Splendid comedy remake of Ben Hecht play The Front Page with Cary Grant as a conniving editor, Rosalind Russell as a star reporter (and Grant’s ex-wife), and Ralph Bellamy as the mama’s boy Russell is trying to marry amid a hot murder story. Terrific character actors and sharp, witty dialogue add sparkle to this must-see comedy. The frantic comic banter between Grant and Russell changed the face of comedy filmmaking. After this film, comedies became more biting and cynical, with characters not afraid to “pretend” they hate each other, even though they really are madly in love. This initial hatred allows for some great nasty dialogue, which has never been better than in this film, directed by Howard Hawks.
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OK – Loretta Young won an Oscar for her performance in this film. So, right off the bat, you might think that you’re going to see a piece of high-caliber cinema…more high-brow than fun. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. This movie is pure FUN! It’s a charming, innocent romantic comedy that stars Loretta Young as Katrin, the only daughter of Swedish immigrants who…you guessed it…own a farm. She saves up enough for nursing school in “Capital City” and heads into the real world of skyscrapers and scam artists. After losing her money to the latter, she goes to work in a mansion owned by the matriarch of a political family…who also happens to live there with her single, attractive son. WOW! What a coincidence! Please don’t think I’m poking fun at this film…but to be honest it’s more of a guilty pleasure than anything. It’s not high art and Young, even though she is just perfect as Katrin, this is not an Oscar-worthy role, per se. Oscars are won for Shakespeare and for The Lion in Winter, not sweet films where the smile doesn’t leave your face throughout. So, if you are looking for an entertaining, delightful film that you might have missed, check this one out. It’s sure to please!
This is the classic example of film noir….more than Otto Preminger’s Laura…more than anything else of the era. Why? Well, because this one’s got everything. In a big way too….lust, murder, the perfect femme fatale, the perfect fall-guy, the perfect everything. Based on the novel by James M. Cain (who also penned The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce) and directed by Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity is a thriller from start to finish…you’re always wondering and questions and getting closer and closer to the edge of your seat. Fred MacMurray plays a sarcastic insurance salesman who catches Barbara Stanwyck’s eye when he goes to try and sell her husband some insurance. Stanwyck is unhappily married and MacMurray knows it. The one thing in their way…her husband. Like in Postman, husbands are always expendable. Stanwyck is simply the best film femme fatale ever. She’s mean without being hard. She’s cool under pressure without being too sentimental. Stylized and perfectly cast, this Wilder masterpiece set the standard for film noir films…and dared others to try and top it…which, in my opinion, no film ever did.
A lesser-known Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film that, despite an un-Hollywood ending, is one of their best. 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.
Surprisingly, I didn’t see this one until I was in my 20s. I used to think Bogart was a rough, unappealing creature…that is until I saw 1954’s Sabrina and began to see him as a softer, more compassionate soul. He possesses a knack for charming women off their feet, while being just a bit brash about it. He’s still rough and tough when he needs to be, but he knows when to bring out to tough guy and when to bring out his softer side. In Sabrina, I got a sneak peak at this behavior. In Casablanca, Bogart had it perfected…his character Rick Blaine is the romantic leading man to end all romantic leading men—not because he’s OVERLY sensitive but because he’s JUST sensitive enough. Now for the story…basically it’s about a nightclub owner in Morocco during WWII (Bogart) who reunites with an old flame (Ingrid Bergman, looking her best) that he fell in love with in Paris during the German occupation of France. Complications are plentiful, such as that the “old flame” is married…to a member of the French Underground, no less, which makes him trouble to the Nazis in Casablanca. But…really the details of the plot are pretty irreverent. Why? Well, how come even though the story is rich and filled with subplots and interesting characters, people only remember the relationship between Bergman and Bogart? And even though this film is a WWII intrigue thriller, why is it mostly know for being strictly a timeless “love story?” Rent this one and see if you can put answers to these questions…
Of the four films Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made, Bringing Up Baby is the most fun. It’s the wildest and craziest movie made by the pair and even one of the screwier of the screwball comedies ever made. Hepburn plays a flaky—I mean REALLY flaky—socialite who scientist Grant gets involved with after a series of unfortunate mishaps. All Grant really wants to do is get money for his museum from Hepburn’s aunt (he doesn’t know it’s her aunt in the beginning). And, after falling for him early on, Hepburn does everything she can to make sure he doesn’t leave her. Even though Grant and Hepburn and just delightful here, much of the snappiness of this film should be attributed to director Howard Hawks, who sharpens his talent for screwballs here (which will help him out considerably in 1940’s His Girl Friday). Previously more know for serious dramas, Bringing Up Baby is only Hawks’ second comedy. If you in the mood for a mild comedy, look elsewhere, because this one is super-zany and very raucous.
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.
A warm, lighthearted film set during the holiday season that involves a married couple and an angel who comes between them. Disillusioned bishop David Niven finds out that funding his church is more demanding a task than he originally thought. His troubles at work begin to consume him, causing strife in his marriage to Loretta Young. Enter Cary Grant as the angelic savior (and the most debonair angel in Heaven) who assists Niven with his work woes. At the same time, though, Grant befriends Young, who becomes quite smitten with the angel. Niven and Young shine as a confused married couple, especially Niven’s early reactions to the presence of an angel in his life. Grant perfectly downplays his role, never showing any obvious attraction for Young, but also never directly putting off her affections. Although not one of the more popular holiday films, this classic is very timely for the season just the same.
I saw this film for the first time after I watched the 1987 Kevin Costner film No Way Out, which is based on this 1948 Ray Milland movie. Both are good cat-and-mouse thrillers, different enough to be unique movies, but similar in all of the major plot points. The main difference between the two films is that The Big Clock is much less complicated and more focused on the main storyline, making it a tight, fast-paced thriller. Milland plays a magazine editor who somehow finds himself investigating a murder in which he played a major part. He also knows who the real murderer is but cannot reveal this salient piece of information without revealing his part in the crime. If you’re confused by all of that, then don’t see No Way Out which makes this premise even more muddled and twisted by adding a political twist to the story. The Big Clock might always be known as the movie No Way Out is based on, but it stands alone as a solid, thoroughly entertaining mystery.
The fun never stops in this battle of the sexes. One of the more famous pairings of legendary screen (and off-screen) duo Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, this one is almost perfect. Written by writing team Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, not much here is out of place or overlooked. The comic timing of all of the actors is spot on and Hepburn and Tracy have fabulous chemistry (I mean, why wouldn’t they?). The supporting role of the wronged wife played by the ever-clever Judy Holliday only adds to the spark of this romantic comedy. Playing a husband and wife, Tracy is a prosecutor and Hepburn is a defense attorney. Low and behold, don’t they find themselves on opposing sides of the same case. Go figure! The case involves a scorned, emotionally abused wife who follows her husband and shoots him (non-fatally) while he’s in the arms of another woman. What a perfect case for not only a great battle between a husband and his empowered wife, but for much comic banter about the roles men and women play in society. Folks, it doesn’t get much better than this!