Director Otto Preminger really proved he was a filmmaker with clout by being able to make a film like this. Even in 1959, when Hollywood was actually THINKING first and making money second, this film was a risk. First, its dialogue gets pretty graphic (for the day). Secondly, much of the second half of the film is set ONLY in the courtroom, leaving the audience nothing to do than watch lawyers bickering and objecting. Preminger must have known what he was doing when he made this black and white, two-and-a-half-hour courtroom drama…because I dare you to take your eyes off this one for even a second. Yes, I said two-and-a-half-hours…much of it set in court with more dialogue than action. But, somehow, it works. It is a truly captivating film. James Stewart plays a quirky small-town lawyer who takes the case of an Army lieutenant who gets arrested for killing a man who allegedly raped his wife. We find this out right in the beginning and then the rest of the film is how Stewart goes about setting up his case and what steps he takes before and during trial. Sounds dull, right? Well, as I said, Preminger must have had magic up his sleeve for this one because this film is never is dull. It clips along through witness testimony and presented evidence, and all that legal fun stuff. And trust me, there is plenty of tension…I mean all along we’re wondering if Stewart is going to be able to achieve what he set out to achieve…getting Lt. Manion off for the murder…a murder Lt. Manion has NEVER denied he committed. But, it’s more than just a movie about suspense…it’s a movie about the process of the law…about how our justice system works and about how lawyers plug along and make their case. A fascinating film about a subject that could have been un-fascinating, if put in the wrong hands. Thankfully, Preminger’s hands were the right ones.
Posts Tagged: classic
Doris Day teams with Clark Gable in this witty and intelligent comedy with Gable as a hard-nosed newspaper editor who does not believe in education, but rather experience. Day is the journalism professor who will teach him that both schooling and experience are invaluable. While they learn together, they fall in love. Day seems to be having more fun in this film than any film of her career—she simply shines in this role. Gable fits the bill as the perfect tough, ruthless editor who has no room for love in his heart. Their performances, along with the always-entertaining Gig Young, make this ordinary film extraordinary.
Agatha Christie stuck mainly to her continuing characters…Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, etc…when writing. But, occasionally she would go off on a limb and write something original, introducing new characters to the audience. With the stage play Witness for the Prosecution, she created an entirely new world of people and situations, which kept the reader on his/her toes throughout. Made into a film in 1957 by talented and well-rounded film director Billy Wilder, the movie keeps us hanging until the last possible second and delivers the same kind of wallop as the play. Set in London, the story revolves around Leonard Vole’s (played by Tyrone Power) guilt or innocence. He is being tried for the murder of a wealthy, older woman he befriended. Unlike a lot of thrillers that are made, this one does have a very satisfying ending, do mostly to the relationship between Vole and his wife…one of Marlene Dietrich’s finest performances. But, the main character of the film is Sir Wilfrid Robarts, the crotchety, ailing barrister Vole gets to represent him. Not really known for light-ish roles, Charles Laughton dives into the barrister with a droll vigor that makes the audience LOVE Wilfrid even though he’s crass, brash, insubordinate, and very pig-headed. Laughton just seems to be having so much fun playing this character; without him, Wilfrid would have just been another forgettable character.
First off, I will be honest. Gary Cooper is sorely miscast in this film. Is that a reason to stay away from it? Definitely not. I just want you to be prepared, though, for Mr. Cooper’s unusual stiffness, in a role that calls for a man who is supposed to be suave and relaxed. Barring Cooper’s role, this is a great, sweet romantic comedy with an endearing father/daughter relationship thrown in to make it even more special. Directed by Billy Wilder, who again proves he can direct any type of movie, Love in the Afternoon features a charming performance by a young Audrey Hepburn and a welcomed comeback role for Maurice Chevalier, who plays her private investigator father. Cooper’s stiffness seems to add to the comedy of this film, though I’m sure that was completely unintentional. The real added comedy comes from one of Chevalier’s clients and from the “Gypsies,” a band that Cooper has serenade him and his lovers in his hotel suite. Because of those moments of comic relief and the appealing, unassuming relationship between Hepburn and Chevalier, this movie overlooks Cooper’s uncomfortability. Look for one of the most romantic, tearful good-bye scenes in all of cinema.
A sweet, charming film about a stranded WWII soldier and the nun he encounters as he’s trying to find his way off an island in the Pacific. Mitchum and Kerr worked often together but this is my favorite film with them. Kerr’s nun is perfect…just a Mitchum’s crusty, rough-around-the edges soldier is spot-on. Together, they make a great team. Filled with very subtle sexual tension, director John Huston does a good job of making sure both Mitchum and Kerr feel “uncomfortable” around each other. Of course, nothing happens. She’s a nun, after-all.
Out of all of the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn comedies, this one might be the least known but happens to be my favorite. Hepburn plays a corporate librarian and Tracy comes into the company with his new “computer” to try and replace Hepburn and her research staff. Aside from the always-wonderful comic/sexual tension between Tracy and Hepburn, one of the charming things about this film is the way the technology of the day was portrayed, since Tracy’s computer takes up an entire room. Aside from the out-datedness of that, this film stands the test of time because of the two phenomenal actors in the kind of movie they both seem to shine in.
A great romantic comedy with a twist. Here, the couple gets married first and then they decide to get to know each other. When they do, they find out how little they have in common. This would be just a typical run-of-the-mill rom com if it weren’t for the quick, super-sharp script (which won an Oscar) and the talents of Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall. Bacall and Peck have fabulous chemistry that translates perfectly on the screen. A must see for any romantic comedy fans!
One man stands alone against 11 others at the beginning of this movie. Henry Fonda plays the only juror who buys the defendant’s version of events and his innocence. Little by little, Fonda convinces the other jurors of the defendant’s lack of guilt and by the end of the movie, the tables have completely changed. This is the type of film that you know going into it how it just has to turn out. But, you watch it anyway…mesmerized by the performances and amount of sheer power coming through on the screen. Fonda was never better as this lone man, plodding his case among his peers, trying everything he can before he is forced to give up and cave in to pressure. Also features some great actors in their early roles, such as Jack Warden and Jack Klugman. Directed by Sidney Lumet, who became synonymous with New York City and crime/legal dramas after this film’s success.
Melodrama at its finest! Directed by high-drama master Douglas Sirk, this film will make you run the gamut of all emotions. There is scandal, affairs, wronged love, unabated passions, alcoholism, miscarriages, infertility, guns, murder, etc. Sounds good, right? Well, it is. It’s like one big soap opera, but, don’t worry. It’s a top-notch soap…with Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas and Dorothy Malone, who won a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role.
Civil War veteran Ethan spends more time wandering the West than he does with his family. When he finally comes home, he soon finds himself searching once again: this time, for his sole-surviving nieces who were kidnapped after a raid on his brother’s home by Indian chief Scar. Many consider (including myself) this the best work from the frequent collaboration of John Wayne and director John Ford. The vistas from Ford’s famed location Monument Valley never looked more stunning. Wayne never was more tormented and troubled, really showing his acting range in this one. What a brilliant combination!