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The Singing Nun (1966)
The Singing What????
Actually, this is not really as bad a movie as some would say it is. I think that it would have been more appreciated if it hadn't come out on the heels of the super-money maker "Sound of Music" which saved 20th Century Fox from going down-under into bankruptcy because of the very flopish Cleopatra which starred Liz and Dicky-Boy! We, here we have the Aba Daba Honeymoon girl Debbie Reynolds, who converted to the Jewish Religion because of her marriage to Eddie Fisher, playing a Christian Catholic Nun! Debbie Reynolds had really come a long way in there career from the days of playing Maureen the sister of the Daughter of Rosie O'Grady with June Haver to playing Helen Kane in Three Little Words; Three Weeks With Love, with Jane Powell who was also born on April Fools Day same as Debbie was, having a record hit with her and Carleton Carpenter singing Aba Daba Honeymoon. Then she later went to game in Singing in the Rain, playing a dog reincarnated into a female human form, and later in the wonderful Unsinkable Molly Brown, but to Debbies credit, n The Singing Nun she does some of her finest singing and it's incredible to hear her since she really never had one singing lesson exact for some coaching in her M.G.M. days, and coaching is not the same as taking singing lessons. Her singing is wonderful to hear! Then we have the rest of the cast trying to not look embarrassed for agreeing to appear in this film. You sometimes think that Ricardo Montalban is looking around thinking, "Where's Esther Williams to throw me in a swimming pool to do a water ballet to save this turkey!" Agnes Moorehead looks like she's trying to still play Endora on Bewitched. Tom Drake looks like he's looking around to see if Judy Garland will save him by doing some kind of singing duet. Greer Garson is playing the Mother Superior trying to still be Mrs. Minever. Chad Everett is still acting like Dr. Gannon in which he could say, as he did almost every Medical Hospiital show he was on "It's an aneurysm!" I wonder if that's what he thought of the movie? Debbie Reynolds was in an interview on Turner Classics and even though she and Gene Kelly hated each other in the making of Singing In The Rain, she did say that if it wasn't for what she learned from him she wouldn't have lasted in this business for 60 years. So, put it all together, The Singing Nun is not that bad of a movie, and you should see it in a movie theater with it's wide-screen and stereophonic sound to really appreciate it for what it is which is a great entertainment package for the whole family to enjoy together. Wonder what ever happened to that kind of movie? But, again, to give her credit, Debbie Reynolds does her finest singing ever, and she is a real joy to watch in this film!
A Star Is Born (1954)
A Star On The Decline
I read the review The Star That Fizziled with great interest. It's about time that someone has seen the imperfections in this movie and its problems. I know that there are a great many Judy Garland fans out there that probably do not remember her when she was at the peak of her movie career at M.G.M., but she never was at the top after she left M.G.M. and with A Star Is Born and others to follow, she just didn't have that magnetism on the screen that she had, let's say, with Meet Me In St. Lous, or Easter Parade.
I have to agree with the other reviewer, this movie is just Judy Garland playing Judy Garland. I have to agree with the fact that some of these songs should have been deleted, or even not filmed, and I have to agree that if they would have had Judy do a rousing version of Swanee, instead of the overlong and boring Born In A Trunk, which could have brilliantly been used in one of her T.V. Variety Show, it would have a much better effect as to why Vickie Lester was born for Stardom in Hollywood! They should have completely deleted Somewhere There's A Someone For Me, and when she tries to bite into that sandwich that was bigger than her mouth, have the door bell ring, and have Mason answer the door, etc. etc. etc.. This would have had a more powerful effect on the scene.
It's A New World was a perfect spot, and showed us the old Judy Garland as we all remembered her - a great singer! They should have deleted the Long Face number, and instead, have her talk to the head of the studio, Charles Bickford, as played, maybe with a little less hysterics, and then have them call for her on the set, and then film a musical number with her sing "Melancoly Baby" singing by a piano like in the Born in a Trunk number. As she's singing, she could show the pain she's going through with shots back and forth to Bickford showing the pain he feels for her. Then at the end of the number, she turns to the piano in tears; Bickford quickly goes to her side, and they both,in Bickford's arms, cry and share the pain with each other. Now, if they had done that; there would have been no dry eye in the theater, and even I would not have been able to contain myself, and there would have been no amount of boxes of Kleenex to go with what I would be feeling for Vickie Lester. That would have made more sense! Now, everyone will probably hate me for this, but James Mason was all wrong for the Norman Maine role. Originally, Judy Garland wanted Cary Grant, and he would have been great. Just think of Grant going from the debonair Cary Grant to the depths of degradation to suicide. He would have been perfect and I'm willing to bet that he would have been awarded the Oscar for his performance!
As for the length of the film. There were scenes in it that looks like they were drawn out because they felt that the longer the movie, the better the movie. Many of these sense could have been scaled down or deleted to make a more powerful punch to the story, for instance, the ride in the car after Norman picks up Vikie, Esther at that point in the movie, it was just a scene of babbling and could have been cut to get to the excellent scene when she asks him how he knows that she's a great singer and he simply says, "I heard you sing!" This whole scene is brilliant! They could have also deleted all that business on Norman going to sea on a movie and loosing touch with Esther. I wish, at the time, I had been able to get my hands on that script!
The one actor in the film that has been overlooked is Tommy Noonan playing Judy Garlands pianist/friend. His performance near the end of the film with Judy Garland as she's in her self-pity state and not wanting to go to the benefit is a great scene for Tommy Noonan while doing a better acting job in that film than Judy Berharts acting.
And one more thing before everyone decides to put my head on a chopping block: George Cukor was all wrong for the director. Who they "really" should have hired was Michael Curtiz. He was still alive and working for Warners. He would have seen all the problems and I believe,with Cary Grant playing opposite Judy Garland, would have got such powerful performances out of them that both would have received the Oscar!
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
The Adventures of Robin Hood; Pefection in Movie Making
The Adventures of Robin Hood has endured for years and is more popular today than ever before, but the credit not only goes to the casting of Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavalland and others in the cast, but the direction and mostly the musical score, but more on that later.
Every second; every foot; and every scene is used to its best advantage which is the reason that there is no dull moment and the the pace is fast and enjoyable. To think that at one time this movie was to be made with James Cagney playing Robin Hood and Anita Louise playing Maid Marianne. Would it have worked? Maybe, if we can get the vision of Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavalland out of our minds, but Cagney placed himself on suspension because of his movie assignments that he disliked, and this opened up the avenue for the casting of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood who was so right for the part. Then Michael Curtiz took honors with the directing, and as far as I'm concerned, Curtiz has been the most underrated director of Hollwood Films. Everyone remembers Casablaca, but does anyone know that he also directed musicals? Which ones? White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Night and Day, the story of Cole Porter starring Cary Grant as Porter.
So, with all the great performances and the ravishing Technicolor, what really turns this movie into the classic that it is? Erich Wolfgang Korngolds score for the film. Korngold didn't want to compose the music for the film, but he had no choice. He just didn't think he had it in him to do the score, and this was a rush job, and as a result it became an Acadamy Award Score. Isn't it funny what not wanting to do something and being rushed into it does for a person? It certainly helped Korngold! If you keep your ears opened while watching the movie, you'll hear all kinds of themes for the players and the situations that they are in, but if you really want to hear this lush, vibrant score for what it is; the complete score has been recorded on a Marco Polo C.D. and makes you sick to think that it was a shame they didn't have stereophonic sound for movies in those days.
Yes, The Adventures of Robin Hood is Perfection in Movie Marking and has remained a great classic to this very day.
Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
Jesus Christ Super-Bomb
I saw this movie when it first came out and I don't mean to offend any of its fans, but I thought it stunk up the joint! So, recently I found a perfect Letter-Box VHS tape of it and decided to see if my opinion has changed through the years, because as I've said before, sometimes movies are made way ahead of their time and need time to age like a good bottle of wine. Well, unlike 1776, which I cannot stand because I find no reason for it to ever see a stage or a movie screen, I at least got through all of JCSSt; barely! So, after seeing this movie many years later, my opinion has not changed that much although I will admit that visually its somewhat stunning to watch but I guess I'm just too much of a fan of the original Broadway production in which the first recording of it was on Decca Rocords brilliantly performed.
I think that one of the problems with the movie is that it's too slow moving and doesn't have the punch that the stage version had, and if you can obtain the original Decca Cast Recording, I'm sure you'll realize what I'm saying. Andre Previn who was almost a child genius at M.G.M. in its hey day, has gone too concertish on us with his score and it has no punch. Also, too, somewhat, operatic. What made Arturo Toscani such a great conductor is that he up tempo-ed everything he conducted and this should have been done with the movie. The only place that the movie gets you excited is when Nero sings "So, You Are The Christ?" in which Zero Mostels son makes his debut in the movies. It's just a shame that this movie didn't so something to get him more offers to perform since he was the only one that gave any kind of energetic performance. Let's face it, there's always someone who always steals the show, and Mostels son did just that! The cast is excellent, but their talents are not used to its fullest. Again, the music is too concertish and not enough punch even with stereophonic sound to help. Before making the arrangements and recording the soundtrack, everyone concerned should have listened to the original Decca Recording. That would have helped for starters! I couldn't understand why the tanks and jet planes were in the film and before you go out and look at the last Video of this show, it isn't any good either.
The movie was disappointing and could have been much better! The direction was bad and the music was not up to par! If everyone would have let their hair down and had fun while filming this movie it could have been an exciting experience!
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
The Cheshire Cat, Alice and Me
Snow White and I are the same age. I was born in September of 1937 and Snow White came on the scene slightly after in December of 1937. Except for Snow White, which I saw in it's re-release 7 years later, I have seen every Disney Animated Feature on its first release in the movie theaters.
Concerning Alice in Wonderland: This is not Disney's best animated feature, but it's the most fun. Even if you don't like much of the film, The Mad Tea Party is worth sitting through this movie. Sure, it's really Disney's idea of what Alice in Wonderland was in his minds eye, or, was it? One animator on the film said that they would sneak in and see the rushes and it ended up who could out-do who in the film. Almost a contest! When Alice first appeared, the movie initially was a flop and taken out of release for many years because Disney felt he had failed to bring Alice to the screen. The film appeared in a shortened version on the early black and white T.V. show "Disneyland", and then it seemed to disappear. Then years later, I believe it was in New York City, a museum was having a Disney Film Festival and the most requested film to appear was Alice, so they showed it and the audience loved it, so the Disney Studios heard of this and decided to release after many years being stored in the Disney Vaults. When they released it, I think, in the 1970's, it became the hit that it should have been when in it's first release, but just like a bottle of wine, Alice had to ferment and then become the hit that it deserved to be.
The musical score had always been on recordings and when you come right down to it, it's one of Disney's best scores, if not the best! The music was what kept the film alive until it's re-release many years later. Finally it's enjoying the popularity it always has deserved.
Oh, my goodness, what's this? A white rabbit? "Oh Mr. Rabbit - waaaaitttt!" Sorry folks! Gotta follow that rabbit and find out what he's so late for! "Oh, my rabbit! Waaaaiiiiit!" Running off it hot pursuit of the White Rabbit!
That Uh Girl! Cleopaterer!
I've read all these comments on Cleoparta with Liz and Dicky Boy, but I can top all of you. The first time I saw this movie I was forced to go to it and since we were in Germany at the time, I was assured that there would be English Subtitles, but someone goofed! I had to sit through the whole 4 hours listening to Liz, Dick, and Sexy Rexy speaking German. Much later I finally got to see it with an English Soundtrack, but in Germany in the scene where Liz talks about her hips being wide for child birth, my friends wife who happened to be German, gasped and said, "I could never say that to my husband!" We tried to get her to tell us what Liz said, but we was too embarrassed and wouldn't repeat it! In all fairness, the other night Turner Classic showed the full version of Cleopatra and for for some reason movies that were flops in their initial release seem to age like a good bottle of wine. This film has aged and I have to admit that it plays better today than it did years ago. In other words, this film was ahead of it's time and today if you see the letterbox version you see why it's a magnificent film, but if you're ever invited to see an American Film in a foreign country, don't. I not only sat through Cloepatra, but Lawarence of Arabria as well as "Gone With The Wind" which is a hoot with a German Soundtrack! One thing that helped much was that Cleopatra almost ran 20th Century Fox into the ground to the point there would not be any 20th anymore, and as a result we got an all time classic The Sound of Music which brought 20th Century Fox back into the black!
Flame of Barbary Coast (1945)
Learn How To Make A Movie; Watch Flame of The Barbary Coast
"Flame of the Barbary Coast" is a movie that I grew up watching in a movie theatre. It's easy to poke fun at a movie like this, or any movie made in that era, if you've only seen it on television. The power and quality of the performance of the film can only be seen on the big screen and not on the television screen. Actually, the cast is quite good and anyone interested in directing or photographing a movie should learn from the film. This movie makes every second and minutes count on the screen, and that's the reason the action never stops. Moving the camera in a certain way to make use of the drama and action with out two many cuts is genius, but then, these people knew what they were doing. Many repeats for good measure with eyes on an actor or actress moving side to side as if they are actually participating in the scene. The catty remarks between Virginia Gray and Ann Dvorak after Virginia Gray sings for an audition with Tito, oh boy - meow indeed! Who cares if Ann Dvoraks singing was a little off, and who cares if John Wayne tried his hand at singing on a horse? Who cares if Fred Mertz played a gambler before he was Ricky Ricardo's best friend? Who care's if Butterfly McQueen didn't get a chance to repeat "Ah knows how to birth babies Miss Scahlett!"? This movie is just good old fashioned campy entertainment with no foul words, no nudity, and in many ways the bad guy won when he said, "With Compliments of the House!" Anybody who doesn't like this movie is an old grumpy!
An Affair to Remember (1957)
The Greatest Tear Jerkers of Them All
What can one say about An Affair To Remember? Sure, it's a little long in playing time, a little hokey, so don't watch this movie unless you're a complete romantic like I am, because this is the greatest tear jerkers of them all.
You think the ending to this movie is silly? Well-l-l-l you should see what the ending of Snow White and Bambi still does to me when I watch these movies over and over and over! Yip! Niagra Falls in my living room, so if you're going to watch this movie and have never seen it before, if you're a romantic, you'd better have a box of Kleenex by your side, because you know something is about to happen when Vic Damone starts singing the title song for the movie when the credits are being shown!
Everyone knows the story line, so we won't go into it, but here's a few facts that some people don't know. When Deborah Kerr made "The King and I", part of the singing she did, and part of the singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon who went on to fame by dubbing 100% for Natalie Wood in West Side Story and partial dubbing for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, and Nixon even got a chance to sing for herself as one of the Nuns in the movie version of The Sound of Music. There are many stories about The King and I and the dubbing. One time Deborah Kerr was on a T.V. talk show and she stated that Nixon helped her out with only the high notes, but if you listen carefully to the soundtrack album, the dubbing is done so well that it's very difficult to make out who's singing and who isn't. In "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You" it's easy to distinguish when it's Deborah Kerr and when it's Marnie Nixon if you listen very close. "Shall We Dance" is all Deborah Kerr herself. In "Getting to Know You" the beginning is Deborah Kerr, but then Nixon takes over, or does she? And, of course, "Hello Young Lovers" is all Nixon, but let's go on with "An Affair To Remember": Guess who sings for Deborah Kerr in an An Affair to Remember? You got it! Marni Nixon strikes again! I love the song An Affair to Remember, but the one I particuarly like from the film is "Tommorrowland" as sung by Nixon!
So, all your romantics out there, if you've never seen the previous versions of this film, you're not aware what you're in for, and the last scene is very tense and very emotional. So, get out the Kleenex, because I've seen this movie many, many times, and everytime I see it, I say to myself, "I know what these lunatics that produced this movie are up to, and THIS TIME I'm not going to get caught up in this ending as before and I won't need any Kleenex", and then that last scene comes up; Cary Grant knows somethings wrong because Debbie Girl hasn't made one move off that couch; he goes into the bedroom and sees the painting and the wheelchair, walks back into the living room and sees Deborah Kerr still on the couch but this time crying:
KERR: Please don't look at me like that! GRANT: If it had to be one of us, why couldn't it have been me? KERR: It was no ones fault. I was looking up at heaven! Oh, Nicky, if you can learn to paint; I can learn to walk again! You think?
And he wipes her tears off her face, they embrace and the last lines of An Affair to Remember are sung romantically by the studio chorus as the camera looks out the window with the snow falling, and I feel like a damn fool because:
THEY DID IT TO ME AGAIN!
And if you think this movie puts you on a crying jag, try watching "Imitation of Life" with Lana Turner, and a little known movie "The Gift of Love" with Lauren Bacall. Put all three of these moves back to back and you'll become an emotional lunatic that doesn't know why by this time that the little men in their white coats haven't come out from behind the furniture and dropped their nets on you and taken you off to the funny farm because of all that emotional blubbering you're doing!
Lord! I just love those smoochy, insane emotional endings; don't you?
Where's my box of Kleenex?
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
Valley of the Snarls
Even if Valley of the Dolls is 100% trash, it's 100% trash at its best and 100% entertaining trash it certainly is! If you love the Jerry Springer Show, starring famous T.V. Talk Trash Host Jerry Springer, you'll love Valley of the Dolls! They say that when a person writes their first novel that it is usually based on ones own life, so Ann [Barabra Parkins] has to be Jacqueline Suzzanne [author of the book who incidentally has a small scene in the move when Sharon Tate commits suicide], and Neely [Pattie Duke] is Judy Garland, and Helen Lawson [Hayward] is Ethel Merman, and I guess you can clearly figure out who the other people in the book/film are!
But, here's Acadamy Award Winner Patty Duke Astin showing you how far she'll go to try to make a movie work even though you know it's going down the toilet, with Barbara Parkin's beauty overcomming her lack of acting talent trying to do everything to save the show, Sharon Tate looking like a first class tramp trying to look lovely, and poor Susan Hayward acting vile because she knows she got betrayed by her agent by hooking her into a movie that should never have seen a movie screem, and the supporting cast not only looking embarrassed, but trying to figure out what comes next, the chicken or the egg, or the egg or the chicken!
It's well known that Judy Garland was originally slated to play Helen Lawson, but she was not used to the T.V. actors who were used to shooting a one take scene and let it go for the next one, but poor Judy faked illness [smart girl] because she knew what a mess this movie was going to be, and unsuspecting Susan Hayward took over in her place but she couldn't fake illness to get out of this fiasco because Hayward, no matter what movie, always looks healthy as a horse and knows how to chew up the scenery in a movie to give it the oomph that it's lacking! The movie is unintentionally funny, and by playing all the scenes as straight as possible, the movie just gets funnier and funnier and campier and campier as everyone tries harder and harder to make it a drama!
In the one scene where Acadamy Award Winner Patty Duke is on a Hollywood set playing a woman in a western with a costume that looks like it was intended to fit a midget, she throws her wig off and acts like a wining adult Shirley Temple! In a scene with Georgie Jessell accepting an Award she looks like a child dressing up to play an adult and her hair-do looks larger than her body. In fact, most of her costumes look like they came out of a bargain basement sale in which no one knew what size dress she wore. But there are some good moments.
When Ms. Duke crashes Helen Lawsons party Pattie Duke looks ravishing, but then the whole sequence goes from great to tacky when she and Hayward have their little cat-fight confrontation in the Little Spoiled-Girls Powder Room and after Hayward accuses Duke of marrying a fag, the ever-professional Duke calls Hayward "Granny", turns to playing a child of 9 years old, they get into a physical female fight in which Duke acccidentally pulls off Haywards wig, runs into the womens john and tries to flush Haywards wig down the toilet, but ends up throwing it over the stall onto the floor, imitating a cat ["Meowwww"] while the wig looks like a very wet kitty that someone threw into a nearby pond because they were a cat hater! But, yet, with all its silliness, it's trash and mayhem, there's someting very entertaining about this film that makes it completely irrisitible that you want to watch it over and over.
The beginning credits with Dionne Warrick singing the theme song with the snowy New England scenes are beautiful, in fact the New England winter scenes in the movie are glorious, but of course, the other songs are also quite good, but even though Susan Hayward did her own singing as Lillian Roth in the movie "I'll Cry Tomorrow", Hollywood decided that nobody would sing for themselves except for Dionne Warrick who doesn't even appear in the movie, and that's a shame that the others didn't get a chance to warble for themselves because it would have only added to the fun to see what everyone would do with a song by singing for themselves, but the ending to the film is quite good and there's a couple of lessons to be learned from it.
The first lesson is that no matter who you think you are, screw up, and there is always someone on the side-lines that will take over and become an overnight success while you suffer the humiliation of your stupid errors in life that you should have known better at that time in your career to pull! Helen Lawsons scene where she states that she really feels sorry for Patti Duke is quite sincere, and when she says that she DOES have talent, but that talent with those drugs will be her downfall is quite correct. It's the truly talented ones that most of the time screw their lives up. Why? I can't say; but it DOES happen. Remember Marilyn Monroe? Judy Garland? And many others?
The second lesson is: Make sure all you actors and actresses out there that you read your next script thoroughly so that you'll never end up in A Valley of the Snarls!
Can-Canning Without a Can Opener
Well, Can-Can is not a total loss, but it's not a 10-star gem of a movie either, but - it IS entertaining, but the biggest problem that I see with the film is that everyone looks like they're embarrassed to be in the movie with each other because no one is actually looking at each other when they're saying their lines. Look at the scene where Shirley McClain is making up the story as to how Louis Jourdan was trying to overcome her sexually and the scene goes something like this:
SHIRLEY: And I fought him and fought him and stuggled, but what could a person do? MAURICE: [embarrassed to say] Uh - submit - of course! SHIRLEY: [slightly glances at thim and them says loudly] SUBMIT?
The film just kinda lays there and doesn't do anything. Come on - it's not Gigi! It was really a re-uniting of Louie and Maurice because of their hit movie Gigi and that's about where the uniting ends, but there are some highlights to the film. Shirley McClaine's apache dance with the guys while Louis Jourdan looks on is a great number, and the Adam and Eve Ballet is quite good and Shirley's line before the ballet is wonderful when she says something like this: "Be it known that sin may have been invented in the Garden of Eden, but it was perfected in Monemart!"
It just seems like all they're doing in the film is walking through their dress rehearsal without putting any oomph into the acting, and at the same time the some of the costumes are so tacky that they look like we did as kids when we played dress-up as adults! And, look at the scene before Maurice and Louis sing "Live and Let Live". It looks like it was inserted on purpose so that they could have the opportunity to sing the song, and the scene in which Maurice sings "It Was Just One of Those Things". Even that looks like it was inserted on purpose just to give him a chance to sing a song, but the songs are great even though most of them were never in the original broadway play such as "You Do Something To Me", "Let's Do It", and "It Was Just One of Those Things", "It's Alright With Me" [which is slow and a very boring rendition], and oddly enough "I Love Paris" a duet between Frank Sinatra and Maurice Chevalier was deleted from the movie and only heard in the the original soundtrack album, and the Oveture and beginning Credits of the video, that is if you have the first video version of Can-Can in which you get the Oveture, Intermission Music, and Exit Music with all the musical numbers letter-boxed, and why they deleted "I Love Paris" from the movie is beyond me since it was the hit of the show. Again, Hollywood has been known to do some dumb stuff!
Juliet Prowse's big number "Maids From France" is quite good, but it's obvious why she's in the scene with Frank Sinatra when he sings "It's Alright With Me" because at that time they were having an affair, and I guess if it was alright with them it should be alright with us, but later he would marry Mia Farrow and since Frank was Italian it was only obvious that his kids would call her "Uh-Mama Mia"!
Anyway, I sure wish they would re-release the original video version of "Can-Can" or a whole widescreen version on D.V.D.. Other songs from the Broadway Show were deleted from the movie such as "Never Give Anything Away" "Al-e-Vou-Zon" [which is only used in Shirley McClains apache dance as a melody] "There Is No Trick To A Can Can" which is just used as a melody for the Can-Can at the end of the movie, and again even though they deleted a singing version of the hit of the play "I Love Paris", at least they use the melody of it in the Adam and Eve Ballet, but Shirley McClains drunken version of "Come Along With Me" is delightful, and here goes the insanity of Hollywood again, at the end of the film when the Paddy-Wagon is pulling away with Shirley and Frank in it - the chorus is singing the last lines of "I Love Paris"!
So - why didn't Louis get Shirley in the end? Well, it's obvious that she was in love with Frank Sinatra all the time, but more than that; "Once a Rat Packer; always a Rat Packer"!