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L'arbre de Noël (1969)
A very different Christmas film - unusual, crazy at times, warm and requiring tissue
"The Christmas Tree" is a 1969 film made in France, with a multi-national cast. It debuted in America in September of that year - two weeks ahead of its opening in Italy and three weeks ahead of its release in France. While that's a little strange (although not completely unusual as with the plethora of spaghetti Westerns made during the middle to late 20th century), there's very little information online about this film, or about one of its stars or about the book it's based on - and it's author.
Two very big international names of the period star in this film - American Academy Award winner William Holden is Laurent Sêgur, and Italian Virna Lisi is Catherine Graziani. A prominent French actor of the time, Bourvil, plays a major role as Verdun. Others in the cast, are Austrian and Russian as well as French and Italian. And, then there's the young American co-star, Brook Fuller, who plays 10-year-old Pascal Sêgur. All the IMDb Web site has about him (with no more information anywhere else) is that he was born in 1958 in Monterey, California; and, he's an actor and a writer, and he is connected to three films. He was a child actor in two 1960s films, and a writer for a 2012 film made in the Ukraine. Yet, this 11-year-old child gives a tremendous performance in this film. So, one can puzzle over why Brook Fuller didn't appear in many more films and possibly become a major star.
Well, that aside, this film has an unusual plot as well, and some very different - if not quirky, situations and scenes. The plot is based on a novel by French author Michel Bataille. Very little information is available online about him, except that he was born in 1926 in Paris, studied and worked as an architect for 13 years then left that to take up writing fulltime. British director and writer Terence Young ("Dr. No," "From Russia With Love," and "Thunderball") wrote the screenplay and directed this film. So, one doesn't know how much it sticks to the book. A subtle undertone of the story - either from the book, or the screenplay, or both, is an anti-nuclear arms race tone. This was at the height of the Cold War with the nuclear arms race in full swing between America and the Soviet Union. Without any other way of understanding how it could happen and not become well known in the story, a nuclear accident is the basis for this movie. It happens when a military plane explodes in the air, with subsequent explosions that release radiation from an atomic bomb that floats down to the sea under parachutes.
Holden's Laurent Sêgur is an American of obvious French ancestry, who is a multi-millionaire. We never learn what his company or business is. But during WW II he was in the American Army and worked with the French and Italian underground to sabotage German installations. That's how he and Verdun became friends. In the 24 years since the war, Sêgur has become super wealthy. He now is a widower with a 10-year-old son, and lives in Paris. His son, Pascal, is in an exclusive school much of the year, and they spend 6 ½ weeks together on his vacations. One of their frequent places to stay is the castle in the French countryside that Laurent bought years before, and where his wartime friend, Verdun, now manages and takes care of the estate. It has just one other employee, Marinette, an elderly French cook, and they use just half a dozen rooms of the huge estate. Laurent admits that he doesn't even know how many rooms the place has.
Laurent now also has a lady friend who is an art designer for a magazine in Paris. Catherine is about to become his fiancé, but only after she meets Pascal who comes home for the summer vacation. Laurent asks Pascal where he would like to go on vacation, and they wind up in Corsica, camping out on a beach. While out on a raft, the military plane accident occurs overhead. Laurent goes into the water to retrieve something Pascal has dropped, and during that time Pascal is exposed to the radiation from the bomb that is floating down to the sea.
After they learn that Pascal will die from the radiation exposure in three to six months, Laurent spends the rest of the time with him at the country estate. He and Verdun do all they can to make Pascal happy. Some of the things they do are far out. The film has some good moments of light humor as well. Pascal gets a tractor to drive and two pet wolves that his dad and Verdum have to steal from the Paris zoo. Pascal takes to Catherine and she to him, and on Christmas Eve when Laurent and she return after last minute shopping, Laurent finds Pascal finally at rest under their Christmas tree.
I'm not a rich person myself - monetarily, that is. But as a dad, I would have done anything I could to make a child of mine happy who was dying of an incurable disease. This just happens to be based on a book about a wealthy widower and his son. I think most people will find this film a wonderful and warm (though with a sad ending) snapshot of life and family, whether at Christmas or any time.
Here are some favorite lines from this film.
Catherine Graziani, "But do you know really why I'll marry you?" Laurent Sêgur, "Mmm hmm. It's because you want two passports."
Catherine Graziani, "Ah, the trouble with men - they just don't know how to count."
Marinette, as Pascal leaves with a large bowl of meat to feed the wolves, "Shall I go with you?" Pascal Sêgur, "Marinette, women and wolves don't mix."
Brewster's Millions (1935)
This musical version is enjoyable but can't match the 1945 film for comedy
This 1935 British film is the first sound picture made of the 1902 novel and play by George Barr McCutcheon. Two silent films were made before this, and the first straight comedy would be made in 1945 by Edward Small and United Artists in the U.S. That would prove to be the best of several versions, including a couple later ones; although the 1985 Universal picture that started Richard Pryor was quite good.
Jack Buchannan does well in portraying the frantic time his Jack Brewster has in trying to squander 500,000 pounds in a short time, in order to inherit his distant uncle's entire fortune. But this film comes across as two separate films shuffled together. One is a musical, mostly resembling a musical revue, and the other is the comedy. The comedy is mostly lost in this transition back and forth.
The best thing about this version of the story is the musical numbers with Jack Buchanan's dancing and singing. But for laughs, be sure to see the 1945 film that stars Dennis O'Keefe.
Brewster's Millions (1945)
Sterling performances and screenplay make this a superb comedy
This 1945 version of "Brewster's Millions" is the best of the more than half a dozen films based on the 1902 novel of the same title by American author George Barr McCutcheon. But, it isn't the first film made in sound. That credit goes to Herbert Wilcox Productions of England. Wilcox made a British musical out of the play that McCutcheon wrote based on his novel. That film starred Jack Buchanan, Lily Damita and a host of other players, most of whom wouldn't have been known even to English audiences much past the mid-20th century.
A later Hollywood version of this film was made in 1985, with Richard Pryor playing Brewster and John Candy starring in a very good supporting role. But this 1945 Edward Small production is the consummate version of "Brewster's Millions." It is set in 1945 toward the end of World War II. Monty Brewster is returning home after serving in the Army during the war, and he brings two Army pals with him. Peggy Gray has been waiting for this day for three years so she and Monty can soon be married. But before the returnees even get settled down, Monty gets a visit from an attorney. He soon learns that an uncle has died in South America and has named him sole heir. But in order to receive the $8 million fortune, there's a catch. The uncle wants him to get so sick of spending money that he won't later squander it meaninglessly So, he must pass a test and in two months be able to squander one million dollars and have nothing to show for it at the end of that time.
Dennis O'Keefe gives a superb performance as Montague 'Monty' Brewster. His frenetic and sometimes frantic behavior perfectly displays his trying and testing efforts to spend money without gaining any profits or returns. But for every couple of clever ways he has of lavishing money on someone or some thing, one pays off with a nice return. When he buys a nag that has a hard time getting out of the starting gate, it wins a race at 40 to one odds on which he has bet $50,000. Now he has $200,000 more to get rid of. These scenarios repeat from one very funny situation to another. One can almost sense his flummoxed persona and relish the humor and consternation of O'Keefe's predicament. On top of this, his wheeling and dealing and interaction with his friends and cohorts is peppered with comedy, including some very funny dialog.
And, O'Keefe's performance is complimented by sterling roles turned in by all the main characters around him. Helen Walker is Peggy Gray who can't wait to marry the guy she's been waiting for these past three years during the war. But now she can't understand his delays and she worries about his obsession with reckless spending. Monty's two Army buddies who return from the war with him give wonderful supporting performances when he makes them vice presidents of his new firm. John Litel plays Swearengen Jones and Joe Sawyer plays Hacky Smith. They too soon have misgivings about Monty's crazy behavior.
The rest of the supporting cast for this film are very good, and are among the best and very familiar film faces of the time. Gail Patrick plays socialite and party-planner Barbara Drew who tries earnestly to help Monty squander his fortune. Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson plays Jackson, Mischa Auer is Mickey Mikhailovich, June Havoc is hilarious as Trixie Summers, Herbert Rudely plays Nopper Harrison and Thurston Hall is Colonel Drew.
This is a top-notch comedy that hasn't aged with time and that the whole family can enjoy. Here are some favorite lines.
Peggy Gray, "Money isn't everything." Monty Brewster, "Yeah, but everything's nothing without it."
Monty Brewster, "Was my uncle born crazy, or did it just sort of sneak up on him?"
Monty Brewster, "You see, darling, it's true - love conquers all. Of course, a little money helps."
The Happy Time (1952)
Very good and funny coming of age film set in 1920s Ottawa, Canada
"The Happy Time is a very good coming of age comedy and family movie about a young boy growing up in Ottawa, Canada, in the early 20th century. The story takes place in the 1920s, just before the advent of sound movies. Bobby Driscoll plays Robert 'Bibi' Bonnard, the 12-or-13-year-old boy around whose family the story takes place. And, it is a family movie in two senses of the word. Bibi's father is Jacques Bonnard, a violinist who leads the pit band that plays in a major cinema theatre. The Bonnard family of brothers is very close, with one living across the street and one a traveling salesman who has just returned home for a stay.
Charles Boyer heads the cast as Bibi's father, Louis Jourdan plays his uncle, Desmond, and Kurt Kasznar plays his uncle, Louis. Oh, yes, there's also the grandfather - Marcel Dalio plays Grandpere Bonnard. The three women who enliven or put up with the male bunch, as the case may be at any time, are Marsha Hunt as Bibi's mom, Susan; Linda Christian as Mignonette Chappuis, and Peggy O'Hare as Bibi's admiring school pal and girlfriend.
This is a wonderful comedy that has a good showing of the accompaniment in top theaters of early cinema before sound. In smaller towns and theaters the musical accompaniment to films was often just a piano player. The film is based on a 1945 novel of the same title by Robert Fontaine. It was first made into a highly successful play by Samuel Taylor.
Here are some favorite lines from the film.
Bibi Bonnard, when Grandpere gives him a parakeet in a cage, "Does he sing?" Grandpere Bonnard," Only when he's in the mood." Bibi, "And when is he in the mood?" Grandpere, "Ah, when he sings, naturally."
Susan Bonnard, "How did she lose her job with the magician?" Jacques Bonnard," Well, I'll tell you.... Bibi, you'd better wash your hands before dinner." Bibi Bonnard, "Why is it every time things get interesting my hands get dirty?"
Peggy O'Hare, "I was watching. I saw her kiss you. She's pretty old."
Jacques Bonnard, "Desmond, you don't need wine. You're entirely into yourself."
Uncle Desmond Bonnard, "So, you think I'm a rogue, don't you?" Mignonette Chappuis, "If I said 'yes,' it would only flatter you."
Mignonette Chappuis, "I don't believe you'll have any trouble finding someone, Desmond. There are lots of women in Canada, and you seem to have met most of them."
Uncle Louis Bonnard, "Believe me, there was a butterfly watching me on the porch."
Uncle Louis Bonnard, "Mademoiselle, to a man in my condition, the bite of a butterfly can be fatal."
Mignonette Chappuis, "Yes, I've decided if I must live in a tent, I'd rather do it with Desi."
Grand Hotel (1932)
Tremendous Hollywood cast headlines this classic film
"Grand Hotel" is a drama, crime and love story set in the milieu of Berlin's most lavish hotel in the early 20th century. This MGM film is based on a 1930 play by William drake which, in turn, had been based on a 1929 novel by Vicki Baum. She was an Austrian author who later moved to the U.S. where she also became a screenwriter. Of the more than 50 books she wrote, nearly a dozen have been made into movies in Hollywood, as well as several short stories.
Baum and her family moved to America when MGM asked her to write the screenplay for this film. Her works were banned by Nazi Germany. After the war, she wrote most of her books in English. The German title of Baum's novel that was the source of the play and this movie is "Menschen im Hotel," which, translated is, people in a hotel.
Baum's story and this film probably inspired the setting for at least one more novel as well as a number of later films in hotels, where stories developed around the staff and guests of the hotel. A 1967 movie, "Hotel," was based on a 1965 novel of the same title by Arthur Hailey. It took place in the fictional St. Gregory Hotel in New Orleans. An American TV series based on that novel ran for five seasons, 1983-88. The idea for a hotel-centered montage of stories has carried into the 21st century with films such as "The Grand Budapest Hotel" of 2014, and a Spanish TV series, "Gran Hotel," that ran for three seasons, 2011-2013, in Spain.
The one major Hollywood production that followed the original film was another one made by MGM that was inspired by Vicki Baum's play written for MGM. Some reviewers and even critics think of the 1945 film, "Weekend at the Waldorf" as a remake. But there isn't a single character or story within that film that is the same as in this, the original. To be considered a remake a film has to have a good portion of the original plot and characters, even if the setting or location is different. Otherwise, it's a different story in a similar setting. All of the "Waldorf" stories are different, there are more of them, and there's a great deal of humor in that film of which there is none in this film. But, the comparisons of the two films can be understood because "Waldorf" has a similar opening and ending, with a narration by a resident of the hotel explaining that this was a day in the life of the hotel. The 1945 film is excellent as well, with some very good stories from drama, to comedy, to shenanigans.
Little more need be said about the plot of this film, it's so well known as a classic. But, worth reminding audiences of the 21st century, "Grand Hotel" had a fantastic cast with half a dozen of the top film stars of the period plus a supporting staff of nearly a dozen prominent supporting actors of the day. Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford share the female leads in this film and John and Lionel Barrymore, with Wallace Beery and Lewis Stone, head the list of male actors. The studio repeated that effort with a sterling cast for the 1945 "Weekend at the Waldorf.," with Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson, Edward Arnold and more.
One scene in "Waldorf" gives credit to the film's inspiration and author source, where Walter Pidgeon says a line from the original play that Ginger Rogers recognizes and attributes to "Grand Hotel." This is a wonderful drama with some interesting and well-acted stories in the hotel setting.
Everybody Sing (1938)
Lots of talent in a hodgepodge of comedy, music, romance and mayhem
"Everybody Sing" is a hodgepodge of a musical, comedy, and romance. The film itself is similar to the mess of the dysfunctional family that the movie takes place around. There's a lot of acting talent with prominent actors of the day in here. The very young (16) Judy Garland has second billing to actor-singer Allan Jones. She hadn't yet achieved top star status, but would the next year with two successive smash hit films - "The Wizard of Oz" and "Babes in Arms." Actually, right after this movie, Garland would make the first of several films with Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy series. That would cement her singing voice and roles for her career.
This film is a very interesting look at Garland, whose voice was not yet quite settled, even though she had been performing in vaudeville with two older sisters. It also has some good singing and uplifting acting by Allan Jones and Fanny Brice. Brice made only seven movies, and this is a good film to see the comedic talent of the Ziegfeld Follies comedienne. Barbra Streisand, in "Funny Girl" of 1968 gave Brice's name recognition for a generation that hadn't known of the famous Broadway star. But this and the other half dozen films Brice was in shows that she didn't have a very dynamic singing voice. Her comedy made her acts. Streisand's 1968 role highlighted the comedy, but her very talented voice also gave the allusion that Brice might have been known and famous for her singing as well.
Anyway, a host of other very good actors lend to the comedy and wonderful acting and mayhem in this film. None other than Billie Burke plays Garland's Judy Bellaire's mother, Diana Bellaire. Reginald Owen plays her dad, Hillary Bellaire. Reginald Gardiner plays an actor, Jerrold Hope, and Monty Woolley plays John Fleming. Other good roles are turned in by Lynne Carver as Sylvia Bellaire and Henry Armetta as Signor Vittorino
The screenplay for this film seems a little slipshod, and the filming, editing and direction have some problems. But this film has as much historical value as anything, in the cast it has assembled for the times in the careers of various members. The last of the Ziegfeld Follies had been staged in 1936 and Fanny Brice was done on Broadway. But she would continue to star on the long-running "Baby Snooks" radio show until her death in 1951. Judy Garland was just on the road to stardom as a singer and actress, but her life would be one of problems with five marriages, drugs and alcohol until she would die of a barbiturate overdose at just 47 years of age in 1969.
Billie Burke was at the height of her career and would go on to make many movies in splendid supporting roles as the giddy, forgetful, and very funny matron of the household. Allan Jones was just getting his start and would appear in several more musicals into the early 1940s when he became one of the first performers to volunteer to entertain the troops during WW II. After the war, he played the nightclub circuit for 20 years and then appeared in a couple of later musicals.
Reginald Owen was continuing in his stride and had three decades remaining of very good movies, TV films and TV shows, many with his bombastic comedic persona. Reginald Gardiner too, had a flourishing career ahead with many good supporting roles. Monty Wooley would continue acting in some leads but mostly fine supporting roles for more than two decades. But two members of this fine cast would have their careers and lives end early due to health. But both performed right up until their end. Henry Armetta would die of a heart attack at age 57 in 1945; and Lynn Carver would die of cancer at age 38 in 1955.
"Everybody Sing" isn't in the league of top musical revue films that Hollywood would make many of through the 1950s. But, it is a good film, with some good singing and routines, and some good humor along with looks at some wonderful performers of the past
Here are some favorite lines from this film.
Diana Bellaire, "Olga, this isn't what I want. I said strawberry jam." Olga Chekaloff, "You said blackberry but I gave you the raspberry." Diana Bellaire, "Olga, your cap is on crooked."
Hillary Bellaire, "What a household. Servants butting in, telling you how things should be done." John Fleming, "Well, after all, they represent the masses. Do you know what I mean by the masses? People who are not actors. There are dozens of them and they come in very handy at the box office. Strangely enough, if they don't like a show, the show closes. Moliere, if you remember, used to ask the advice of his cook."
John Fleming, "Olga..." Olga Chekaloff, "Yes, sir." John Fleming, "... what do you think of Mr. Bellaire's play?" Olga Chekaloff, "Well, it depends on how I feel. Sometimes I feel it ain't so bad, and sometimes I feel it ain't so good. But I don't like to say."
Hillary Bellaire, "I'd like that speech better if I hadn't written it myself."
Diana Bellaire, "Only a woman suffers as a woman can - quietly, deeply, bravely." Hillary Bellaire, "I wrote those lines too."
The Stooge (1951)
A different Martin-Lewis film is good - just don't look for lots of comedy
"The Stooge" is a different Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movie. Although billed a comedy, it is mostly a drama. One can understand Paramount's long delays in its release. Made in early 1951, it didn't get general distribution in the U.S. for almost two years. It was first released in the UK on Nov. 15, 1951, then had a U.S. premier on Dec. 31, 1952, with general release in February of 1953.
The studio's concern was over audience reaction to how Martin's Bill Miller treated Lewis's Ted Rogers. Indeed, what is comedy within the story on the stage probably won't seem funny at all to most audiences of the movie. The problem is that had this been a biopic it would be okay to show past relationships and treatments, whatever they were like. But, presenting it as a comedy itself - for the movie audience, it doesn't work at all.
This is actually a fairly good film as a drama that shows that relationship between the two characters. One can understand also why Jerry Lewis would like it as a favorite movie - no doubt from that dramatic side. While Ted is a funny and sometimes silly stooge from the audience that makes Bill's stage act work - as a comedy, Ted is not a dumbbell who doesn't understand the gist of the audience laughing at his antics. So, within the movie, he's into the act. Perhaps Paramount couldn't see, as some within the movie apparently can't either, that Ted was okay with that. Ted is basically shy and doesn't like or want to be in the limelight. But, he enjoys goofing around, singing and being silly with Bill, and getting audiences to laugh.
Bill does show concern for Ted in their travels and a couple of scenes. The problem with the film is that it portrays Bill's ego as one thing, but his actual relationship with Ted as another. People react to the bad ego and the selfishness and false pride that Bill shows. Dean Martin's acting job wasn't as natural as it usually was with Jerry, and that has a dampening effect on getting into the story.
So, with all of that - people who expect a typical Martin-Lewis comedy here will be let down. It's a hard stretch even to label it a comedy. But it's there. My guess is that audiences aren't prepared for this and because of that, Paramount considered that the movie wouldn't go over very well. And, they were probably right. Too bad they couldn't promote it as a dramatic comedy and publicize to that effect so that audiences might enjoy the film as Jerry Lewis - the actor, in real life, saw and appreciated it. But, then again, they might have thought that to be box office poison - a Martin-Lewis film as drama rather than comedy.
The film's opening written prologue on the screen doesn't resolve the problem, but intimates that some comedy and laughter are to follow. "New York, 1930. The story is about some names in the bright lights on the Great White Way... and a certain dim bulb."
One other comment is needed here - to distinguish this film from the real life and team of Martin and Lewis. At least one other reviewer thought this film was an accurate reflection of the Martin-Lewis relationship and partnership in real life. Don't believe that for a moment. Any number of sources are available that give their background. Jerry Lewis was in command and was the driving force for their comedy. He did what he did because he was so good at it and loved it. And, he knew how to milk it for all it was worth. It was Dean Martin who eventually tired of the partnership when they finally split. And, a big part of the reason was Jerry's iron-fist control of the plots, routines and films.
Also, in real life, Lewis was a prominent humanitarian. He began what became known as the Jerry Lewis Telethon on TV in 1966 to raise money to fight muscular dystrophy. By his last hosting of the annual telethon in 2009, he was credited with raising almost $2.5 billion for the MD charity.
Here are a couple favorite lines from the film.
Mary Turner Miller, "You'll keep on looking out for him, won't you, Leo?" Leo Lyman, "For ten percent, I'd look after my own mother-in-law."
Sam Robertson, "Is he bleeding, Ms. Regan?" Miss Regan, "No, I don't think so." Sam Robertson, "Oh, too bad."
Sam Robertson, "Miss Regan." Miss Regan, "Yes?" Sam Robertson, "Tell me the truth. Do you honestly think he's human?" Miss Regan, "I've heard people bet both ways."
Quiet Weekend (1946)
Genteel comedy in an English country weekend getaway
"Quiet Weekend" is a wonderful, warm and funny film set in the English countryside in 1946. This British comedy has none of the prominent actors who would be known outside of the UK at the time - especially across the pond in the Americas. Most of the cast had short film careers, so few were likely to be known even in the UK then. In a way, that makes this film all the more notable, because to a person the roles played here are very good.
The comedy here isn't from clever or funny dialog, although the script has an occasional barb or witticism. Mostly, it's just in the relationships of this family and friends. One particular caper involves the lord of the house, Arthur Royd, the local justice of the peace, friend Adrian Barrasford, the Royd's caretaker, Sam Pecker, and a niece, Miranda Bute. They set out at night to poach a salmon from a neighbor's stream. That's quite funny by itself. A community playhouse evening is also worth a couple of laughs. And, a local jailhouse with a court scene is very good and funny.
This is a delightful and feel-good film that those who like old movies should enjoy. Here are a couple favorite lines.
Rowena Hyde, after kissing with Denys Royd, "That was very pleasant." Denys, "Pleasant? It was wonderful!"
Adrian Barrasford, the local justice of the peace, says to Arthur Royd after their caper the night before, "No, I warn you. I shall fine us very heavily."
The Sound of Music (1965)
One of the greatest musicals of all time
"The Sound of Music" is one of the greatest musicals of all time. It is the last musical of the legendary team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to be made into a film. The two artists and impresarios of musical performances are regarded by most in the theater and film world as the masters of the musical play. While not the originators of such, as a team they polished and perfected the musical play.
This movie has great music with some memorable songs and tremendous settings and scenery. The performance by Julie Andrews as the female lead is superb, and Christopher Plummer as naval Captain Von Trapp is excellent. All of the children who sing and the rest of the cast are outstanding This is a wonderful musical film with captivating music and songs.
The great mark that distinguishes Rodgers and Hammerstein films is that they deal with family, social and moral issues. Here those are family, war, oppression, prejudice, and freedom. "The Sound of Music" is based on the memoirs of Maria von Trapp and her family of singers. The von Trapps fled Austria after Nazi Germany occupied the country at the start of World War II. So, this film is historical and biographical as well. This film is arguably the best musical ever made, and it is among the most successful movies ever made.
The movie received five Oscars in the 1966 Academy Awards, including best picture and best director; and it won two Golden Globes from the Hollywood foreign press association - for best picture and for Julie Andrews as best actress. It is one of the most successful movies of all time, grossing more than 35 times its budget worldwide.
It topped the U.S box office in 1965 with ticket sales of more than $145 million. The next closest box office hit that year was "Doctor Zhivago" at just over $126 million. Third place for the year was the James Bond action thriller, "Thunderball," with just over $76 million in the domestic box office. Only two other films all years finished above $30 million in U.S. ticket sales - "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" at nearly $38 million and "The Great Race" at nearly $31 million.
This is a wonderful film that the whole family should enjoy. It will be shown and watched far into the future.
There's That Woman Again (1938)
Meddling Sally is more annoying than funny
"There's That Woman Again" had the potential to be a good comedy crime film. The plot is similar to one of the Thin Man series or a number of other comedy mysteries in which a wife tries to get in on a detective husband's effort to solve a crime. Most of those have some funny outcomes. But, Virginia Bruce's Sally Reardon in this film is half the film or more, and her foibles become more annoying than funny after a while. One can almost feel the frustration of husband Bill Reardon in Melvyn Douglas.
Rather than adding something of interest to the film, Sally's meddling detracts from it. This is not that good a mystery and barely a fair comedy. Here are some favorite lines form the film.
Bill, "You may not be the best cook in New York, but you're the prettiest." Sally, "You may not be the prettiest private detective in New York, but you're the best."
Bill Reardon, "I'm going to kill you." Sally Reardon, "I..I..It's illegal." Bill Reardon, "Don't quibble". Sally Reardon, "You promised to love, honor and cherish." Bill Reardon, "Till death do us part -- that's now."
Mrs. Nacelle, "Mr. Reardon, would you be interested in a new choke for your wife. It's really a lovely novelty." Bill Reardon, "You know, the choker might interest me". Mrs. Nacelle, "There' something I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't in front of Davis. Will you meet me at the 35 Club for lunch?" Bill, "Yeah, at 12:30. What do ya get for this dog collar?" Mrs. Nacelle, "Uh, thirty-five hundred." Bill, "No thank you. I could choke her for less than that."
Bill Reardon, " My mother begged me not to marry beneath my station."
Bill Reardon, "Even now, my poor old father will only speak to me at family reunions."
Sally Reardon, "Well, if I don't say anything, they'll think I'm awfully stupid" Bill Reardon, "What do you wanna do, convince them?"
And So They Were Married (1936)
Clever kids and single parents make for fun in the snow
People who don't like kids, or kids in movies, probably won't like this film. But for all the rest of us, "And So They Were Married" is a good comedy romance. It has a couple of hilariously funny scenes.
This movie is along the lines of "Parent Trap" of 1961, "The courtship of Eddie's Father" of 1963 and similar films about single-parent kids. "Parent Trap" was twin girls (both roles played by Hayley Mills) trying to get their divorced mom and dad back together. Others are about kids going through experiences of single parents meeting someone new and possibly tying the knot anew.
But this film is an original story and may be the first of kids and single parents flicks. Two spoiled kids - not brats or nasty, just from wealthy single parents, try everything they can to keep their single parents from marrying. And everything they do backfires in an unusual way. It's a very clever device in the writing of this screenplay. And, the two adults start off disliking one another intensely.
All of this occurs at the grand opening of a new snow-packed winter lodge in the Sierra Nevada's not far from Los Angeles. It concludes later back home, with a change in the kids' plans. But, for the first day, just the two parties get through the mountain road before a huge landslide closes it for the day.
Melvin Doulas is the widowed dad, Stephen Blake, of 10-year-old Tommy Blake who's played by Jackie Moran. Mary Astor is the divorced mother, Edith Farnham, of Brenda, who is about the same age as Tommy. The Farnham's have their maid with them on the winter vacation, but Stephen's son arrives the second day.
The two kids do quite a bit of conniving and are very good at it, and all the time disliking one another themselves. One can guess where this might end up, but all of this cast do very well in keeping the film interesting and fun. A few other characters contribute. Donald Meek is the Hotel Manager, Dorothy Stickney is Miss Peabody, the social hostess, Romaine Callendar is Mr. Snirley, the sporting host, and Douglas Scott plays Horace, a third child who gets involved in some of the mishaps.
One absolute hilarious scene occurs after Brenda has let Tommy's dog, Harold, take several bites out of a bar of soap. The dog then scampers out of their room and down the hall, and as he barks and heads down the stairs in the main hotel foyer where dozens of people are carousing, Harold's mouth starts foaming up. One of the guests sees the dog and yells, "Look, a mad dog," and people frantically scramble everywhere.
The screenplay is a little choppy and the quality of this early Columbia film seems a little crude. But, it's otherwise a funny film that most people should enjoy. Kids should enjoy it too, and parents will want to give them appropriate words or glances. Here are some favorite lines.
Hotel manager, on the grand opening night when a snowslide has blocked the road, "25 waiters, four chefs, a 10-piece jazz band, and two guests...oooh."
Mr. Ralph P. Snirley, "That's it - courage is the word. I always tell my students to think of the snow as a great feather bed."
Edith Farnham, "Just to get away from that germicidal female, you understand?" Stephen Blake, "Perfectly! I'm the lesser of two evils." Edith, "You're practically psychic."
Edith Farnham, "Don't tell me the stern Mr. Blake is flirting with me?" Stephen Blake, "Outrageously. Until the road clears, you might as well grin and bear it. Don't forget my proud beauty, it's the only flirting to be had in these parts." Edith, "Ha, ha, ha... Just until the road clears, huh?" Stephen, "Welllll."
Edith Farnham, "I know a good story that I never told you before. It's about seven men, and every last one of 'em was eaten up by an alligator." Brenda Farnham, giggling, "I'm gonna like this one."
Stephen Blake, "Did I ever tell you, you're the best dancer West of the Mississippi?" Edith, "No. Why didn't you?"
Stephen Blake, "At last I'm emancipated from being an emancipated parent." Edith, "Are you drunk?"
Stephen Blake, "Edith, do I have to do penance all the rest of my life just because I spanked a spoiled child?"
Stephen Blake, "I don't like hysterical women." Edith, "Hysterical?" Stephen, "That's what I said - you're hysterical." Edith, "I suppose you'll be striking me next."
Stephen Blake, "See this muscle. I got that beating helpless women and little children, but first I practiced on cripples."
Sailor Beware (1952)
A very funny comedy - one of Dean and Jerry's best films together
"Sailor Beware" is one of the best and funniest of the 16 movies that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis made together. A big plus of this film is that Jerry isn't portrayed as a buffoon or a whiner. Instead, he's a sort of weakling with allergies who nevertheless wants to get into the Navy; yet his character keeps causing or getting into mishaps. The movie pokes a little fun at the Navy in places, especially its training. One example is aboard a submarine en route to Hawaii. When the sub dives with Jerry's Melvin Jones on deck, he climbs the periscope and the sub commander and others can't make sense of what they see in the scope. Melvin's face against the glass sort of resembles a squished octopus face.
The film avoids the stereotypes of some things from comedies that had become worn out over time and lack humor. A good example is the scenes where the new recruits are having their blood typed. By 1952, so many comedies had scenes of military recruits passing out when they see needles, that these were no longer funny. So, in this film, Melvin gets stuck several times with the big needles as the corpsmen try to draw blood but only get tubes of clear liquid instead. Melvin also has a girlfriend in a Wave, Hilda Jones.
And one of the very funniest of all of Jerry Lewis routines in all of his films is in this movie. That's a boxing match in the ring with a big bruiser. Melvin's goofiness, prancing and dancing around the ring and on the ropes, and his love taps of the hulk he is fighting are hilarious. What adds to this truly laughable silliness is the cheering of all his shipmates. And before the fight, while in the dressing room, Dean's Al Crowthers coaxes Melvin into talking tough to put some fright into his originally scheduled opponent. Jerry is uproariously funny in this, dumbing down his talk to "duh times he docked out so and so." It works so well that his opponent gets scared and another big former boxer takes his place.
An interesting tidbit is that this movie has two bit parts played by young little known actors who would soon be stars - James Dean and Vince Edwards. I didn't notice Dean at all.
Here are some favorite lines from this film. A play on the name of Betty Hutton is very funny.
Chief Bos'n Mate, "Have you ever considered any other branch of the service? The Army recruiting office is just down the street, you know." Melvin Jones, "Oh thanks gobs, gob, but I gotta get in the Navy. It's practically doctor's orders, practically." Chief, "Doctor's orders?" Melvin, "Oh, yes, sir. You see, it's my allergies, and my doctor says I need ocean travel and this is the only way I can afford it.
Melvin Jones, "Wasn't that...?" Al Crowthers, "Hetty Button."
Melvin Jones, "You know, women could kill me." Al Crowthers, "What a way to die."
Melvin Jones, "Lose something?" Naval Doctor, "No, but I think you did. Where's your heart?" Melvin, "You're the doctor."
Al Crowthers, "I wouldn't let anything happen to you, would I?" Melvin Jones, "We'll soon find out."
The title song is very catchy, and that Brazilian beat is all it takes to enjoy this comedy musical. Of course, the music is delivered mostly by Carmen Miranda, and there's lots of it in this movie. The plot is silly and funny, and Groucho Marx sings one song and delivers some funny lines.
This was a new, solo venture for the head of the Marx Brothers. If one isn't too critical about the story and screenplay, this is a very good film to watch and enjoy solely for the music and Carmen Miranda's performances. Some very talented fellows on the various drums, and some very good dance arrangements add to the film's enjoyment.
The Beguiled (1971)
A dark, distasteful drama of the Eastwood spaghetti film era
"The Beguiled" is one of the several movies Clint Eastwood made in Europe during the years of his spaghetti Westerns. It's also one of five films he made with director Don Siegel. But this was far from a Western motif. Instead, it's a crime and horror drama set in the Civil War. Eastwood's John McBurney, a badly wounded Union solider wanders onto the grounds of a Southern girls' boarding school. As the women and girls take him under their care, one after the other falls for him.
This turns into a psychological and sexual brouhaha with an ending that some might think is fitting. Eastwood apparently liked the novel of the same title by Thomas Cullinan that the film is based on. The film is a jumbled mess of depravity. As leading critics of the day noted, it's clearly sexploitation. And many also saw it as misogynistic. Words used to describe it were "weird," "trashy," "pathetic," "horror," etc. While the acting is just fair, the screenplay is weak. There's very little to the story - it's mostly one sexual encounter after another - some imagined, some by innuendo, and some shown.
Some people regard films of this type as art, but not many find it very entertaining. Of course, all types of films have followers, and some really like this sort of stuff. Apparently, more critics in the 21st century like this film than did those of its time. And, more people today who watch it like this type. I would hope that not very many, even of those, would find this entertaining.
Anyway, it bombed at the box office. Fans of the film blame its failure on Universal's marketing of it But, I think that Eastwood's popularity at the time was such that people would have turned out to see him in any movie. So, it's far more likely that the critics and first audiences didn't like what they saw and that word quickly got around. I remember from my school and young adult days how other students, co-workers or friends would praise or dis the new movie they had just seen. I saw this film long ago and then, forgetting much of the story, caught it again recently.
A remake of the film in 2017 was apparently a moderate success, with a prominent cast of the date. It was apparently toned down some, but the plot and much of the story are the same.
Royal Wedding (1951)
Great comedy romance and musical with perky Powell and Astaire's dazzling dancing
"Royal Wedding is a wonderful, warm, funny and entertaining musical with Fred Astaire and Jane Powell playing the leads as a brother-sister theater act. The film received one Oscar nomination and was one of the top box office hits of 1951. And, for good reason.
Astaire does some dazzling dancing with two solo performances that show his great footwork talent. One is a masterful studio gimmick in which his Tom Bowen is seen dancing on the ceiling and the walls. The other is when sis, Ellen Bowen (Powell) fails to show up for rehearsal while they're crossing the ocean from New York to England. He maneuvers a coat and hat stand around the dance floor as a partner. It's a delight to watch such masterful and graceful talent perform.
Jane Powell, as Ellen Bowen, is the perfect match for Astaire as a sister. Her perky, pleasant, humorous and very talented presence lights up this film. I thought it was very funny as Ellen and Tom prepared to sail to England and then board the ship with various suitors of Ellen's showing up and winding up in fisticuffs. But, she will soon narrow her field of romance to one person - Lord John Brindale. Peter Lawford plays the Englishman of noble birth who himself had strung along a number of admirers - in his case, girlfriends.
The setting of all this, with the Bowens getting a booking in England, takes place in 1947 just before the Nov. 20th royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth (soon to become Queen Elizabeth) and Prince Philip Mountbatten. And, of course it's not hard to figure out how this film with end after Tom meets an English gal his own age and is hooked by Anne Ashmond. Sarah Churchill plays that role and another supporting character - her father, James (played by Albert Sharpe) adds some good comedy to the film.
Although there are no memorable songs in this film (a couple were short time hits), the eight music and dance numbers are very good. Here are some favorite lines from this film.
Chester - Tom's Valet, "Oh, marriages are very healthy, sir. They say married men live much longer than bachelors." Tom Bowen, "If that's true, they're only trying to outlive their wives so they can be bachelors again."
Tom Bowen, "Ellen's British romance - John Brindale. Do you know him?" Edgar Klinger, "Know the family - very old. Uh, they do say that young John is a bit of a chaser." Tom Bowen, "He didn't have to chase very hard after Ellen. She stood still and waited."
Edgar Klinger, "Uh, tell me old boy - how are things in the colonies these days?" Tom Brown, "Oh, fine, fine."
Tom Bowen, "You should have seen the expression on your face when you saw me." Anne Ashmond, "How did I look?" Tom, "As if I were a dentist."
Ellen Bowen, "Well, what are you so pleased about?" Tom Bowen, "I always smile when I'm heartbroken."
Lucky Partners (1940)
The comical courtroom climax lifts this so-so comedy romance
"Lucky Partners" has a very good, very funny ending that alone makes this film worth watching. It's not the best courtroom comedy scene, but it's a very good one. And, it brings in the last supporting actor, whose presence helps lift this comedy a notch. That's Harry Davenport as the Judge.
A couple of reviewers commented that there is no chemistry here between the leads, Ronald Colman as David Grant, and Ginger Rogers as Jean Newton. Rather, they seem to me to be stand-offish which is part of the plot and roles they are playing. David is a quirky character, after all, with a very strange idea. And Jean is very naturally suspicious of this guy. In any real-life setting of such a situation that brings these two together for the whole movie, I can't imagine that any respectable woman wouldn't be the same way. So, Ginger plays that part very well.
The supporting cast in this film are all very good. Spring Byington has a small part as Aunt Lucy. Two brothers who own a neighborhood bistro as Nick #1 and Nick #2, are Leon Belasco and Eddie Conrad. A small part by Fern Emmett as the hotel chambermaid is very funny in the courtroom. She is testifying about the strange practice of Jean. The maid says she would go to one room after another in the hotel to turn down the beds and, on opening the door she would find Jean sitting in a chair, facing the door and "waiting to POUNCE on me."
But the best supporting role overall is played by Jack Carson. Some people may not like Carson for his part, but he was a consummate actor who played whatever part he got very well. Here, his Freddie is something of a blowhard and long-time boyfriend of Jean's. That they've only been engaged five years says something about their relationship in the movie. Take Carson's part out and the movie loses the basis for a significant amount of the humor.
Perhaps the one thing that sets this film back slightly is the persona of Colman's David Grant. It's not that he doesn't play it very well. Indeed, Colman was known for a specific persona in many of his films where his delivery was rather matter-of-fact and sometimes bitingly clever or huge understatement. But, with Jean's more lively, sprightly persona, I think the film would have been lifted a notch if David had been a little more down to earth and ordinary - as someone who is obviously attracted to Jean early on. Instead he does come across as somewhat snooty. But, to me, that's not "chemistry," where otherwise the two show keen interest in the other person at the right times.
Here are some favorite lines from this film. The Quotes section under this IMDb Web page on the movie has loads of funny lines, mostly from the court scenes.
Jean Newton, "Oh, Aunt Lucy, will you never grow up? People could walk in here and take your entire stock and you'd never know the difference."
Jean Newton, "And, the passion you've acquired for French novels, shame on you." Aunt Lucy, "Yes, darling, I know they're not entirely moral. But the French always seem to make everything so logical."
Freddie, "He's harmless. Look at him."
Freddie, "Very strange duck." Jean Newton, "Just what kind of a duck does that make you?"
Bride in elevator, "Did you just get here, honey?" Jean, "Yes." Woman, "We've been here a week." David, "How are the falls?" Groom in elevator, "Uh, we're seeing them tomorrow."
Freddie, "If you think you can take my girl and... " Jean, "And, what?" Freddie, "That, I don't know."
Freddie, "I used to think he was just crazy. Now I don't trust him." Jean, "That means you don't trust me either."
Hotel maid, "I tell you, your honor, it got me so nervous, I've been ascared (sic) to open a door ever since, for fear I'd find her sitting there, waiting to POUNCE on me."
Judge, "I've never heard that celebrities are any more to be trusted in their relations with women than anyone else."
Jean Newton, "Oh, it wasn't that kind of an experiment. I was to be a guinea pig."
Judge, "I see. He made love to you, he kissed you, and then he drove away in your automobile without a word. Is that right?"
Jean, "Your honor, this isn't fair. You said you were gonna protect me. He's only trying to make me talk to him now because I wouldn't talk to him outside."
Judge, "And now, Mr. Somerset." To the bailiff aside, " I have a lot of questions to ask this Casanova."
Judge, "Now that we've heard the witnesses in this case, it seems to me that we're in even deeper confusion than we were before."
That's My Boy (1951)
Dean and Jerry go to college to play football
"That's My Boy" is among the earliest films of either Jerry Lewis or Dean Martin, and also of their pairing. Lewis hadn't yet developed - or "polished" his over-the-top slapstick and goofiness. Although a comedy, this film has a touch of drama and resembles any number of similar films centered around college sports. The aspect of a star football player helping out another kid who's lacking in talent will be familiar to most who have watched many movies from the mid-20tdh century.
As would be expected, Dean Martin is the grid iron star, Bill Baker. His dad is a poor guy, in poor health, who works for a wealthy, former Ridgeville College star, Jarring Jack Jackson. He is still the picture of health and healthy living in middle age and is a successful big businessman. Now he's a big benefactor for the college. And, as long-time movie buffs will know or be able to imagine, it's he who has the weak son, physically. Naturally, that's Jerry Lewis. But, his Junior Jackson likes football and would like to play. So, with Bill's help (and dad's money) he makes the team.
The best comedy in this film comes from Eddie Mayehoff who plays Jarring Jack Jackson. He does the blustery, "they don't make 'em like me anymore" character superbly. Naturally there's a girl or two - Marion Marshall plays Terry Howard and Polly Bergen is Babs Hunter. I really didn't recognize Bergen as a 21-year-old in this film. This was just her fifth film.
There aren't many laughs in this film. Football fans will get a kick out of the action scenes on the field, including Junior's goofs and glory. This doesn't have the depth of a real sports drama such as "Brian's Song," or "The Pride of the Yankees" or any number of other mostly bio-pic sports films. Without that, it needed more comedy than it has to put it over as a very good film. It's one of the lesser Dean Martina and Jerry Lewis efforts.
But for the performances of Mayehoff as Junior's dad, and Ruth Hussey as his mother, Ann Jackson, this film would rate one star fewer. Jackson has a slogan sign in his office that reads, ""Guts is what counts." Here are the better lines in the film.
Jarring Jack Jackson, "Since when does the former Olympic women's swimming champ get out of breath?" Ann Jackson, "As of now."
Jarring Jack, "And don't call me sir. It sounds like I'm training you to be an English butler."
Bill Baker, "Cyrano de Bergerac? Didn't he play end for Cornell?"
Jarring Jack, "Is there anything worse?" Ann Jackson, "Yes. He could've been a criminal." Jarring Jack, "That wouldn't have been so bad. Then at least we could've sent him away and no one would know."
Jarring Jack, "Ann, are you sure he's our son?" Ann Jackson, "Oh, stop it, Jack. He was born at home."
Jarring Jack, "Of course, you can't pass like me, or run like me. You don't hit the line like I used to, but you remind me a little of me." Bill Baker, "Well, there'll never be another you, sir." Jackson, "Thank you, son."
Scared Stiff (1953)
This weak remake lacks the intrigue, comedy and cast of the Bob Hope original
"Scarred Stiff" is a Paramount remake of it's 1940 hit movie, "The Ghost Breakers," that starred Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, and Willie Best. The original also had a superb supporting cast that included Paul Lukas and Anthony Quinn. The story is basically the same, but the screenplay for this one was altered for Jerry Lewis's character over that of Willie Best.
Although this film did very well at the box office - as did the original, it doesn't come close to the first one. In adding the over-the-top goofiness of Jerry Lewis's character, Myron Mertz, the film loses some of its original intent and value. That's most notably the fright factor and intrigue. The original had that slight air, even knowing it's a comedy, and Willie Best helped bring it out superbly. With Jerry Lewis here, there's no thought of anything really scary because he's a buffoon bouncing around and viewers know it's all goofiness for fun.
Nor does this film have such a big-name supporting cast. Most of the supporting roles here don't have the level of intrigue, suspense or interest that the characters provided in the first film. This is not one of the better films by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Well, Paramount made some money with this film also, but for a much better and entertaining film, watch "The Ghost Breakers" when able to do so. This one's forgettable, but "The Ghost Breakers" is good enough to keep in a film library.
The Devil to Pay! (1930)
Colman's terse humor carries this early sound comedy
"The Devil to Pay" is an early sound comedy romance that has some very terse and sharp dialog from its male lead, Willie Hale, played by Ronald Colman. Opposite him are two young actresses who would go on to film stardom. Both Loretta Young (as Dorothy) and Myrna Loy (as Mary) had been in the silent films a few years before this. Still, this is a very young Ms. Young. She was only 17 when this movie was made, and she had already had the female leads in eight sound films and been in more than a dozen silent films. Myrna Loy was 25 and had been in more than 50 films since her start at age 20 in 1925. Her star was on a slower ascent in Hollywood. Not one of any of the earlier films of these two stars were memorable, or even very good compared to the films they would be in and the roles they would play in the decades ahead. This is by far, the best film for both of the ladies to that time in their careers.
But, the main character of the film, around whom the whole plot revolves, is the more well-known actor at the time, Ronald Colman. His career too began in the silent films. He was 26 when he made his first film in 1917, and he was a popular star by 1930. He had 30 films to his credit, some of which were silent classics. Colman was 22 years older than Young when this film was made - his 39 to her 17. But, besides being a standout talent already in her teens, Loretta Young was a girl who looked much more mature and older than her age - but just the right number of years.
While this is a good comedy, it has a feel of being somewhat disjointed. There are no apparent holes in the plot, but there's no stream that holds together the earliest scene of Willie Hale's (Colman) disposition of his property and goods in South Africa, and then his appearance back home after an absence of two years. Colman gives a nonchalant treatment to his character that is a trademark in his comedies. But, in this case, his wistfulness with his father, Lord Leland (played by Frederick Kerr) is so pronounced that it's hard to take him at all seriously. So, did he fear his father's reaction and treatment, or was that just nonsense?
The story has a nice ending - a type that should be familiar to fans of old black and white movies. There isn't any great acting in here, but Colman's presence is commanding in his scenes. That's most often because one is waiting for and expecting the next bit of comedy or witticism to come from him. Indeed, without the comedy in the dialog, this film wouldn't be much worth watching.
Fans of Colman, Young and Loy should enjoy this film, and others who like the older movies may be entertained by it. But modern audiences would probably struggle to sit through this film. Here are some favorite lines.
Willie Hale, to his father, Lord Leland, "Oh, come now. How could anything I do disgrace you?... Anything disgraceful that I may do merely gains for you an unfair sympathy from a sycophantic world."
Lord Leland, "Now...now you're blaming me for bringing you into the world!" Willie Hale, "Heh, heh, I should be extremely mortified for your sake if I had to blame anyone else."
Willie Hale, "Have you had a moment's boredom since I've been in the wrong? No! Your only trouble is, you have the father complex - 'Here's my son and he hasn't done any of the things I should like him to do and for that reason I should kick him out.'"
Mary, "I'd shoot anyone who tried to take you from me, Willie." Willie, "Are you a good shot?"
Lord Leland, "Well, then, what do you want to go to New Zealand for?" Willie Hale, "Because, if I ever want to go to Australia, I'll be near."
My Friend Irma Goes West (1950)
Irma and entourage go West to find their pot of gold
As in the first film, "My Friend Irma," John Lund has the funniest role in this film, with Marie Wilson's Irma in second place. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis afford some comedy, but Jerry's Seymour again has some scenes that are very dated and just don't tickle the funny bone two decades into the 21st century. And that goes for older funny bones (from pre mid-20th century) to the young ones of today.
Jerry's one very funny scenario is his playing canasta with a chimpanzee on the train. But, John Lund's Al can get laughs just on his persona - how he plays the role as a street mug, or when he calls Irma, "Chicken."
The funniest scene in the whole film is when Al is sitting at a table ready to take some chump in poker. A meek-looking patsy comes by and asks to be able to play. This is Lloyd Corrigan playing a character named Sharpie Corrigan - only Al doesn't know his name or who he is.
After Al gives the guy the cards too shuffle, the scene shifts to his hands. I don't know who the card expert was whose hands we see, but I don't think there's ever been a better or more accomplished scene of card shuffling in another movie. Besides a couple usual trick handling of the cards, this pair of hands splits the deck with half a deck of cards fanning out in each hand. He then melds to two hands together - not one hand on top of the other, but interspersing the cards. I've never seen anything like it before.
The scene then shows Al's face with a look of disbelief, and he comments about the guy never having played before, to which Sharpie replies that he played some other cards games. But now he deals five cards, one at a time to each of them. The game is straight poker. Al looks at his cards and bets $200. Sharpie raises it $200. Al raises that $200, and Sharpie raises another $200. Al just meets the $200, then says he's pat - he doesn't need any cards. Sharpie doesn't take any cards either, so Al passes. Sharpie bets $200 and Al calls him. Al then lays down a straight. Sharpie asks him what will beat a straight and Al says a flush. Sharpie says he doesn't have a flush, and Al starts to rake in the pot when Sharpie says he has a full house. Al asks how he knows, when he hasn't even looked at his cards yet - and Sharpie holds up the full house for Al to see, without ever looking at the cards himself.
The expressions, of both characters during this hand of cards is half the comedy of this scene. It's too bad that the movie didn't have more comedy like this, but the attempts at humor get quite mundane the rest of the way. Jerry has a far-out segment dressed as an Indian brave, trying to make a smoke signal, and then sneaking around to a crooks hideout.
I'm not sure younger audiences today would find this film very funny. It's probably mostly for diehard Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis fans. Dean sings a couple of songs and those help the film some.
From a shrimp to a giant, Geordie warms many a heart, whether Scot or not
A number of others describe "Wee Geordie" well -- as a charming film. Based on a 1955 novel, "Geordie," by Sottish author David Walker, it's a nice country story of a young boy who grows up to be an Olympic champion. He does this through a mail-order body building program - or so we are led to believe, and he thinks.
The touches of humor are interspersed with warmth as Geordie Mac Taggart grows into a hulk of a young man. When the local minister, Rev. McNab (played by Jack Radcliffe) sees Geordie wielding an ax one day, he asks how far he might be able to throw it. And there is born the meat of this story and the lad's quest for Olympic gold.
Bill Travers gives a very good performance as Geordie. Alastair Sim is the Laird who owns the land on which Geordie's father is game keeper. When dad, played by Jameson Clark, dies of a heart attack, Geordie is moved into his position by the Larid. And the Laird and Rev. McNab become promoters for Geordie to join the British Olympic team.
There's some nice humor there, with one promoter talking about Geordie performing for England. Then, Geordie corrects him, to Scotland, and another team official clarifies it as for Britain. Movie buffs from the UK would appreciate that humor the most - or would they - depending on where they might be from?
Anyway Geordie's girlfriend growing up is his neighbor, Jean Donaldson (played by Norah Gorsen as an adult). Geordie makes the team and sails off to Australia where the Olympic games are to be held in Melbourne. A Danish woman shotput star, Helga, takes a shining to Geordie, much to the dismay of the British officials. Apparently she has a reputation of prowling, and they are concerned that it will distract or affect Geordie's performance. (This is one of those instances when it would be nice to have a counter word for "womanizing" to apply to a woman who goes after men a lot - "manizing" just doesn't seem to work, does it?)
Well, it does affect Geordie when he competes and things look bleak until he imagines Jean calling to him over the heather on the hill - or something like that. (Remember, there's humor in this film.) Then Geordie recovers and tosses the hammer for a new Olympic record to win the gold. The movie has somewhat of a delayed ending when Geordie returns home, due to Jean's having seen him on TV getting a winning kiss from Helga. But, it ends happily when the couple gets back together. Still, a few more words are essential, lest some people go away forever thinking that a Scotsman named Geordie Mac Taggart won the Olympic hammer throw. So, here goes.
David Walker's book was published the year before the 1956 Olympics that were to take place in Melbourne. But, the story is a fairy tale. Walker has his fictitious character winning the gold in Melbourne in 1956. The actual hammer throw winner that year was an American, Harold Connolly, with a throw of 63.19 meters (207 feet, 3 ¾ inches), which was a new Olympic record.
But, besides the happy ending to the fairy tale romance, Scots, and those of us with a little Scot blood, and others who just admire or like the Highlands type, can take consolation in the fact that had there been a Geordie Mac Taggart on that 1956 Olympic team for Britain, and had he thrown the hammer 210 feet as in the book and film, he indeed would have won the gold medal in Melbourne - and set a new Olympic record.
This is a warm, fun and enjoyable down to earth film that would be a good family movie to watch on a rainy or snowy day.
A Song Is Born (1948)
A superb remake as a musical, with many greats of the swing era
Director Howard Hawks and producer Samuel Goldwyn must have liked Billy Wilder and Thomas Monroe's story, "From A to Z." They used it as the basis for the 1941 box office hit movie, "Ball of Fire," that starred Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. And then, just seven years later they used the same story, revised, to make this 1948 comedy musical with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo.
Both films were successes - the first coming in 15th in box office with $6 million in ticket sales. That was the biggest year for Gary Cooper who starred in the top 1941 box office movie, "Sergeant York," which had sales of $13.5 million. Cooper get his first of two Academy Awards for that film and that won two of 11 Oscar nominations. "Ball of Fire" received four nominations.
Few movie remakes ever top the original films, so it's not likely that Hawks and Goldwyn expected "A Song is Born" to be better than "Ball of Fire." But they wanted to make a musical out of the story, and they had a huge field of talent they could use for that purpose. Where Cooper wouldn't have worked for a musical, Danny Kaye would and did. So, with one significant change in the plot, they could turn the story into a musical. The group of professors in the first film were working on a new encyclopedia of all knowledge. In "A Song is Born," they are working on a new encyclopedia of music.
So, when the professors discovered from a couple of hep window washers that they know little to nothing about modern music, Kaye's Professor Hobart Frisbee sets out to learn about jazz, blues, boogie woogie and swing. And that leads to some of the best jazz, blues, and swing music assembled in one movie that wasn't a biopic of one of the great musicians of the period. Virginia Mayo is the moll in place of Barbara Stanwyck's Sugarpuss. She wasn't the star that Stanwyck was but she's excellent in this role as Honey Swanson.
Of course, Kaye's comedy and diverse talents contribute much to this film. While Hobart's scholarly colleagues can't match the caliber of the supporting cast who make up the "wise" guys in the first film, they do very well. And this film has something the first doesn't -- a "Who's Who" of the modern music scene. Benny Goodman is one of the professors, Magenbruch, and other greats of jazz and swing in the film are Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, and Charlie Barnet. The Page Cavanaugh Trio, The Golden Gate Quartette, and other performers add to the great sound and enjoyment of this film.
This 1948 film didn't top the first one in awards or box office, but it did have $6 million in ticket sales and come in 48th in box office in a year when the top 50 films were very closely bunched in popularity and box office. The top movie that year was "Red River" that starred John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. It had just $11.8 million in ticket sales and received two Oscar nominations. That was the year that "Hamlet" won four Oscars, including best picture and Laurence Olivier's as best actor, and its box office was 14th for the year at $8.9 million.
This is a movie that should delight audiences of all ages well into the 21st century.
The Caddy (1953)
Jerry may have set a breaking record in this film
"The Caddy" is one of more than a dozen comedy films that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis made together. Their pairing made them both famous in films. This has the usual mayhem that Jerry's Harvey Miller causes or gets into. In one scene in the department store in which he works, he trips, slides, rolls on a coaster table, and clumsily stumbles around and smashes numerous merchandise displays. This scenario includes toppling and breaking several shelves of chinaware and dishes (no doubt, this was not expensive stuff for props). This could very well have established some sort of record for breakage in a comedy film.
Dean sings a few songs, including the debut of a song that would be a major hit and become his signature song for years, "That's Amore." Harry Warren wrote the music and Jack Brooks wrote the lyrics for the song specifically for this film. The song was nominated for a 1953 academy award. Although it didn't win, it was a smash hit with audiences and rose to No. 2 on the Billboard charts that year.
As the title alludes, the film centers a lot around the sport of golf. Jerry gets in some of the best humor there. With legendary golfers Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, there's also some very good golf shots.
This isn't the best of their pairings, but it will entertain folks who like this sort of comedy. I don't recall thinking Jerry was that funny when I watched his films as a kid and later on TV. His later solo movies, when he wasn't such a loud, complaining goofball, had more spontaneous humor, I thought.
Anyway, fans of the two will enjoy this film, and maybe some in the younger audiences will still find it quite funny. Golfers will enjoy seeing the famous pros on the course with the Dean and Jerry.
A Christmas to Remember (1978)
A good family holiday film with a nice finish in the Christmas spirit
Although he was only 56 years old in this film, Jason Robards plays an older grandpa, Daniel Larson, to George Parry's Rusty McCloud. Eva Marie Saint plays grandma, Emma Larson, also in a role somewhat older than her 54 years. The two senior actors, both Oscar winners, were in demand and played in a number of family film roles, many made for TV, among their extensive films well into their senior years when many actors either retire or are no longer in demand.
Robards was coming off a series of four successful TV movies based on stories by Gale Rock, about growing up in a small town in Nebraska. It wasn't planned as a series to begin with, but the success of the 1972 holiday film, "The House Without a Christmas Tree" led to three more films, two with holiday themes.
This film is about a boy about 12 or 13 being sent from the city during the Great Depression to live on the farm with his grandparents, whom he apparently had not met before. Apparently the daughter had been estranged from her parents since she left the farm in Minnesota for Philadelphia and married. But, now, Mildred McCloud (played with a brief appearance by Joanne Woodward) and her husband can't find work to even be able to afford to feed three mouths. So, Mildred sends Rusty off to live for a time with her parents on the farm.
It's a good story that follows similar plots, but nothing on the level of the highly successful and very popular 1971 CBS TV film, "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story." Still, this makes for a nice family film over the holidays. It has a very nice twist for an ending that fits with the Christmas cheer.
Robards and Saint went on to make many more movies over the next 20 plus years.
The Pirates of Penzance (1983)
Fun entertainment from the British duo of Gilbert and Sullivan
This 1983 movie of "The Pirates of Penzance" may be the best film of more than a dozen made of Gilbert and Sullivan's best collaboration. I would like to see the 1980 film of the New York Shakespeare Festival's production on which this TV film is based. But it's not now available on DVD. That show was staged at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Manhattan's Central Park. Universal assembled much of the same cast from that show for this film. All of the leads are the same except for that of Ruth. Angela Lansbury replaced Patricia Routledge from the 1980 show. The film of that production is 10 minutes longer than this one; but this film has all of the substance of the original opera.
This movie was filmed at the Shepperton Studios in England. Most of the rest of the films of this opera were made for TV in the UK and Australia.
Gilbert and Sullivan's 14 collaborations are most often called operettas - a term that describes something less than a full opera. Operas are all singing, where these don't have all lines sung in the play, but have dialog interspersed with singing. Yet, the dialog will be sparse and much less than in standard musicals. So, those unfamiliar with these types of productions might think of "Pirates" and other Gilbert and Sullivan works as musical comedies in the style of opera.
The cast in this film are all very good. While I have never seen this play performed on the big stage, I have seen smaller productions. So, I can't imagine anyone playing certain parts better than some of the portrayals here. Especially those of The Pirate King as played by Kevin Kline and Maj. Gen. Stanley as played by George Rose. All of the rest of the cast are very good, but these two stand out.
As with all such productions, this one appears stagy. But then, that is the milieu of opera. And probably for that reason, Universal didn't do what studios do normally - try to disguise stage sets to look like real terrain and scenes. I mention this only because movie buffs who are unfamiliar with live theater on stage, may find this distracting or a turn off for the film. Once one gets used to this fact, the enjoyment is in watching the performers sing and cavort around the stage in a musical story meant to entertain theater audiences.
It's interesting to note that this Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration is the only one of their 14 that they premiered in the U.S. It's first performance was Dec. 31, 1879, on the stage of the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City (long since demolished). It then opened in London on April 3, 1880, where all the rest of the duo's works first appeared. The very first of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas were made into TV films of under one hour in 1939. NBC filmed "The Pirates" for TV, but there were so few TV and stations in existence then, that very few people would have seen it. All films of this and all other Gilbert and Sullivan works have been made for TV
Of note in this story is that the earlier G & S opera, H.M.S Pinafore is playing at a theater in Penzance during this story, and the pirates and constabulary wreak havoc on that production at the end. This is a very funny film and play that most people should enjoy. But people who don't care for opera may not enjoy it.