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Normand's reputation is that she was a superbly gifted and beloved comedienne whose career was thwarted by scandal and her own reckless behavior. Having just read Lefler's "Mabel Normand The Life and Career of a Hollywood Madcap', I was surprised to learn that 'Mickey' - a HUGE box-office success - was in the public domain and available. This film was so popular it was in continual theatrical release for 4 years - an astonishing feat! - when the average film run was 2 weeks.
So I watched it. On YouTube. Not the ideal venue, of course, but even so, I fail to see why this film was so popular. Lefler explains the historical context for it's appeal to audiences, but still, 'Mickey' seems to me to be rather ordinary. And worse, I fail to see that Normand was superbly gifted as a comedienne. The biggest laughs - and there were too few of these - were provided by the dog - a good foil for Normand.
Because this film is historically important, it deserves to be given a top-tier restoration. Maybe the multi-million dollar Hollywood actors and producers can be cajoled into donating some of their millions for this purpose. Preserving the films of the industry of which they are a part should be to them a cause worthy of their support, one that is no less important - and definitely more achievable - than saving the planet.
The strange love of Sam Masterson
This film - which is a psychological melodrama, not noir - has 4 flaws: 1. The title. A noir would be titled "Guilty Secrets" or "Murder Will Out" or similar. 2. Lizabeth Scott. Her role as love interest to Sam is superfluous. And the character she plays - a weepy sad sack - is annoying. 3. The film is titled "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers", and yet SAM is the main character. Really, this is HIS film, not Martha's. 4. The 30-minute backstory takes up too much screen time. The wait for Stanwyck and the other grownups to appear seems endless.
The 3 leads are perfect, but Heflin is the most perfect. A round of applause goes to the screenwriter for putting all those wise and witty words in Sam's mouth, which made his character so likable. And a raspberry goes to the star-building producer for giving so much screen time to Scott.
Male female triangle
This is a Dietrich film, her last starring role at her home studio, Paramount. She is supported by 2 of the top Hollywood leading men - Douglas and Marshall - and dressed sumptuously by Travis Banton. The film should have been a money-maker for its studio, but apparently it was too sophisticated for the small-town public and she became 'Box Office Poison' after its release. Variety, in its disparaging but humorous review, said that you could hang coats from Dietrich's eyelashes. I attentively kept an eye on those eyelashes and have to admit that they ARE long, but not long enough to hang a coat on.
I liked this film. I especially liked Dietrich's aristocrat diplomat husband - Marshall - devoted to duty to fend off WW2. And I liked Dietrich. She has servants who attend to all personal and household tasks and therefore she has nothing to do. She is bored. She flies to Paris and has a romantic evening with a stranger - Douglas - a piano playing playboy who is infatuated with her. In the end she chooses the man who is the only one who can give her the happiness she craves. Females can learn a trick or 2 or more re how to attract and keep a man from closely observing Dietrich in this film. In what was once common terminology, she is a "man's woman." How times and the culture have changed.
BTW, 'Angel', although it has bits of comedy supplied by the servants, is not a comedy, but is instead a light-hearted, sophisticated marital drama.
Marlene and her director create celluloid magic
The way to enjoy this film is to ignore McLaglen, an otherwise fine actor. His perpetual clenched-jaw grin is beyond odd, and yet I assume he's obeying Von Sternberg's orders to play agent X-27s love interest in this repellent manner. No matter. The love story, the plot, are irrelevant. Dietrich is the reason this film is mesmerizing.
As expected, there are fabulous costumes that only Dietrich can wear and look enchanting. And lots of cigarettes being smoked in those glittery costumes. And that soft voice making the word 'No' seductive. Dietrich doesn't move in a straight line, rather she sways and spins from point A to point B. Then in a surprising change of pace, she plays a peasant girl working as a hotel maid stealing military secrets from Lew Cody. How fortunate we are, 85 years later, to be able to watch this film - again and again - on DVD.
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Grant great. Kate not.
The DVD claims this 1938 box office flop is hilarious, but it's not. The scriptwriters give Grant a believable character and consistently funny lines, but his partner, Hepburn, is incapable of being a dizzy, dopey, screwball girl who, having met Grant on the day before his wedding, is determined to win him. She's gorgeous, but insufferably obnoxious and as irritating as poison ivy. And what, pray tell, is a leopard doing in the story?
This boring comedy is considered a classic because ... Hepburn and Grant have become, in the decades since 1938, movie icons. At least 4 of Hepburn's films are among my top favorites, but this one, peeeuuu. In Hepburn's defense, this was an impossible role. None of her fellow screwballs - Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard - could have made this nutcase irresistibly adorable. BTW, Baby, the leopard, and George, the dog, turn in top notch performances.
Long-suffering womanhood the turf of Ruth Chatterton - is NOT what I want from a Garbo film. And to hear her called Susie good grief this is Garbo, not Janet Gaynor. In this sob-sister story, Susan is a character who rises above victimhood to become a woman in control of herself and her life. And Rodney is the impetus for her transformation. But, like Robert Montgomery's Andre in Inspiration, Gable's Rodney spurns Susan because she's been unfaithful. Unfaithful how much better and more evocative that title would have been than Susan Lenox, Her Fall and Rise.
In this on-again off-again love story, Garbo is convincing as a woman who spends years chasing after Rodney, who repeatedly rejects her, because, she says, "I know he loves me." Amazingly - or not so amazingly since this is Hollywood - as it turns out, Susan is right. He does love her. During the years that's she's been rising from the gutter and he's been falling into the male version of the gutter alcohol and laboring in steamy tropical jungles he's loved her. Gable was well-cast and is convincing as a man who knows how to love a woman, but has difficulty forgiving.
Although the script is as faulty as the story, and despite the paucity of jaw-dropping costumes, any film Garbo appears in is worth seeing. And adding Gable is frosting on the cake. 2 months after Susan Lenox arrived in theatres, Mata Hari was released. Now THAT's a story fit for Garbo.
Mata Hari (1931)
Garbo is perfection as WWIs most famous femme fatale
10 stars for Garbo - whose acting is as true today as in 1931. Barrymore is 10 stars too, even though today his acting appears hammy - but I like the hammy acting of the Barrymore brothers. The plot is irrelevant, and to rate the film on the basis of plot cohesiveness and truthfulness is silly. If one wants the "truth", watch a documentary. Garbo is the reason why this film is held in high regard. And how enjoyable it is to watch Garbo toy with her lovers and outsmart her adversaries, until she makes the fatal mistake of falling in love with her prey. As the object of her affections, Navarro is inadequate, which makes it hard to believe that Garbo/Mata would fall in love with him. The role calls for someone dashing, someone who could look like he was caught up in a grand passion, rather than wallowing in puppy love. Someone who could wring tears from the audience as he lies in a hospital bed, his face bandaged, his eyes blind. Would Gary Cooper be dashing enough? John Gilbert too old (at 31)?
Also co-starring and serving with distinction is Adrian, whose many costumes for Garbo, designed to drive the men in Mata's life wild with desire - to say nothing of the envious women in the movie theatres who slink around their kitchens in cotton aprons - contribute greatly to the aura of glamour and sophistication that Garbo/Mata exudes so abundantly.
Regardless of the film's straying from the facts - which themselves are disputable - this Garbo Vehicle ranks with the best of the films she made in her 17-year career at MGM.
Garbo is luminous - as always
Any Garbo film deserves 10 stars - just because she's in it. She is what makes this otherwise not believable story worth seeing. Unlike Crawford or Shearer, only Garbo could turn this dross into gold. The major weakness is the object of her love - Robert Montgomery. I've read that Montgomery in interviews refuses to talk about this film, his only co-starring role with Garbo. And having now seen the film, the reason for his reticence is plain. How he must have squirmed in his seat at the film's premiere, for both the role and his performance are mediocre. The young Clark Gable - an MGM contract player like Montgomery - would have been better cast and would have explained why Yvonne was smitten with him.
My favorite scene is where at the beginning of their affair Andre is finishing breakfast in the hotel's romantic and idyllic park-like setting when Yvonne arrives with a gift of flowers for him. Yvonne is no longer bored by life and the men in her life. She is in love! Yvonne has inspired love in all the male artists who have been her former lovers (established in the early party scene) but none have inspired love in her. Nor, ironically, does she inspire true love in Andre. How is that possible? Regardless of her past lifestyle - which does not seem so unrespectable to today's audience - in the end, Yvonne makes the right choice and does what's best for the both of them.
His Double Life (1933)
Before Young was Topper
Was curious to see Gish in a talkie as well as a film in which William de Mille and his screenwriter wife Clara Beranger were involved. The NYT reviewer praised it. Expectations were raised. The result was disappointment. But even with no expectations, I would have been disappointed.
This film is on the Mill Creek Comedy Collection that I'm watching. Despite a few comedy elements, this is not a comedy. And Roland Young does not give a laugh-producing performance. The trouble he gets himself into by being a mouse is not believable. However, from the moment Gish enters the story, because of her pragmatic yet eccentric character, the film becomes interesting. Alice's view of how to live and be happy is so unusual and so mesmerizing that I want to know more about her. I'm now motivated to read Bennett's novel.
The filmmakers had wonderful story material to work with, so it's puzzling as to why the end product is not wonderful. But thanks to the tip from another IMDb reviewer, I'll watch the 1943 remake with Monty Wooley and Laird Cregar. The only disappointment I'm expecting from the remake is that Gish will not be in it.
Country Gentlemen (1936)
The Grump and the Giggler
One dose of these 2 is enough for me. There's another O & J film included in this Mill Creek comedy collection, but no thanks. Hope and Crosby, also wise-cracking would-be con artists in their Road pictures, show by contrast how inferior Olsen & Johnson are as film comedians.
Watched this film just to see Joyce Compton in one of her dumb blonde roles. She's fabulous. But it was irritating to watch O & J routinely belittle and mistreat her. Shockingly, they drove away from the café, miles from their destination, leaving her behind in the dust. However, to her character's credit, she takes no notice of their meanness, catches up to them, and continues to be loyal to these louts. Also enjoyed seeing Lila Lee, a major star in silent films, in a sizable support role.
10 stars for Compton. Zero stars for the 2 stars.