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Co-Starring: Katharine Houghton (Hepburn’s niece!)
Directed by: Stanley Kramer
Other notable contributors: Frank DeVol – score
Favorite scene: A racist employee at the family’s art gallery gets what’s coming to her when Hepburn fires her ass.
Favorite line: “After all, a lot of people are going to think we are a shocking pair.” John Prentice (Sidney Poitier)
Raves: The acting. As always, Hepburn, Tracy, and Poitier are flawless.
Rants: While watching this, I was sure it must have been an adaptation of an existing play because of how un-cinematic it was. Most of the action was confined to three rooms in the family house and the blocking was rather boring.
My take: The main focus of the film is the central conflict rather than plot, which makes it feel a bit slow at times because not that much happens. I’m glad I saw it for its cultural/historical significance, but it doesn’t warrant repeat viewings. Plus, another one to check off of the AFI 100 list – yay!
Recommended if: You’re interested in sociocultural issues and don’t mind light-on-action films.
Modern-Day Counterpart: The film was remade in 2005 as Guess Who with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher.
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Other notable contributors: Bernard Herrman (score)
Favorite scene: When the Captain’s comments prompt outbursts from Mrs. Muir, much to the confusion of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, who cannot hear the Captain’s voice.
Favorite line: Mr. Coombe: In my opinion, you are the most obstinate young woman I have ever met. Mrs. Muir: Thank you, Mr. Coombe. I have always wanted to be considered obstinate.
Raves: Gene Tierney is absolutely adorable in this role! She’s assertive, charming, and very likable. The script is full of witty remarks and moves the story along at a nice pace.
Rants: I love George Sanders, but not in this movie. His character was supposed to be somewhat slimy, but I didn’t expect to find him so unlikeable. Some of his scenes made me cringe. Also, if you’re listening Fox, this film really needs to be restored – some of the dirt and damage was really distracting.
My take: Overall, a pleasant little film. Loved the seaside setting. Would watch again. Plus, I hadn’t realized before this viewing how much Olivia Wilde looks like Gene Tierney!!
Recommended if: You like cute movies.
Notes: Saw this film at the TCM Classic Film Festival where Dorothy Herrmann (Bernard’s daughter) gave a short introduction to the film. Ms. Herrmann stated that this was her father’s favorite score (not Psycho as some would believe.) Bernard had a love of English romance that made this project a personal one for him. She added that her father referred to this work as his “Max Steiner score” – lush and melodic. Fox omitted their “sound logo” in the opening credits so that Herrmann’s score could start right from the beginning – something that has only been allowed five times in Fox’s history.
Starring: Fred Allen, Ginger Rogers, David Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Douglas, Eve Arden, Louis Calhern, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eddie Bracken, Mitzi Gaynor
Directed By: Edmund Goulding
Other Notable Contributers: music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Favorite Scene: The “Glad Gladwyns” pre-show argument.
Favorite Line: “We can’t fight at home. We don’t speak there.” – Steve Gladwyn
Raves: This is a fun, lighthearted, romantic comedy about five couples who suddenly find themselves not legally married. You could hardly ask for a better all-star ensemble cast and each part is well played. The five couples’ relationships are all amusing and make this a pretty enjoyable film.
Rants: My only real rant with this film is its too short! I would have liked to see more of some of the couples, specifically Fred Allen/Ginger Rogers and Paul Douglas/Eve Arden. The ending felt too abrupt, like it didn’t really follow through enough with the stories to make the ending believeable.
My Take: Despite feeling like some of the couples could have used some more screen time, I still enjoyed the film. This is a great film to watch if you’re just looking for something fun. The film doesn’t contain groundbreaking cinematography or Academy Award winning performances, but its still one worth watching. I’ll also note that this is billed as a Marilyn Monroe film, but she actually has one of the smaller parts.
Modern Day Counterpart: Love Actually (2003). Both tell the stories of multiple couples in very different situations, but who all have trouble in their love lives.
It’s no secret we adore classic film, but we’re also realistic about it. We’re the first to admit that not every classic film should be, well, a classic. But sometimes, the bad ones are just as fun to watch as the good ones – especially when the special effects come out. Below is a partial list of so-bad-they’re-good classic films.
Reap The Wild Wind (1942)
Clearly a consolation role for her near miss at being Scarlett O’Hara, Paulette Goddard plays a headstrong southern belle with a mind for business (see?). There’s a giant squid, John Wayne in a non-war, non-western role, ridiculously dated scuba diving suits, and Ray Milland pretends his dog can talk. Annnnnd sold.
People Will Talk (1951)
In my opinion, Joe Mankiewicz writes either really great films or really awkward films. File this one under “awkward turtle”. Dearest Cary Grant plays a butcher shop owner turned medical school professor who helps Jeanne Crain deal with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Crain’s character tries to commit suicide by shooting herself, survives, and falls in love with the good doctor. Two seconds later, Grant’s character marries the girl (love or pity?) and the film ends with a student/faculty orchestra concert. P.S. It’s a comedy.
The Wild One (1953)
I like to think that Marlon Brando used The Wild One to get all the kinks out of his “tough guy” characterization before going on to acting brilliance in On The Waterfront. While Waterfront‘s Terry Malloy is hardened yet broken, Wild One‘s Johnny Strabler is… laughable. Johnny is so tough, so macho, so brooding that he becomes a caricature of himself. At one point someone asks him, “What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?” Smacking his gum, Johnny replies, “Whaddya got?” If you can take this film less seriously than it takes itself, what you’ve got is an amusing role from one of the most iconic actors of all time.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
Hate mail in three…two…one. Though Breakfast is one of the most loved films of all time, we at Anatomy of a Classic have always wondered why. Quirky? Yes. Comedic? Yes. Completely strange and sometimes awkward? Also yes. Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Holly’s landlord is at best uncomfortable to watch. And let’s not forget, Holly Golightly is an “escort”. But iconic costumes, “Moon River” and a pet cat named “Cat” lend this film a redeeming charm.
What’s the best thing about winter break besides seeing family and drinking caramel apple spices from Starbucks? More free time to watch classic films of course! Here is a short break down of the films I’ve watched recently and which I would recommend:
Out of the Past (1947): This is a great example of what a film noir should be and I think would be a great introduction for those not already familiar with the genre. Film noirs can sometimes seem over-dramatic (especially if you’re new to classic film) and the characters can be hard to keep track of. Out of the Past does not fall into either of these categories. What I liked most about the film is the snappy dialogue between characters. Take this for example:
The Lady in the Lake (1946):Another film noir, this one is probably better for those already interested in classic films. The film stars Robert Montgomery, but in an unconventional way. Montgomery, as detective Philip Marlow, is heard but rarely seen as the story is told from his point of view. The camera acts as his eyes so when Marlow blacks out, so does the camera. When Marlow is punched, a fist flies at the screen. Its an interesting film to watch due to the unique camera work, but it also comes off slightly awkward at some points (for example, long periods looking straight at a character’s face). A good film to watch for a classic film buff, but not something I would recommend to everyone.
Doctor Zhivago (1965): If you like sweeping epics and have 200 spare minutes, then this is the film for you! Its a beautiful story with amazing cinematography (desolate, Russian countryside never looked so good!) and a great score. Its also in color for those who are not fond of black and white. David Lean is a phenomenal director and I would highly suggest checking out any of his films if you have time.
Nothing Sacred (1937): I’m not a big fan of screwball comedy, but even I enjoyed this film. Carole Lombard’s acting is terrific and there are still plenty of laughs for those who may prefer more subtle humor. I would recommend this film to those who like screwball humor or to those interested in seeing a great Carole Lombard film. I will warn though that the film is in pretty tough shape, unless someone knows of a better version? If you do, let me know in the comments!
My take: This was my first ever Cagney film and I’m sorry I waited so long to see one. If he’s not magnetic, I don’t know who is. I’ll definitely be adding this one to my personal collection.
Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Co-Starring: Glenda Farrell, William Collier Jr., Sidney Blackmer
Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy
Other notable contributors: Darryl F. Zanuck and Hal B. Wallis – producers.
Favorite scene: Rico meeting Big Boy in his fancy apartment. Rico is out of his element amidst such luxury and his mannerisms are amusing in an otherwise serious film.
Favorite line: “You can dish it out, but you got so you can’t take it no more.” – Rico
Raves: Edward G. Robinson is fantastic as Caesar Enrico Bandello, a gang member who through smarts and force, eventually becomes one of the most powerful gang bosses in Chicago. Rico is a multi-dimensional character, who maybe isn’t the biggest guy on the block, but is sure the toughest gangster in the neighborhood. Robinson is convincing not only as the tough guy, but also when depicting Rico’s concern for friend Joe, played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. shows through.
Rants: Some of the supporting acting is either over the top or not convincing. It can be a bit disappointing when Robinson is so great in his role.
My take: The film is fairly short, only about 80 minutes, and the pace never lags nor does the plot get boring. Even though the plot isn’t exactly fresh to modern day audiences, Little Caesar was one of the earliest films to show the life of a big city gangster. In this respect, it’s interesting to watch later gangster films, including modern ones, and see just how much influence Little Caesar had on the film genre.
Recommended if: Your in the mood for a good gangster film without a lot of violence but with a great main character.
Modern-Day Counterpart: Scarface (1983). This film is much more violent, but both films have similar story arcs depicting the rise and fall of a gangster.
Starring: Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlow, Gary Merrill
Co-Starring: Millard Mitchell, Dean Jagger
Directed by: Henry King
Other notable contributors: produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Favorite scene: Brigadier General Savage (Peck) visiting a wounded pilot (Marlow) in the hospital.
Favorite line: “I never heard of a jury convicting the lawyer.” – Major Stovall
Raves: Even though the film is about a WWII bomber group, this isn’t really a war movie. It’s more of a study of leadership and how Gregory Peck’s character is able to turn a “hard luck” bomber group into a successful unit despite resistance from his men. The film is very engrossing and the screenplay is well written. There is none of the usual overdone go-get-‘em mentality of most war films. Instead, the film depicts the real emotional damage war has on the people involved in a profound way.
Rants: None come to mind.
My take: My father has been trying to get both of us to watch Twelve O’Clock High for years, but I always shrugged it off as another war film (not my favorite genre). I’m glad I finally did watch it though, and I hope others don’t do what I did for so many years. While the film may not contain the snappy dialogue that I think makes other classic movies entertaining, it does have several short monologues or exchanges between characters that can be equally as engaging.
Recommended if: You’re in the mood for a more thoughtful or thought provoking film.
Modern-Day Counterpart: The movie Gallipoli (1981) is similar in that it explores the effects of war on the solidiers fighting in it.
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner
Co-starring: James Stewart, May Robson, George Barbier
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Other notable contributors: costume design by Adrian
Favorite scene: Linda, Loy’s character (the wife), and Whitey, Harlow’s character (the secretary), exchange a long look at the end that sets everything straight.
Favorite line: “Don’t look for trouble where there isn’t any, because if you don’t find it, you’ll make it.” – Dave
Raves: It’s really the stars of the film that make it worth watching. Gable and Loy are great as always, but I really enjoyed Jean Harlow in a role where she isn’t just the blonde bombshell. Jimmy Stewart also does a great job in a supporting role as the boyfriend of Jean Harlow’s character, Dave.
Rants: The wife being jealous of the husband’s secretary isn’t the most original plot.
My take: What I really love about the film is how differently the two couples are depicted. The scenes between Harlow and Stewart are especially wonderful and its unfortunate they never made another film together. Also, although the title suggests a comedy, I see the film as really more of a drama with fun parts.
Recommended if: you’re looking for an easy to watch film with some great stars.
Modern-Day counterpart: The only modern counterpart I could think of would be Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) based on the love triangle between characters. Anybody have a better suggestion?