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It Started with Eve (1941)
Pass the cigars
Wealthy socialite Charles Laughton (Mr Reynolds) is on his deathbed. His son Robert Cummings (Johnny) comes to his bedside and Laughton has a final wish - he would like to see his son's fiancée. Cummings rushes out to get his fiancée Margaret Tallichet (Gloria) but he can't find her. In a desperate moment he asks hat-check girl Deanna Durbin (Anne) to stand in and pretend to be Gloria. Laughton takes a liking to Durbin and problems arise the next morning when Laughton starts to improve. How long can the pretence be maintained? Especially as Laughton keeps calling for Durbin .
This film is funny and easy-going. All the cast are good, the best being Deanna Durbin and the worst, for me, was Robert Cummings and his slightly wimpy nature he is playing for farce and I think he just goes a little over the top. He just rushes around a little too much. There is also a good performance from Catherine Doucet as Mrs Pennington. Her manner is spot on with her disapproval of the proceedings and her habit of fiddling with her pearl necklace to exhibit her anger and anxiety is perfectly executed.
As regards the story, it's complete nonsense so just go with it. The characters provide the comedy to keep things going, although you have to feel sorry for Margaret Tallichet. She hasn't done anything! She is definitely given harsh treatment in this film. You could even go as far as to say that Deanna Durbin is the evil one hence the title referring to Eve.
As for the music interludes, Deanna only sings one turkey "Going Home". It comes at a sentimental point in the film and so it helps to lay on that rubbish quite thick. Can't stand nonsense like that. However, her other two songs, both sung with her piano accompaniment are an enjoyable experience, especially the Spanish one. And she has an entertaining Conga dance scene with Charles Laughton towards the end of the film.
A Woman's Face (1941)
Great plastic surgeon
Joan Crawford (Anna) is on trial for the murder of her boyfriend Conrad Veidt (Torsten). We follow her story in flashback as told by selected witnesses before the judge makes his decision.
This is an entertaining film with many memorable scenes, eg, Anna contemplating killing the child Richard Nichols (Lars-Erik) by unlocking the safety gate as he leans against it while travelling on a cable car. You just know that she's capable and the scene is very tense. Another is the scene where Crawford has gone round to blackmail Osa Massen (Vera) about having an affair and a situation unfolds where Crawford slaps Massen. She does it several times and she really means it! The main characters all do well with Crawford stealing the show as the bitter woman with a scarred face who has reconciled herself to a life of blackmailing others. Crawford's performance allows the audience to sympathize with this rather nasty character as the film evolves. The minor characters are OK but the film does contain an extremely annoying Donald Meek who plays 'Herman' the barman. He plays for comedy. He's not funny.
It's an engaging film - far-fetched but go along with it and it will entertain you.
Pirate radio is always best
Nazi soldier Jeffrey Lynn (Kurt) returns home on the night that his brother Philip Dorn (Eric) is due to make an illegal Resistance radio broadcast. The brothers are at odds in their beliefs but Lynn is unaware of how his brother feels and his role with the Resistance. One of Dorn's allies is Kaaren Verne (Sylvia) who plays violin at a club. She becomes the focus of Lynn's romantic interests but he remains unaware of her involvement in the Resistance. Will the Nazi brother suss out what is going on? And will he inform on his brother and the woman he loves to Gestapo chief Martin Kosleck (Heller)?
This film is better than expected and there are several tense scenes, eg, when Verne is sent to collect some radio equipment and must change her routine in the last seconds as Gestapo officers wait to arrest her. There is also a good scene between Gestapo secretary Mona Maris (Gessner) and Lynn as she points out a few home truths to him. I liked Philip Dorn and felt that it was his film and he should have been given the headline credit. He has a powerful scene when he goes to confront his Nazi brother about what course of action with regards the reporting of Verne that he will take. Dorn cannot afford the wrong decision to be taken and is prepared for what he may have to do. Another good scene involves Dorn and fellow Underground member Peter Whitney (Alex) as they confront Resistance traitor Wolfgang Zilzer (Hoffman).
The only poor acting comes from a couple of Resistance figures as they try to leave a club un-noticed. They stand out a mile in terms of suspicious behaviour. I'm afraid they get what they deserve for being so crap. Otherwise, the acting is very good all round. It's a pity that they bring some complicated poem into the proceedings - no way would anyone remember that clunky thing.
Overall, a good film. The Gestapo team reminded me of the French Resistance UK comedy of the 1980s "Allo Allo". Kosleck and Maris have that similar fetishized imagery working for them as was exploited by Gestapo officer "Herr Otto Flick" and his secretary "Helga". There is definitely some kind of repressed kinkiness going on. The scene with the boots and the whip and Kaaren Verne draped over a seat. Definitely. The only detail missing is revealing that Kosleck is wearing ladies lingerie throughout the whole film.
Mystery Ship (1941)
FBI agent Paul Kelly (Allan) and reporter Lola Lane (Pat) are due to get married for the billionth time when a secret assignment is handed to Kelly and his friend Larry Parks (Tommy). This leads to the cancellation of the wedding and a secret trip on a ship filled with the country's most notorious criminals.
The film is OK, nothing too standout. It starts in a jokey fashion and takes a while to get going. There is some tension once we get onto the ship as there is a power struggle between villains for who is top dog. There are a few unrealistic sections, eg, the lack of numbers in officers escorting these villains and the lack of shooting from the officers when unrest breaks out. We also get a rather gentlemanly Trevor Bardette (Madek) who is quick to concede defeat to the better man. I don't think so! However, Cy Kendall (Condor) makes a good thug.
The film wraps up rather quickly and it's all rather unrealistic. Where on earth are all these villains being deported to given that they are all American?
Flight from Destiny (1941)
Where's the beard?
Thomas Mitchell (Henry) is a philosophy Professor who has been given 6 months to live but things may come to an end sooner if he undergoes any physical exertion. He uses this fact in planning his last few months. He will murder someone for the good of society, someone who is detrimental to the development of mankind. Well, he does his research for a target and picks someone out. Can he change the world through his actions?
An interesting story although I wasn't totally convinced by Mitchell in the lead role. He looks more like a drunk tramp than a Professor, he delivers his lines rather too carefully which makes him sound a bit slow in the head, and his whole idea is flawed from the start as he makes a non-sensical jump to the fact that he is immortal. And where's his beard? A much better idea for him would have been to jump straight into bed with art dealer Mona Maris (Ketti). Let her know that he's not looking for commitment and get it on. He made a schoolboy error with her. A casting question why is Geraldine Fitzgerald who plays the role of "wife" top billed? It doesn't make sense. The best in the cast is Mona Maris and the worst is Willie Best and his racial stereotype.
So who would you murder and how would you justify it? I wouldn't go for any of this benefit to society nonsense. I'd pick someone I didn't like, a far more human approach. Check out what is currently going on at that great British Institution which is Crufts. The annual doggy show is immersed in scandal as rivals are poisoning each others dogs. Some sort of competitive murder seems the way to go. And I'm sure some may feel that Tonya Harding didn't quite go far enough with Nancy Kerrigan back on the ice skating circuit in the 1990s.
Buck Privates (1941)
A & C inadvertently join the army while trying to escape police sergeant Nat Pendleton (Collins) who is chasing them for street selling without a licence. Once they arrive at their training camp, they are put through their paces in the same unit as spoilt rich kid Lee Bowman (Randolph) and his former chauffeur Alan Curtis (Bob). These two have a hatred for each other that is heightened by their affections for Jane Frazee (Judy). Who will get the girl ..? And will everyone be happy about going to war ..?
Well, I can answer that last question. Given that this is a blatant recruitment film, yes, everyone seems happy enough. In fact, it looks like quite a laugh with singing and dancing aplenty. Due to the nature of the film, nearly all the songs are war-related with some truly terrible lyrics about Uncle Sam and nonsense about loving the Constitution. However, as these songs are delivered by the Andrews Sisters it makes for good entertainment as we get to see the legends themselves performing 2 classics "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Bounce Me Brother With a Solid Four" which also includes some great Lindy Hop dancing.
A & C perform some routines and there are occasional funny moments as provided by Costello in between the shouting that Abbott seems to constantly engage in. He is rather an unpleasant character. Still, the film was better than I thought it would be despite the required sections of marching (yawn) and the flimsy storyline. Jane Frazee seems a bit of a slag in this. But maybe that's what soldiers needed to see to motivate them. Whatever girl you want, you can have her. Just join the army.
"You're a Lucky Fellow, Mr Smith"
.er, says who? I don't think so. Much better to learn to Boogie Woogie. They should have settled the war with a Lindy-Hop and Boogie Woogie contest. The enemy wouldn't have had a chance.
Land of the Texacans
It's the late C18th and William Holden (Dan) and Glenn Ford (Tod) are buddies making it to Texas. They get into trouble in a town and flee, then rob some outlaws, then escape a sheriff's posse before splitting up and wishing each other luck. They know they will meet again. And they do. However, can they keep their friendship under the new circumstances? And who will get the girl Claire Trevor (Mike)?
First of all Claire Trevor has a ridiculous name - "Michael"! For a girl! Who writes this rubbish? Her role is confusing. She is funny and likable when we meet her in her actions and manners, but her behaviour is appalling. How can she get away with betraying Ford like that? He is clearly the "good guy" while Holden is more of a loose cannon. However, their friendship still holds till the end of the film and their loyalty to one another is to be admired. Even to the point of riding away together, just the two of them, and leaving the "loose" Claire Trevor behind. Do they go for it? Well, maybe ...maybe not
A lot of praise has been given to Edgar Buchanan (Doc) as the town dentist. Funnily enough, he was an actual dentist before he became an actor. However, I'm going against the grain on this. I couldn't stand him. From his look to his accent and voice. I found him wholly unappealing. Not the character he was playing but actually him. His voice is the same as "Droopy" in the "Droopy" cartoons, ie, annoying.
The comedy is sometimes silly, the story takes a while to get going, the ending seems rushed and we needed some Indians. However, Holden and Ford are likable as the lead roles and the film is OK if a bit disappointing given the rave reviews I had previously read about it. As for Windy Miller, we all know that he lives in "Camberwick Green" these days. He owns a windmill and spends his days drinking homemade cider and falling asleep. For those who aren't in the know, Google him.
Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
Chataneegie Cha Cha
Milton Berle (Nifty) manages the Glenn Miller (Phil) band that includes piano player John Payne (Ted). They land a long-term gig with famous singer Lynn Bari (Vivian) in Sun Valley. Guess what there's romance between Payne and Bari. However, before they depart for Sun Valley, Payne has to collect a war refugee child that he has undertaken to look after. Enter Sonja Henie (Karen). And she's not a child. Everyone goes to Sun Valley but Payne can only choose one woman. Or does the woman choose him?
The story is lightweight nonsense but the music is excellent. Every musical number is a highlight with the showstopper being Glenn Miller's "Chatanooga Choo Choo" which also includes a sequence with Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers. Wow! The film also serves up Sonja Henie and her ice skating spins. For me, the skating sequences aren't as powerful as the musical numbers, but they are still being performed by a 3 time Olympic gold medallist!
The film is funny and entertaining and contains some legendary performers. Definitely one to watch.
Western Union (1941)
Dodgy brother and sister union
Randolph Scott (Vance) is an outlaw trying to make good. He abandons his old gang and finds a job working for the Western Union company under the lead of Dean Jagger (Creighton). Joining him in his new employment is new recruit Robert Young (Blake). Both take a shine to Virginia Gilmore (Sue) who works for the company. She is Jagger's sister. As they go about their work of setting up a telecommunication system across the land, they encounter hostility from Scott's old gang, headed by Barton MacLane (Jack). And the Indians don't seem too pleased about things either.
This film looks impressive in technicolour. It is definitely a bonus. The story is all rather humdrum, though. The only real interest in the first half of the film comes from the comedy sections between Scott and Young as they compete for the affections of Miss Gilmore. Hardly gripping. Talking of comedy, there is far too much with a special mention going to the very unfunny cook that is Slim Summerville (Herman).
In the second half of the film, we finally get some action sequences including a very badly acted drunken Indian but it's nothing that hasn't been seen before. Something of concern that kept revealing itself throughout the film was the incestuous relationship between Jagger and Gilmore. They needed to get a room!
I Wake Up Screaming (1941)
So do I
Sports promoter Victor Mature (Frankie) is in police custody being questioned over the murder of aspiring actress/model Carole Landis (Vicky). Landis lived with her sister Betty Grable (Jill) and she is also in custody being questioned. Through a mixture of flashbacks and real-time action, we learn the story of how events came to pass and whether or not the police can get the real killer. Things don't look good for Mature
The cast are all good in this film. Carole Landis plays a ghastly wannabe plucked from nowhere and launched into a life of celebrity. If only her fate was part of the deal for those celebrities of today think of Jordan, and all those other pointless people that invade our television sets. Betty Grable gives a solid performance no singing or dancing and is way better at it than that other musical star Doris Day who tried a straight role in "Midnight Lace" (1960) and fell flat on her face with it. But, it is Laird Cregar (Cornell) who excels as a creepy Police Chief Investigator.
The whole film is easy to watch with interesting scenes that drive you through the experience. One memorable sequence has creepy Cregar call in actor Alan Mowbray (Robin) and Mature as suspects, and force them to watch a film sized screen of Landis singing. It's a good song, and someone cracks There is also some funny dialogue to keep you amused. One example that stands out to me is when Mature says to Grable: "Who goes to a library at 9:00am?" Yep, I agree. Even when I was a University student, that never happened!
It's an interesting story that you can try to second guess but you won't get it right, especially the end twist. It is a shame that two of the main players Laird Cregar and Carole Landis - didn't live much longer after this. Both were dead by the end of 1948. However, what on earth is the title about? There is no screaming in this film.....thank God.....