The Godfather

US (1972): Drama/Crime
175 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A wide, startlingly vivid view of a Mafia dynasty, in which organized crime becomes an obscene nightmare image of American free enterprise. The movie is a popular melodrama with its roots in the gangster films of the 30s, but it expresses a new tragic realism, and it's altogether extraordinary. Francis Ford Coppola directed. Marlon Brando is Don Vito Corleone, with Al Pacino, John Cazale, James Caan, and Talia Shire as his children. The cast includes Robert Duvall, Richard Castellano as Clemenza, Diane Keaton, John Marley, Lenny Montana, Richard Conte, Sterling Hayden, Abe Vigoda, Al Lettieri, Alex Rocco, Richard Bright, Simonetta Stefanelli as Apollonia, Gianni Russo, and Al Martino. The script, credited to Mario Puzo and Coppola, is based on Puzo's best-seller. (The film runs just under 3 hours; the period is 1945 to the mid-50s.) Cinematography by Gordon Willis; production design by Dean Tavoularis; music by Nino Rota. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

The Godfather Part II

US (1974): Drama/Crime
200 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The daring of PART II is that it enlarges the scope and deepens the meaning of the first film. Visually, PART II is far more complexly beautiful than the first, just as it's thematically richer, more shadowed, fuller. The completed work, contrasting the early manhood of Vito (Robert De Niro) with the life of Michael, his inheritor (Al Pacino), is an epic vision of the corruption of America. (The 3 hours and 20 minutes of PART II span almost 70 years.) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The script is credited to Coppola and Mario Puzo, from Puzo's novel. The cast includes Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, Talia Shire, Troy Donahue, Gianni Russo, Diane Keaton, G.D. Spradlin, Morgana King, Harry Dean Stanton, Joe Spinell, Fay Spain, Danny Aiello, Richard Bright, Gaston Moschin as Fanucci, Abe Vigoda, Tom Rosqui, B. Kirby, Jr., Leopoldo Trieste, and a brief appearance by James Caan, and appearances by Phil Feldman, Roger Corman, and William Bowers as United States senators. Cinematography by Gordon Willis; production design by Dean Tavoularis; music by Nino Rota, conducted by Carmine Coppola. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Goin' Down the Road

Canada (1970): Drama
90 min, Rated PG, Color

There is scarcely a false touch. The Canadian Don Shebib is so good at blending actors into locations that one has to remind oneself that this is an acted film and not a documentary. Shebib has a delicate feeling for the nuances not of traditional "class" but of the class tones that come from different educations, and he uses this gift to put in social perspective the lives of two totally unhip boys from Nova Scotia (Doug McGrath and Paul Bradley) who come to Toronto for the legendary opportunities of the big city. Perceptively acted, though the story is too familiar and the film turns out to be a somewhat hollow triumph of craft. In color (sensitively shot) and blown up from 16 mm; the total cost was $82,000.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Goin' South

US (1978): Western
109 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Jack Nicholson directed and plays a cackling, scratching, horny, mangy slob in this barnyard comedy set in the Old West. He's about to be strung up, but the Texas border town he's in has an unusual ordinance: a condemned outlaw can escape the noose if a woman of property agrees to marry him. A virginal young Miss Muffet type (Mary Steenburgen), who needs a man to work her gold mine, claims him, and the film is about their squabblings and misunderstandings until they find love-it's a mixture of BLAZING SADDLES and THE AFRICAN QUEEN. Nicholson's fatuous leering performance dominates the movie, and because his prankishness also comes out in the casting and directing, the movie hasn't any stabilizing force; there's nothing to balance what he's doing-no one with a strait jacket. An actor-director who prances about the screen manically can easily fool himself into thinking that his film is jumping; Nicholson jumps, all right, but the movie is inert. With Veronica Cartwright, John Belushi (in his movie début), Christopher Lloyd, Richard Bradford, Luana Anders, Danny De Vito, and Ed Begley, Jr. Cinematography by Nestor Almendros; script by an assortment of writers. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Going Places

France (1974): Drama/Comedy
117 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette
Also known as LES VALSEUSES.

Bertrand Blier's explosively funny erotic farce is both a celebration and a satire of men's daydreams. It makes you laugh at things that shock you, and some people find its gusto revolting in much the same way that the bursting comic force of the sexual hyperbole in Henry Miller's book Tropic of Cancer was thought revolting. The crude energy of the two young roughneck protagonists (Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere) is overwhelming, grungy, joyous. They're outsiders without jobs or money who want to satisfy their appetites. So they snatch purses, steal cars, swipe things from shops, and make passes at almost every woman they get near. It takes a half hour or so before a viewer grasps that the two pals are guileless raw innocents and that almost everything they do backfires on them. They're cavemen who give women what in their exuberant male fantasies women want. Brutal, lyrical slapstick connections get made in this movie. With Brigitte Fossey as the nursing mother on the train; Miou-Miou as the scraggly blond waif; Jeanne Moreau as the middle-aged woman who, after 10 years in prison, emerges sex-starved; and Isabelle Huppert as the teenager. The screenplay, by Blier and Philippe Dumarcay, is based on Blier's novel. The cinematography is by Bruno Nuytten; the jazz violin score is by Stephane Grappelli. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Gold

UK (1974): Drama
120 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

A recycling of the old straightforward adventure films: the musty plot is about an international syndicate that floods a South African mine in order to drive up the price of gold. The picture is mindlessly passable, largely because it was shot on location in South African mines and in and around Johannesburg. The director, Peter Hunt, can't be much more than efficient with this material, but at least he doesn't try to squeeze us emotionally on behalf of the stock characters, played by bland, dimply Roger Moore, and Simon Sabela, Susannah York, Bradford Dillman, John Gielgud, and Ray Milland, who manages to inject the only note of personality. The script is by Wilbur Smith and Stanley Price. Allied Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Gold Diggers of 1933

US (1933): Musical/Dance
96 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A funny, goodnatured backstage musical, and a Depression period piece as well. It sums up what is meant by the phrase "pure thirties." Ginger Rogers wears a costume made of big coins and sings "We're in the Money" in pig Latin, and 60 electrically wired chorus girls, singing "In the shadows let me come and sing to you" while waltzing and playing violins, merge to form one great big neon fiddle. Warners advertised that this film would "surpass the glories of 42ND STREET" (which had come out earlier in the year) and the geometric choreographer Busby Berkeley and the songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin all tried to top themselves. Mervyn LeRoy directed this time, and the plot is something about Dick Powell as a blueblood songwriter trying to raise money for a show he has written. The cast is a Who's Who of Warners types: the prim, awesomely untalented Ruby Keeler, and Joan Blondell, Warren William, Aline MacMahon, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee, Sterling Holloway, Ferdinand Gottschalk, and Billy Barty as the infant who winks at Dick Powell and hands him a can opener to use on Ruby Keeler's shiny tin costume, in the "Pettin' in the Park" sequence. Busby Berkeley appears in a bit part as the backstage call-boy (can this really be the correct term?) shouting such directions as "On stage for the Forgotten Man number!" The black singer in this number is Etta Moten. The script by Erwin Gelsey and James Seymour is based on an Avery Hopwood play; cinematography by Sol Polito.

Gold Diggers of 1935

US (1935): Musical/Dance
95 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Dick Powell is hired by Alice Brady to escort her daughter, Gloria Stuart, while Stuart's fiancé, Hugh Herbert, completes his book on snuffboxes. Guess what happens. The score is good, even though the picture is terrible-in a pleasant sort of way. Busby Berkeley, who usually only choreographed, did the directing, too, and everything seems labored. With Glenda Farrell, Wini Shaw, Adolphe Menjou, Frank McHugh, and Grant Mitchell. The songs by Al Dubin and Harry Warren include "The Lullaby of Broadway" and "The Words Are in My Heart." Script by Manuel Seff, Peter Milne, and the producer, Robert Lord; cinematography by George Barnes. First National.

The Gold of Naples

Italy (1954): Drama/Comedy
107 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as L'ORO DI NAPOLI.

Vittorio De Sica directed this collection of Neapolitan episodes, featuring Totň as a little clown imposed on by a bullying racketeer, Silvana Mangano as a prostitute, Sophia Loren in her celebrated comic turn as a pizza seller, and De Sica himself as a gambler-which the whole world knows he was. He was also a director who could combine melancholy and wit. It's an uneven film, but Loren walking and De Sica gambling are works of art. In Italian.

The Gold Rush

US (1925): Comedy
82 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

He enters, "pursued by a bear"-the man who for generations of filmgoers has been the embodiment of "the little fellow": humanity. In this extraordinarily sweet and graceful comedy, Chaplin is the weak and helpless perfect gentleman in the Klondike world of bears and brutes; yet his gallantry wins him the gold and the girl, too. In 1958 an international jury at Brussels selected this work as the second greatest film of all time (after POTEMKIN). With Mack Swain as Big Jim, Georgia Hale, Tom Murray, and Henry Bergman. Produced, written, and directed by Chaplin; the assisting directors were Charles Riesner and H. d'Abbadie d'Arrast; the cinematographer was Rollie Totheroh. (The snowy exteriors were filmed in Nevada.) Silent; Chaplin later added music and a narration.

The Golden Age of Comedy

US (1957): Comedy
78 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

These sequences from Mack Sennett and Hal Roach 2-reelers made between 1923 and 1928 show off the talents of Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, Will Rogers, the Keystone Cops, the Sennett Bathing Beauties, etc., and best of all, they exhibit Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in several classics of demolition-style silent comedy. Their custard pie sequence is perhaps the high point of the collection-a demonstration that throwing a pie can be both art and science. In The Cosmological Eye Henry Miller called it "the ultimate in burlesque" and "the greatest comic film ever made-because it brought pie-throwing to apotheosis." Their paintbrush routine is a beauty, and there is also a methodical, fatalistic car-wrecking ritual. Jean Harlow makes a stunning appearance in black teddies, but Carole Lombard is, unfortunately, not at her best. Robert Youngson compiled these clips (the original directors include Frank Capra, Leo McCarey, and George Stevens); Youngson added a tireless narrator who lards the clips with a layer of sentiment about how "beloved" these players were, and what "tragic" fates they met, and explanations of gags that are perfectly clear to the eye. But the irritations are minor when you are looking at what is possibly the best collection of sight gags ever brought together.

Golden Boy

US (1939): Sports
99 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

William Holden-young, sensitive, and handsome-as the violinist turned prizefighter, in an only semi-reprehensible version of the Clifford Odets play, directed by Rouben Mamoulian. The role of Lorna Moon was built up to be large enough for Barbara Stanwyck, and the play was softened, rearranged, and wrenched around to provide for a happy ending. Yet the Odets material still has its dramatic pull, and Lee J. Cobb as the boy's father, Sam Levene as his taxi-driver brother-in-law, and Joseph Calleia as the slimy gangster out to corrupt him bring back some of the ambiance of the New York theatre in Odets' impassioned heyday. Adolphe Menjou plays the prizefight manager; with Don Beddoe, Edward S. Brophy, Frank Jenks, and Clinton Rosemond. Cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca and Karl Freund. Produced by William Perlberg, for Columbia.

The Golden Coach

Italy (1952): Drama
101 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

At his greatest, Jean Renoir expressed the beauty in our common humanity; that's what Anna Magnani at her greatest expressed. This movie-his tribute to the commedia dell'arte-is also a tribute to her fabulous gifts, and she gives the film its gusto. We see her here not only as a sensual, earthy "woman of the people" but as an artist who exhausts her resources in creating the illusion of volcanic reality. Though Renoir has taken Prosper Mérimée's vehicle and shaped it for her, it will be forever debatable whether it contains her or she explodes it. But as this puzzle is parallel with the theme-a Pirandellian confusion of theatre and everyday life-it adds another layer to the ironic comedy. The film is set in a dusty frontier in Renaissance Peru: a band of Italian strolling players is attempting to bring art to South America. The movie has been compared to Cosě Fan Tutte-it is light and serious, cynical and beautiful, a blend of color, wit, and Vivaldi music. Though Magnani, in her first English-speaking role, is vocally magnificent, some of the other actors speak in dreary tones and some of the minor characters appear to be dubbed. Duncan Lamont, as the Spanish viceroy, and Riccardo Rioli, as the bullfighter, are just fine, but Paul Campbell, as the Castilian nobleman, is inept and his scenes go limp. This was Renoir's second color film (after THE RIVER), and his directorial rhythm seems to falter in his work in color, but in the glow and warmth of THE GOLDEN COACH this defect, like the others, is trifling. The cinematography is by Claude Renoir.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book I Lost it at the Movies.

The Good Earth

US (1937): Drama
138 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Having purchased Pearl S. Buck's prestigious Chinese-family saga, MGM sent an expedition to China which brought back two million feet of atmospheric shots and 18 tons of costumes, native animals, dismantled farmhouses, and a village shrine. Then 500 California acres were landscaped and terraced to simulate a Chinese farm, locusts were rented for a scourge, and Occidentals were chosen for the leads, with Orientals in the supporting roles, and as the babies. Luise Rainer, who had taken an Academy Award for her Anna Held in THE GREAT ZIEGFELD, won another for her monotonous yet affecting performance as the stoic O-Lan, the wife of the peasant Wang (Paul Muni); during the looting of a manor house, she picks up the jewels which raise her family out of starvation into prosperity. But spoiled by wealth, Wang loses contact with the good earth; he becomes infatuated with Lotus, the dancer (Tilly Losch, who does a lot of finger-twirling), and takes her as his second wife, and his lust almost destroys the family. The locust plague brings him to his senses. It's a melodramatic sermon-a glorification of the passive, selfless, suffering mother, O-Lan. (There isn't a shred of sympathy for Lotus, who is bought and sold.) The film domesticates exoticism: it's as predictable as an Andy Hardy picture, but much more sober, and much, much longer. With Walter Connolly as the scoundrelly uncle, Charley Grapewin as the family patriarch, Keye Luke and Roland Lui as the sons, Jessie Ralph, and Harold Huber. The script by Talbot Jennings, Tess Slesinger, and Claudine West was partly based on a stage version by Owen and Donald Davis. This film, which was four years in the making, is dedicated to its producer, Irving Thalberg, who died in 1936; his associate, Albert Lewin, completed it. The first director, George Hill, who had supervised shooting the background footage in China, committed suicide, and the project was taken over by Sidney Franklin, who directed with his usual lack of imagination, individuality, style. He was the MGM heavyweight champ. Herbert Stothart was in charge of the music; the montage work is by Slavko Vorkapich; Arnold Gillespie headed the special effects department that produced the visually exciting locust attack. The cinematographer was the great Karl Freund. In sepia.

The Good Fairy

US (1935): Romance/Comedy
97 min, No rating, Black & White

Hired to sanitize one of Ferenc Molnár's lesser plays, Preston Sturges embroidered the whimsical comedy until it was almost worthy of the talents of Margaret Sullavan. (He also managed to work in one of the movie-within-a-movie scenes that later became one of his trademarks.) Sullavan plays a naďve, unworldly orphan who becomes an usher in a movie theatre; she's so helplessly innocent that various men (Herbert Marshall, Frank Morgan, Reginald Owen) come to her aid, and their lives get turned upside down. William Wyler, who directed, has told the story of how he quarrelled with Margaret Sullavan at first, and the tension between them made her look nervous and strained in the rushes. In order to improve her appearance he took her out to dinner to make peace, and was so successful that they were married two weeks before the picture was finished. With Cesar Romero, Alan Hale, Beulah Bondi, Eric Blore, and Hugh O'Connell. Cinematography by Norbert Brodine. Universal.

The Good Father

UK (1987): Drama
90 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Directed by Mike Newell, it has the festering gloom and dissatisfied-with-itself hatefulness that seem to be the mid-80s English badge of integrity. Anthony Hopkins plays Bill Hooper, who was once a college radical and aspiring writer, and is now a grimy-souled marketing executive with a publishing house. He came of age in the 60s, believing in equal rights for women; he's still pro-feminist but when he thinks of the wife he has left he hears himself muttering "Bloody bitch." (And he has horrible, guilty dreams of murdering his tiny son.) Based on the 1983 novel by Peter Prince, this is an attempt to get at the new complications in the sex wars and perhaps at the whole modern English muddle. There are glimmers of truth in this movie, and it holds you, yet everything seems blue and damp and constricted. If Newell has a goal, it seems to be to leave you with a sense of impacted bleakness. You never see Bill Hooper (or the director) take pleasure in anything. Newell keeps showing you what lice Englishmen are. (Englishwomen seem exempt from the moral pollution-they've been made a shade too tender and decent.) With Jim Broadbent, Fanny Viner, Harriet Walter, and bravura turns by Simon Callow as a beady-eyed little devil of a barrister and Miriam Margolyes as a feminist lawyer up against a reactionary judge. Screenplay by Christopher Hampton. Financed by British television (Group Four). Released in the U.S. by Skouras Pictures.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Good Morning Babylon

France-Italy-US (1987): Historical
117 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The first film made in English by the Taviani brothers (Paolo and Vittorio) tells the story of two teenage Tuscan workmen (Vincent Spano and Joaquim de Almeida), from a family of church builders and restorers, who go off to seek their fortune in the New World. Eventually they find jobs as plasterers in San Francisco, working on the Italian Pavilion of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, and then in Hollywood, working for D.W. Griffith (Charles Dance), building the elephants for the Babylonian set of INTOLERANCE. But it takes them too dismally long to get to the West Coast: the film's poetic, storybook style slumps into masochism during their hardships in this country, when they work at bizarre, humiliating jobs along the way. And even after they reach LA and meet the people associated with Griffith they seem pitiable, and it takes forever (and more humiliation) before the great man gives them the nod. There are some lovely effects, but the attempt to show that the magic of movies comes out of anonymous, egalitarian teamwork makes your tongue feel coated. With Greta Scacchi, Desiree Becker, Omero Antonutti, and Margarita Lozano. Based on an idea by Lloyd Fonvielle, the screenplay is by the Tavianis and Tonino Guerra. The music is by Nicola Piovani; the cinematography is by Giuseppe Lanci. Early LA was re-created in Italy and the Grand Canyon sequence was shot in Spain. (The Tavianis don't speak English.) An Italian-French-U.S. production.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Good Morning, Vietnam

US (1987): War/Drama/Comedy
120 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It sounded like a first-rate idea: Robin Williams doing his manic free-association comedy as a disc jockey, Adrian Cronauer, on Armed Forces Radio in Saigon in 1965. But the picture makes the character out to be a vulnerable, compassionate, respectful-of-the-Vietnamese wonderful guy, and the director, Barry Levinson, has a numbing sense of rhythm. Williams' riffs are chopped short, and the film keeps cutting to soldiers breaking up over his spiel before it's out of his mouth. There is an Adrian Cronauer, and the movie is very loosely based on his exploits, but the way the story line (from the script by Mitch Markowitz) has been directed it's a clumsier version of the plots of 50s musicals. With Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby, J.T. Walsh, Uikey Kuay as the elderly student of English, and Richard Edson. (People who want to see Williams running wild within a character ought to take a look at the 1983 THE SURVIVORS or the 1986 THE BEST OF TIMES.) Touchstone (Disney).
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

The Good Mother

US (1988): Drama
103 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

When Anna (Diane Keaton), the divorced mother of a 6-year-old daughter, discovers sexual pleasure with an Irish sculptor (Liam Neeson) and begins to live a more bohemian existence, her ex-husband sues for the child's custody. The director, Leonard Nimoy, and the screenwriter, Michael Bortman, who adapted the 1986 Sue Miller novel, ask us to see Anna as a victim of generations of patriarchal domination. She has been recklessly happy with the Irishman, but now she goes limp. For the sake of her child, she accepts the limited role in her daughter's future which the court grants her. She learns to live with her loss. And though this is what her character has been rigged to do from the start, it's a letdown for the audience. Since the movie is the story of Anna's meek, uncomprehending acceptance of defeat and her effort to make the best of it, women can feel it's saying, "That's how it is, folks. Resign yourselves." The big clinker in this victimization fantasy (losing her child is the price a woman pays for an orgasm) is that it's a few decades too late. You sit in the audience thinking that a different judge would have made all the difference, or that the case might have been won by an attorney less hidebound than the fogey she hires-Jason Robards, in a gloomy brown office that seems to say "All hope abandon." And so the whole structure seems shaky; it provides an inevitability that you can't accept. The movie has a sickly passivity. (Elmer Bernstein provides oozing, sad music.) But Neeson comes through strongly, the child is well played by Asia Vieira, and Diane Keaton, whose daring is in her spontaneity, has a gift for making even closed-in characters like Anna transparent. She's extraordinary. With Joe Morton, Tracy Griffith, and shamefully poorly directed performances by Ralph Bellamy, Teresa Wright, and James Naughton. Touchstone (Disney).
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Good News

US (1947): Musical/Comedy
95 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

One of the best of the lighthearted rah-rah collegiate musicals. The affable young Peter Lawford and goofy, blithe June Allyson are the leads and do the number "The French Lesson," by Comden and Green and Roger Edens, and Joan McCracken, with a gleeful look in her eyes, dances and sings the memorable novelty "Pass That Peace Pipe," by Edens and Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin. The rest of the score, including "The Varsity Drag," "Lucky in Love," and "The Best Things in Life Are Free," is from the original 1927 Broadway show by DeSylva, Brown, and Henderson (which was filmed once before, in 1930). This was the first film directed by the choreographer Charles Walters, and the first movie script by Comden and Green. The cast includes Mel Tormé, Ray McDonald, Patricia Marshall, Donald MacBride, Clinton Sundberg, Morris Ankrum, Tom Dugan, and Connie Gilchrist. Produced by Arthur Freed, for MGM.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Italy-Spain (1966): Western
161 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc
Also known as IL BUONO IL BRUTTO IL CATTIVO.

In this Sergio Leone spaghetti Western, if a man crosses a street in Santa Fe, the street looks half a mile wide; a farmer's hut has rooms opening into rooms into the distance, like the Metropolitan Museum; a cowtown hotel has a plush lobby big enough for a political convention. The movie is like HIGH NOON and THE OX-BOW INCIDENT and a dozen others all scrambled together and playing in a giant echo chamber. The bad men are enormously, preposterously evil-larger-than-life parodies-and each wound they inflict is insanely garish. The change of scale is rather fascinating. This Western, set in our Civil War period but shot in Spain, looks more foreign to us than an ordinary Italian film. With Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef. Score by Ennio Morricone.

The Goodbye Girl

US (1977): Romance/Comedy
110 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The prolific Neil Simon at it again; this time it's a tearful comedy that he wrote directly for the screen, and for Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss. She's a 30ish former chorus girl who has been deserted by an actor husband and then by an actor lover, and has become so defensive that she's hostile toward a new actor (Dreyfuss) who, through elaborately contrived circumstances, comes to share the apartment she and her 10-year-old daughter (Quinn Cummings) live in. So she says gratuitously abrasive things to him, and he prisses his lips and tells her off. The forced snappiness of the exchanges suggests two woodpeckers clicking at each other's heads. Irritability provides the rhythm in Neil Simon's universe. The only relief comes when Dreyfuss is rehearsing in Richard III-Shakespeare's dialogue is a blessed sound. Simon's idea of depth is a tug at your heartstrings, and Marsha Mason's chin keeps quivering-her face is either squinched up to cry or crinkled up to laugh. This may be the bravest, teariest, most crumpled-face performance since the days of Janet Gaynor. Another hit. Herbert Ross directed; the cast includes Paul Benedict, Barbara Rhoades, Theresa Merritt, and Marilyn Sokol. (Dreyfuss won the Academy Award for Best Actor.) Produced by Ray Stark; Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

UK-US (1939): Drama
114 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

James Hilton's gentle tribute to his schoolmaster father became an American best-seller when that old sentimentalist Alexander Woollcott touted it on the radio. MGM bought the novel and sent Sam Wood to England to film it. Robert Donat's portrait of the frightened young junior master, rigid and forbidding in his twenties, who is humanized by marriage and mellowed by 60 years of contact with youth, won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Greer Garson, in her screen début, played his warm and gracious wife. An overripe little boy named Terry Kilburn played the ubiquitous Little Colley. It's an ingratiating, bittersweet record of a good life, though the movie clogs the nose more than necessary.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

US (1969): Musical
151 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

An overblown version of James Hilton's tearstained little gold mine of a book, with songs where they are not needed (and Leslie Bricusse's songs are never needed), yet there's still charm in the story, and Peter O'Toole gives a romantic performance of great distinction as the schoolmaster whose life is transformed by the Cinderella touch of an actress, played now by Petula Clark. (She isn't good at the beginning but she has a lovely glow in the Second World War period of the film.) Terence Rattigan, who did the new adaptation, has added a character-an actress named Ursula Mossbank; as played by Sian Phillips she's a witty Beardsley vamp who gives her scenes an edge. This new picture is far from being a good one, and every time a music cue starts up your heart may sink, but the first-time director, Herbert Ross (who was formerly a choreographer), has managed to keep parts of it fairly buoyant. And O'Toole's performance may help sustain you through the songs, though there are 11 of them, as distinct one from another as sections of beige wall-to-wall carpet, and while they're being sung, mostly offscreen, you're treated to "mood" visuals-providing enough redundancy to pad the movie out to 2 hours and 31 minutes. MGM.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

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