and realistically and does not suspend disbelief. Nothing but praise for this short little film long on entertainment.
Lust for Gold (1949)
Excellent Little Film
Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino star in this film about gold, gold, GOLD! It opens with William Prince, who's Glenn Ford's grandson. He is following a guy looking for the Lost Dutchman mine, but, as the guy gets nearer, he is shot and killed. When William goes for the law, he's told several people have been killed before in search of the gold. William goes in search of the truth about his grandfather and where he hid the gold, by way of records and the local senior citizens home. By way of a flashback we see a pretty rough Glenn Ford, who has earned a reputation of being very mean. This dramatization plays out how he discovers and hides the gold and how others hear of it and want it for themselves. Of course, Ida Lupino is one of them. Despite the fact she's married to Gig Young, she sets her sights on Glenn and his gold. Also starring Will Geer and Edgar Buchanun, this is a very entertaining western film noir. In fact, this was director S. Sylvan Simon's only film noir. This has all the elements needed for a fulfilling experience: the chemistry of the two leads, the mysterious allure of the gold along with the desperate lust for gold which drives people wild with passion. But who is killing the people looking for the gold, and where is it, and will it ever be found? Based on a very real place and certain events, this film delivers the goods with excellent actors, all looking out for themselves and for that pot of gold.