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Excellent Production Documentary, 3 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

PBS usually always makes some fine documentary films, This one is no exception. This film covers the major contribution that people fleeing Nazi Germany made to Hollywood during the 1930's and 1940's and beyond. The film made a lot of excellent choices of film material to be included and wrote an excellent narration script. Sigourney Weaver is an excellent choice to do the narration.

Very often this type of production slips under the radar of the public and this one has a lot of information which needed to be documented. I was amazed at some of the obvious home movie material that was chosen to get into this one. It was chosen very well.

The focus on the people who had to flee Germany is told with care and carefully. This film gives one a whole new aspect of viewing the movie Casablanca and the irony that went into the casting of the film. The focus here on everyone in the film without focus on Bogart and Bergman gave me a perspective I never had before.

To Be Or Not To Be is a film of growing reputation in recent years. This movie is a great choice to talk about this era too. Surprising, the films connected to this subject range a wide array of movies that perfectly illustrate the Nazi's loss by literally forcing these creative people to leave and come to Hollywood to contribute.

The names from Fritz Lang, to Peter Lorre, to Billy Wilder, and the ones of lesser fame were major contributors to a lot of quality films in Hollywood history from this era.

This film stands on it's own on how an era of desperation produced many people who inspired some of the greatest work in Hollywood during a time it was much needed.

An overlooked film from this era does need a documentary of it's own. Unfortunately that amazing film was a one man operation, so without him, no proper documentary can be done.

I would state though that viewing that movie would complement viewing this one as the film is a very fitting complement for To Be Or Not To Be, and predates and possibly inspired it.

That film? The Great Dictator.

While that movie would not make this documentary better, it deserves a special place in the history of films all it's own.

Over Analyze This, 24 April 2016

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Without Alfred Hitchcock around, thrillers like this one are few and far between. This movie will not age well, because since 2001 rotary telephones and regular phones are gone, replaced by cell phones. This move predates home computers it seems. Therefore, even though the film is past 2000, it must be set in a time prior to 2000.

To me, the entire film is a dream. There are way too many things which can not be reality. We have Betty (Naomi Watts) moving into her Aunts apartment and finding Rita/Camilla (Laura Harring) naked in her shower without the water running. Betty then gets word that Rita (name based on a Gilda poster (film starring Rita Hayworth) does not belong there. This is the biggest hole in this plot, as any normal person would call the police at this point. Instead, Betty decides to tell her this but decides she wants to learn more about Rita who is nearly naked and hurting.

Things that get lost in the shuffle include the car accident that Rita got hurt in and her serious wounds which mysteriously vanish without any real medical care. From here the suspense builds as scene after scene are not predictable and sometimes do not make any sense. In the last half of the film, Betty starts reliving the same scenes she lived in the first half but with slight changes.

The mystery theater which appears in the second half of the film and the casting call by the cowboy create a strange sort of suspense. As the rotations happened during the last half of the film, you have to be able to remember the first half sequences and note the subtle changes in the latter sequences. That is the only way this movie makes any sense.

This is the kind of movie that makes you think, but is it the perfect film? Hardly, though it does make you think how dreams can alter reality which is the purpose of all the twists and turns. This is a film that you note things and then in the end note how things change as the dream changes. The cast carries this off well and in the case of David Lynch, this is by far his best film.

Events Beyond The Film, 19 April 2016

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The story behind this one when it was made was the return of Ethel Barrymore to the movie screen after a long time doing live stage productions. Interesting in that she is one of the few in this with very little British accent, yet because of her acting skills and return nobody cared. In fact RKO was already on major cramped budgets when this film was made. Like Barrymore, it had been a long time since King Kong and Gunga Din.

Neither story made out too well, as this one did little business in the theaters. It seems in 1944, with the war raging in both oceans, this one just was not really in demand. The story is okay though a serious Cary Grant did not seem to be ready for prime time. Grant tries to carry part of the film, and Barrymore as his mother tries to carry the other.

The cockney accent of the support cast is difficult to understand which made the film less audience friendly. Some of the writing on this is from the same writers that worked on How Green Was My Valley but this one is not even a shadow of that one, though the accents in that movie are thick too. Guess that proves that sometimes a weakness in one movie is not the same thing in another one.

Grant is the careless son who mom is trying to make responsible this entire movie. He has many girl friends trying to move him in the same direction. It is only his mom who has any success though.

Juke Girl (1942)
Labor Management Relations, 13 April 2016

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Ann Sheridan is usually in more Comedy films. This is a rare one where she is doing drama and romance with Reagan. The main plot of the movie is about the struggle farmers were having getting enough for their produce from middle men. The tension leads to undesirable results.

The film tries to paint the middle man as being way to lean on the amount he is paying the farmers. In the meantime Alan Hale Sr. as Yippee gets too confrontational with Henry Madden (Gene Lockhart). Steve Talbot (Reagan) befriends Yippee and tries to control his wild behavior and tries to be a peace make with all the conflict going. Of course things go awry and Yippee gets murdered. Reagan gets accused of it and Sheridan (Lola Mars) gets accused with him.

All of this spirals out of control with Henry creating a mob problem that is much like a Western, only this one is set in a more modern day (1942) setting. Actually it is a fair film though the ending is a bit muddled. It does not measure up to King's Row, but it is good enough for a viewing as the support cast here is really good, and Reagan and Sheridan act very well together. Reagan is happily married to Jane Wyman at this point and it seems like there is a little spark between him and Sheridan, but it also feels like it is an arms length type of thing too.

Lionel Barrymore Honored, 11 April 2016

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There is a lot of touching sentiment in this movie. Lionel Barrymore is brilliant as the country doctor who keeps putting off his own future plans for his patients. A young Joel Mc Crea before most of his cowboy hero roles, is in support here. Mary Robson is solid as Sarah.

There is a lot of sentiment here for Barrymore's character and he plays the role in an understated matter. He plays this role perfectly. The Country Doctor story pulls the viewer in, and does his acting makes you care about his story.

While the rest of the supporting cast has little name recognition, they are all solid in support here. John S. Robertson, only slightly younger than Lionel had directed mostly silents, and he would only direct 6 more films. His direction seems perfect here for Barrymore. His last effort would be a Shirley Temple film two years later, and this one has a scene where briefly a little girl in this one June Filmer has a tender moment and little Buster Phelps prove here why he was hired to direct Shirley Temple. Robertson could obviously handle child actors.

Impact (1949)
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Ella Raines Gets A Break, 8 April 2016

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Ella Raines is a very good actress who did not get a lot of breaks in her career. She has talent, but it seems that she never really caught the shooting star type of role. This one gets close to it.

There is a very good cast here with Donlevy and Coburn. The story is solid. The script is good and Arthur Lubin is here directing. The film noir here is solid. The story is by Jay Dratler .who wrote Laura among some other popular stories on film.

It turn out this one is a good movie. It still does not make her a star, but it is a pretty good entry on her resume which has some other good films.

The plot twists are enough to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat as in many a film noir, things do not go the way they are supposed too.

Rough and Tumble in the Western Set, 8 April 2016

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Michael Hogan and Paul Fix who is in the cast, wrote a much better than average script based on Gordon Ray Youngs original story in this one. The script is more complex than a lot of Wayne's earlier films. It even compares favorably to Wayne's Dark Command, though that one is based on previous real history. No script i more complex than Dark Command but this one does have a special presence for Wayne.

This film shows Wayne becoming a more mature star. Surprisingly, RKO known for running films as class B on a shoestring actually made this one a full feature. This one Audrey Long and Ella Raines as dual female interest for Wayne. It has a solid supporting cast and this film during the war should have done well at the box office.

There are scenes in the monument valley but not a lot, might even be borrowed stock footage from other movies, as in glorious black and white it is quite easy to sneak in stock footage. What makes this film better than most is the mystery agenda had by all the characters in the film and the script which develops them more than most films.

Ella Raines is at her most attractive in this one. I would have wanted to ride off with her at the end, and Wayne gets to plant a major kiss on her. He was a lucky guy this time.

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Nurses In War, 8 April 2016

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What a pleasure it is to see such an amazing cast of women put together in one film. Today we are lucky to get more than 2 women in a film unless we get a comic book movie. This cast has almost as diverse a cast of good women actresses as any movie I have seen.

This is a stage play made into a movie about army nurses dealing with the Japanese invasion of Bataan. Thank goodness it does not go to the conquest as I can not imagine a group of women and what would have happened to them if an invader got to plunder them.This film deals with the desperate and the more desperate situation as the invader gets closer and closer.

There are a few men, most notably a dying sequence by an uncredited Robert Mitchum but for the most part the ladies coping with the war and with each other are the subject here. There is very little love interest and more concern about the demands being put on the nurses in the situation. Sometimes even their faces get grim and dirt.

The reason this ensemble is only together for this one film is the war effort. Margaret Sullivan only had 21 acting roles in her career and one of these ladies only had 4 roles in her career. Others like Blondell had lots more screen time.

The screen play base makes this one solid. The war propaganda effort made it possible to put this cast together. A real one of a kind film from the MGM studios.

Robert Ryan Film Noir, 8 April 2016

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When I turned this on, the music took me immediately to North By Northwest even though that film was considerably later than this one. The story behind this low budget film is interesting. It started with a solid a solid director and then changed directors which is what makes the film seem like 2 different movies. I can not be sure but I think Ida Lupino might have directed the second half.

Lupino has more recognition as an actress but got into directing quite early on in her career. Though she is not credited here, it certainly reflects the change and was only about the 3rd film she directed. Later on she would direct several more films and a large amount of television.

Robert Ryan does an incredible job as the real main role connecting the 2 halves. The music score by Bernard Herrmann is outstanding as always and adds much to the movie.

Finding A Forest Through The Trees, 6 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My first viewing of this movie got kind of strange. It starts with the death of Richard Forrest. We never meet him, because he is already dead, but the whole film revolves around the people he knew.

His widow, Kathryn, is a woman who hides so much knowledge, and keeps everyone in the dark the entire film. Spencer Tracy meets her after Richard's death and his job is to investigate what happened to Richard and why. It is one of Tracy's few roles in a film noir type of setting.

George Cukor directs this and throughout there is a lot of mystery and suspense. The music is much like many noir films in that it ramps up whenever something strange happens. Some of the actors in this cast would go on to many other things. Percy Kilbride would go on to be Pa Kettle, but in this film is a cab driver giving passenger Tracy knowledge to chew on about the people he is investigating. Richard Whorf would go on to be a television director doing a lot of Paul Hennings classic sitcoms of the 1960's.

Darryl Hickman, Dwayne Hickman's older brother and the more serious actor of the two is one on those conspiring to keep Tracy in the dark. The most haunting thing about this is a sequence later in the film. Tracy catches up with Hepburn trying to destroy the evidence he is not supposed to see.

It seems Richard Forrest, the dead hero, had gone from super patriot to evil sympathizer when he died. He has stashed money, papers and plans to pit groups against each other and use each groups hate to divide and conquer them. While this film is referring to Facists and Nazis, the themes and the group that the plans were designed for using each groups hate to isolate and conquer it sounds just like politics today. As Hepburn tells all to Tracy, it sounds too spooky to believe how much Nazi plans are still being used worldwide.

Hepburn's (Mrs. Forrest) speech about all the evil being planned to Tracy is an amazing testament to the ways some things do not change, even after those Nazis are gone.

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