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Biography: Bette Davis: If Looks Could Kill (1994)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
10/10
Superb BioPic of and with Bette Davis: First Lady of Cinema
16 June 2008
With a superbly blended mixture of actual footage of Miss Bette Davis speaking about herself and her life-long career in acting, friends, family, co-actors, footage from choice films, as well as footage from television interviews, this biopic by A&E's "Biography" is worthy of Cinema's First Lady.

The humorous aspects of Bette Davis' personality, on and off sets, are priceless featured moments of one of the most serious actors in screen acting's history. Unlike the spoiled "stars," who went to work acting in order to gain fame and fortune, who stomped off sets in fits of temper or while having childish tantrums, it is refreshing to learn from this biopic that Miss Davis could leave people with whom she worked and friends she knew well alike rolling on the floor laughing. When she goofed on the set, instead of bickering, instead of being an ego-maniacal shrew, Davis came up with hilarious one liners when she missed hers, like, "I've just given birth in the ladies room," (in response to her co-character's line, "What's so serious?"--the film crew can be heard cracking up in the background, while Davis herself is grinning ear to ear). That's one of my favorite aspects of Bette Davis' whole personality: how she could so easily deploy humor to ease others--even during the worst years of WWII.

To learn how bold & brave a 25yo woman was to stand up to Warner Brothers in pursuit of nothing more than good scripts reveals so much about Bette Davis' life dream. Davis doesn't leave her dream to our imagination. She tells Dick Cavett in 1971 that she was determined to be the best actress or quit. To imagine that a five foot two, eyes of turquoise blue woman could take on heavy socially controversial topics through the delivery of some of the finest scripts is daunting. Tiny as she was her shadow is towering today.

The only comparable biopic about US Cinema's First Lady is "All About Bette," brilliantly narrated by Jodie Foster: it's a bit more intimate and concise.

Don't stop here with this biopic: view them all in order to develop the fullest bodied vision of one heck of a woman. There's much more to her life than what meets the eye through her 100+ corpus of fabulous films. Indeed, Davis' contributions to humanity are yet to be sung.
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Orlando (1992)
9/10
All Excess in a Full Blown Virginia Woolf Satire
26 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Arguably the greatest British novelist of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf, who invented "stream of consciousness" writing, composed the 1928 novel "Orlando" upon which director Sally Potter's exotic film is based.

Woolf's novel was written for & about the famous cross-dressing British heiress, poet, gardener, feminist, wife & mother; yet bisexual lover to many--Vita Sackville-West--who was one of Woolf's closest friends & perhaps her lover. Sackville-West's son, Nigel Nicholson, calls Woolf's novel "Orlando," "the longest love letter in the world." From Virginia to Vita. I view it as Woolf's way of saying to Vita, 'I know you. You're more than this world could ever be ready for; but, I love you for being who you are'. Instead of Woolf composing a biography, per se, she wrote a fantastical fiction. But, to any scholar of Woolf's & Sackville-West's lives (& I am one), "Orlando" is one of the best biographies ever written. Director Sally Potter does a splendid job of putting a very difficult & complex novel on film.

The narrator says of Orlando: "She's lived for 400 years & hardly aged a day; but, because this is England, everyone pretends not to notice." It's Woolf's biting satirical commentary on Victorian society, from a woman's perspective who, though owning her own publishing house & a truly great writer, was nevertheless oppressed by gender inequality. One of the giant points Woolf contends with is that Vita Sackville-West was an only child born into a 600 room castle; but, solely because she was a female, she could not inherit it. That's gender supremacism. These were two of the women historically spear-heading the way for women's equality through art & by living non-cooperatively with it.

The time span of the life of Orlando (Tilda Swinton) is from the 16th to the 20th century. Orlando starts out as a man to whom Queen Elizabeth I (the ever so queenly, Quentin Crisp) promises her estate as long as 'he' (Orlando-Swinton) never ages. Waking up in a changed sex in the 18th century, 'she' (Orlando-Swinton) learns that women are underprivileged. Especially when Orlando looses her property, since women were not allowed to own any. Woolf's dialog on this biographical point was the most painful of Sackville-West's life; Woolf makes it the height of her scathing satire:

First Official {speaking at Orlando the woman}: One, you are legally dead & therefore cannot hold any property whatsoever. Orlando: Ah. Fine. {stoically} First Official: Two, you are now a female. Second Official: Which amounts to much the same thing. {as being dead!}

Woolf & Sackville-West were of similar minds about gender inequality--outraged. Woolf rebels against it as Sackville-West did in real life by portraying Orlando as outraged, transgender & bisexual. Both feminist writers were profoundly critical of Victorian society's various forms of supremacism. So Woolf's characters bring that out; for example, through this single line uttered by the The Kahn (Lothaire Bluteau): "It has been said to me that the English make a habit of collecting... countries." (Wham, a direct hit upon British imperialism, Woolf style--a razor sharp, compact, one-liner that is also tongue-in-cheek amusing. Woolf was the shrewdest of 20th century British writers who used satire to express truths that make people able to grin & bear it. Woolf didn't want to be viewed as a mere street protester, in-your-face obnoxious & annoying. She was very much like France's 18th century philosopher, Voltaire (read his "Candid," to understand what I mean).

This was a word-smith with one of the most amazingly refined gifts for language & self-expression. That Woolf could provide satirical critiques of her own culture was quite rare. That she published hundreds of them is nothing short of genius not just as a writer but also as a business woman.

Back to the film: a famous solo performer, Jimmy Somerville (who plays an angel singing in falsetto, sounding like a castri, in the 16th & 18th centuries) used to be a singer for Bronski Beat & the Communards in the 1980's. Sally Potter, aside from directing, also did the vocals for the musical score that she co-wrote. The music is fascinating, exotic & indescribable. What an original CD!

Potter's movie grasps the key points of Woolf's novel by being filled with sexually dubious characters & relationships. For instance, Quentin Crisp plays a marvelous Queen; Charlotte Valandrey plays Princess Sasha, a young woman who dresses as a man; Lothaire Bluteau as The Khan has a friendship with Orlando that is highly suggestive of gay flirtations between 2 men. Jimmy Sommerville's voice is the epitome of queerness & dressed as an angel couldn't be more fey if he tried! Considering how Sackville-West played with sexuality & gender, plus, how Woolf was one of the few people who ever understood what she was doing, it is amazing that Potter was astute enough to not only comprehend both women, Potter also interpreted Sackville-West through Woolf onto the screen.

Since I'd critiqued Woolf's "Orlando" text in college, when the movie came out in the summer of 1993, I found it so true to Woolf's quick witted tones of political satire that I couldn't stop myself from cracking up with laughter out loud in the theater. If a movie goer doesn't know the true story of both the biographer's & the subject's lives, they won't get the scathing political points Woolf's made. Genius as they are!

Woolf & Shakespeare have great skills in common that come out through their vast libraries they left to us. That's another story.
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10/10
Break Out the Violin for Streisand & Nolte
22 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Pat Conroy adapts a novel about a dysfunctional SC Southern family's traumatic events, with Barbra Streisand, into an Oscar-nominated intense role for Nick Nolte, who plays the leading man (Tom Wingo), to Streisand's (Susan Lowenstien) leading woman, NYC psychiatrist. The beginning twist is, Lowenstien is Wingo's sister's shrink who Wingo finds accidentally after his sister's suicide attempt. Wingo is not Lowenstien's client.

Wingo agrees to help Lowenstien by giving her family background information to help his mentally suffering sister. It becomes harder to recall that he's not her client when his post-traumatizing repressed memories are brought forth by Lowenstien in such ways that they expose his own mid-life crises & Lownestien's. Healing each other through their therapeutic talks, Lowenstien & Wingo begin to become romantically involved. They go so deep with each other mind to mind that it seems only natural that they express themselves to each other in physically tender ways, as well.

Though the film's climax involves memories of childhood post-traumatic sexual violence & their romance is bittersweet, Streisand, once again, directs another stellar film. She treats a very difficult theme, that is cinematically understudied as carefully (or perhaps carelessly over-studied), with the utmost tenderness as both a psychiatrist in role & a director. This time, her real son plays her real son (and a violin). Yes, for this movie, one does break out the violin.
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10/10
Depp: My Favorite Pirate
22 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is not y/our typical Errol Flynn type of machismo, swashbuckling pirate; nor does he play another Disney Captain Hook. He's more like Fagan in "Oliver." Capt. Sparrow's ever so fey. That's his charm.

Though the pirates on the "Black Pearl" ship are dead & sometimes in their skeleton form they aren't scary enough for kids since this is a comedy.

The story line goes as follows: A governor's daughter is in charge of a young boy her own age who has been pulled out of the sea by her father's bourgeoisie crew. She notices his necklace is a pirate's & takes it from him to protect him from being hung to death.

But, the golden medallion is the last 1 of a pirate's treasure that has cursed the "Black Pearl" ship's crew. Without its return, with the blood of the boy on it, the skeletal crew remains dead, unable to feel any life in themselves; they are also not killable since they are already dead.

Capt. Sparrow (Depp), though a bumbling comical pirate who's bent upon owning the "Black Pearl," the ship the cursed crew stole from him, plays a marvelously lovable & lucky pirate who is the super glue that holds together the loose ends of the movie. Depp gives his cutest performance I've seen; he's now my favorite pirate! The script is clever; cinematography is fine; special effects are spot-on.
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10/10
British Bourgeoisie Society & Double Standard for Women's Sexuality
22 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
1981 VHS & 2005 DVD are based uponby British novelist D.H. Lawrence's last (1928). In it's time, "Lady Chatterley's Love" was (re)viewed as "sexually scandalous"; so much so, D.H. Lawrence suffered continuously due to charges of obscenity. Like the (1928) novel, the (2005) DVD contains direct depictions of different-gender adulterous sexual intercourse. Many 'obscene' (at least for 1928!) sexual words are part of Lawrence's novel & the screenplay. As a result, the novel upon which the movie is based wasn't fully published in Britain, though it had long been available in other countries.

During the 2nd half of the 20th century, in 1960, Penguin books bought out the expurgated edition & was summarily prosecuted for violating the Obscene Publication Act of 1959! Even the trial was scandalous; though, the publishers prevailed & were acquitted. Their acquittal has been viewed by academic literary & cultural critics to this day as a catalyst for the new freedom of literature & artistic expression. Some critics have regarded Lawrence as the greatest British man novelist of the early 20th century (Virginia Woolf, the woman).

On to the film: it is equal to the novel in its sexological study of a paralyzed Sir Clifford Chatterley, who strongly advises his wife, Lady Constance Chatterley, to find a lover for herself in order to satisfy what Sir Clifford cannot ever give her, or so he thought: sexual fulfillment. (That belief would seem quite naive now since a wide variety of sexually satisfying techniques do not require a man who is paralyzed to be fully functioning! What is sexual & what is sexual satisfaction & pleasure has measurably changed since 1928).

Lady Constance Chatterley reluctantly takes her husband's advice, being quite young & beautiful. But, after beginning a very sexually intense affair with a proletariat man, Mellors, their butch & brawny country gamekeeper, Lady Chatterley's affair shocks her husband who suggested it & the high society in which they take part.

It is definitely not a movie for children because the sexual content is steamy & blatant. By contemporary standards, it is still a story of a scandalous love affair with an interesting plot; but, certainly the movie is not pornographic or unusual ("Asylum" is somewhat similar, for example). It is as much a sexology of 1920's British social class mores as anything else. Because it is a period piece that does examine an era & the moral standards of a particular class of a society, it is a more than notorious for its history of scandal: "Lady Chatterley's Lover" is loaded with Lawrence's observations & remarks about the mixture of mores for British bourgeoisie society & its double standard for women's sexuality.
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Storyville (1992)
10/10
Jason Robards, Piper Laurie & James Spader Weave Great Twisted Plots
19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Cray Fowler (James Spader) is a Louisiana candidate for congress. Piper Laurie plays his widowed mother, Constance. Jason Robards plays his boisterous & lush drinking, influential uncle. Charlotte Lewis plays the Vietnamese Akito Karate instructor who the married-but-separated Fowler (Spader) winds up with on videotape in a hot-tub, somehow. The sex videotape could ruin his bid for public office.

But, there's much more to the plot than this: Fowler's father was a very wealthy & powerful man who wound up dead years ago in what was called a "suicide." His only son, Cray, is plagued by that part of his family's past. Therefore, he's an attorney who's on a quest to find some answers to his suspicions about his father's untimely death.

Let's just leave it at that but say the plots run parallel courses, thicken & braid together in quite fascinating ways.

The sex scenes are beautifully graphic, as Spader is noted for in most of his early films (especially "Crash" 1997". The younger actor Spader was cast as the lover-boy himself. Spader, Robards & Piper Laurie all portray extremely convincing characters.

The movie's got just enough of a bit of everything in it. White collar crime, murders, hot sex, 3 great lead actors, family betrayal, good & bad guys & gals, money & a constant pursuit of justice. This is a terrific flick! The scenes where Spader & Robards go at each other truly highlight how talented both actors are. I haven't seen two men acting out arguments with such emotive expression resembling the wrath scenes of the great Bette Davis. Whomever brought Robards, Sr. & Spader together has an inspired moment! I'm deliberately not telling you the best parts of the story. Those you've got to experience for yourselves. Mind you, this isn't spine tingling high suspense. It's clever twisted plot & truly great dramatic suspense.
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8/10
Ewan McGregor as Desirable, Obsessed Garden Artist
19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When Maneer Chrome (Ewan McGregor) is hired by a wealthy patron Thomas Smithers (Pete Postlethwaite) to create out of "chaos" a magnificent garden that reflects the family's aristocracy, Chrome has no idea that Mrs. Juliana Smither's (Greta Sacchi) 'kissing cousin', James Fitzmaurice (Richard E. Grant) has plotted to bankrupt the family so that he can finally have Juliana for himself.

While that is the apparent main plot, there's an intriguing ongoing subplot. Seems the Smither's daughter, Thea/Anna (Carmen Chaplin), thrives in the wooded 'chaos' with a home life that is so stringently ordered & controlled during the Romantic era. Chrome's going to completely destroy Thea's (as she calls herself instead of Anna) refuge: nature in the woods behind her home. This brings her to the brink of insanity, or so her father believes. Therefore, he calls in a (sadistic) physician (Donal McCann) to "cure" the young woman of her "ailments." Chrome is the only one in the picture who realizes that Thea's probably the only sane member of the family. So, in order to show her that he understands her need for the wild & freedom of nature, he builds into the garden a spring just for her. While this begins to endear him to her, Lady Juliana has begun to pay seductive attention to Chrome & the smitten Thea witnesses this. Juliana's attempts to seduce Chrome while her husband is away doesn't escape the notice of her pathologically jealous cousin James, either. Philippe Rousselot directs Tim Rose Price's screenplay.

This is an odd show that would seem more like a film coming from Lynch, Cronenberg, Nero or Waters. I keep watching it out of intrigue with the story's intricacies.
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Young Adam (2003)
7/10
McGregor & Swinton Can't Help But Steam Up the Scottish Barge
19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In Glasgow, Scotland a young adult drifter, Joe Taylor (Ewan McGregor), finds work on the barge owned by Ella Gault (Tilda Swinton). Her husband Les Gault (Peter Mullan), is older, a drunkard, but the father of their son, Jimmy Gault (Jack McElhone). The Gault's marriage leaves much to be desired, for Ella especially.

In between transporting coal & other cargo on the River Clyde, Joe & Les are loading the hold with coal, when Joe spots a young woman's body floating face down. Since they fished her out of the water, Les curiously follows the newspaper reports about her: he's rather proud to have been involved in finding her body. Joe's a busy stud of a guy, either having sex with just about any woman who attracts him or reading books on the barge.

His sexual appetite & Ella's utter dissatisfaction with husband Les leads to quite a steamy sexual relationship between Ella & Joe. Les eventually finds out & leaves. The barge belongs to Ella which is a twist since the man has to leave, loses his income & his name is not on the property.

In the meantime, Joe flashes back to a former romance, with Cathie Dimly (Emily Mortimer), during the time while he & Ella have a "torrid affair." When the police arrest a suspect of the murdered woman, Joe becomes interested in the case. His memories, revealed to viewers as flash backs, disclose the truth about the death of the woman.

It is a suspense noir based upon the novel by Alexander Trochhi, a Scottish Beat poet. David Mackenzie directed the motion picture & co-wrote the screenplay with Trochhi. The movie was released in the Netherlands in 2003. It's rightly rated NC-17 for some (very) explicit sexual content, including full frontal nudity of McGregor & graphic depictions of sex acts between adults. The settings are gorgeous since the movie was primarily filmed on location in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, UK.
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M. Butterfly (1993)
10/10
Cronenberg Takes on a Classic Opera Espionage Twister
19 October 2007
Jeremy Irons plays the lead role as French diplomat, Phillipe Bouriscot, who falls in love with an absolutely seductive Chinese woman opera singer (John Lone). As Irons pursues the diva he's attracted to, she toys with his foreign ignorance of the cultural differences between their Western & Eastern societies.

In a sense, she keeps the diplomat at a distance for 18 years while their affair continues by becoming his teacher of cultural difference. The romantic & erotic chemistry between the diplomat & opera singer is a very famous true story written by David Henry Hwang--"Madame Butterfly." There have been numerous stage & screen renditions of the story.

I like this (1994) version best because David Cronenberg is undoubtedly the finest director to deal with the most important topic in the story: gender bending. "M. Butterfly" is the Canadian Cronenberg's first Hollywood funded debut. The surprise plot of the sorted true love story is one of espionage. An adults only film, it is one of intrigue, sizzling romance, twists & turns, deception & betrayal.
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Warm Springs (2005 TV Movie)
8/10
3 Term US President FDR's Activism & Struggles with Polio After-Effects
19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Franklin D. Roosevelt's struggles with late onset polio after-effects were largely kept out of the media from 1933-1945 during his 3 terms as US President. "Warm Springs" is an intimate drama starring renowned British actor Kenneth Branagh as FDR, Cynthia Nixon as FDR's very active & socially influential wife, Eleanor Roosevelt & US Oscar winning actor, Kathy Bates, as the physical therapist at Warm Springs, who treated & began to have remarkable results doing warm water therapy for people with polio after-effects.

Warm Springs is the name of the place where FDR began swimming in order to 'cure' himself of polio after-effects shortly before he became the US President. It was at first a motel with a large pool. But, after its able-bodied patrons were bigoted & ignorant enough to refuse to swim with the people with polio after-effects who FDR attracted to the Warm Springs pool, FDR convinced his wife & her brother to help him purchase the place & turn it into a polio treatment center.

It's a true story. One that has been kept 'under the carpet' for over half a century due to prejudices against people with disabilities. FDR believed his political career was over, due to his physical limitations that prevented him from walking without much assistance. Disabilities were viewed as character weaknesses, more or less, & would certainly not be becoming for a potential US President.

The film's director, Joseph Sargent, was fortunate to have a marvelous cast, a heck of a true story & fine screenplay about the WWII & Great Depression Era US President. Kathy Bates gives a superb performance as the Warm Springs miracle worker of physical therapy. Kenneth Branagh does not disappoint as the most convincing FDR I've ever enjoyed on the screen. Cynthia Nixon, perhaps, has the toughest character to portray because the real First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was larger than life before, during & after FDR took over the Presidency. I feel she succeeds with flying colors.

In all, "Warm Springs" is a fine historical film that could interest a wide variety of audiences.
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Kinsey (2004)
7/10
Condon's Mastery Depicting Kinsey's Sexology & Sexualities
19 October 2007
One of the mid-20th century sexologists, Alfred C. Kinsey, is brought to life through a stellar performance by Liam Neeson. Screenplay writer & director, Bill Condon, who should have won an Oscar for "Gods and Monsters," uses an enticing technique of switching between B&W scenes & color ones. In the former, Kinsey is depicted as a subject, in a clinical setting, responding to his own sex survey questions. In the latter, Condon takes us through flashbacks of choice intimate events during Kinsey's younger life. This combination of screenplay & direction movement between the past in color & the present in B&W seems contradictory. However, it is quite effective to draw out the importance of how significant, if not 'colorful', Kinsey's upbringing was while living in his father-preacher's (John Lithgow) anti-sexual & puritanical home.

Kinsey's sexology includes so many open-ended questions that they leave room for respondents to elaborate upon their true sexual experiences. Their thousands of responses included in Kinsey's research {published as "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) & "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953)} are anything but black & white! It is to Kinsey's credit, his passion, the effectiveness of his research techniques, that sexology discovered US respondents were eager to speak about sex. Since Kinsey's findings are not what the US public expected to learn, his research became controversial. For instance, the first book found males had many more same-gender sexual experiences than anyone imagined. The second book really rocked the world when Kinsey's research showed that females shared the same sexual desires as males! From the start of the film to the end it is loaded with sexological words: in other words, the clinical names for genital body parts & sexual activities. Sexual activities are spoken of scientifically & sometimes depicted. This is not by any means a pornographic motion picture. It is about the science of sexology. But, most especially, it is a fine film that aptly portrays both the research & intimate passions of the world famous US sexologist, Kinsey.

It's not necessarily an adults-only film; depending upon how well prepared & educated teens are in studies of human sexual behavior. I feel Condon masters the topics of sexology & sexualities.
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Flatliners (1990)
9/10
Early Bacon, W. Baldwin, J. Roberts & K. Sutherland Semi-Sci-Fi Suspense
19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Five medical students (Kevin Bacon, David Labraccio; William Baldwin, Dr. Joe Hurley; Oliver Platt, Randy Steckle; Julia Roberts, Dr. Rachel Mannus; Kiefer Sutherland, Nelson) experiment with clandestine near death & afterlife experiences, (re)searching for medical & personal enlightenment. One by one, each medical student's heart is stopped, then revived.

Under temporary death spells each experiences bizarre visions, including forgotten childhood memories. Their flashbacks are like children's nightmares. The revived students are disturbed by remembering regretful acts they had committed or had done against them. As they experience afterlife, they bring real life experiences back into the present. As they continue to experiment, their remembrances dramatically intensify; so much so, some are physically overcome. Thus, they probe & transcend deeper into the death-afterlife experiences attempting to find a cure.

Even though the DVD was released in 2007, this motion picture was released in 1990. Therefore, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Julia Roberts & Kiefer Sutherland were in the early stages of their adult acting careers. Besides the plot being extremely intriguing, the suspense building to a dramatic climax & the script being tight & convincing, all of the young actors make "Flatliners," what is now an all-star cult semi-sci-fi suspense. Who knew 17 years ago that the film careers of this young group of actors would skyrocket? I suspect that director Joel Schumacher did.
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10/10
1956 Bogart's Final Motion Picture Playing Eddie Willis, Plus Brief Bio
19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart at 56yo) is hired as a sportswriter by a boxing manager, Nick Benko (Rod Steiger), who wants to promote his protégé. Willis has been out of work, so he takes the assignment to put a story together to promote Toto Moreno (Mike Lane), an Argentinean boxer.

From the start, Willis is eager to write a memorable story. However, during his journalistic investigation, Willis finds out that Benko has been taking advantage of the naive, younger, foreign boxer. It seems that Benko is relying upon Willis' outstanding status in the boxing arena to cover up that fact that he's fixed a series of fights in order to get the 'glass jawed' Moreno into the championship ring with a vengeful champion, Buddy Brannen (Max Baer); a true sadist who resents the publicity Willis has be writing about Toro. So, Brannen is bent upon getting his revenge when he fights Toro for the championship. Willis knows the scoop & has to choose if he's going to warn Toro. After Willis decides to write a story that exposes the racketeers, he becomes a hunted man.

It seems fitting to write a brief bio of Humphrey Bogart here because he died within a year after filming t/his final flick. According to who we believe, Bogart was either born (claims Warner Brothers) at the end of the 19th century, on December 25th, 1899; or according to 2 US Census Bureau reports, at the beginning of the 20th century, on January 23rd, 1899, in Manhattan, to an opium addicted surgeon (father). Bogart began acting, instead of going to medical college, to pay off his father's considerable debts.

Bogart was 37yo before he had his breakthrough key role as Duke Mantee with Bette Davis in Warner Brothers' "The Petrified Forest (1936). The 5'8" 'Bogie' went on to play in 28 films in 20 years! During one of those films, Bogart starred & fell madly in love with Lauren Bacall, who'd also been born in Manhattan, on September 16th, 1924: a considerable 25 years after Bogey. When she was just 19yo, the 5'8.5" Bacall was given her 1st key role as Marie Browning in, "To Have and Have Not" (1944); a thriller whose leading man was (by then) a great actor, Humphrey Bogart. Her performance with Bogey set the stage for the rest of her still fabulous career, one of Hollywood's greatest love stories & marriages (in 1945), and it was the first of many acclaimed Bogey & Bacall films. The Bogarts have 2 children, son Stephen, born January 6, 1949 (named after Bogey's character in "To Have and Have Not," & daughter Leslie, born August 23, 1952 (named after Leslie Howard who insisted that Bogey be given the key role in "The Petrified Forest").

Humphrey Bogart is a screen legend who graced it in major roles for only 20 years until he died of throat cancer, at the age of 57, on January 14th, 1957; when his son was 8yo, daughter was 4yo & wife was 32yo. 53 years later, Lauren Bacall is now 83yo & still playing leading roles in a wide variety of film genres. Her screen career is 64 years long, at this writing in 2007. Bacall has another son, actor Sam Robards, born December 16th, 1961, with second (ex)husband, actor Jason Robards. Bacall's long-time friend & 4 time Oscar winner, Katharine Hepburn (May 12th, 1907-June 29th, 2003), was his godmother for 42 years, until she died at 96yo.

Here's one statement Lauren Bacall made about Bogey: "Was he tough? In a word, no. Bogey was truly a gentle soul." Hope you enjoy this brief bio~
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10/10
Branagh, Berenger, Downey, Jr., Duvall & Hannah Thrill in a Southern Noir
19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A Savannah, GA attorney, Rick Magruder (Kenneth Branagh), has a partly accidental one night stand fling with a rain-drenched caterer, Mallory Doss (Embeth Davidtz). Immediately, he becomes infatuated with her & simultaneously aware that her violently psychotic father, Dixon (Robert Duvall), is terrorizing Mallory. Magruder calls in his private detective, Clyde Pell (Robert Downey, Jr.), to hunt down the extremely deranged Dixon (Duvall). However, both Magruder & Pell soon realize Dixon is so cunning that even Magruder's law partner, Lois Harlan (Daryl Hannah), will be involved to the degree of risking her own life as Magruder extends the full force of his law firm in defense of his under-statused mistress Mallory.

Once Dixon is arrested, the law firm subpoenas Mallory's ex-husband, Pete Randle (Tom Berenger), to testify, as a very reluctant witness, against Dixon. Dixon is ordered into an asylum, then escapes, fueled with more fury for violence against everyone involved. The thriller doesn't stop there, but my summary does! "The Gingerbread Man" is a Southern Gothic Thriller par excellance. Clyde Hayes rewrote John Grisham's novel into the screenplay that Robert Altman aptly directed. The cast is too experienced & talented to fail either the novel or the screenplay. Branagh, who usually plays in more classical roles, like Shakespearean characters, quite capably takes the leading role & steals the show with it.

Due to depictions of violence, terror, deranged psychosis & adult language, this motion picture is not suitable for children or the faint at heart. It will keep a lover of Gothic thrillers on the edge of their seat, time & again. Plus, when you believe it's over, it's not.
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Rebecca (1940)
6/10
Hitchcock's 1941 Best Picture Starring Fontaine & Olivier
19 October 2007
London, England's 'notorious' director of psychological thrill, suspense, mystery & drama films, Sir Alfred Hitchcock (8.13.1899-4.29.1980), was nominated for 5 Oscars: "Rebecca" (1940), Hitchcock's 1st US motion picture, earned his 1st directorial Oscar nomination & won the 1941 Oscar for Best Picture. Thus, began the history of acclaim for Hitchcock's remarkable career as a motion picture & television show director.

Both of "Rebecca's" lead actors, Sir Laurence Olivier ('Maxim' de Winter) & Joan Fontaine ('Madam' de Winter), were nominated for Oscars, as well. Original music by Franz Waxman provides a combination of eerie, erotic, moody & emotive orchestration effects. George Barnes won "Rebecca's" 2nd Oscar for Best Cinematography in Black & White.

Novelist Daphne Du Maurier's plot certainly wouldn't work nearly as well without the spooky head housekeeper of the de Winters' castle, Manderley: Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson). Danvers entered Manderley with Rebecca (de Winter), Maxim's first wife who left him a widower & left Danvers obsessed with her. The nearly unspoken memory of Rebecca is the haunting aspect that Hitchcock expertly raises from the dead throughout this film to its magnificent end.

Fontaine & Olivier deliver superb starring performances of Du Maurier's novel's protagonists through Philip MacDonald's & Michael Hogan's adaptation and Robert E. Sherwood's & Joan Harrison's screenplay. The two fall in love on vacation in Monte Carlo, marry & return to Maxim de Winter's castle on a craggy coastal cliff in England.

Fontaine's Mrs. de Winter is young, unassuming & constantly feels out of place due to Danvers' psychological torment by comparing Maxim's new wife with his dead one. Danvers contrasts Rebecca's perfection to the newlywed's shortcomings. Fontaine's Madame de Winter is led to believe that everyone was "enchanted" by Rebecca, even as she knows of her own plain, unpretentious simplicity. The historical atmosphere of Rebecca seemingly shrouding Manderley has the effect of nearly driving Fontaine's de Winter nuts.

Before the true mystery of Rebecca is revealed, a shipwreck near Manderley forces Maxim to tell his new wife the truth about Rebecca. That's when everything the film builds the audience up for starts to unfold. Unlike so many psychological suspenses, Hitchcock's delivers a grand flood of surprises & unpredictable twists up to the very end.

A note of interest: 9 of Hitchcock's motion pictures still rank in the top 250 today on IMDb.com. "Rebecca" is currently #75. An astounding 5 Hitchcock films are ranked in the top 100! No other actor, director, producer or any other contributor of works to motion pictures comes close to ranking as consistently high for the span of a century as Sir Alfred Hitchcock. Though Sir Ian McKellen comes close with 3 films in the top 100 & rated by over 400,000 viewers' votes!
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10/10
1941 Bette Davis is Lillian Hellman's Shrewd Protagonist (2001 DVD)
18 October 2007
Superb playwright, Lillian Hellman (1905-84) wrote this screenplay for "The Little Foxes," saying that she "wrote her 'angry comedy' based on her own family's biannual dinner at which people drew lots for a diamond that had been left in her great-grandmother's estate." Hellman's first play for Samuel Goldwyn was "The Children's Hour." She was in lover with & influenced by author & screenplay writer, Dashiel Hammett. This later became a hit book, script & film based upon a 19th century case of two girls' school mistresses whose reputations were ruined when one of their pupils accused them of lesbianism. Hellman was not afraid to be controversial or write about the unspeakable truths of the day.

After a poor showing of Hellman's "Days to Come" in 1936, about labor struggles in an Ohio town, Hellman said she "was so scared {that she} wrote "Little Foxes, 1939, nine times." This is the script that made her reputation as a playwright famous. (Jane Fonda plays Lillian Hellman in the movie "Julia" a true story about her best friend, played by Vanessa Redgrave; Jason Robards plays Dashiel).

"The Little Foxes" is a vivid portrayal of sibling rivalry, Southern plantation slavery & most of all, greed in the Hubbard family of Alabama. The story takes place at the turn of the 19th-20th century, in the deep South of Alabama where the Hubbard siblings are involved in their own brand of a power-hungry uncivil war. Who better to play the reigning schemer Regina than Bette Davis, the Hubbard sibling who commands ownership of a cotton mill that exploits slaves while yielding millions of dollars on their bent backs? Davis gives another Oscar worthy performance, leading a near perfect cast through a major screen achievement that is a page in US history.

The DVD is almost 2 hours long & in black and white, with English, French & Spanish subtitles. The story is a bone chilling indictment of Alabaman slave plantation white corruption & greed.

No one should ever say that Lillian Hellman wasn't a controversial & highly political playwright! The film is not rated probably because anyone could watch it. Though I imagine it would bore little children since the play's basic themes are quite complex for adults.
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The Old Maid (1939)
10/10
Bette Davis is the protagonist from Edith Wharton's 1924 Novel
18 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is not what most Davis fans consider to be one of her best films. Perhaps because it's so melancholy. Davis herself was anything but depressing. Davis' leading lady character is Charlotte--a Southern Belle aristocrat for the Confederates during the Civil War. Davis had to really act this part because she's a Northeasterner who clearly would have been an abolitionist for the Union! Charlotte has a rivalry, dominating older sister, Delia (Miriam Hopkins), with whom she repeatedly butts heads over significant life changing events. Delia always prevails over Charlotte. Delia prefers to marry an aristocrat even though both she & Charlotte love a rouge man (George Brent). Though the film only gives implied hint to it, apparently after Delia dumps him, Charlotte & he have a sexual relationship before he goes to war & dies. (A consistent theme throughout the film is being self-sacrificial. Doubtlessly, Wharton intended for it to be because that is how her generation behaved & expected it of each other).

Abruptly, the scene cuts to Charlotte's boarding home for war orphans. (If you blink during this film you'll miss this sharp scene switches). However, one of the children is no orphan at all. She's Charlotte's secret daughter (Jane Bryan) whose father died fighting for the Confederates. (Southern supremacy in the form of class-ism becomes the next apparent theme as Charlotte's child is mistreated as if being an orphan {when she's actually not} is a lower caste & status).

Delia's rich husband dies leaving her with a plantation & two young children to raise. Domineering Delia convinces her melancholy younger sister to pretend her own little girl is truly a war orphan & give her to Delia to raise "properly," so that the girl can have aristocratic status by proxy! Charlotte never marries & always remains Aunt Charlotte to all 3 children that call Delia their mother.

It's a torturous depressing movie to experience while witnessing Charlotte clearly resent Delia & become embittered, staunch & age considerably. (Davis never did that! Thank goodness). Always Aunt Charlotte becomes a classic stereotypical cold, callused spinster while Delia thrives upon mothering all 3 children. (Wharton conveys that a woman's happiness, femininity, beauty & mental health depends upon breeding & raising children in the private home sphere. So sexism is another of her key themes strung loosely throughout the show. Men could be unmarried & sexual, put on a white shirt, walk down the street & maintain their same status. A woman & "her" child (mind you, not "his" bastard or illegitimate child) could not, as seen through Charlotte. The sexism is revealed through that sexuality, reproduction & status double-standard). Because of the tensions between the matriarchal sisters, Charlotte's own daughter grows up hating & mistreating "Aunt Charlotte" even more than Delia.

"The Old Maid" was directed by Edmund Goulding & released in 1939. I'm obliged to rate it as excellent because I like Davis' performance & how Wharton deals with supremacy in the film. In fact, I find myself despising the arrogance & superiority depicted by Wharton oh so poignantly. Because of the Southern supremacy, the show triggers my political dander way up. I want to scream at the power imbalances that make it seem as if simply being wealthy is cause to believe a person is higher status-ed! Sexism is also quite clear in the title because women are only happy when they are young, maternal & married.
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10/10
Elizabeth the 1st: Who Better than Bette Davis in 1955?
18 October 2007
Bette Davis gives an amazing performance of England's Queen Elizabeth the 1st. Still a virgin as an older woman (in this version), the determined & dedicated Queen falls in love with Walter Raleigh. But, in a secret ceremony on a night that the Queen's own hand maiden (a very young looking Joan Collins) seduces Raleigh, just when he doubts himself. Believing he failed to impress the Queen enough for her to grant him 3 ships, he marries Collins & impregnates her.

To the surprise of Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth is most impressed by him & summons him to her bedroom where she knights him, Sir Walter Raleigh. Then, gives him one ship. Now he's in a fix between two women enamored with him.

There's much more to the story. Watching Davis & Collins together is quite the contrast in acting styles. Although the "Dynasty" Collins is much more like Davis as the Queen: temperamental, shrewd, demanding, and impeccable with the delivery of an excellent script, juxtaposed as the two actors are in this film, it's quite obvious how Davis & Collins take a great deal of care with their difference delivery styles of speech.

This film made me prefer Davis' Queen Elizabeth the 1st over other characterizations. I can't imagine a living actress who could become this particular staged Queen, as well as does Davis. (And I have watched Cate Blanchett). After all it's a tall order to go into role better than Bette Davis.
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10/10
1942 Bette Davis a Subdued Secretary in a Comedy
18 October 2007
Screenwriters Moss Hart & George S. Kaufmann created this hilarious story based upon the personas of playwright Noel Coward, film critic Alexander Woollcott, and theater actress Gertrude Lawrence. It became a Broadway hit, then this box-office sensation. Bette Davis convinced Warner Brothers to make this film.

When "The Man Who Came To Dinner," Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley), an eccentric author & radio lecturer, & his secretary, Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis), arrive at the home of a prominent Ohio family, the Stanleys, Whiteside injures his leg, slipping at his hosts' entrance. After a doctor (George Barbier) tells Whiteside that his leg is broken & he can't leave, the eccentric guest who had only come to dinner wreaks havoc by meddling in everyone else's lives in a proper family's home! Whiteside is especially bent upon keeping Maggie (Davis) unmarried & employed as his secretary who manages all of his life affairs. She's fallen in love, wants to marry & leave her job. Whiteside even bribes the doctor to remain silent after learning nothing's wrong with his leg! When Mr. Stanley uncovers their fraud, Whiteside blackmails him by holding an old family secret over his head. Though, Whiteside's plot to keep Maggie doesn't fool her, it is the central comedy performance of the movie.

Maggie Cutler (Davis) is a perfect foil for Whiteside (Woolley). Her original role was not as central in the stage play. It was expanded for film. Playing a secretary is the only time during Davis' golden 40's period in Hollywood when she accepted a supporting role. However, Davis was billed first in order to make the movie box-office hit. It's a delightful Christmas comedy.

Here's a typical exchange between 'Sheri' & Maggie: Sheridan Whiteside: I simply will not sit down to dinner with Midwestern barbarians, I think too highly of my digestive system.

Maggie Cutler: Harry Clarke is one of your oldest friends.

Sheridan Whiteside: My stomach is an older one.

Maggie Cutler: And Mrs. Stanley is President of the women's club.

Sheridan Whiteside: I wouldn't care if she was the whole cabinet.

Banjo (Jimmy Durante) delivers some memorable comical one-liners, as well.
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Marked Woman (1937)
10/10
1937 Davis' & Bogart's 4th Film is a Crime Drama
18 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
During "Marked Woman," (1937) Bette Davis stars as Mary Dwight, a hostess at Club Intime. When it's overtaken by a ruthless mobster, Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli), Mary & the other hostesses, who share an apartment, are abused as if prostitutes by bully pimps. After 1 of Mary's 'johns' is murdered, the District Attorney David Graham (Humphrey Bogart), questions her; but, out of fear, she isn't cooperating to speak a word against Vanning Thus, when Vanning's on trial, he's acquitted.

The story becomes complicated after Mary's younger sister Betty (Jane Bryan), shows up on holiday from college. Mary works to provide her littler sister with a college eduction. Betty doesn't know what Mary does to earn money. Once Betty learns what Mary's job is, she goes to the nightclub & takes a job as a hostess, too. When the naive college girl won't be man-handled by a nightclub attendee who makes sexual advances that she refuses, Betty is murdered by one Vanning's hoods.

Broken-hearted, furious & loyal to her dead kid sister, Mary sings like a canary about Vanning to D.A. Graham. Vanning's mob beats Mary until she's disfigured. Gathered at her hospital bedside, Mary's roommates agree to testify in solidarity against Vanning.

Davis is 29 & Bogey's 37yo when this movie, their 4th together, is released. Considering that Bogey's roles were usually either the tough & bad guy or a private detective who skirted the law, playing the role of the D.A. good guy who's trying to rid the city of mobsters provides a character study of another face that Bogey could expertly put on. By their 4th film together, the screen chemistry between Davis & Bogart is titillating. They play off of each other terrifically well. Nevertheless, Bette Davis easily steals the show with a fine-tuned, right on the mark, emotional character performance.
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The Letter (1940)
10/10
1940 Davis & Wyler Murder Collaborate in Singapore Suspense
18 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In "The Letter," (1940) Bette Davis & director William Wyler are collaborating again (they did the Oscar-winning "Jezebel" together in 1938). This movie earned 7 Oscar nominations: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Bette Davis; Best Actor in a Supporting Role, James Stephenson; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Tony Gaudio; Best Director, William Wyler; Best Film Editing, Warren Low; Best Music, Original Score, Max Steiner; Best Picture. The plot is about an adulterous woman who murders her lover, then lies about it. But, there is a letter that could prove a murderous truth.

Davis (Leslie Crosbie) is the wife of rubber plantation administrator, Robert Crosbie (Herbert Marshall). Mrs. Crosbie unloads a pistol shooting one of their friends & her adulterous lover, Geoffrey Hammond (David Newell). Summoning everyone she can to his death scene, Mrs. Crosbie claims it was self-defense because Hammond was trying to rape her. Because her poise, graciousness, and stoicism impress nearly everyone at the scene & during the investigation, it seems as if Mrs. Crosbie is going to get away with murder. Her husband is certainly without doubt; so is the district officer; while her lawyer's doubts may be a natural skepticism.

However, the murder happens in Singapore, where the resentful natives do not hesitate to expose the unaccused murderess. Her attorney's legal aid cleverly presents him with a bribe for a love letter in Mrs. Crosbie's handwriting that could prove she's anything but innocent.

Wyler's feeling for the bonds of people within their culture is remarkable for the period of this film. After all, this film was shot during WWII, when Asians of any kind were being oppressed by Americans. Instead of portraying Asian characters as 'primitive', Wyler reveals an early cinematic feeling for ethnic diversity sensitivity, without taking traditions of Singapore out of context. Plus, Mrs. Crosbie murders a white English man who is married to an elegant Singapore woman. Their inter-ethnicity is down played as if a cross-cultural marriage was not an issue, at that time, in the least.

Davis' performances directed by Wyler are always stunning. Wyler has a way of bringing Bette's many character facets out. "The Letter" contains such a complex mix of emotions. Wyler & Davis obviously could bring out the best of emotional artistry in the film cast & crew! That's what made them the greatest film-making collaborators.
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10/10
Up for 7 Oscars in 1964 Bette Davis is Charlotte Hollis
18 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis at 56yo), carries one of her heaviest roles as a wealthy unmarried Southerner who is socially outcast by neighbors of all ages--including children making scandalizing rhymes about her--because they believe she's responsible for the town's most notorious murder: that, of John Mayhew (Bruce Dern), her fiancé', 40 years ago. A haggardly faithful servant, Velma Cruther (Agnes Moorehead at 64yo) takes care of Charlotte since she's both so haunted by the ghost of Mayhew & so damned to reclusive isolation.

The Hollis plantation is Charlotte's home that's been the family's prior to the Civil War. Because a highway is being built, the Sheriff issues an eviction notice to Charlotte. Devastated by it, she digs in her heels & refuses to leave. The rumor that she's crazy seems confirmed when Charlotte takes her father's rifle, aims & shoots repeatedly at the workmen & foreman (George Kennedy) who approach the Hollis' property line; all the while screaming at the top of her lungs to get off of her land.

Charlotte sends for her only living relative, a mild-mannered cousin, Miriam Deering (Olivia de Havilland at 48yo), because she believes she needs her help & influence to keep the Hollis plantation. Instead of mounting a legal battle to save Charlotte's home, Miriam hires packers & orders Velma to assist her picking through the contents of Charlotte's home before Miriam fires Velma. Velma is a faithful servant to Miss Charlotte who sees straight through Miriam.

As Moorehead conveys Velma's suspicions & hatred of Miriam, undoubtedly her facial expressions & silent gestures earn her the 1965 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Velma's aware that after Charlotte, Miriam's the heir to the entire Hollis estate. Velma silently conveys that she knows stealing the Hollis estate is what motivates Miriam, while Miriam thickens the plot by summoning Dr. Drew Bayliss (Joseph Cotten) to 'treat' Charlotte & calm her righteously outraged behavior.

Charlotte seems to be going insane & out of control, having more frequent & horrendously morbid post-traumatic flashbacks of her long dead fiancé'; especially when Velma isn't in the house. After Dr. Bayliss repeatedly drugs Charlotte, he expresses to Miriam fears that Charlotte's on the brink of needing to be involuntarily institutionalized in an asylum for the insane.

Without giving any more of the plot away, it's safe to say that once again Olivia de Havilland convincingly portrays a woman who appears genteel & genuine on the surface, but whose backbone & heart hardens (as in Gone with the Wind & The Heiress). As the plot begins to thicken, Joseph Cotton becomes more of a supporting actor. Together, Cotton & de Havilland reveal the morbidity of emotional torture, greed & murder. Surprisingly, Bette Davis wasn't nominated the 11th time for an Oscar, although her performance is as classic as this psycho-thriller.
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10/10
. . . And for Bette Davis' 8th Oscar Nomination, Fanny Skeffington
18 October 2007
It's the 1920's, in New York, when Fanny Trellis (Bette Davis) marries into a loveless marriage--to one of many gentlemen friends of hers, Job Skeffington (Claude Rains), an older, well-off, Jewish banker. Why would the most beautiful, seductive & most sought after lady in town do such a thing? To rescue her little brother, Trippy (Richard Waring), from an embezzlement trial. Yes, for Mr. Skeffington's money; but, not for herself.

While she's married, the flamboyant & beautiful seducer of many men suitors is proposed to over & over again. There's no secrecy about it as, one by one, man after man leaves Fanny's upstairs bedroom frustrated & dejected after proposing to the married woman & being repeatedly denied. As Mr. Skeffington shows each of them in & out of his (& her) home's front door, sometimes even drinking with them while they wait in line to propose to his gorgeous wife, he shows remarkable restraint, the utmost patience & total self-confidence. This is Claude Rains, the consummate gentleman.

Because of Fanny's seductive beauty power & the scenes with male suitors who keep calling upon her after she's married, the movie is a melo-comedy. Subtly so. However, towards the end, as age & illness become central elements in the Skeffington's marriage, you'll learn why it's also a fabulous romance perfectly portrayed by Davis & Rains: a tear-jerker. Rains is one of the few actors from whom Davis couldn't steal the show! He held his own in "Now, Voyager" (1942) as Dr. Jaquith, the instrumental clever psychiatrist who brought the immortalized Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) out of her (s)mothered shell. As Mr. Skeffington, Claude Rains holds his own lead quite admirably well & for it was nominated to receive the 1945 Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. Davis & Rains make quite a marvelous on screen pair. Both of their voices, accents & speech patterns are classy & mesmerizing in this movie.
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The Star (1952)
10/10
1952 Davis Earns Her 9th Oscar Nomination . . .
18 October 2007
During "The Star," Bette Davis commands the lead as Margaret Elliott, a Hollywood, Oscar-winning has been. The show is about handsome Jim Johannson (Sterling Hayden), a boat mechanic & fan of Elliott's, teaching her that there's more to life than being an actor. The adorable adolescent, Natalie Wood, plays Gretchen, Elliot's beloved daughter.

Elliot can't deal with the mid-life transition off the set & into retirement. She's so resentful she becomes a drunkard. During a classic scene, Davis uses one of her own Oscars, propped on the dashboard of Elliot's car & heads for the posh homes of the stars in Beverly Hills saying, "Come on, Oscar, let's you & me go get drunk!" Davis' portrayal of a fallen actor makes her seem older than she actually was. Of all the characters Davis embodied, I think she got Margaret Elliot spot-on! After she gives a faux sight-seeing tour of the stars' mansions to no one while drunk & driving, she lands in jail. That's when Jim bails her out, then takes her to his home on the ocean docks. The rest of the story is worth knowing.

Interestingly, this 1952 performance earned Davis her 9th Oscar nomination at 44yo. She was anything but washed up like the character she played, with 43 years of acting in movies & many more nominations & awards left to go. Davis was less than half-way into her acting career!
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10/10
72yo Bette Davis in a Disney Family Suspense-Thriller
18 October 2007
It's an interesting contrast to experience Bette Davis in a Disney family suspense thriller--maybe the scariest Disney flick ever made. If anyone could have been more mysterious & bewitchingly secretive, I can't imagine who. I have the 1998 VHS that has a cover with a marvelous photograph of Davis on the back.

Florence Engel Randall's plot in her novel, "A Watcher in the Woods," goes like this: The Curtis family, Helen (Carroll Baker), her husband Paul (David McCullum), & their 2 daughters, Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson) & Ellie (Kyle Richards), rent an old English manor from it's owner, Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis), who lives in the guest cottage. The lady of the manor seems to be haunting, mean & eerily eccentric.

Jan experiences some paranormal events immediately after moving into the manor. For one thing, she can't see her own reflection in a bedroom mirror. Then, Jan begins to strongly sense that someone is watching her in the woods. Neither Helen nor Paul are keen about the girls spending time with Mrs. Aylwood. But, as Jan becomes more scared & curious about who or what is in the woods, the pre-teen begins investigating, starting with Mrs. Aylwood.

After Jan goes into Mrs. Aylwood's cottage to talk with her about the mysterious phenomena that she's noticed, the secret of the woods starts to be revealed by Mrs. Aylwood. Although she's very reluctant to talk about it, Mrs. Aylwood tells Jan the story about her pre-teen daughter's disappearance in the same woods 30 years ago.

The supernatural cinematic effects are well done. Bette Davis' subdued performance as a mysterious older woman makes the show a spine-tingling thriller. The suspense builds to a climax that is not predictable. The settings are spot-on & befitting for a haunted mood.

Keeping in mind that the genre of this movie is a family suspense suitable for children, I found it to be excellent.
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