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It Should Happen to You (1954)
The Game Of The Name
This shows what you can do when you assemble the right ingredients; start with the writer, Garson Kanin, add the director, George Cukor, throw in an above-the-title 'star', Judy Holliday,, wheel out a debutant actor (movies, that is, he'd done several tv shows), Jack Lemmon, let it simmer gently, stir, and stand back. If you must have a one-word description and it can't be terrific, outstanding, or brilliant, then charm is as good as any, not least because the movie is loaded with it, innocent is also good. If you can overlook the wooden Peter Lawford - which is easy to do - the to leads are exceptional. One to savour.
No doubt all the Mark Kermode pseud-alikes out there have already genuflected in King's New Clothes outlets nationwide and one opinion more or less will not make a whit or a jot of difference. This entry is very much in the style of the early Woody Allen movies - three or four reasonable set pieces punctuating acres of ennui. Okay, Tarentino knows a fair amount about Hollywood movies. So do I but I don't feel the need to flaunt this and even if I did who is gonna give a big rat's ass given that no one is actually HYPING me and until the Mark Kermodes of this world learn to recognise wheat from chaff we'll be lumbered with mediocre stuff like this for the foreseeable future.
When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948)
About the best you can say for this is it's a chance to see June Havoc in vaudeville. Havoc did in fact appear in several 'straight' movies notably Gentlemans' Agreement but she started life, of course, as 'Dainty June' Hovick and as a child was a headliner in vaudeville and was later immortalized as Baby June in Gypsy on both stage and screen. She works well here as one half (with Jack Okie) of the two second leads. Dailey was regularly teamed with Grable and the results were pretty painless if formulaic. This offers a fairly realistic fits-where-it-touches portrait of vaudeville but overall it doesn't stand up as well as other titles of similar vintage.
Walking My Baby Back Home (1953)
Essentially there were two great dancers in Hollywood; Fred Astaire and all the rest. Gene Kelley appeared in arguably more prestigious movis than the likes of Gene Nelson, Bob Fosse and Michael Kidd but Donald O'Connor was seriously underrated. It may be that he was lumbered with a studio (Universal) not especially known for musicals compared to say, MGM, Fox, or Paramount, and slow to spend a buck promoting him, whatever, he just didn't make it. On the other hand he illuminated almost everything he was in and arguably got his best exposure in the fifties via Singin' In The Rain, Call Me Madam, I Love Melvin and There's No Business Like Show Business. He has little trouble 'carrying' this entry even saddled with liability Buddy Hackett and Janet Leigh keeps her end up. All in all a half-decent lightweight entry.
The Big Shot (1942)
The Last Ga(n)Gster
Director Lewis Seiler started out as a gagman and graduated to helming thick-ear mellers at Warners including this entry which marked Bogie's last outing as a gangster having just scored as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and about to score even bigger as Rick Blane in Casablanca. There's not a lot wrong with this and Seiler throws in some imaginative angles and touches of light and shade but the timing was just about as wrong as it could be - 1942, a beat or two after Pearl Harbor so that it more or less fell off the radar. Perhaps the odd man out is Howard Da Sylva, a long way from Paramount for what amounts to a nothing role, elsewhere familiar faces like Chick Chandler, Joe Downing, Stanley Ridges and Minor Watson as, what else, the warden, give solid support. Irene Manning does sterling work as the femme lead while ironically fourth-billed Susan Peters got her big break here but stopped a bullet in a hunting accident three years later cutting short a promising career.
Thin Ice (1937)
No Business Like Snow Business
A lot of the pleasure in this piece of fluff comes courtesy of the supporting players - Melville Gideon, Sig Ruman, Arthur Treacher, Joan Davis. The plot, such as it is, is typical thirties escapism relying heavily - make that totally - on mistaken identity. Seen in 2019 it remains a pleasant enough diversion.
Give My Regards to Broadway (1948)
Clap Hands There Goes Charlie
Seen for the first time some seventy years after its initial release this one has a lot of charm going for it. Mom and Dad Fay Bainter and Charles Winninger were seldom out of work in the thirties and forties and are utterly convincing as the ex-vaudevillians settled in New Jersey raising their three children, two girls, one boy.Father is in denial and keeps the family rehearsing a song, dance, and juggling act against the day vaudeville comes back, meanwhile he climbs the corporate ladder slowly but surely. Top-billed Dan Dailey as the son is the most talented and holds out the longest but in the end he too bows to the inevitable. Support from the likes of Sig Ruman and Charlie Ruggles don't do any harm at all and it's a pleasant wallow in nostalgia.
Sea of Love (1989)
Losing The Plot
This film is thirty years old so it's reasonable to assume that most people reading this are familiar with the 'twist' so that I'm not giving anything away by discussing it. Police are looking for a serial killer targeting men responding to lonely hearts ads and the killer is thought to be a woman. In each case the man is shot whilst in the act of missionary positin sex i.e. on top of woman YET! nothing is said about the women, were they killed too? Why don't the cops look for them as potential witnesses? The killer is revealed to be an ex-husband jealous of his ex-wife so 1) why does he leave lipstick covered cigarette ends and 2) how does he get into apartments where people are having sex? If you can get past these the film itself is fine.
Those Redheads from Seattle (1953)
No Hair, Just Red Heads
As hybrids go this goes a tad too far. Around the same time Paramount turned out an 'experimental' western entitled Red Garters which seems to have disappeared without trace and if nothing else had a better score than this piece of cheese. Rhonda Fleming actually had a great singing voice but doesn't get a chance to display it, Agnes Moorhead is totally wasted, Gene Barry an embarrassment; I could go one but with luck you're ahead of me.
Hollywood Boulevard (1936)
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
If you're fond of curios look no further. The basic premise - wheel out as many of yesterdays' headliners who now don't have change of a match as the traffic will bear and let buffs have a ball spotting them - is hi-jacked by a hoary sub-plot featuring Robert Cummins, a star in his own mind and Marsha Hunt who goes down fighting. The opening is hawg heaven for nostalgics with a montage of Hollywood Boulevard and nite spots shot at German expressionistic angles to illustrate the kaleidoscope milieu. It remains a fascinating failure.
Love Letters (1945)
And then, As I End The Refrain ...
Edmund Rostand rhymes with Ayn Rand and perhaps cognizant of this Rand has 'adapted' rather than ripped off Rostand's greatest work Cyrano de Bergerac, lost the nose and the rapier but kept the ghost writing. In 1945 with the war all but won there was room for a blend of whimsey and mystery, throw in a picture-book cottage in an English countryside that existed only in Hollywood imaginations and we're off to the races. I've never really cared for Jennifer Jones finding her overripe sensuality dull but very occasionally - Since You Went Away and here - she was not too hard to take. A half-decent effort that wears well
Enter Laughing (1967)
This is a film I wanted to like much more than I actually did given that I'm a fully paid-up member of the Neil Simon-For-President Society and first in line for stuff like Goodbye, Charlie, Where's Poppa, Movie, Movie and the like. The cast is like a dream with names like Don Rickles (wasted), Herbie Faye, Elaine May just for openers. Someone has already pointed out that despite an opening statement that we are in 1938 there is absolutely no attempt to create a 1930s 'feel' which is a major handicap. Nevertheless there are several fine moments and having acquired it on dvd I will definitely watch it again.
Top o' the Morning (1949)
Richard Breen - with or without an 'L' wrote a couple of my favorite films - Pete Kelly's Blues, A Foreign Affair - plus several above average titles so it's strange to find his name on this leaden soufflé' but it was an early effort and everyone has to start somewhere. If you can accept the premise that someone did indeed steal the Blarney Stone leaving no trace then you may well enjoy this whimsey which relies on Crosby's charm. Burke and Van Heusen turned in a tuneful title song that may well be the best thing in it.
The Upturned Glass (1947)
The Eyes Have It
James Mason and Pamela Kellino were clearly eager to push boundaries and function as fully creative personnel rather than just actors. Having met whilst shooting I Met A Murderer in 1939 when Pamela Ostrer was still married to Roy Kellino, embarked on an affair and subsequently married it's more than possible that The Upturned Glass was something of an in-joke given that in the film Mason does meet Kellino's character who is, in fact, a murderer and given that Mason produced and Kellino penned the screenplay the nod to the earlier film is inescapable. It's a film that means well and its earnestness is to be applauded even if it doesn't quite come off but a definite E for Effort.
Kiss the Boys Goodbye (1941)
Belles Are Winging
I caught up with this entry the best part of eighty years after its initial release. In my case the selling points were two great songs - Sand In My Shoes plus the title song - by Victor Schertzinger - who also directed - and Johnny Mercer but as someone steeped in vintage showbusiness I found a lot to savour despite a less than perfect print. Not least was a third number, That's How I Got My Start, previously unknown to me but in 1941 the cognoscenti would have recalled that the unknown Mary Martin actually got her own start in Cole Porter's Broadway show Leave It To Me when she performed a mild striptease to My Heart Belongs To Daddy three years earlier. Johnny Mercer's clever lyric has her performing another striptease in a sophisticated in-joke. The main thrust of the plot - adapted from Clare Booth's satire on the hype surrounding the nationwide search for an actress to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind and whilst we lose the bulk of Booth's acid dialogue we gain a fine score.
Before We Go (2014)
Several people who posted here - and all the posts I read were favourable - noted similarities to Before Sunrise but they weren't really annoyed about it and are probably savvy enough to know that no one writes/creates in a vacuum and almost inevitably the influence earlier films/novels/plays had on us will filter through our own efforts. I also found elements of a much older movie than Before Sunrise, namely Vincente Minnelli's The Clock (sometimes billed as Under The Clock), a film that dates from the 1940s and features Judy Garland meeting oldier Robert Walker in Grand Central station and falling in love. Comparison with the black and white Minnelli movie more or less ends there because Minnelli fills his film with excellent supporting actors like James Gleasons' milkman and Garland and Walker actually obtain a special license and get married. I'm thinking more of the 'feel' of the film and the for want of a better word 'innocence', supplemented by charm, class, style, call it what you will you'll find it in The Clock, Before Sunrise, and Before We Go; would it wer to be found it more films.
Pleins feux sur l'assassin (1961)
It's not a masterpiece, it's not even a great film but it is interesting and it's a film that should be seen by anyone with a serious interest in the medium. Franju, even when not firing on all cylinders is not someone to be dismissed because there will always be a germ, an element, that is worth a look, or a second or third. No one seems to have noticed the obvious flaw in the ointment: the premise - not unlike that in Laughter In Paradise - centres on an eccentric personage faced with death and desirous of making his heirs jump through hoops before getting their hands on his money. In this case the heirs cannot inherit until five years have elapsed (unless his missing corpse is located before that time-limit expires. Not only that but during those five years the deceased's large chateau must be maintained. Strangley enough ALL the heirs have nothing pressing to occupy them i.e. no lives, and are free to drop everything and put their shoulders to the wheel. Once you get past this improbability there is much to enjoy, not least atmosphere, Franju's stock in trade.
Woman on the Run (1950)
Hello, Frisco, Hello
Most regular cinemagoers have seen Bullitt, Vertigo, or even Pal Joey, all of which feature the San Francisco that became a regular stop on the Tourist itinerary and came to depend on the Tourist Dollar and one of the several plus points of Woman On The Run is the fact that it portrays the San Francisco that wasn't famous, the blue-collar town that it was until it hit pay-dirt tourist-wise. Many of the locations no longer exist but are preserved in black and white courtesy of Norman Foster and his crew. It's also a pretty fair noir if anyone asks you with fine performances from Ann Sheridan and Robert Keith. On the other hand either I missed something or the denoument was labored but that's small price to pay for seventy-one minutes of fine craftsmanship.
The production company clearly spent a young fortune on PR for this title and if the flacks got it ride and drag the punters in the movie will easily make its neg cost back.Whilst it managed to keep my mind off Brexit and my dinner plans for the evening throughout the running time I had completely forgotten it by the time I reached the foyer on the way out. Part of the problem is that in my salad days I was frightened by screenwriters like Terence Rattigan and directors like Puffin Asquith who, had they turned out nothing more than The Way To The Stars and The Browning Version would have more than secured a lifetime pass to the Pantheon and these Poster boys for the luvvies Curtis and Boyle, who struggle to achieve mediocrity just aren't in the same league albeit as crowd-pleasers they're right up there with The Simpsons and Kermit the frog. This is a thinly-veiled rip-off of the tv sitcom Goodnight, Sweetheart, in which time-traveller Nicholas Lyndhurst passes off Beatles song as his own work and that's the story from soup to nuts. The best thing about it by a country mile is Lily James who, unlike the rest of the cast, is completely unselfconscious and doesn't walk through the film clearly in awe of being in this season's feelgood triumph. Go see it, though. You will anyway.
Late Night (2019)
Bombing On The 23rd Floor
Neil Simon set one of his later comedies in the Writers Room of a television show - he based it on his own time as a writer on Your Show of Shows - and the laughs came thick and fast because he IS Neil Simon. Ms. Kaling is light years shot of Neil Simon so we can dismiss this as Laughter On The 23r Floor without the laughs. Ms Kaling, who is also an actress wrote herself a nice, juicy part. Kaling as an actress is better than Kaling as a writer - just. As for top-billed Emma Thompson nothing she does here negates her image as an arrogant, egotistical leftist luvvie who thinks nothing of creating a 6,000 mile carbon footprint in order to fly from LA to London to ... join a protest against carbon footprints shouting silently 'what a good little hypocritical girl am I. It just about gets by as a time-passer but that's about it.
I looked in vain for a negative review of this gem and would have been affronted had I found one. In short it is everything the posers say and much, much more.The brilliant director expects the viewer to be up on not only the life and career of Moliere but also his time - the seventeenth century - and albeit this is asking for the moon it matters not a whit or a jot because the movie is so compelling and even the dim lighting - authentic but most productions would light it anyway - does nothing to break the spell. Brigitte Catillon is the only actress likely to be recognized today given she gets work in top French films like Les Soeurs fachees and Ne le dis personne but there isn't a bad performance in the film. See it, bask in it, and buy it.
The Hustle (2019)
On Your Marks
It is - or it certainly should be by now - a given that Hollywood is totally incapable of remaking a movie and equalling let alone eclipsing the original so if you must check out a remake keep that in mind. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was made 24 years after Bedtime Story which it rip - sorry, remade. In other words there was a good chance that the original audience for Bedtime Story no longer went to movies when Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was released in 1988. Similarly The Hustle has been released some 31 years after Dirty Rotten Scoundrels so why all the knashing of teeth. As it happens I've seen both Bedtime Story AND Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and have no problem with The Hustle which is essentially Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with tits. Orson Welles isn't going to be turning in his grave and the voting members of the Academy are not likely to be troubled but in terms of a time=passer it's more than adequate.
Corrina, Corrina (1994)
Eenie, Meanie, Miney, Mensch
This is one of those movies where you check your prejudices at the box office and cry 'uncle' as you take your seat and in return you get to wallow in pure entertainment with a bittersweet afterglow. It's a family movie in every sense of the word you can think of and features three leading performances that are well beyond magnificent. In a nutshell Ray Liotta's wife dies - presumably prematurely, traumatising their daughter to the extent that she becomes withdrawn and loses - at least temporarily - the ability to speak. The obvious solution is to hire a nanny/governess/therapist and this provides a sequence reminiscent of The Fabulous Baker Boys in which a succession of round pegs try out for the square hole position. Finally, as we knew would happen, the ideal candidate shows up in the shape of Whoopi Goldberg and leaves the opposition dead in the water. And now a theme - as opposed to a plot - rears its discreet head; Goldberg is as black as a yard up a chimney and Liotta is as kosher as bagels and lox and the year is 1959. Goldberg is clearly an honorary member of the Magic Circle and in nothing flat a once dysfunctional household is running as smoothly as a Patek Phillipe. If you have anything in your thoracic cavity this is a movie you can watch, enjoy, and be moved by, time and time again.
Vass You Dere. Sharlie?
We may be asking the wrong questions here; it's not so much is it ethically or morally right to spi;; the beans as exactly who is this movie targeting? The youngest celebrity featured is Rock Hudson who died in 1985 and virtually all of his memorable movies were made in the fifties and sixties. The others - Katherine Hepburn, Walter Pidgeon, Cary Grant, etc were already major stars by the 1930s. The point I'm making is that even forty year old moviegoers are either going to be long au fait with these revelations or else too young to care. You could argue that it's useful to have all the dirt in one place but that's about the best you can give it.
After the Ball (1957)
Something For The Boys
As it turns out there are TWO male impersonators in this film, Pat Kirkwood and Laurence Harvet and neither is wholly convincing. The main selling point for me was a screenplay by Hubert Gregg who was, of course, married for a time to Pat Kirkwood, but for a writer of Gregg's calibre the screenplay is lacklustre at best. As was his wont Harvey managed yet again to snatch a suet pudding from the jaws of a soufflé and Kirkwood isn't far behind performing Tilley's signature songs as if immersed Houdini-like in a large tank of water. It's difficult to envisage this whole project conceived as anything other than a tax loss.