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Easy Rider (1969)
Less Than Meets The Eye
22 December 2007
This is not a movie about a couple of mavericks searching for the 'real' America in the late 1960s. Jack Nicholson's character really doesn't say anything profound.

These are 2 drug smugglers who've scored a lot of money and do nothing with it except getting wasted and doing hookers.

I was a theater usher when this movie came out and must have seen it 60 times. It does not represent America in 1969 nor does it represent the South of that time. It gives the worst stereotype of the South which is surprising, since the counterculture is supposed to be free of stereotypes.

During his monologue about America, Nicholson's character says "This used to be a hell of a good country". Oh really? When was the USA better prior to 1969? Was it better in the segregation 1950's? Was it better in the 1930's when lynching was commonplace? Was it better during the Spanish Influenza of 1918 which killed more people than WWI? Was it better in 1900 when much of the country had no electricity, there were no child labor laws? This movie has some good photography, great music, but don't look for any insights here.
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Inspirational, Worth seeing, Some Miscasting
15 December 2007
I saw this movie on TV back in the 1970s and even then I had tuned in half-way through. It inspired me to read the novel. I then saw the movie in it's entirety.

Gary Cooper and Raymond Massey are good in their parts but each is at least 10 years too old. Cooper may not have fully understood his part either. Gregory Peck should have been cast as Roark and Robert Ryan as Wynand.

Patricia Neal is perfect, dead-on as Dominique. She projects intelligence (as she always has in her career) as well as stunning good looks.

There's much in the novel that was left out, but the photography is lovely and the pacing is good.

The biggest flaw is the casting if Robert Douglas as Toohey. He plays Toohey like a blatantly repellent villain in an Errol Flynn swashbuckler. I kept expecting him to whip out a sword and run Gary Cooper through. In the novel, Toohey is outwardly charismatic and people are drawn to him. I'd love to have seen Orson Welles or Claude Rains in the part.

To those people who say that this movie glorifies selfishness; it does. So what? Aren't we all motivated by selfishness? You think the guy that works 2 jobs 80 hours a week does it so he'll have more money to give to charity or to pay in taxes? Read "The Fountainhead" and Rand's follow-up novel "Atlas Shrugged" before you make up your mind about Rand's philosophy.

This movie and the novel are not about architecture any more than Moby Dick is about whaling.

A previous poster says that unfettered capitalism is like the Russian Mafia. Actually, it's not. The Russian Mafia doesn't build anything, create anything, invent anything. That post however, is a good example of Socialist - Leftist thinking.
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Best Episode of Series
12 November 2007
Hitchcock always manages to tap into our nightmares. Here, Hitch plays out the well known tragedy where a child gets his hands on a gun.

A young boy's Uncle is visiting and tells the boy he's brought a special gift for him from Africa.

You see the boy go up to his Uncle's room, open his suitcase and take out the gun, which of course looks cooler than the toy gun he's always playing with. He also finds the bullets and loads 2 or 3 into the revolver, then puts the revolver into the toy western holster he's always wearing. Since everyone's used to seeing the boy playing with his toy gun and holster, no one notices that it's a real gun when the boy goes out to play.

Because the boy didn't fully load the revolver, Hitchcock creates more tension of the Russian Roulette kind. The boy actually pantomimes pointing the gun at someone and pulls the trigger on a empty chamber a couple of times.

While the boy is out wandering around, play acting like a cowboy, the parents and Uncle figure out what's happened and frantically call around town to locate the boy. There's a very effective scene in the supermarket where the boy's name is called out through the public address system at the very moment he's standing next to the coffee grinder and a customer grinds coffee.

No one in town is aware of how dangerous the boy is.

This excellent episode is unlike the others in the series since there is no ironic black comedy twist at the end. It's a miniature Hitchock movie where the viewer knows something awful is going to happen unless the characters can stop it in time.
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Superb Depiction Of A Forgotten Era
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I really liked this movie. Hollywood usually doesn't cover this period because the firearms are rather cumbersome flintlocks. It's hard to have exciting gunplay, though Lancaster makes the best of it.

The movie shows early America with all it's provincial warts. The townspeople seem rather cruel to the outsider (Lancaster) and his son because he's a rube, although they're not much better educated themselves. You can easily see these people rushing out to California to look for gold in a few years, trampling everything in their path. The backwoodsmen who seek to kill Lancaster are taciturn and single-minded. Exactly the type to carry on a feud for generations.

There's no law enforcement in this town so the town bully (Mathau) does what he likes.

An underlying theme is the importance of education and planning ahead. Lancaster turns the tables on the townspeople and gains their respect by using his education and smarts rather than by physical force.

Lancaster does manage several fine action scenes, and as an actor is quite convincing as an ignorant rube (at first) and as a pretend rube (on the riverboat).

I thought the movie paid close attention to period details and speech patterns. It really captured the young USA during it's early expansion period.

I liked the inclusion of a musical sing-along by the piano, especially the lovely tune "My Darling".

Spoiler: If there's a flaw in this movie is the failure of Lancaster to have more of a romance with Diane Foster. It's implied that they'll be together by the end of the movie, but they never even kiss.
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Well Acted, But With Underlying Anti-Business Premise
15 August 2007
Ernest Borginine superb acting is on display here, playing an average joe far removed from his usual sadistic heavies or his broad comic McHale's Navy character.

The story completely misses the point that in forgetting the rabbit trap, it is Eddie who has the problem and wants to make it his bosses problem.

Private companies are not like governments. They are not in business to provide jobs for people and they are not run by bosses who enjoy making life miserable for their employees. Unlike government departments, they have competitors and if they don't do it better and or cheaper, they lose market share and eventually go out of business. Despite popular belief going back to Charles Dickens, a company boss/owner only cares about the bottom line not out of evil, but because the bottom line dictates whether or not the entire company survives.

Lets see it from a different angle. What if it was the boss who'd forgotten the rabbit trap and decided to take time off his job to go back for it. What if as a result a crucial decision was not made and the company went out of business? Should the entire company suffer for the bosses personal problems? What if Eddie was your brain surgeon. Would it be OK with you if he got someone else to fill in for him or delayed your surgery to go back for a rabbit trap that he forgot?
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Shane (1953)
Suble Humor In Shane
13 August 2007
Another poster remarked on this film's lack of humor compared to the westerns of John Ford. There are no clownish Victor McLaglen characters in Shane; still, the humor is there, but it's subtle.

When Shane first goes into town with the Starrets, Joey asks Shane why isn't he taking his gun. Shane replies: " I didn't know there was any wild game in town." Shane selects some shirts and pants at Grafton's general store. Grafton: "Young man, you owe me two dollars and two bits." Shane: (with a look of shock) "It's been a while since I bought storebought clothes." Lewis: (who's been watching the whole thing) "Dollar don't go very far these days." After the big fight, Marian is tending the bruises of Shane and big Joe. Joey: "I thought you were a goner when he hit you with that chair!" Shane: "It was an easy chair, Joey!" Shane is repairing the barbed wire fence that Riker's men have torn down. Joey: "Shane, what would you do if you caught them going through the fence?" Shane: "I'd ask them to please come around by the gate." Joey: "Aw, Shane!" At the farmer's meeting, whenever Torrey speaks, the harmonica guy plays 'Dixie'.

I love the way the dog slinks out of the barroom when the satanic-looking Wilson walks in.

Riker: "I like Starret too, but I'll kill him if I have to." Wilson: "You mean I'll kill him if you have to."
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Rio Bravo (1959)
Fine Ensemble Acting
27 May 2007
Some posters who dislike this movie are unable to separate John Wayne the actor from John Wayne's right wing politics, as if that had anything to do with his performances.

Ironically, Wayne himself sought out Kirk Douglas for several of his movies despite Douglas's well known liberal sensibilities.

Anyone who doesn't think Wayne was a fine actor should view some of his early westerns of the 1930's to see how carefully he developed his craft. You think John Wayne was always John Wayne? He invented his screen persona. He must have practiced that measured cadence of speech until he couldn't do it any other way because it just isn't there till the 1940's. His deliberate body language was also something he created. The 1930's John Wayne didn't seem to know what to do with his hands. Good acting is not just the ability to disappear chameleon-like into a part; good acting is playing your part so interesting or compelling enough that people will part with 2 hours of their lives to watch you. You think Wayne wasn't a good actor? How many actors could walk into a scene and command authority with their mere presence? Brando? Pacino? Deniro? Pitt? Rio Bravo is not a great John Wayne movie like "Red River" or "The Searchers". In those movies, Wayne is the whole show despite being surrounded by fine actors. Wayne isn't digging deep here. He playing a sheriff who's comfortable in his skin and his job and only seems unsure of himself when Angie Dickinson's around. The part requires authority, and Wayne displays it effortlessly. Rio Bravo is a great, enjoyable movie because Wayne, though still an important part of the movie, allows everyone else to upstage him in their scenes with him. Just look at one of the best scenes, the singing interlude in the jail-house. Wayne is the only one who doesn't sing; just lets his co-stars do what they do best and enjoys the moment.

Dean Martin does the real acting here. He and Ricky Nelson also get to display their musical talent. Walter Brennan does the best Walter Brennan impression ever caught on film. Angie Dickinson; was this her first major role? She really sank her teeth into this one. She was brave, funny and sexy. Of the major actors, Ricky Nelson seemed a bit miscast. He's not bad; he just doesn't radiate the menace that you'd expect from a gunfighter. Steve McQueen or Burt Reynolds would have been better choices. Both were young, up and coming TV actors in 1959.

Rio Bravo is not strictly a western; it's a character study that just happens to take place in a western setting. It resembles the old TV show Gunsmoke. You kind of wish there'd been a sequel.

Other posters have mentioned that Howard Hawks and John Wayne made this in reaction to "High Noon". The big knock against "High Noon" is that in the old west, there is no case where a town showed cowardice in the face of gunmen. Quite the contrary. The Jesse James Gang and the Dalton Gang both came to an abrupt end when armed citizenry shot them to pieces. Settling in the old west was act of courage in itself and everyone was as familiar with a gun as with a shovel. In "Rio Bravo", every member of that town is brave and rallies behind the Sheriff. In that sense, "Rio Bravo" is more realistic than "High Noon".

I'm not rating Rio Bravo a 10 because it's doesn't transcend the genre the way "Shane" or "The Searchers" did. It's just good entertainment and I watch it whenever it shows up.
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Casino Royale (2006)
Finally, A Tough Guy Bond
17 April 2007
Those reviewers who didn't like Daniel Craig as James Bond should read some of the novels. The James Bond of the novels is more like a British Mike Hammer. You get the feeling that Bond had a rough, working class background and the sophisticated taste came later. The Bond of the novels had worked behind the lines in WWII sabotaging and killing Nazis.

Indeed, when Sean Connery first auditioned for the role, it was this roughness that got him the part. Connery had to be taught the sophisticated veneer. Till Craig came along, the young Connery was the only Bond that looked like he could walk into a bar and break your arm off.

The Bond character got sidetracked with the likes of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan who look and acted like overage gigolos. I never could see Moore, Dalton or Brosnan kicking anybody's ass. I never wanted to be Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton or Peirce Brosnan. I wanted to BE the young Sean Connery. I hope to be like Connery is now when I get to his age.

I like the fact that Craig didn't have those ridiculous gadgets. Bond didn't have them in Dr. No or From Russia With Love. One of the best fights in all the Bond movies was the claustrophobic Orient Express fight with Robert Shaw. Gadgets? some tear gas, a knife and a garroting wire.

I like Daniel Craig as Bond. He's ruthless, primitive, and tough; the educated sophistication doesn't quite mask it. A good man to have on your side.
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Good Movie Despite Cagney's Mushroom Hat
9 April 2007
I don't agree with a previous poster that Bogart and Cagney looked too urban to be in a western. Not all westerners spoke with a drawl. Many came to the west to escape ore reinvent themselves. You might easily run into a New Yorker or an Englishman in a western barroom. Theodore Roosevelt went west following the simultaneous deaths of his wife and mother. The writer Robert Louis Stevenson also went west.

I'd would have played up Cagney's New Yorkisms by having him wear a derby rather than that over-sized hat he wore. Let him be from New York. Not all westerners wore what was thought as typical western garb. Bat Masterson was quite the dandy.

Poor Bogart. In the 1930's he was desperately trying out a wide range of parts and acting styles. He was good as the villain, but wasn't yet the Bogie that became iconic. I've never seen the movie, but I understand he played a vampire in one movie. Wow! Poor Bogart.

That said, 'Oklahoma Kid' an entertaining movie. I love Cagney's anarchist-populist rhetoric. How often did you hear that in a western? It's a wonder he didn't organize a labor union!
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Nostalgic, Bittersweet Fun
7 April 2007
Cagney departs from his tough, street smart persona to play the gullible, not so tough Biff Grimes. Notice how he loses fight after fight; in one scene he's a barroom bouncer tossing his drunken father out asking his father not to put up too much of a fight "I'm supposed to be a tough guy".

He gets suckered time after time by Hugo and Virginia. That wouldn't have happened to other Cagney characters! His best scenes are with Olivia DeHavilland. What chemistry. Sometimes no dialog, just glances.

The main characters play off each other phenomenally. Even the minor characters are superb. Who was that fat German who blew beer foam into Cagney's face? He was great! The period music is so woven into the story that the movie almost becomes a musical. The lovely theme that's played whenever Olivia DeHavilland come into the scene is "When You Were Sweet Sixteen". Unlike the title song "Strawberry Blonde", it's never sung in the movie but it was popular at the turn of the century. Perry Como made it one of his hits in the early 1940's.

The movie is such a nostalgic, funny, (sad at times) look back at the turn of the century that you wish you could go back there with them.

It's amazing that director Raoul Walsh also made the brilliant, violent, cynical "White Heat" with nary a sentimental, lovable character.
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Copper Sky (1957)
Low Budget Western African Queen Without The Humor
9 September 2006
As has been said before, this is "The African Queen" out west. Colleen Gray does well and is far easier on the eyes than the starchy Katherine Hepburn.

If I had to put my finger on the film's weakness, it would be Jeff Morrow. He plays a drunken ex-cavalryman like a skid row alcoholic. Morrow's character is an experienced man of the west despite his drinking problem, yet when getting ready to set out across the desert, he packs 10 times more whiskey than food or water. Drinking that much alcohol in the western desert would kill him faster than the Indians.

The movie neither explores the humor of mismatched people, nor the drama of weak people rising to meet a challenge. This them was also better done in "Heaven Knows Mr. Allison" with Robert Mitchum & Deborah Kerr.

The writing is bad but I can't help feeling that a different B actor like Lee Marvin for example, could have done more with a limited script. Marvin always found the humor in the tough guy. He also know how to play drunks.

Morrow doesn't show any shame at his condition, yet he's a former cavalryman. He does show some competence once Gray disposes of his liquor.
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The Whistler (1944)
Hitchcock-Like Drama With Comic Elements
16 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Oh, what Hitchcock could have done with this story and a bigger budget! Dix plays a man depressed and ridden with guilt over his wife's death. He decides to put a contract out on himself. He gives $10,000 to shady character who in turn hires the killer (Naish). Dix doesn't know who the killer is, what he looks, or whether it is a man or woman.

The shady character dies in a shootout with the police shortly after hiring the killer, so when Dix changes his mind and decides he wants to live, he has no way of canceling the contract.

There are some amusing twists in this fast paced noir which Hitchcock would have enjoyed. The best one is when the killer (well-played by Naish) poses as a fast-talking insurance salesman and tries to sell the man he plans to kill some life insurance! Also, as in Hitchcock movies, there is a ying-yang relationship between hero and killer. Hero initially wants to die, killer is morbidly afraid of death.

The seamy low-life characters that Dix encounters are very well-played by obscure character actors.

The whole thing is beautifully photographed in typical doom-noir style.

The plot is very similar to 1971's "The Face of Fear" where a young woman who thinks she's dying of leukemia, hires a mob killer to eliminate her, then changes her mind.
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Red River (1948)
Misunderstood Classic
12 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Wayne's character Dunson foreshadows his Ethan Edwards character in "The Searchers". One might say "Red River" goes one better by showing how Dunson's dark side develops.

I can't believe how many reviews complain about the ending of "Red River". The ending of "The Searchers" is very similar right? Yet no one complains about that ending.

Possible Spoiler:

Other reviewers have wondered how is it possible that Dunson kills Cherry just before his showdown with Garth and no one, not even Garth seems to care. I wondered about that too. In a careful viewing of the gunfight between Dunson and Cherry, Cherry is wounded but not killed! He is propping himself on the ground and others come to his aid. They are still around him in the background as Dunson tries to provoke Garth.

I think "Red River" is one of Wayne's best. It's remarkable when you consider that it was filmed in 1946. Compare it to the film Wayne did just before it; the mediocre "Dakota".

"Red River" was really the film that made John Wayne, not "Stagecoach". John Ford didn't give Wayne meaty starring roles till after "Red River". Wayne's great movies like "Wake of the Red Witch", "The Quiet Man", "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" & "The Searchers" all came after "Red River".

The cast in "Red River" was uniformly great. You expect good acting from Montgomery Clift, John Ireland and Walter Brennan. but look at the little roles; the Indian with the false teeth, the Irishman with his funny hat; even that tall geek who started the stampede by stealing sugar. He never made another movie but he nailed his little part.

I thought Joanne Dru was fine. Her big scene where she offers to bear Dunson a son was well done. If I'd been Dunson, I would have given up the revenge thing right there.

One cliché that's always bothered me is the Indian attack on the wagon train. In every movie I've seen of a wagon train attack, the Indians always gallop in a circle shooting into the wagon train. Wouldn't they run a risk of shooting a fellow brave on the opposite side? And why do they always gallop clockwise?
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Bugsy (1991)
A Vanity Project For Beatty
10 August 2006
Bugsy Siegel was 31 when he went out to the West Coast. In addition to his dreams about Las Vegas, he toyed with the idea of acting. He was a good looking guy and about 7 years younger than his pal George Raft, so it wasn't such a crazy idea.

Warren Beatty was 54 when he made this movie and despite the hair dye, he's too old for this part. Beatty was miscast; Bugsy should have been played by someone like Alec Baldwin. Bugsy was a tough guy feared by his contemporaries; Beatty just doesn't radiate menace.

This was a vanity project for Beatty, who hasn't come to terms with the fact that he's no longer a leading man.

The other big annoying miscast is Mantegna as George Raft. Raft had a distinctive voice and mannerisms, none of which Mantegna even attempts to match. You never once believe that Mantegna came from the streets.

Warren Beatty and Robert Redford have both been pretending to be younger for years by massive use of hair dye, and now it;ll be a shock to suddenly go gray and play character parts.
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First Rate Movie by Second Rate or Has-Been Cast
15 July 2006
The cast of this movie, Ann Sheridan, Steve Cochran, Walter Brennan have all made movies that are better known, but they've rarely been better than they are here.

I've never heard of the director, but he manages to pull a good performance out of the usually dreadful Sonny Tufts. Here he plays a tough, semi-bully (but not totally bad) adversary to Steve Cochran.

Other's have written the plot outline so I won't repeat it. One of my favorite scenes is Walter Brennan's drunken confession to Matt (Steve Cochran) about his birth certificate and his sober morning after contradiction! It's nearly as funny as Brennan's false teeth running gag in 'Red River'.

Ann Sheridan role was much like Sally Field's in 'Places In The Heart', totally different from her wise-cracking oomph-girl roles in the 30's and 40's.

I've never understood why Steve Cochran failed to become an A star. Like Robert Mitchum, he could play hero or heavy equally well. Reading his mini-biography, Cochran's own real life story (and death) would make a great noirish movie.

Sherry Jackson was a fine child star. Her performance as John Wayne's tomboy daughter in 'Trouble Along The Way' was equal if not better than her touching performance in this movie. She developed into a stunningly beautiful woman and then dropped from sight. She had a fine turn in the original Star Trek as a sexy-sad android.

'Come Next Spring' is very much like the better known 'Picnic' and I think it's just as good.

I've never forgotten the very last scene which still chokes me up when I think of it.
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John Wayne Channels 'Destry'
13 May 2006
John Wayne plays a cowboy who allows himself to be underestimated by wildcatter Albert Dekker. His 'aw shucks' manner like Jimmy Stewart in 'Destry Rides Again' masks a tough, intelligent character who rises to the challenge posed by Albert Dekker's Jim Gardner.

Part of what makes the movie interesting is that the villain, Jim Gardner, is not just a standard heavy. Yes, he's a ruthless businessman, single minded in his drive for success. On the other hand, he's competent and he's no coward. Early in the movie he arrives at one of his well sites and is told there's a mechanical problem. None of his workers seem able or willing to fix it. Disregarding his personal safety, he climbs a rope to the top of the well and fixes the problem.

He's also a close physical match for John Wayne's character, with two long fights. Like it or not, Gardner represents the kind of entrepreneur that built this country. You can't help having a grudging respect for him.

Wayne's Dan Somers has a populist outlook. At the sight of an oil well spouting oil, Martha Scott's Cathy Allen, gushes "It smells like a new day, like prosperity"; Somers replies, "To me it just smells".

Somers saves Gardner from getting shot by a disgruntled farmer, then prevents Gardner from beating up the farmer. Somers seems to represent a 'New Deal' philosophy.
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Oklahoma! (1955)
Best Filmed Version of a Boadway Musical
27 December 2005
I've seen this musical on stage, acted in it in college and have also seen the Hugh Jackman version.

This is the gold standard. MacRae's near operatic baritone nails the opening 'Oh What a Beautiful Mornin' and the closing 'Oklahoma!'. He's perfect for the part of Curly.

Has there ever been a more beautiful, corn-fed, farm girl Laurie than Shirley Jones? Terrfic soprano too.

Gene Nelson's 'Kansas City' was a stimulating piece of choreography, dancing and singing.

Rod Steiger as Jud did well to elicit sympathy despite the elimination of his song 'Lonely Room'. Jud's a fatal attraction killer; he hints to Curly that he torched an entire family to death because the farmer's daughter rejected him. He was creepy & frightening. I'm not surprised he had no friends; he made no attempt to be friendly. His dark and brooding presence seems to have wandered in from a Tennessee Williams play. A good thing too; without Jud, 'Oklahoma!' is so light and frothy it threatens to float off into sunny western sky.

That said, I thought the dream ballet struck the wrong note. The ballet made it seem as if Laurie was fascinated by the forbidden dark side represented by Jud vs the sunny optimism of Curly. The dream ballet Jud was always surrounded by dancing girls, making him charismatically evil, not at all like the warped loner who lived in the smokehouse. In her waking moments, Laurie found Jud repellent. She only agreed to go the social with Jud because Curly was so smug. Perhaps Jud should have been played by Robert Mitchum.

This was one of the few musicals where all the actors were permitted to sing in their own voices. The genius who directed 'South Pacific' and 'Camelot' would probably have cast Tab Hunter as 'Curley' and Terry Moore as 'Laurie'.

The music was just wonderful; there's enough melody here to make several musicals of the caliber of 'Cats' or 'Rent'. Notice how danceable it is. 'Beautiful Mornin' and 'Out of My Dreams' are waltzes.
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Carousel (1956)
Fine Musical w/ One Hugely Flawed Scene
26 September 2005
Nearly as well done one as 'Oklahoma', this is the rare musical where everyone does their own singing and does it well, unlike 'South Pacific' and 'Camelot' where the stars were cast for their box office power and someone else sang for them.

Each time I've seen this movie on TV, the lovely duet 'If I Loved You' is photographed from a distance, at least when Gordon MacRae sings his part. Perhaps the close-up take was ruined and this was substituted, but you can't see any facial expressions. All you see is MacRae gesturing, walking back and forth while you hear his voice. You don't even see his lips move. It's too bad, because vocally, this version of the duet is superior to the original Broadway cast version with Jan Clayton and John Raitt. Raitt was great, but Jan Clayton's voice is too weak and delicate. In the movie, Shirley Jones is every bit the vocal equal of Gordon MacRae. Now compare how 'If I Loved You' is photographed with 'Soliloquy' or even when MacRae returns for 1 day and softly and beautifully reprises 'If I Loved' to the middle-aged Julie.

The casting of MacRae is perfect, not just vocally either. Even though this movie came out just 1 year after 'Oklahoma', MacRae is visibly heavier and seedier around the edges. At some level, Billy Bigelow understands he's a self-destructive loser and needs Julie more than Julie needs him. His strutting act is tinged with shame. He's not that much different from his pal Jigger, except that Jigger is not handicapped by conscience. Even though Frank Sinatra (who was originally cast as Billy) played many characters like this, I think MacRae had the better voice for this part and actually seemed to be in real life the handsome golden boy going bad.

Julie is partly a loser because she knows better, and she deserves better than Billy Bigelow. Other reviewers have criticized the play for an unrealistic portrayal of a woman sticking with a shiftless abusive husband. Seems to happen a lot still. The seaside setting in Maine is so picturesque, the songs are so lovely, you almost forget that this story is more commonly found in a city slum or a trailer park. Jones and MacRae sing their parts like champions, just as they did in 'Oklahoma'. Their singing transcends the sordidness of their story.

The pairing of Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae is the best of all the movie musicals. Shirley Jones had the best soprano voice in movies with the possible exception of Julie Andrews. You could actually make out the words in her singing. She had none of the pretentious trilling of Kathryn Grayson. MacRae could go from soft crooning to operatic high notes with ease. I've seen Oklahoma and Carousel on stage many times and have yet to hear them sung better than the movie versions.

Rodgers and Hammerstein avoided making Carrie and husband Mr. Snow money driven caricatures by their mutual love for each other in the tender 'When The Children Are Asleep'. As much as the emotional center belongs to Billy & Julie, one must admit that it is the Snow family that's the prototype for the successful American Family. Mr. Snow's plowing his profits from one fishing boat to build up to a fleet could be applied to restaurants, taxicabs or stores.

The dream dancing in Carousel is better than in 'Oklahoma'. Jacques D,Amboise has a tremendous screen presence, and Susan Luckey is a better actress than Bambi Linn in Oklahoma.
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Hard Times (1975)
Some of the best fight scenes
31 March 2005
Great role for Bronson.

Compare Bronson's fighting style with almost any other fight movie like Kirk Douglas in 'Champion' or Stallone in the 'Rocky' series. Bronson slips and ducks his opponent's punches like a real fighter does, putting as much effort into not getting hit as he does hitting the other guy. Any fighter taking the hits that most movie boxers take would be unconscious or dead in a matter of minutes, and even sluggers like Rocky Marciano and George Frazier were constantly moving, never offering a good target.

This depression era movie is similar in flavor to the Lee Marvin Ernest Borgnine vehicle 'Emperor of The North'. Both movies have unsentimental, tough, taciturn heroes who communicate more with glances and gestures.
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Brando's contempt for Hollywood & Himself
30 March 2005
I think Brando's great performance in 'Last Tango In Paris' must have taken something out of him and he decided to let himself (and his art) go. His performance here is not one where he becomes his character, rather one where he does on screen whatever foolish thing came into his head and everyone called it great acting. Brando had done this before in 'Mutiny On The Bounty' and 'Candy'.

In his greatest movies, Brando not only becomes his characters, he owns them for all time. No one will ever do the part of Stanley Kowalski, Terry Malloy or Vito Corleone as well. Most stars create one indelible persona and make a career playing variations on that character. To his credit, Brando created several such characters and tried not to repeat himself.

What Brando did in Missouri Breaks is the equivalent of Picasso urinating on a canvas and passing it off as art. Brando must have been laughing on the inside at what he was able to get away with. The director didn't do his job and rein him in. Would John Ford have allowed this? Hardly.

What's wrong with his performance? To start off with, why cast such a fat man as a bounty hunter/regulator in a Western? Every old picture of the old west shows mostly lean wiry people. The only overweight people were some politicians and some of the rich. Bounty hunting was hard, dangerous work. Dressing up like a granny, the changing accents, etc.? Yes, Brando's character is an insane killer, but even an insane killer has to have a veneer of normalcy to succeed. These over the top eccentricities might have been tolerated in New York or San Francisco but would have gotten him lynched elsewhere. All the other actors, Nicholson, Stanton, Quaid etc. seem to be have a different idea of where this movie is going from Brando.

I think Brando gave up on himself and on taking acting seriously with this movie. With the exception of 'Apocalypse Now', nothing that came afterwards is of lasting value. Unfortunately, by helping to trash this movie he hurt not only the Movie Industry (which he always hated) but the rest of the cast as well.

I don't know what happened to Brando. Perhaps there was self loathing for his eating problem and his dysfunctional family.

I contrast Brando's career with that of another less talented but harder working method actor, Paul Newman. Newman started with less talent but has done more consistently good work than Brando.
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James Griffiths as Doc Holliday Steals the Show
28 March 2005
Even though the title is Masterson of Kansas, It's James Griffiths' Doc Holiday who's the most interesting character. His quiet, cultured manner radiates more deadliness than the generic Western manner of Montgomery's Masterson. Griffith was a good character actor who was worthy of better movies.

The problem with the Masterson of this movie is that the real Masterson was a bit of a dandy (more like Gene Barry's TV version) whereas here he's no different than Wyatt Earp.

Of the three 'good guys' Holiday, Masterson and Earp, Holdiay seems the most intelligent. Masterson knowingly takes on about 8 bad guys who are waiting for him and almost gets killed but for Holiday's intervention. Earp's attempt to face down a lynch mob lasts about 5 seconds when he gets knocked unconscious by a well thrown rock. That would never have happened to Burt Lancaster! Unfortunately for the viewer, the bad guys are not menacing enough and waste time with elaborate plotting. Makes you long for Lee Marvin or Leo Gordon.
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Whatever Happened to Simone Simon?
13 March 2005
Watching this movie, I can't understand why Simone Simon didn't become a great star. In this movie she's luminous on a level with Ingrid Bergman & Audrey Hepburn. Watch the scene where Jimmy Stewart really look at her for the first time as she turns her face to his with the melody of 'Diane' playing softly; movie magic!

She made two other well-known movies: Cat People & Curse of the Cat People, then her career dwindled into nothingness. Perhaps if she'd had more charismatic co-stars like James Stewart to play off against. She should have been James Cagney's unrequited love in "The Roaring Twenties" instead of that insipid Priscilla Lane (or was it Rosemary Lane?)

James Stewart is superb as Chico. He's awkward, gruff, reluctant to get involved with other people yet his core decency compels him prevent Diane's mistreatment and stop her suicide attempt. Stewart was probably that way in real life. I don't agree that he's miscast or that he should have a French accent. There are people like that in all countries. It's not about France or French people. Any urban setting like London, Rome, New York etc. would have done equally well.

I found the character played by J. Edward Bromberg rather disturbing. He kept showing up to rain on Diane's parade with those strange eyes. I kept hoping Diane would give him a beating like she did to Gale Sonergaard.
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Istanbul (1957)
Hear Nat King Cole Sing
21 January 2005
Fairly good movie with some similarities to Casablanca including a song comparable to 'As Time Goes By' sung by the leading man's black sidekick.

Nat Cole was one of the greatest song stylists ever, and the way he caresses 'When I Fall In Love' is something to behold. As an actor he was just fair, but when he sings at the piano even Errol Flynn pays him an envious compliment.

Cornell Borchers is pretty but doesn't jump off the screen like Ingrid Bergman. Flynn is good but shows the beginnings of his alcohol induced physical slide that led to his premature death in 1959.
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South Pacific (1958)
Great Musical Spoiled On Film
31 October 2004
When there were so many great singers in 1950's Hollywood, why oh why did thy cast non-singers to sing such timeless standards as 'Some Enchanted Evening', This Nearly Was Mine' & 'Younger Springtime'? Was it because they needed the star-power of Rosanno Brazzi and John Kerr? Has anyone ever gone to see a movie just because Rosanno Brazzi or John Kerr were in it?

Even the dubbed voices weren't great. I was fortunate to have seen Robert Goulet in the part of Emile back in 1988 in a revival of South Pacific. That was singing at it's best.

Mitzi Gaynor was fine as Nellie. She can sing & dance and she's very sexy. I thought she was a good (not great) actress.

But oh, the colored filters drove me nuts.

What's up with dubbing Juanita Hall's voice? Were they nuts? She sang that part on stage!

While were on the subject of Rosanno Brazzi, what's up with casting an Italian to play a Frenchman? They did that in the original stage production with Ezio Pinza. Can't they find a Frenchman who can act & sing? Maybe they think that all European accents sound alike to to us crude, unsophisticated Americans.

Ah well, Hollywood would cast another non-singing Italian box office powerhouse (Franco Nero) to play Lancelot in the movie version of Camelot. Maybe Robert Goulet, who nailed that part on Broadway and who owns 'If Ever I Would Leave You' just didn't quite cut it.

I did enjoy seeing a cigar chomping Tom Laughlin (way before Billy Jack) pilot the plane that picks up Luther Billis.
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The Long Wait (1954)
Terrific Noir
12 October 2004
A well directed, well photographed little known gem of a film.

Great role for Quinn who would have made a great Mike Hammer. His primitive face and huge hands seem prepared for instant violence.

In spite of being a low budget film, the directing, acting and photography seems superior than that better known B classic 'Detour'. Gene Evans and Charles Coburn always took their character roles seriously and seemed incapable of bad performances. The lovely ballad that plays over the credits 'Once' is appropriately used throughout the movie and deserves to be a standard.

The scene where a bound-up Peggie Castle crawls to a bound-up Quinn (to get her hands on his hidden pistol under pretense of a final kiss) would have made a great paperback cover for a Spillane Novel.
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