A glib little farce that tickled a lot of people. Georgy (Lynn Redgrave) is a brontosaurus of a girl who's childlike and "natural" and artistic, and the picture is determinedly heartwarming and kinky and on the side of youth. We're supposed to like Georgy because she acts out her ludicrous and self-pitying impusles, and doesn't think too much about it afterward. She has all the blessings of affect and affectlessness. Georgy gets a baby to mother only to have the authorities take it away. (Underneath all the 60s nonconformity gear are the crooked little skeletons of old Shirley Temple pictures.) In those years, young men identified with the gorilla hero of MORGAN! and a surprising number of young women identified with the misfit Georgy. With James Mason, Charlotte Rampling, Alan Bates, and Rachel Kempson. Directed by Silvio Narizzano, from the script by Margaret Forster and Peter Nichols, based on Forster's novel. Released in U.S. by Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
A painstaking and rich evocation of mid-19th-century Paris, photographed to suggest Daguerre. René Clément's rather heavy-going film deals with the spiritual destruction of Gervaise (Maria Schell)-a destruction accomplished by her lover, who deserts her, and her gentle husband, who becomes an uncontrollable drunkard (a memorable performance by François Périer). Gervaise Macquart, for those who find Zola overpoweringly uninviting, is the heroine of L'Assommoir, one of the 20 novels in the Rougon-Macquart series, and the mother of that corrupt little Nana who figures in a later volume (and many a movie). With Suzy Delair as Virginie, except for the scene in which Virginie gets paddled; at that moment, a dubber known as Rita Cadillac offers her bottom to the camera. Music by Georges Auric. In French.
There's nobody to root for but the smartly dressed sexual athlete and professional killer (Michael Caine) in this English gangland picture, which is so calculatedly cool and soulless and nastily erotic that it seems to belong to a new genre of virtuoso viciousness. What makes the movie unusual is the metallic elegance and the single-minded proficiency with which it adheres to its sadism-for-the-connoisseur formula. With John Osborne, Britt Ekland, and Ian Hendry. Directed by Mike Hodges, who also wrote the fashionably fragmented script, based on the novel Jack's Return Home, by Ted Lewis; the cinematography is by Wolfgang Suschitzky. Shot in Newcastle.
This sex comedy by the writer-director Bertrand Blier is flagrantly funny in a slangy, buoyant, unpredictable way. Feelings are expressed that hadn't come out in movies before, yet it's all reassuringly quiet; the film's texture is soft and sensual, and there's a velvety underlayer to the scenes. Blier's slapstick poetic logic is so coolly, lyrically sustained that nothing that happens seems shocking. Like his earlier GOING PLACES, it's about two pals (played by Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere) who don't really understand women, and their not understanding women is part of their bond. This time, the two aren't roughnecks; they're polite, respectable men, for whom women are like another species. Seeing this film, a woman enters a man's fantasy universe stripped of hypocrisy. With the lovely, dark Carole Laure as Depardieu's wife and Dewaere's mistress, Michel Serrault as the neighbor, and Riton as the Mozartian prodigy. Cinematography by Jean Penzer; music by Mozart, by Georges Delerue (writing in the spirit of Mozart), and by Schubert. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.
Another bank heist, and the wholesome, clean-cut robber pair (Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw) take forever to make it across the Mexican border with their loot. The audience hoots her line readings and applauds when he smacks her around; maybe this audience participation helps to explain the film's success. Sam Peckinpah directed in imitation of Sam Peckinpah; it's a mechanical job, embellished with a vicious, erotic subplot involving Al Lettieri and Sally Struthers. The cast includes Slim Pickens and Ben Johnson. The script, by Walter Hill, is based on Jim Thompson's novel; cinematography by Lucien Ballard; music by Quincy Jones. First Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.
A minor post-Victorian autobiographical novel about an Australian girl's coming-of-age, re-created for the screen in its own terms-or, rather, in what the re-creators think are its own terms. At 13, an impoverished girl (Susannah Fowle) from the back country who is highly precocious and a gifted musician comes to Melbourne, and she spends five years there at the Presbyterian Ladies College, a select school for the daughters of the wealthy, where the teachers sneer at her because her mother runs a post office in the bush, and the girls are harpies. She almost succumbs to snobbery, but she has her brains and her talent and her intrepid nature to see her through. This self-infatuated fantasy is presented in the guise of harsh realism, and the faithful, meticulous period re-creation makes it hard for us to connect with the heroine or with anything else. Directed by Bruce Beresford, whose attitude toward the material is cold and literal, as if we were in need of a muckraking exposé of the Victorian education of ladies. From a script by Eleanor Witcombe; cinematography by Don McAlpine.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.
The dashing Rex Harrison is the ghost of a sea captain and Gene Tierney is the widowed Mrs. Muir, who falls in love with him. Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed this somewhat too gentle and whimsical diversion; it's on the sleepy side-partly because it has all been designed and staged to show "class." The script, by Philip Dunne, is taken from a novel by R.A. Dick. The music is by Bernard Herrmann. The cast includes Edna Best, George Sanders, Natalie Wood, Vanessa Brown, Anna Lee, and Robert Coote. 20th Century-Fox.
A rich American (Eugene Pallette) buys Glourie castle in Scotland, complete with its unhappy ghost, has it dismantled, shipped across the ocean, and reconstructed in Sunnymede, Florida, with modern plumbing. This crude, painfully frolicsome satire on America was written by Robert E. Sherwood and directed by René Clair. The movie is lucky in its star: Robert Donat brings elegance and his melancholy face and voice to the dual role of Donald Glourie and his phantom ancestor, Murdoch Glourie. Intermittently, he redeems the action. With Elsa Lanchester and Jean Parker. Americans loved the barbs thrust at them in this picture; it was very popular.
A scare comedy, with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as parapsychologists who try to save New York City from an influx of spooks. Murray is the film's comic mechanism: the more supernatural the situation, the more jaded his reaction. But nobody else has much in the way of material, and since there's almost no give-and-take among the three men, Murray's lines fall on dead air. The film cost roughly $32 million, and the producer-director Ivan Reitman may have been overwhelmed by the scale of the sets and special effects; his work here is amateurish, with kids-movie pacing. Audiences respond to the picture, though, and their laughter helps to fill the dead spots. The movie does have some things going for it. Playing opposite Murray, Sigourney Weaver is a living zinger; when she stands talking to Murray, she's eye to eye with him and she looks vivid and indestructible. When he asks her for a date, he rises in the viewer's estimation. (And in his own, too-after she agrees to go out with him, he lifts his arms toward heaven and twirls.) The cast includes Annie Potts, who uses her wonderful self-enclosed quality, and Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, William Atherton, and David Margulies. The script is by Aykroyd and Ramis; the cinematography is by Laszlo Kovacs. The images have a heavy, overdeliberate look-they're too rigid for comedy. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.
Surprisingly, it's more enjoyable than the first GHOSTBUSTERS. It's a big comedy, but it's light on its feet, and the throwaway jokes are weightless-they ping! and dissolve in the air. You can't remember what you're laughing at, but you feel great. The script, by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, is a floating crap game, like the scripts for the Hope and Crosby Road pictures. Bill Murray holds it together, and assorted comedians-Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, Peter MacNicol, Cheech Marin, Harris Yulin, Ramis and Aykroyd-come in and out of the scenes, dropping one-liners. The comic premise is that the collective angry energy of Manhattanites is feeding an underground river of boiling slime, which is swelling; our bad vibes are literally destroying the city. Directed by Ivan Reitman; cinematography by Michael Chapman. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.
George Stevens directed this handsomely designed, big, glossy version of the profoundly second-rate Edna Ferber novel about a couple of generations of a Texas cattle-ranching family, and James Dean (in a supporting role) ran away with it. This was the last film in his brief, meteoric career, and he was dead when it was released. His appearance here is particularly startling, because he plays his misfit role in the twitchy, self-conscious, "modern" manner of the 50s, while the rest of the movie is in the conventional heavy-going style that had always been deemed appropriate for sprawling family sagas. (This one sprawls for 3 hours and 18 minutes.) It's an example of commercial filmmaking straining for prestige, and the performers can't blink an eye without announcing that they're acting-and acting, what's more, to live up to the scale of the production. Yet Stevens' craftsmanship is effective at an unsubtle level, and the movie is often entertaining, with the narrative push that Ferber was so skilled at. Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson are the leads; with Carroll Baker, Dennis Hopper, Rod Taylor, Mercedes McCambridge, Judith Evelyn, Sal Mineo, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Alexander Scourby, and Earl Holliman. Screenplay by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat; music by Dmitri Tiomkin; cinematography by William C. Mellor; designed by Boris Leven, with Ralph Hurst. (Stills of the huge gothic house standing in a vast bare stretch of ground call up the movie as surely as the mention of "Rosebud" calls up CITIZEN KANE.) Warners.
Danièle Delorme as Colette's Gigi--offspring of a long line of courtesans. Gigi's grandmother (Yvonne de Bray) and her great-aunt (Gaby Morlay), both retired from active service, attempt to train her to carry on the tradition, but the virtuous Gigi violates the rules. A pleasant, unexciting movie, with Frank Villard and Jean Tissier. Directed by Jacqueline Audry. In French.
A plushy, cheerful, musical version of the Colette story, with Leslie Caron as the adolescent girl who is tutored to be a courtesan but is so enchantingly innocent and eager that she winds up the betrothed of the richest, handsomest young man in Paris. Vincente Minnelli directed, in a confident, confectionery style that carries all-or almost all-before it. The elderly Maurice Chevalier singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" may give one pause. With Louis Jourdan as Gigi's catch, and Hermione Gingold, Isabel Jeans, John Abbott, Eva Gabor, Jacques Bergerac, and Monique Van Vooren. Produced by Arthur Freed, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe, and costumes by Cecil Beaton. Ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director. MGM. CinemaScope.
The story is turgid, melodramatic nonsense, but Rita Hayworth is at her most sexy-masochistic, and does a knockout of a fully dressed striptease as she sings "Put the Blame on Mame." (It's Anita Ellis's voice we hear.) With Glenn Ford and George Macready. Directed by Charles Vidor. Columbia.
The title of this Fellini movie is alluring, but the picture isn't about those two tapping, twirling icons. It's about two mediocre dancers (played by Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni)-small-timers, curiosities-who, in the 1940s, entertained Italian vaudeville audiences by imitating the Astaire-Rogers numbers. Now they are being reunited, in Rome, for an appearance on a Christmas TV special. This situation (which is reminiscent of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys) serves as a pretext for Fellini to vent his disgust at TV. He "flashes" his spoofs of TV programs and commercials as if they were obscene images, and he means them to be obscene. They're images of piggy abundance-oral and infantile. But Fellini has no zest to energize these skits, or the rest of the material, either. This is a cranky, wobbling movie. Fellini appears to be condemning TV for being a green slime that's absorbing everything, and denouncing it, too, for passing him by. The film treats Masina's character with an element of condescension, and Mastroianni is playing Fellini's view of himself as an aging, crumbling tower of a man-a drunken bum. With Franco Fabrizi as host for the special and Frederick von Ledenberg as the old admiral. The score, by Nicola Piovani, has a lovely finesse; the script is by Fellini, Tonino Guerra, and Tullio Pinelli. In Italian. An Italian-French-West German film, produced by Alberto Grimaldi.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.
This popular, second movie version of the 1930 Broadway musical with the score by George and Ira Gershwin stars Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney; it's more freely adapted than the first, a 1932 RKO film that starred Wheeler and Woolsey. This time the company is MGM, and the cast includes June Allyson and Nancy Walker, with Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra and nine Gershwin songs, including "Embraceable You" and the great, masochistic "But Not for Me." Norman Taurog directed; Busby Berkeley staged the song-and-dance sequences, including the killer finale, "I Got Rhythm," with Garland in white buckskins. (It had been Ethel Merman's big number in the original show.) With Guy Kibbee, Rags Ragland, Frances Rafferty, and Henry O'Neill. The script by Fred Finklehoffe, based on the play by Guy Bolton and Jack McGowan, has to do with the girl-crazy Rooney being sent to a boys' college in Arizona; he saves the school by staging a musical rodeo. In its own terms, the movie-the eighth Garland and Rooney had made together-is just about irresistible. (A less buoyant, 1965 MGM version, with Connie Francis and Harve Presnell, was called WHEN THE BOYS MEET THE GIRLS.)
The heroine is the classic beauty Ellie Lambetti, whose thoughtful, passionate Mediterranean face is one of the glories of Greek films. Here she plays the shy daughter of an impoverished, once-genteel family-a family that has become the victim of the meanness, the pettiness, and the harsh sexual standards of the villagers. She's trapped on an island where everyone knows everyone else and where throngs of children call out the news of her widowed mother's latest fornication. The young writer-director, Michael Cacoyannis, made A GIRL IN BLACK on the island of Hydra on a budget of approximately $60,000, with a single camera in the hands of Walter Lassally. It's a strongly individual work-the camera moves fluidly over the dark expressive faces and the narrow streets; the Greek sunlight hits the white houses and the whole island seems exposed. Cacoyannis's script is much smoother than in his earlier STELLA, but there is no adequate preparation for the startling last sequence, which may give you the uncomfortable feeling that a group of children are drowned in order to strengthen the character of the hero-a weak Athenian writer (intelligently played by Dimitri Horn). The film has a vibrant simplicity, though, and its defects are, at least, Cacoyannis's-they're not the results of compromises and studio edicts. With Georges Foundas as a handsome, loutish fisherman; Notis Pergialis as the writer's friend; Eleni Zafiriou as the widow; and Anestis Vlachos as her son. In Greek.
One of the most artless and most charming Japanese films ever to reach the West, Hideo Suzuki's 44-minute pastoral comedy is about a college student who has returned to her small-town home for the summer vacation and is visited by her Tokyo boyfriend. She, her younger sister, and the boy are three of the most radiant people ever seen on the screen. At times, they're so unlike the usual characters in movies that you forget this is a film, and a foreign one, at that. You may feel as if you were watching country neighbors and eavesdropping as the mother and father argue, the grandmother drinks, the adolescent sister worries about propriety. And it appears that intellectual college students have the same gaucherie and pretentiousness the world over. In Japanese.
An unusual MGM musical in that it is modest, but it is so modest that it has no particular flavor or distinction, despite the efforts of some talented people. Stanley Donen directed, and the cast includes Marge and Gower Champion, Bob Fosse, Debbie Reynolds, Kurt Kasznar, Helen Wood, Larry Keating, and Richard Anderson. The songs by Ira Gershwin and Burton Lane are remarkably uninspired; the choreography by Donen and Gower Champion is pleasant but not memorable. Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett wrote the negligible script-a backstage story. It all reeks of niceness.
Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, and Brian Donlevy in a not particularly memorable, though reasonably faithful, version of the Dashiell Hammett novel. Stuart Heisler directed, from Jonathan Latimer's screenplay. Paramount.
Leslie Caron as an elfin sweater-girl Cinderella, in a musical whimsey concocted by Helen Deutsch and directed by Charles Walters. This follow-up to their box-office hit LILI doesn't find a tone; the viewer can't help knowing that he's watching a flop. With Estelle Winwood as a loony kleptomaniac fairy godmother, Elsa Lanchester as the evil stepmother, Michael Wilding as the prince, Barry Jones his father, and Keenan Wynn his confidant. Also with Liliane Montevecchi, Amanda Blake, and Lurene Tuttle. There are a couple of ballets choreographed by Roland Petit. MGM.
Blandly dull big bio, with James Stewart as a pedantic Glenn Miller; with Miller trying to discover "his own sound," it's like a Hollywood version of the life of an inventor. June Allyson plays the all-American square Miller marries; right after the ceremony, she is taken up to Harlem, where Gene Krupa and Louis Armstrong get into a jam session (they do "Basin Street Blues"), and it's typical of the family-films format that we're expected to identify with her getting tired and sleepy. Most of the music in this film does have a soporific quality. Miller's famous numbers, such as "Tuxedo Junction" and "Little Brown Jug," have been re-created (Joe Yukl dubs Stewart on the trombone), and they don't quite swing. The director, Anthony Mann, seems out of his element. With Harry (later Henry) Morgan, Sig Rumann, George Tobias, Charles Drake, Carleton Young, Frances Langford (as a blonde), and the Modernaires, the Archie Savage Dancers, and the Mello-Men. The script is by Valentine Davies and Oscar Brodney. Universal.
The rise of a young girl (Mary Eaton) from the sheet-music department of a big store, through the dilemmas of small-town vaudeville, to her ultimate glorification in the Ziegfeld Follies, where, finally, we get glimpses of Helen Morgan, Rudy Vallee, and Eddie Cantor, as well as Ziegfield himself (who also supervised the production), and such celebrities as Mayor Jimmy Walker, Ring Lardner, Texas Guinan, Johnny Weissmuller, Otto Kahn, and Adolph Zukor. Along her interminable way, the heroine renounces love (Edward Crandall) for the headdresses and bangles of a showgirl; the moral is that you pay a price for applause. Meanwhile, the moviegoer who wants to see how musical numbers were staged in Ziegfield's day pays heavily for a few minutes of pleasure. The songs include "At Sundown," "Blue Skies," "What Wouldn't I Do for That Man," and "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover." Millard Webb directed; Ted Shawn choreographed the ballets. The Follies sequences were originally in Technicolor. Paramount Famous Lasky.
This Civil War epic, based on fiery, spirit-stirring material that had never before been tapped for the movies, is emotionally moving even when the scenes falter. It's about the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first black fighting unit to be formed in the North. Robert Gould Shaw, the 25-year-old son of abolitionists, was the colonel in charge; he was to carry out the visionary plan of proving that black men had the discipline and valor to stand up against the enemy. As the shy idealist Shaw, Matthew Broderick shows us the misery of a softhearted commanding officer who is determined to prepare his men for what's ahead; it's a lovely performance, as remote and touching as a daguerreotype. The more flamboyant performances are given by Denzel Washington as an ornery, troublemaking runaway slave, Morgan Freeman as a former gravedigger, and Andre Braugher as a bookish recruit. They're performers of such skill that they're vivid, and almost persuasive, as enlistees who bicker and quarrel before they shape up and become fine soldiers. (The actors perform these roles as if they've never been played before.) Although the script is a conventional melodrama, the director, Edward Zwick, has made something more thoughtful than that. He doesn't have the instinct for images that would burst the written framework, but he's made a good film on a great subject. With Jihmi Kennedy, who is quietly impressive as a backcountry recruit, and Cary Elwes as a white officer. The screenplay, based partly on Shaw's letters, is by Kevin Jarre. The cinematography is by Freddie Francis, and the score, which features the Boys Choir of Harlem, is by James Horner. Tri-Star.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.
Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler have a terrific number together ("About a Quarter to Nine"), and when he sings "She's a Latin from Manhattan," you get a sense of how magnetic he must have been on the stage. The movie isn't topnotch, though; the script (by Earl Baldwin, from a story by Bradford Ropes) is dreary and things don't quite come together. But the cast includes Helen Morgan, Glenda Farrell, Patsy Kelly, Akim Tamiroff, Benny Rubin, Phil Regan, Sharon Lynne, and Barton MacLane; the songwriters Al Dubin and Harry Warren also appear. Ruby Keeler had been in many musicals before this one, but she retains her peculiarly appealing (and baffling) amateurishness. Archie Mayo directed, for Warners.
Not one of the great Buster Keaton comedies. It's perhaps unique among his films in that it aims for intense pathos; however, it's sad and funny at the same time-which wasn't true of Chaplin's pathos. Keaton plays Friendless-a lonely, buffeted, uncomplaining drifter without home, country, or dime. Having found the city's heart cold, he hides in a freight train going to Arizona, and there among the cacti he finds his first and only comfort and fellowship in a sad-eyed cow. Together they weather it through storm and sunshine. (The cow has a lot of personality-she may remind you of Daisy, Gene Wilder's beloved sheep, in Woody Allen's EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX (BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK).) Keaton is so unembarrassed and so unself-consciously stoic in adversity that the pathos is never offensive-not even when a dog he tries to pat moves away from him. It's a strange movie, directed and partly written by Keaton right after the breakup of the team he had been working with since his 2-reeler days. There's an amazing finale, in which Friendless and Brown Eyes the Cow round up hundreds of steers that are bellowing through the streets of Los Angeles. Silent. MGM.
The Marx Brothers in what is, arguably, their worst picture; LOVE HAPPY is possibly even worse. This one-set in the Old West-has a good opening sequence and not much else. The cast includes John Carroll, Walter Woolf King, and Iris Adrian; Edward Buzzell directed; and the script can be blamed on Irving Brecher. MGM.
Paddy Chayefsky's attack on the American dream of stardom centers on an unloved child in the South who grows up incapable of loving and becomes a big empty wreck of a Marilyn Monroe-type star. (It's a kind of clinical sentimentality.) The film takes a psychiatric and sociological view of her career: she's a pathetic creature who has been deceived by false values and is destroyed by the bitch-goddess Success. Chayefsky is so concerned with the heroine's pitifully unformed character that he fails to suggest what would make her stand out from all the other poor, deceived girls-what would make her a star. This is a conscientious, ambitious bad movie, with Chayefsky's famous ear for dialogue in full cauliflower. John Cromwell directed the high-powered cast. The intense Kim Stanley is in the central role (her compelling over-non-acting makes the bum writing rather painful). Patty Duke plays the heroine as the lonely child with no one to praise her; she informs her cat, "I got promoted today"-a line which became a camp favorite. Betty Lou Holland is the star's mother. Steven Hill is the star's first husband; he's called upon to deliver the author's prophetic insights-i.e., the lines that should have been cut. Lloyd Bridges gives a fine performance as the prizefighter husband, who feels shut out by his wife's misery. And Elizabeth Wilson is the final, gorgonlike attendant. The score is by Virgil Thomson. (Collectors of errata may note that Chayefsky has the heroine say she was in Stage Door by "Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.") Columbia.