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Greer Looked Great, But As For The Movie...
I'm giving this movie 6 stars for the sheer pleasure of looking at Greer Garson, one of my favorites.
But I'd put this movie alongside "Remember?" as the weakest Garson films. For me, the problem was Clark Gable.
Gable is given the kind of typical "rough guy the dames falls for" role that made him a star...a combination of bluster and charm that won over Jean Harlow or Myrna Loy or Claudette Colbert.
Here, I think it's too much bluster and too little charm to realistically connect with Garson in the role she's given.
One pleasure here is seeing Joan Blondell -- she did lots of good work after the '30s musicals that she's best remembered for.
Also good: Thomas Mitchell.
Overall: see it once for the novelty of it, or skip it altogether,
Dangerous Corner (1934)
Two "Movie Different Than Original Play" Plot Points
Did anyone else notice that as the movie goes on and all of the characters' secrets are revealed, the character of Gordon (Betty's husband) is left with nothing to say -- and that when Betty reveals that her marriage to Gordon has been unhappy, we're not told why? That's because Hollywood left out what the original play revealed: Gordon was in love with Martin.
Knowing that fact helps you understand why Betty was unhappy, and unhappy in a way that someone might hide from friends and family (particularly in that era).Leaving that plot point out doesn't ruin the movie, it just leaves Gordon standing around a lot at the end.
Also, the play ends as soon as you get past the point where Gordon gets the radio going -- the secrets will not be unraveled after all, but you're left with the sense that these "happy" people have merely avoided what will eventually all come out with devastating results. It's not a happy ending.
In the movie, we do get a happy ending of sorts, a marriage proposal. It changes the tone completely, and I'd say weakens the effect.
Superficial and unsatisfying
This could have been a very emotional story -- a man deciding to stop taking his AIDS medications and letting the inevitable decline happen while still a relatively young man (48, I think) with potentially many years of life ahead.
If it were fiction, I'm sure the author would have dialed up the drama and deeply explored the emotions of the man and his family and friends.
But this documentary is all glib surface. We don't know why the man is making this choice at this time -- he keeps saying he's decided "to stop fighting," but we never see nor are told what the fight entailed. Were his AIDS medications making him unable to work, unable to enjoy life, despond about the future? We never know.
His many goodbyes to family and friends across the country all mostly play out the same...it's like watching the same scene over and over.
In short, we never get to the heart of what should have been a heart-wrenching tale.
The Firebird (1934)
Very pleasant surprise
I had never heard of this movie, and had never seen Verree Teasdale given top billing in a film, so I tuned in for the novelty value.
It turned out to be a very pleasant surprise -- a fast-paced story, imaginatively presented.
The cast is full of faces familiar to any '30s movie fan -- C. Aubrey Smith, Ricardo Cortez (he of the dazzling smile), Anita Louise.
There's even a wire-haired terrier that looks like the dog who played Asta (I don't know the canine actor's name!)
So I recommend this as a little-known but certainly worth-seeing gem, and a great reason for keeping your TCM subscription up to date.
Back Soon (2007)
The opening mood of this picture -- the depression of a widower numb with grief -- pretty much sums up the entire film.
The main character is both figuratively and literally sleepwalking through his life, and the director and actors do the same. How can a movie with supernatural aspects be so unengaging?
Every scene plays out slowly, as if the somber subject matter requires it. Characters interact, but the actors fail to connect with each other, even in scenes where emotions should run high.
A livelier or more varied approach by the director and/or actors would have helped. As it stands, "Back Soon" stays stuck in slow motion.
Little Dorrit (1987)
Dead on arrival
Having just seen the 2008 BBC version of "Little Dorrit," I was delighted that Turner Classic Movies was showing this 1988 version. But what a disappointment it proved to be.
Comparatively, the '88 version is much...MUCH...duller.
Instead of a roller-coaster ride of interesting characters, the '88 version is slow and plodding. The individual scenes never come to life.
Sarah Pickering as Little Dorrit never engages one's interest. And while Derek Jacobi's Arthur Clennam may be closer to the book's description than Matthew Macfadyen from the BBC version, he and Sarah Pickering have no romantic chemistry.
All in all, not an entertaining presentation.
Three Movies In One, and All Unsatisfying
This movie is like three one-act plays -- the Mary Pickford and Leslie Howard characters appear in all three of them, but it doesn't add up to a cohesive story with believable character development.
The opening act is played broadly. Mary P. is too old for the part -- certainly too old to play C. Aubrey Smith's daughter! And she plays the entire movie on the same note.
The middle section is a Western. Leslie Howard isn't a likely cattle rancher.
The final segment leaps the story forward by 20-some years -- much has happened to the characters, but we didn't get to see any of it.
All in all, not much to recommend.
The Blot (1921)
I tuned into "The Blot" mostly to see what Louis Calhern was like in his younger days. But what I found was an engaging, multi-faceted story.
Like a Robert Altman film, "The Blot" tells its tale with a host of interesting characters who interact at various points. The characters are fleshed-out, not just stereotypes.
Without giving away the plot, let me just say that I loved the use of shoes (and even shoe-polishing) to point out class differences. And the scene with the chicken dinner is poignant on many levels.
Comet Over Broadway (1938)
See Kay's Other Films; Skip This One
I read somewhere that when Kay Francis refused to take a cut in pay, Warner Bros. retaliated by casting her in inferior projects for the remainder of her contract.
She decided to take the money. But her career suffered accordingly.
That might explain what she was doing in "Comet Over Broadway." (Though it doesn't explain why Donald Crisp and Ian Hunter are in it, too.) "Ludicrous" is the word that others have used for the plot of this film, and that's right on target. The murder trial. Her seedy vaudeville career. Her success in London. Her final scene with her daughter. No part logically leads to the next part.
Also, the sets and costumes looked like B-movie stuff. And her hair! Turner is showing lots and lots of her movies this month. Watch any OTHER one and you'll be doing yourself a favor.
One of Kay's best
Just saw this on Turner, and was pleasantly surprised.
I've never seen it mentioned in articles about Kay Francis, but it's one of her most likable roles. She looks great, as always, but she's more than a clothes-horse, and there's more to her character than her love life.
Remarkably, this is one of the rare 1930s "independent woman" films in which the woman stays independent and strong while remaining feminine in the best sense of that word.
Also interesting is the extensive footage of the building of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. That footage might have been just "filler" in another movie, but it fits right in here.