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Shirley Booth (of "Hazel" fame) and Burt Lancaster are married, but don't really communicate in "Come Back, Little Sheba." The film opens on Shirley who gets out of bed and moves about with no motivation to do anything, to dress, to clean. She has a likable disposition, but she doesn't have much drive. Her husband is a chiropractor, who never finished his medical schooling as a doctor, for reasons that are shown to us slowly throughout the film. Little Sheba is a dog they had that ran away and that Shirley has been praying will return. Burt Lancaster is excellent as the husband who just goes through the motions day by day without feeling. Terry Moore is a boarder who they take in for more income, of whom Burt takes a liking to. And, also, he is an alcoholic who has been sober for years and whose world will soon shatter. But this is Shirley Booth's picture, as she breaks your heart. She is both pitiful yet strong in conjuring up the depths of depression. Shirley deservedly won an Oscar for this film. What secrets are behind this façade? Will she come out of her delusions? This film is definitely worth your time. Please look for "Come Back, Little Sheba." It's an experience you won't forget.
Walter Matthau has been living high on the hog and used to the extravagant life, due to his wealth left to him, but one day he finds it's all gone. It has come to his attention through his accountant that he is broke and that he has innumerable debts. He must liquidate. He must do something. That something, as he discusses and decides with his man, is to marry for money. Enter Elaine May, who is ideal, because she is eccentric, lonely, kind of naïve and unsuspecting, and plain but not too plain. Oh, and she's very, very rich. In his wooing her, they have adventures together, but mainly talking about her hobby of gardening and discovering new flowers. She loves flowers. He also finds that her staff has been taking advantage of her, because she is very gullible. People tend to take advantage of her sweet nature. Huh? It turns out that Walter has finally found some good use for himself in taking care of her and her financial business. He finally finds some self-worth in thinking of someone besides himself. Her sweet disposition, their chemistry together and the great ending really make the film. It is now my favorite "new film I've discovered." Elaine May wrote and directed this film and I loved all of it. The beginning is a bit confusing, but, if you can get past the first 5 minutes or so, I think you'll love it too. This really is a treasure ready to be unearthed. Find yourself "a new leaf" today and you'll have a new perspective on life.
In trying to break the Samantha Stevens image, Elizabeth Montgomery stars in this television movie about Belle Starr, who made friends with outlaws such as the James brothers, the Dalton brothers and the Younger brothers. It doesn't really start at the beginning, though, explaining how she met them. We open on her living just outside a small town (in the west, but of course.) She goes into town to see her daughter, Pearl, who stays in town being taught piano and singing lessons and all the etiquette a young girl should know, her father being Cole Younger. But the churchwomen don't like Belle in their town, even though she really isn't hurting anybody and she's not wanted by the law. (She's never done anything illegal, but she does spend time with wanted criminals.) When preacher man Geoffrey Lewis proposes a union with him as a possible solution, she turns him down and he and others (with hoods on) proceed to burn down her property and run her finally out of town. Then, she and son are off to try start over somewhere else. While it may seem (to a lot of people) like Ms. Montgomery was so famous and so recognizable in her day, that all you see is Elizabeth in her TV movies, here she really is so enmeshed in character and all that's around her, you forget her and see Belle Starr, a lady who's not a real lady but who wants the respect ladies get. Written by James Lee Barrett, this was a very intelligent look at the life of one who took up with the wrong kind and payed the consequences for it. Her son doesn't like the creeps to take up residence there when they come, and he really lets her know what's what. I don't know how true to facts this TV movie is, but it really impressed me with three-dimensional characters and people you care about what happens to them, and Ms. Montgomery gives a great performance as a strong-minded woman who lives how she wants to, without caring about what others think of her. "Belle Starr" is another Elizabeth Montgomery TV movie to see, if you care about seeing her as more than just your average lovable witch.
Blondie and Dagwood's life is thrown a curve when Rita Hayworth shows up. She used to be "someone he used to know," and came to the house on business with Dagwood, as she works in real estate. As part of the plot, and as the title suggests, they are currently talking about their budget and trying to keep expenses down, despite the fact there's a fur coat she'd like to have and the fact there's a fishing club/lodge he'd like to join. But he doesn't catch any, when he goes fishing anyway, Blondie says, when he goes with the neighbor, who tries to tell him how to deal with Blondie and put his foot down. Aside from the first film, this would be my next favorite. The films centering on their lives at home are better than those which put them in situations away from home. Their home life can get pretty crazy, with miscommunication and people jumping to conclusions. Yeah, Blondie! Rita around really pushes Blondie's buttons, which gives this entry some fire and gives us another fulfilling look into the Bumsteads' far-from-dull existence.
If you're looking for Elvis Presley on a beach, on an island or in the tropics and looking for girls or fighting them off!, then this film is not for you. "The Trouble with Girls" centers on a circus-like festival that travels from town to town and stops in this little hamlet. Residents include Dabney Coleman and Sheree North, and horror film veterans Vincent Price and John Carradine make cameos, which are probably the best attributes of this film. It's not that the film is that horrible, but it's not that terribly good either. In the beginning much of the perspective is seen from a little girl (who is very cute and adorable) and a little boy. Even though most of Elvis' beach movies are dismissed as generic and formulaic fluff (such as "Clambake,") they can be relaxing and enjoyable, if one likes that sort of movie. But this was all a hodge podge, with not much singing in it and no plot to follow and no one to really like. Elvis doesn't even have that much air time in it. There may be worse Elvis films (I know there are,) but this was a major disappointment in all categories of a relaxing time with Elvis.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Penny Singleton IS "Blondie." Arthur Lake IS Dagwood Bumstead. In bringing to life the comic strip characters, they cast the perfect actors for the roles. Penny as Blondie brings a bright, perky disposition to it and at the same time conveys a vulnerability and sweetness. Arthur has that crooked smile and simplistic outlook on life. When asked what they had in the beginning before baby, he replied," We had each other." In this first entry of the long-running movies series, they have just payed off their furniture and she already wants to buy new furniture as a surprise to him for their wedding anniversary. When he gets in trouble for signing what was essentially a promissory note for a coworker and gets left holding the bag, he winds up having a debt and the furniture may be taken as payment. Sound incredible! He must get an advertising account to make good and keep his job. Gene Lockhart is the client but Dagwood doesn't know that when they start to disassemble a vacuum cleaner together. Long story! And then there's the confusion of Dagwood's attentions for another girl! By coincidence!, the coworker he signed the note for and the client's daughter have the same first name! When Blondie hears of two of them, she quips," You mean there are two of them! No wonder you're tired!" A very witty and quick, if you know what I mean, little movie this is. This first film is heads and shoulders better than sequels 2, 3, and 4. I have a set of ten films (out of the whole 27) and still watching, but I feel the rest won't measure up to this very fun, original, and satisfying first entry of the life of the Bumstead family. Blondie!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ann Harding, in her attempts to ward off being an old maid, has now vowed to snare a man in her web, though she doesn't like being that way. Enter rich and eligible bachelor William Powell, whose family owns cruise ships, boats, etc. He enjoys his life and all that comes with it and all that doesn't. But he's always admired socialite Ann. She does come from money herself, her father played by Henry Stephenson. The amount while irrelevant does seem to make her situation even more exasperating. Her plan begins. While there is some success in putting William in a spot, there is little satisfaction in her new position. "Double Harness" is a very adult and well-written film, with Ann Harding giving a very natural and down-to-earth performance. I never knew much about the actress, but having seen this, I want to see more of her movies. This film has all the things found lacking in "For the Defense." While they may be different and shouldn't be compared, this film doesn't feel dated or creaky and has witty dialogue, three-dimensional characters you care about and almost a warmth to it, due to Ann's likable disposition. "Double Harness" is one of those films that you think later, "How come no one ever talks about this little gem?" Don't just discover it today. Share it with others.
William Powell is an unscrupulous lawyer who always seems to get his clients, whether they're innocent or guilty. Kay Francis is the lady who loves him. Or does she? While the film starts out rather slow, we find out almost halfway through the film, she thinks she's in love with another man, who wants to marry her. The pace picks up, due to a car accident they had. From there, it gets even more intricately involved, culminating in a rather abrupt albeit upbeat ending. This was a good little film, though not as great as I might have hoped, considering the lead actors. Also, the film definitely feels old and doesn't have the freshness a quick programmer would have. If you like the leads, you'll probably be pleased, but all in all, I've seen better films with Kay and William.
"Strike Up the Band" is another teaming of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland who are of course put in the position of putting on a show to save a band, a school program for children, a school from closing, etc. You name it. It could be any of those things. Of all the movie musicals that were made in their heyday, these were the most bizarre, meaning while enjoyable and with good music still somewhat beyond belief. They always seemed to defy the odds, getting what they want, albeit with some obstacles along the way. This outing though is not quite as good as others, due to some of the supporting actors' not so subtle acting. Less is more is not an adage used here. In fact, there's nothing subtle here. Ann Shoemaker does give good support as his mother, with a nice speech about being a great man. But the length, its feeling of self-importance, and some awkward moments of corniness hurt its effectiveness. It is very enjoyable with great musical numbers for Mickey and Judy; but there's just so much of everything here, making it two whole hours, including a over-the-top tongue-in-cheek save-the-damsel production in the middle of the movie, lasting 15 minutes itself. I'm sure you'll enjoy it for what it is, but afterwards, you'll feel like you had a workout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Charlie Chaplin loses his tramp personality but still keeps some qualities in this dark broad comedy of murders, "Monsieur Verdoux." It concerns a gentleman who had worked for years in the banking business until the crash of the late 1920s and then he went into a life of crime to make ends meet, for his wife and son. The film fades in on his tombstone. His narration tells us all this information and tells us the following story is history. It's hard to give an unbiased review of a film I have seen more times than I can count. It costars Martha Raye in an unforgettable role, Isobel Elsom in one of her best movie roles, and the gifted William Frawley. But all of the supporting cast are excellent, especially Marilyn Nash as a young lady he helps and Almira Sessions, who is part of a family trying to find their doomed sister Thelma Varney, who fell victim to Chaplin's mercenary plans. Thelma is never seen. Chaplin has a wife or lover in every province or region of France, and when he needs immediate ready cash, it's off to another victim. We see Lydia as one. I could go on and on about the social significance and symbolism of this film, but it's too much to get into right now. Suffice it to say, that Chaplin was like Welles (who sold him the idea, inspired by a true criminal), Hitchcock and other directors of his time. Everything you see on the screen was deliberately planned down to the minutest details. He wrote and directed this all by himself, just like all of his other films. The pace, shadows, the tone of voice, the editing, the music which he composed all these come together to form a suspenseful and very funny film, which was banned and panned at the time, even making him more of an outcast than he already was. He had already been considered anti-American for his political views. Despite the off-putting, and some say anti-God, content, most viewers will have to admit this is a masterpiece in every way possible. I get more out of it every time I see it. If you've never seen Charlie Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux," then this should be a real treat. Expect nothing like "The Circus" and his other silent films and this will blow your mind. As they say, there's nothing like discovering a great film for the first time. I wish I was discovering this for the first time. But I keep finding more layers and meanings in each viewing I have of Chaplin's masterpiece, "Monsieur Verdoux."
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