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Gun Fury (1953)
I just rented GUN FURY...and this was my first viewing. I've recently become interested in '50's Westerns since I find that era both prolific and diverse. Themes of violence, sex, racism range from cartoon and casual to adult and thought provoking during this period. This film lies somewhere in between. For the most part it's well thought out...and actually spends more time with the villain (Frank Slayton...a thief, murderer, sadist and rapist...well played by Philip Carey) then the hero...a young, pretty good Rock Hudson (as Ben Warren). Warren is a man who...after surviving the Civil War wants to marry (his betrothed is the beautiful Donna Reed...as Jennifer Ballard); settle in California and work his ranch with his wife by his side. He's learned the main lesson of war...that peace is to be cherished and doesn't go armed...since he no longer looks nor expects a fight.
Slayton's gang robs the stagecoach Ben and Jennifer are traveling in...Ben's shot and left for dead...and Jennifer is kidnapped by Frank Slayton...who over the objections of his gang...wants to take her into Mexico and make her his woman. Capable Western character actors... Ben Gordon, Lee Marvin and Neville Brand are among the gang members. They're made up of former Southern soldiers who've refused to accept defeat; nor wish to conform to civilian life.
Ben pursues...and the action follows him and Tom Burgress (Gordon) who's betrayed by Slayton trying to catch the outlaws. Ben and Burgress ask for help in ensuing towns...to no avail and that's the only part of the script that wavered for me. How a pack of outlaws...who've made off with a payroll and killed a stage driver have no law hot on their trail...just 3 men ...an Indian joins them later...after Slayton for various reasons.
(Spoiler warning)Slayton is despicable...he waits until he has Jennifer to himself in a border town he frequents...gets the local hussies to clean the road dust off her...dresses in a dress of his choosing...then, since he knows he's never going to have her willingly...forces himself on her.
Right and Hudson do prevail in an action packed and believable conclusion.
The occasional things coming right at the camera (it's a 3D movie) as usual look odd...but the exteriors are beautiful...and Raoul Walsh's direction is capable, as always. I rated it a 7...it's well paced, holds interest and not a bad Saturday afternoon.
The Love Trap (1929)
Odd entry for an odd year
I just viewed this early William Wyler directed comedy-drama and discovered that leading lady Laura La Plante (Evelyn) co-starred in 2 silent/talkies in 1929. The other was the first sound version of SHOWBOAT as Magnolia. I'd really like to know why the first 43 minutes or so is silent (with a continuous, distracting musical soundtrack) and the last 25 minutes has dialogue.
As a result, the performances, for the most part fluid in the silent portions, become rushed and choppy. The storyline follows La Plante as an unemployed chorus girl in New York, who suffers thru a series of misfortunes until fate puts her in the arms of Neil Hamilton (Peter) , who's a rich guy. The tale switches to light comedy, as the two fall in love and marry...then it's back to melodrama as Hamilton's stuffy mom and uncle (Norman Trevor) feel the young man has married beneath his station. The title could be both from his family's assumption the poor girl 'trapped' Peter (Hamilton) into marriage or how she sets a trap for his uncle to free her of a secret they share.
At no time a masterpiece...Hamilton's performance is generally fine; La Plante is too cutesy and Wyler's direction shows a brief flash of brilliance to come...note: how we learn the butler and Peter's younger sister Mary (a too brief appearance by a beautiful Rita La Roy) are indeed an item. But, at 69 minutes...it's not a waste for the curious.
Golden Boy (1939)
A Golden Gem from a Golden Year
GOLDEN BOY isn't as revered as some other classics from Hollywood's best year 1939, such as GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ, STAGECOACH, DESTRY RIDES AGAIN...but it still holds it own. Namely, it was the first starring role for William Holden and his performance, though uneven in spots, hits all the right notes. He was a man-child (20 during filming), playing one.
He's at a crossroads...Joe Bonaparte is a young violinist, with a great future before him and a loving family behind him (father Lee J. Cobb, at times a cartoonish Italian...remember it's 1939 and older sister, Beatrice Blinn as Anna...and her cab driving, wise cracking husband Siggie, played by Sam Levine). Joe could choose that path, or go for the quick money and fame of boxing, where he could sacrifice his talent (risking permanent hand injury) and his soul. Pushing him in that direction are his manager (Tom Moony...the always fine Adolph Menjou and his gal pal..Lorna Moon, the great Barbara Stanwyck).
Here's a spoiler on the way...Lorna must choose between Tom...the man who came to her rescue when she was at her lowest point; or young Joe. Tom keeps going to Lorna to win Joe over...who has to be convinced into boxing...then is reluctant to pay his dues to get a title shot. At first, it's a chore for Lorna...but she begins to waver, as she sees beyond the physical beauty of the young fighter and sees his soul, his love of music and his talent, love of his family and she begins to hate herself for it.
Joe and Lorna have a great scene midway...where Joe makes a move on Lorna...he grabs her roughly and kisses her hard, on the cheek. She asks tartly where he learned that...Joe responds by planting a long, hard smack to her lips. Lorna then coldly asks 'who said you can do that?!' She's well aware that he's a sexual innocent, but he's correct in knowing she's fallen for him.
The boxing sequences are realistic; Joseph Calleia is effective as a mob boss, who turns Joe's head and corrupts him. The best line i've heard in any film for a long time, comes from Lorna. The mobster crashes an office party for Joe...he tells everyone to leave except Tom Moony and an assistant. Lorna stays...the gangster scans her crossed legs lustfully and suspiciously...then asks her who's girl she is. Stanwyck in her husky voice fire's back...'i'm my mother's girl.'
Damn Yankees (1958)
By Gone Innocence
Just viewed DAMN YANKEES on DVD for 1st time in years...i saw it first on TV in the late sixties as a young teen. Gwen Verdon made an impact then and still does.
Since all movies become dated and therefore flawed, i won't dwell on how time has affected it. It's still fun! Most of the musical numbers still ring true and i like the fact that everyone does their on singing...you're looking for an emotion to be conveyed (the weakest points of say WEST SIDE STORY are hearing dubbed in voices for Tony and Maria's songs). It's a true musical, i was keeping track of the timer as i watched, there's a song every 8 minutes or so.
All the performances are fine...there are a few points to the Joe Hardy/Boyd character i'll bring up. First, after he disappears...how come he doesn't at least write to his beloved wife...at least let her know he's okay? Secondly...since she's certainly not elderly, and Joe stays as a boarder to be near her, how come he never feels anything romantic for her? it'd been interesting if he had...
It's still breezy, mindless entertainment...fun to watch the Mick take those massive swings in a cameo, great to hear some of the Devil, Mr. Applegate's quips (he's curiously bumbling...we assume that he suffers some for being in human form...and Ray Walston does look like a not to be trusted used car salesman). One reviewer here, wasn't quite sold on Gwen Verdon as a seductress...but as she coyly strips during her WHATEVER LOLA WANTS, LOLA GETS number, the end result, her standing in a black tutu, flashing her glamorous gams...i, for one would be ready to follow her, anywhere.
Babe Ruth (1991)
Best Rendering to date
If you've seen either the sappy, sanitized 1948 THE BABE RUTH STORY with the woefully undersized William Bendix as the Babe; or THE BABE with the consistently over-sized John Goodman (Ruth was never that large)...you owe it to yourself to watch this take.
An honest effort has been made to depict the Babe with all his colorful sides and darker, less likable shades to his character. it's nearly an impossible task to portray a larger than life, legendary personage, but Steven Lang does a more than credible job.
Great care has been taken to depict the era, styles and mindsets of all the principals in Ruth's life and Ruth/Lang is on side the cheerful, over the top big kid and also the greedy, petulant, spoiled brat who feels he should always get his way, even when he knows he's dead wrong.
There's a clever cameo in mid film by Pete Rose, the current all time baseball career hit leader, as Ty Cobb (who's record he broke).
Sadly, life in regards to how Ruth dealt with his two wives and daughters didn't come to him as easily as baseball did. Here he doesn't fare as well as he did on the babeball diamond. The film touches on all this and his desire to be a big league manager, despite his failings to manage himself are also dealt with
Time After Time (1979)
Good Fantasy Entry
Very good film on many levels...only negative aspect may be weak special effects regarding the time machine's travel (i'm sure there were budget concerns).
outside of that...the plot, about a young H.G. Wells in 1893 who finds out the notorious Jack the Ripper is actually his best friend; who then takes off for 1979 in Wells' time machine is taut and pretty imaginative. the movie centers around Wells desperately trying to find and stop the Ripper in San Francisco, who very quickly finds a haven in the modern city's wantoness and free love attitudes.
the love story develops quite well between H.G. and Amy Robbins, a banking exec...until they find themselves on a collision course with the Ripper. Malcolm Mc Dowell excels as the brilliant, baffled and nerdy Wells, as does David Warner as the Ripper/Stevenson...Wells' former best friend...and notably Mary Steenburgen is fine as the liberated, love interest of Wells'.
it's a fine companion to 1960's The Time Machine...and a good entry into the fantasy genre. it's also interesting as a late '70's time capsule today...which i'm sure the director (Nicholas Meyer) intended. it's fun for those of us who lived it to look back and for younger audiences...it's fun to look at a time that's totally alien to them.
It Happened One Night (1934)
1934's It Happened One Night was the first film to sweep all the major categories for the Academy Awards (Best Actor, Actress, Director, Screenwriter and Picture). only One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Silence of the Lambs have equaled that.
After 70 years, it's charm still holds up and Director Frank Capra isn't guilty of manipulating the audience into sappiness...which he would do from time to time in later projects.
He and screenwriter ( Robert Riskin) pit two opposites: gruff, cocksure and seemingly untrustworthy newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable); with cultured, rich, naive, sheltered American Princess Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert). Ellie is a runaway bride (actually daughter). She's married against her father's wishes, jumped off his yacht off the Florida coast and plans to travel by herself up to New York and reunite with hubby (King Westley played by Jamerson Thomas). Since air travel was fledgling in 1934; train travel would've been the mode of choice.
But Ellie's low on cash and dad's (Alexander played by Walter Connolly) detectives are watching all the stations...Ellie gets on a night bus headed to NYC. (hence the title...source material was a story called Night Bus).
A series of vignettes ensue, among them the classic 'walls of jericho' motel scene, and the hitchhiking scene. throughout Gable barks and complains nonstop and forbids the spoiled brat heiress from even thinking of whining. he's after an exclusive story (or so he thinks) and she wants to rush back to hubby's arms and out of dad's influence.
of course, along the way...they unexpectedly fall in love. it's never manifested on screen...they don't even kiss and here's where the movie, the principles, Riskin and Capra shine. the motel scenes are a nose thumb to the Hays Office in their silliness also, since overt sexuality couldn't be shown at the time...the sexual tension between Peter and Ellie simmers below the surface during the film's second half. the haystack scene...where Peter stops himself from kissing her and Ellie realizes how much she wants him to...is the beginning of it.
the final motel scene on the last night of their journey, where Ellie professes her love to Peter (the Oscar winning scene for Colbert) manifests this sexuality.
i also found the sexism on the part of Ellie's father, Andrew interesting. he's a loving, doting father...but he's contend to find a good husband for Ellie...to insure her happiness. he never looks to see if she can or wants to help him...or what she wants for her happiness...until the end; after she tells him who she really loves.
a reward is made public for Ellie's safe return; Peter leaves her to get an advance from the newspaper because he wants to bring his own money to Ellie to start their life together; though he rejected her advance. Then she contacts dad and Westley after she thinks she's been abandoned.
there's a great scene...the last time we see Ellie and Peter on screen together...at her estate. A party's being thrown, she's to wed Westley again in a gala wedding...Peter comes to her house to pick up the money her father owes him. He sees her for the first time in her element; gowned and bejeweled...and he snarls at her.
Perhaps Gable's Oscar winning scene is with her father...where he states he doesn't want the huge reward...only expense money for the trip...that Ellie's only a spoiled brat because of the father... and that, though she's daffy he's hopelessly in love with her!
Andrew plays cupid...telling Ellie of Peter's rejection of the reward and his profession of love for her, as he's walking her down the aisle. Ellie runs off to a waiting car...leaving Westley in the lurch again... and over the phone...day's later from Andrew's office we learn that Westley's accepted cash to annul the marriage...and Peter and Ellie can marry.
the film ends at a roadside motel...with a befuddled older couple complaining about the wacky young couple asking for a toy trumpet and a rope...they're re enacting the 'walls of jericho' scene. As a time capsule, as all films shot during current times become... it's rich with many Capra staples. The Depression, the melding of 2 different classes, which is an American institution...sense of looking out for the other person, they're all here.
there's a scene in mid film...on the second bus ride, where Peter gives all his cash to a young boy traveling with his starving mom to meet his father...that is Capra at his best. he tweaks the heartstrings...but doesn't hit this one too hard. it also serves to mirror what Peter is involved in...he too is trying to get a woman he loves back to her husband.
in short...the movie after all these years, holds up well...which is something all classic movies all still do. and it still works well on all levels.
Lady for a Day (1933)
Great early Capra
this is the film that precedes IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT for the team of Frank Capra (director) and Robert Riskin (screenwriter). Sadly it's not regarded as one of his beloved classics...it deserves to be. William Warren is the perfect Dave the Dude, who's heart of gold aids the distressed aged damsel (May Robson...the titled LADY FOR A DAY). Most of it's innocent charm and humor haven't faded over the 71 years since it's release. Speaking of 70's...at 74 May Robson was the oldest actress to receive a Best Actress nomination.
the scene near the end; where she's received by the real mayor of New York and his party guests at her phony party (meant to show off her "society" friends to her daughter, and future inlaws) is priceless. Miss Robson's quiet, teary eyed smile will still bring the viewer to near tears today. Also, Guy Kibbie, and Ned Sparks provide reliable comic support. a must see for all Capra fans.