Dark Passage:

A lesser-known Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film that, despite an un-Hollywood ending, is one of their best (THE best in my opinion). The chemistry between the two has never been better. The film begins from the visual perspective of Bogart’s wronged-criminal character. The camera moves with Bogart’s eyes, so the audience only hears his voice and does not see his face for the first part of the film. Once we see Bogart, the film picks up its pace some, but throughout, this film is a strong thriller. Don’t look for everything to be resolved in the end – but aside from that, this one will keep you guessing.

Written on the Wind:

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, Bacall, Kirk Douglas and Dorothy Malone, who won a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role.

Designing Woman:

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 Bacall, who have fabulous chemistry that translates perfectly on the screen. A must see for any romantic comedy fans!

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One of the best novels of the 20th Century is wonderfully adapted into one of the best films of the century, as well. Talk about a rarity! Many adaptations, especially those of well-received books, fall far from the mark usually. Either they are generally not good, or they are edited so much that the book’s story is hardly recognizable. In this faithful adaptations, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale stays true…mostly because of the vivid performances, especially by Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. Peck won his only Oscar for his portrayal as the Southern Gentleman who is both a lawyer who defends innocent, yet African American, Tom Robinson and also the father of Scout and Jem Finch. Wonderfully directed and shot as well… the fictional town Lee created of Maycomb, Georgia really comes to life as a conflicted small-town. And the mood of the era…the 1930s…is also captured. Racism was rampant during these years…especially in the South. Southerners were still bitter over the Civil War and still saw Blacks as slaves. An almost-perfect interpretation of one of the more perfect books of American literature.

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This film, kind of a horror-thriller, still makes me jump and wriggle in my seat, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Even though I know the outcome, it still works as an effective thriller that holds suspense throughout and features something many non-Hitchcock thrillers lack…a good plot filled with solid characters. The story is pretty simple…a released convict hunts down the witness whose testimony helped put him in jail. But, instead of killing or attacking the witness right away…once he finds him, this criminal chooses a slow torture process. He starts with stalking and then moves slowly on to more vicious and heinous things, making sure he never implicates himself at any time. Robert Mitchum plays the criminal, Max Cady, and this is a role he was born to play. I always have felt that Mitchum is a highly underrated actor and his subtly evil performance here seals, in my mind, that Mitchum never got his deserved due. Gregory Peck as the witness with the family he so desperately is trying to protect is not necessarily less impressive but this is a role Peck has played on a number of occasions…the trouble family man. He still is at the top of his game here, especially towards the end when Mitchum increases the stakes. But, this is all Mitchum’s movie…as the quintessential and un-stereotypical bad guy.

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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!

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Gregory Peck stars as a gruff, hungry reporter who lucks out one day when he discovers the woman he found sleeping at the side of the road was princess Audrey Hepburn (in her Oscar-winning debut performance). He will do anything to get her story but cannot let her know what he does for a living. And, of course, as he does get to know her, they fall in love. Can they be together, though? Is she willing to give up her life as a princess? Is he willing to settle down? For a first starring film role, Hepburn shines as the naïve dreamer who craves more freedom. Peck is right on target as a hard-edged reporter who eventually finds his softer side.

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Hitchcock delves into the genre of legal dramas with this one…with Gregory Peck as a British barrister who defends a woman he is convinced is innocence…mostly because he’s in love with her. Peck is miscast here, not even trying to fake an English accent. We know he can pull off a good “lawyer” act (as he does flawlessly in To Kill a Mockingbird), but he just doesn’t even seem to be trying here. Laughton and Barrymore are hardly used at all…I’m sure they were just cast for big name appeal…their roles are both minute, especially Barrymore’s. The one saving grace to this film is the plot. It’s a strong story that holds up through the years. Not packing as much of a “thriller” punch as most Hitchcock titles, this one is more about the drama and less about the suspense, though there is a crucial piece of plot that is revealed in the end. Compared to titles like Billy Wilder’s legal classic Witness for the Prosecution, the ending is not as intense, but the movie on a whole is a fine legal drama.

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Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck? In the same movie? I should be in heaven, right? Well, almost. Spellbound is a tough film for me. I love it. It’s great. It’s one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. But, there’s just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s too technical. Since Bergman plays a psychoanalyst, there is a lot of medical talk and psychiatric terminology. Or, maybe it’s too rooted in the world of psychology, and sadly, since that is something I know little about, I’m just not interested. Well, whatever, watch it and let me know. Bergman plays a female (obviously) psychoanalyst in a mental facility where the old director is retiring. Enter Peck as the new director…but there is something odd about Peck that Bergman can’t quite put her finger on (kind of like my problems with this movie…!). Once Peck’s idiosyncrasy reveals itself to Bergman, she makes it her mission to find a solution. I definitely still recommend Spellbound. And maybe the more people who watch it will clue me in on what it is that bothers me about this film. Don’t worry – it’s an excellent movie with a wonderful cast. I just need to lay on a couch and tell Ingrid Bergman my troubles…

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