Thursday, October 7, 2010
I still have yet to see every film he has ever been in, but you can bet that I'm working on it. Today's film is "Only Angels Have Wings", a film from a highly successful (and could be argued one of the best) years in film, 1939 (just think Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dark Victory and Gone with the Wind).
The plot surrounds a small airline out in South America (I believe) who ships the mail from the main city to the small village the planes are situated in. A unique concept, and frankly not one I was expecting after assuming it was another WW2 or any other war themed film. There is, however, danger involved as the planes they use aren't the most reliable and one needs to be a bit of a daring pilot to take on some of the obstacles presented with the unsteady weather.
The fliers are generally young American guys with a deep love of flying. Men who put everything else in life (relationships and family included) second to flying. Grant is the captain/man in charge of the output. He runs a tight ship, each man has their share of flying, he calls the tough shots and tries his best to stay away from the one most bothersome distraction, women! That's where we have our leading lady, the beautiful blonde, Jean Arthur.
Her character Miss. Bonnie Lee gets on famously with the men and seems to fit right in with the environment. She's a guy's girl. Well it's obvious she falls for Grant's character Geoff Carter and vice versa. Grant let's her know that women are a distraction; they cannot cope with the uncertain safety of flying. He had been burned in the past (Rita Hayworth's character Judy).
It's a very worthwhile watch, and not only because of the cast list. The concept and storyline is fairly unique and keeps you deeply involved.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
This wasn't exactly a film I was seeking out to watch, but last night as I was surfing through channels, somehow I natrually landed on Turner Classic Movies. I saw a new film was about to begin and listened to Robert Osborne's description of what it was going to be. His introduction sold me, well it honestly doesn't take too much when it comes to classic films.
Now I think most of us are familiar with the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A scientist and doctor obsessed with separating the two natures of man; the good and the bad. Dr. Jekyll is sucessful in finding a way to separate them through form of a potion. When the handsome, kind and charming Jekyll takes the potion, he transforms into this ugly, mean and quite barbaric looking man he calls Mr. Hyde. Hyde is the opposite of Jekyll in every way.
In film, this was the second portrayl of Jekyll and Hyde. The first was quite successfully done in silent picture with John Barrymore portraying the lead role. Barrymore was praised for this and audiences and critics were skeptical that when they learned it was to be remade with sound and with a new actor.
Fredric March, remembered for his performances in such pictures as "The Best Years of Our Lives" and "A Star is Born", March is the actor who braved bringing a new light to Jekyll/Hyde. His Jekyll is everything you'd want a man to be. Brave, dashing, utterly charming, a true lady's man and above all, a gentleman. His look for Jekyll fits the role to a T. While Hyde, through the use of makeup and clever camera filters turns this same man into a type of a barbaric beast. His teeth protrude; he is hairy, unkept and frankly kind of disgusting. His behaviour mimics the look; he takes what he wants; doesn't hesitate in using violence, and acts like a cave man. The contrast between the times of light and dark as portrayed with the characters is striking!
His acting was so brilliant in this role that he won Best Actor in the 1932 Academy Awards.
The other notible performance comes from Hyde's lady victim (and also the final inspiration that had Jekyll motivated to drink that potion), the character Ivy played by Miriam Hopkins. A lady who lives in the slums and plays men for money. She exuded sexuality and desire; something Jekyll so secretely longed for, but denied himself as it didn't seem right. His alter-ego Hyde made no hesitations in seeking Ivy to assist in fulfilingl his dark desires.
Again, this is a film that pre-dates the Hays Code that made films so "clean" and wholesome. There are some risque scenes in this film, but all done so very well.
Its a really well done version of this great tale.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The story of the saint, Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'arc) is one widely known throughout the world by many cultures. Joan was a woman who believed God talked to her and sent her messages to help the French win the 100 Years War over Britian.
Joan changed her appearance to look like a man so she herself could join the army and fight. Her contribution to the French army was quite significant and her tips (from God) helped the French strategically through battle.
Unfortunately Joan (19 years of age at the time) ultimately landed in the arms of the British. She endured a painful trial that scrutinized her appearance, her motives and above all, her association what what she thought to be God.
This film portrays this trial and the final moments of Joan of Arc.
This film is silent and the emotion evoked is achieved through use of camera angles, close-ups and the facial expressions of the acting talent. The title role is so brilliantly portrayed by French actress Maria Falconetti.
The original master copy was accidentally destroyed and luckily another copy of the film was miraculously discovered in a Danish mental instution in the early 1980s. The film was restored as best as they could, adding their own musical score.
Although the film is so amazingly well done for all that it is, I find it is a painful one to watch. There are no notes of happiness, or even hope for we all know what will happen in the end. It is all terribly depressing. I found myself just getting to a point where I would ask myself, "when are they going to torch her?". Terrible, I know. It was just too long and too drawn out. Yes, she is a martyr and yes, her journey ended tragically; however, an hour and half (plus) of a drawn out trial then the glorious death, to me, is too much.
The acting, however, is some of the best that can ever be seen. Falconetti's performance is nothing short of spectacular. You feel every emotion seen on her face; you sympathize with her. She's beautiful and you truly believe she evokes the spirit of Joan.
The ending, however, was my favourite part. The town in chaos, Joan burned alive without resistance. The effects used to achieve this were so very ahead of their time.
Worth watching if you are a true film buff or have any interest in the life of Joan of Arc. Top essential film? That, to me, is questionable.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
"In the Good Old Summertime" is a film I picked up at random at a recent trip to my local library branch. I saw 3 components that made me reach for it; it's a musical, it's in technicolour AND it stars Garland. Also helps that handsome Van Johnson was in it. Before proceeding to watch it, I flipped to the section of the bio where it describes Judy's state of mind during filming. You see, Judy had countless highs and lows throughout her life, and always in extremes. I felt relieved and excited when finding out that this film was during one of her highs; it is so obvious too in her performance throughout the movie. The director made absolutely certain that Judy was handled very delicately and with good spirits by all cast and crew despite her reputation for being late, not showing up and throwing fits.
The happy/positive atmosphere helps to make everything about this movie sparkle. Inspired by the James Stewart film "Little Shop Around the Corner"; "In the Good Old Summertime" is a story of 2 unknowing coworkers who feud relentlessly during the work day, but communicate to each other through secret love letters during the nights; neither of them knowing it's the other who they are writing to. It's a good, clean and witty family film. The musical numbers are light hearted and fun. The romance and chemistry between Garland and Johnson is just right. Combine that all in the brightness of technicolour and the comfortable, all-American feeling being set at the turn of the century makes this film a pleasant escape. Note little Liza Minelli above starring at the end as the couple's daughter! How adorable.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Through watching, I could not help but compare and contrast the two. There are a great deal of similarities, yet also some differences that stand the two apart. The 1934 version, to me, is much more believable and does not try too hard to be melodramatic as all Sirk pictures do.
The story surrounds 2 small families; both single women trying to raise their children, one black and one white. They are joined together through circumstance and a tender bond is formed between the two families. For the 30s this was quite a bold subject matter, for to treat the "help" (the black family) closer than merely servants was something to stand it apart. It held the very beginnings of fighting against racism. While it does show typical stereotypes of the black lead played by Louise Beavers, it mildly tries to defy them...and I do mean mildly.
The friendship between the two women deepens with time and together they go into business. This pulls them from their financial struggles and unites them.
More greatly what is addressed is Delilah's (Beaver) daughter Peola, whom is half white and half black. The struggle of her upbringing and coming to terms with her identity; she does not know where she fits in, is she to "pass for" black? or for white? Peola choses to be seen as white and rejects all notions (even relations to her mother) that she is at all black. In the end this proves to tragically divide mother and daughter.