The Haunting

US (1963): Horror
112 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

An elegantly sinister scare movie, literate and expensive (though basically a traditional ghost story), with those two fine actresses Claire Bloom and Julie Harris. As a Greenwich Village lesbian, Bloom plays a female variant of the role that would once have been assigned to Dwight Frye; Julie Harris is the chaste heroine, a post-Freudian version of those anemic virgins Helen Chandler used to play. This "old dark house" movie is set in a marvellous Victorian gothic pile in New England, and it's good fun. With Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Fay Compton, Valentine Dyall, Rosalie Crutchley, and Lois Maxwell. The director, Robert Wise, hadn't done a simple amusement like this since his youth; Nelson Gidding did the adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House. MGM.

Having a Wild Weekend

UK (1965): Musical/Comedy
91 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as CATCH US IF YOU CAN.

Directed by John Boorman, from a script by Peter Nichols, this English movie featuring the Dave Clark Five and Barbara Ferris is partly a reaction against the pop world. Its tone is uneven, its style is faltering and somewhat confused, but it's trying to get at something. It's trying to be a success and to question the meaning of success-and inevitably fails on both counts. At the beginning, the musicians are involved in filming a commercial, but then, as if the inanity of the project overwhelmed them, the hero and heroine try to escape their advertising milieu. They don't want to be turned into products, they don't want to be sold. They begin to look at various escape routes from modern commercialism: drugs, antique collecting, yearning for an island. They encounter middle-aged failures when they're picked up by a dreadful yet sympathetic couple (Robin Bailey and Yootha Joyce), who suggest the Almans-the horribly bickering pair from WILD STRAWBERRIES (she with her hysteria, he with his Catholicism). The movie seems to discover tentatively, with regret and bewilderment, that the cures are illusory, are only more symptoms. It's as if Pop art had discovered Chekhov-the Three Sisters finally set off for Moscow and along the way discover that there isn't any Moscow. The young refugees from urban corruption look for pastoral innocence and solitude, and find that the corruption has infected the countryside. It is total. And the island the girl dreamed of turns out-at low tide-to be attached to the mainland. The pair were drawn together by the quest; when they are defeated, they split. This movie has an aftertaste. It's bittersweet-which is an old-fashioned word with connotations of sadness, of nostalgia, and perhaps of something one might call truth. It is one of those films that linger in the memory. (Additional irony: it's said that the Dave Clark Five were dubbed.)

Having Wonderful Time

US (1938): Romance
71 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Those who had seen Arthur Kober's stage comedy about life in a Catskills resort complained of the dilution of the humor in this de-Jewished movie version, starring Ginger Rogers as the stenographer on vacation and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., as a law student working as a waiter, but it's a lively, wisecracking film with a good cast and a pleasant romantic flavor. With a very young Red Skelton (billed as Richard Skelton) as the camp's desperate-to-please director of entertainment, and Lee Bowman, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Miller, Jack Carson, Donald Meek, Grady Sutton, Inez Courtney, and Dean Jagger. Alfred Santell directed, from Kober's own adaptation. RKO.


US (1966): Historical/Drama
171 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It's an epic in the tradition of best-seller adaptations, with love and rape and incest and childbirth and storms at sea and battles and fires and epidemics; it's based on an 1,130-page book (by James A. Michener) with 8 extra pages of genealogical charts. During the seven years that the film was in various stages of preparation, it wore out a succession of screenwriters and directors. All this may make it appear to be a stinker, and by formal aesthetic standards it is, but it's surprisingly absorbing just the same. It opens in 1819, roughly 40 years after Captain Cook landed, and covers the influx of missionaries and land grabbers. At the center of the action (and, luckily, he is rarely offscreen) is Max von Sydow; he plays an insufferable, tactless Calvinist minister who antagonizes everybody-a racist who believes in the superiority of his God, his skin, his traditions. Von Sydow carries this movie. He accomplishes the almost impossible: he makes us give this scarecrow of a minister our grudging admiration. As the minister's wife, Julie Andrews, pleasing enough in her early scenes, doesn't have the range or depth to develop the character, but Richard Harris, in the role of a swashbuckling sea captain, provides great romantic strength, and, as the native queen, a Tahitian woman, Jocelyne La Garde, is near sublime. The final director, George Roy Hill, develops characters that succeed in binding the material, despite the awkward, crude action scenes. The screenplay credit went to Dalton Trumbo and Daniel Taradash. The huge cast includes Torin Thatcher, Carroll O'Connor, Gene Hackman, John Cullum, George Rose, Lou Antonio, and Dorothy Jeakins (who did the costumes) appears as Hepzibah Hale. A Walter Mirisch Production, for United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

He Married His Wife

US (1940): Comedy
83 min, No rating, Black & White

John O'Hara and the other writers (Sam Hellman, Darrell Ware, Lynn Starling) come up with flippant surprises. At times, this slapstick romance about serial marriage and divorce is almost as mad and good as BRINGING UP BABY. It features a cow horn and a wonderfully foolish weekend house party at a place called Duck Point. Joel McCrea is the man who loses his wife (Nancy Kelly) because he can't stay away from the racetrack. This was Nancy Kelly in happier days, before she became the mother of THE BAD SEED (1956). With Mary Boland, Roland Young, Cesar Romero, Elisha Cook, Jr., Mary Healy, Lyle Talbot, and Spencer Charters as the mayor. Directed by Roy Del Ruth; the original story was by Erna Lazarus and Scott Darling. 20th Century-Fox.

He Who Must Die

France (1957): Drama
126 min, No rating, Black & White

This French film, based on Nikos Kazantzakis' The Greek Passion, was made by the American (political) expatriate, Jules Dassin, on Crete. It's set in 1921, when the Cretan villagers, living under the traditionally decadent Turkish Agha (Gr�goire Aslan makes him a dear, cynical old pederast), are about to stage their annual passion play. The survivors of another village, burned out by the Turks, come to ask for refuge; the town brass (including the head of the local church) drive them out, but the shepherd chosen to play Christ rallies his disciples to their aid. You get the idea. It's about oppressors and oppressed, those who believe in the forms of Christianity and those who believe in the spirit. Christ gets crucified, and the militant oppressed wind up at the barricades. (To turn the other cheek?) You may be left with the uncomfortable feeling that Christ is being claimed for the underdogs in much the same terms that Abe Lincoln and Tom Paine were in the 40s. This big, emotionally overwrought film was very popular at American art houses. With Pierre Vaneck, Melina Mercouri, Jean Servais, Roger Hanin, Fernand Ledoux, Gert Fr�be, Maurice Ronet, and Nicole Berger. Screenplay by Ben Barzman and Dassin; music by Georges Auric. In French. CinemaScope.


US (1968): Musical/Comedy
86 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Before the producer, Bert Schneider, and the director, Bob Rafelson, collaborated on FIVE EASY PIECES, they had made their names on TV with "The Monkees," and this first film they did together was an attempt to do for the Monkees what Richard Lester's A HARD DAY'S NIGHT had done for the Beatles. The film tosses in old jokes, blackout routines, documentary footage of the suffering and horror of war, plus the Monkees, and tries to sell it all as a mind-blowing, psychedelic collage. With Annette Funicello, Timothy Carey, and Abraham Sofaer. Written by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson. Released by Columbia.

Heart Like a Wheel

US (1983): Biography
113 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A friendly movie with a cold center, this biographical film is about what it cost the drag racer Shirley Muldowney-who has won the National Hot Rod Association World Championship three times-to win out over men in what was previously considered the domain of macho daredevils. Hoyt Axton plays Shirley's earthy and congenial father, the honky-tonk singer Tex Roque, who has gusto in his canny eyes and grinning face; Leo Rossi plays the mechanic-husband who tools up the cars she races; and Beau Bridges brings his marvellous radiance to the role of the impulsive, rowdy Connie Kalitta, who becomes Shirley's partner. Beau Bridges' Connie, who lives on his instincts, makes sense as a drag racer; Shirley doesn't. Bonnie Bedelia, who plays Shirley from 16 to 40, gives a tightly controlled starring performance; she's compelling and she brings the role a dry and precise irony. But her Shirley is a planner and a pusher who thinks everything out-the thrill sport of drag racing is a fulfullment of nothing visible in her character. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan from a script by Ken Friedman, the movie has a B-picture sensibility. It has plenty of action sequences (of the kind that action-film enthusiasts call "existential" and "cinematic"), and it avoids dramatic climaxes (of the kind that these enthusiasts disparage as "theatrical"). And this can make a movie seem honest and authentically American-none of your highbrow stuff. Shirley's hardness is presented simply as what happens to a woman who bucks a sexist society, and the movie expects us to sympathize with her bitterness about not getting the recognition that women in more genteel sports do. When Shirley staggers out of a crash in flames, and her son (Anthony Edwards) runs out to her and looks into her charred helmet, the scene exposes the superficiality of most of the film's treatment of her determination to be the fastest hot-rodder of them all. With Paul Bartel, Dean Paul Martin, and Dick Miller. Released by 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.


Canada (1981): Comedy
93 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In this relaxed, enjoyable film, directed by Don Shebib, Rita (Margot Kidder) and Bonnie (Annie Potts) meet on a bus headed for Toronto, and when the harried bus driver is outraged by Rita's language and throws them both out onto the highway, they have no alternative but to become friends. The movie is about this friendship, and about the romantic nature that Rita-a frowzy bleached blonde-hides under her hard-bitten exterior. Rita dresses like a bad dream, and she moves with her head and arms thrust out, as if she were ready to take a swing at the world; she's tough, all right. Dark-haired, big-eyed Bonnie, who's pregnant, is running away from her husband. She seems woozy and remote; she whines like a cuddly puppy with a stomach ache-she sounds so forlorn she's funny. Shebib has his own loose style of Canadian picaresque; you find yourself looking at his characters' messy lives with smiling good will. And Margot Kidder's brazen Rita is a full performance, with the depth that was missing from her earlier roles. Rita is one of those characters-like Barbara Stanwyck's Stella Dallas-who are coarse yet sensitive. They're preposterous creations-sentimental, gutsy, possibly even tearjerking-yet they're played with so much honest emotion that they become intensely likable. With Robert Carradine and Winston Rekert; from a script by Terence Heffernan.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

The Heartbreak Kid

US (1972): Comedy
104 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The director Elaine May finds her comic tone and scores a first besides-no other American woman has ever directed her daughter in a leading role on the screen. Jeannie Berlin is her mother's surrogate here, and she plays the Elaine May addled nymph even better than her mother does. As Lila, she's a middle-class Jewish peasant, her ripe lusciousness a cartoon of sensuality. You can read her life story in her gypsy-red dresses. Lila is the voluptuously giddy bride, whose groom (Charles Grodin) falls in love with a cool American dream girl (Cybill Shepherd) three days after the wedding. Elaine May is a satirist whose malice isn't cutting; something in the woozy atmosphere she creates keeps it mild-yet mild in a thoroughly demented way, mild as if impervious to sanity. All apologies, she has a knack for defusing the pain without killing the joke. From Neil Simon's script, based on Bruce Jay Friedman's short story "A Change of Plan." With Eddie Albert, Audra Lindley, and William Prince. 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Heartbreak Ridge

US (1986): War/Drama
130 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It's well known that many people have strong feelings about anal intercourse, but it's doubtful if a whole movie had ever been devoted to the expression of those feelings until this one. Clint Eastwood, who directed, plays (so to speak) a Medal of Honor winner from the Korean war and a decorated Vietnam vet-a Marine gunnery sergeant whose abhorrence of being put in a passive sexual position seems to be what makes him super-tough and manly. The marines in his platoon stand waiting while Old Gunny wraps his jowls around witless scurrilous insults, all involving what he's going to shove up their orifices. This should be the portrait of a pathetic vulgarian militarist with terrible anal-aggressive problems, but Eastwood presents him as a great fighting man, a relic of a time when men were men. And, in the last half hour, the film presents proof of what Gunny's training does for his platoon: it celebrates Grenada as a victory that evens the score, after a tie in Korea and a loss in Vietnam. This movie is offensive on just about every level. The script is credited to James Carabatsos; with Marsha Mason, Mario Van Peebles, Everett McGill, Moses Gunn, Eileen Heckart, Bo Svenson, Boyd Gaines, and Arlen Dean Snyder. A Malpaso Production, for Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.


US (1984): Romance
98 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Set in LA, this is about what's underneath the buddy relationship of the prosperous, darkly handsome Eli (Nick Mancuso), who takes over his father's business, and the tall, boyish Blue (Peter Coyote), a driven, unsuccessful painter, always broke. The writer-director Bobby Roth gets at the unresolved feelings that go into making them friends and rivals. Women-Carole Laure, Kathryn Harrold, and Carol Wayne-are their battlefield. The film is all moods and moments; Roth may not go deep enough, but his work has temperament. He succeeds in using the two men as a way into the American culture of sex, circa the mid-80s, and he captures something of West Coast bohemianism. The picture becomes more involving as it goes on, and when it's over, you feel you've seen something (even if you're not quite sure what). With Max Gail, Jamie Rose, George Morfogen, and James Laurenson. Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus; music by Tangerine Dream. Orion.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.


US (1986): Drama/Comedy
108 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Directed by Mike Nichols, and written by Nora Ephron, who adapted her own 1983 novel (a jokey, fictionalized version of her marriage to Carl Bernstein), the film is rich in fillips-smart little taps and strokes. But after a while you start asking yourself, "What is this movie about?" (You're still asking when it's over.) Mike Nichols takes much of the cheapness out of the material, but the gossipy kick has gone out, too. Working with the cinematographer Nestor Almendros, he shoots the story (of the husband's infidelity and the pregnant wife's rage) in a tight, airless, neutral style. And with the heroine's life no longer treated as rowdy comedy, and the "pain" brought to the surface, the effect is like a weak mixture of CARNAL KNOWLEDGE and a Woody Allen picture and Robert Benton's KRAMER VS. KRAMER. With Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, arguably miscast in the leads, and Stockard Channing, Richard Masur, Catherine O'Hara, Maureen Stapleton, Steven Hill, and John Wood-all in top form. Also with Jeff Daniels, Milo� Forman, Aida Linares, and Karen Akers. Music by Carly Simon. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Hearts of the West

US (1975): Western
102 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Jeff Bridges is just the right actor to play Lewis Tater, an Iowa farm boy who writes Western stories and aspires to be like his idol, Zane Grey. Lewis leaves home in 1929, heads toward the land of his purple-prose dreams, and stumbles into a job as a stuntman in Western pictures directed by a penny-pinching hysteric played by Alan Arkin. This nostalgia comedy has an eccentric enchantment to it. The troupe of cowboy actors, headed by Andy Griffith, is the most engaging ensemble since the Dead End Kids, and the heroine, a script girl, is played by wide-eyed Blythe Danner, who is reminiscent of both Margaret Sullavan and Jean Arthur. The people and the atmosphere are so good that one wants more of them; the rinky-dink chase plot isn't needed at all, and there are also unnecessary complications involving Herbert Edelman, as a movie producer, and Donald Pleasence, as a Western-pulp publisher. But it's a film that plays on in the mind. Howard Zieff directed, from Rob Thompson's script. MGM.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Heartworn Highways

US (1981): Documentary
118 min, No rating, Black & White

An informal documentary, shot and directed by James Szalapski, about performers such as Guy Clark, David Allan Coe, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Young-part of the 70s "outlaw" generation of country music (outlaw because it wasn't sanctioned by the recording companies in Nashville). Szalapski shot most of the footage in six weeks around Christmas of 1975, and then spent three or four years, off and on, trying to get the movie distributed. There's very little in the film that isn't friendly or funny or really soul-stirring. It's disorganized, though-it's like being at a good party, but you don't know how you got there, and you never quite catch the last names of the assorted celebrities telling tall tales and singing lovely sad songs.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.


US (1972): Drama
100 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

A slack, depressive Paul Morrissey version of SUNSET BLVD., with Joe Dallesandro as a stud hustler and Sylvia Miles as the predatory star in the big mansion. It's meant to be a funny exploitation movie, but the comic moments are rare. Produced by Andy Warhol.


US (1989): Fantasy/Comedy
102 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Westerburg High's three rich beauties who make life hell for those less gilded are all named Heather. Their reluctant associate, Veronica (Winona Ryder), confides in her diary that she dreams of "a world without Heather," and a psychotically fearless juvenile delinquent, J.D. (Christian Slater), materializes, and goads her to become his accomplice in making her dream come true. The script, by Daniel Waters, has a lot of prankish, spiky dialogue and some good rowdy slapstick nastiness, such as Veronica and J.D.'s killing two football heroes and arranging their deaths to suggest that they were lovers in a suicide pact; the script promises that the picture will lift off into the junior division of Blue Velvetland. But layers of didacticism weigh it down, and the young, inexperienced director, Michael Lehmann (who uses hyper-bright colors for a facetious artificial effect), doesn't find the right moods for the gags. About a half hour from the end, Waters and Lehmann pull back from their sadistic gaudiness. Veronica represents their we-don't-really-mean-it side-we don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. Where's the sting? With Kim Walker as tall, blond Heather Chandler. New World Pictures.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Heaven Can Wait

US (1943): Comedy
112 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Ernst Lubitsch produced and directed this whimsical, uneven, yet generally disarming comedy of manners (it lightly satirizes social and sexual conventions), from a screenplay by his frequent collaborator Samson Raphaelson. Perhaps it isn't well known because it stars the rather drab Don Ameche, who appeared in many forced and charmless routine pictures, but here (as in MIDNIGHT) he's reasonably engaging. He plays a well-born New Yorker, Henry Van Cleve-a lifetime dandy and stage-door Johnny-who thinks that his sexual improprieties are sinful and qualify him for Hell, but as he applies to Satan and tells his story we see his life in flashbacks and see his essential generosity and innocence. Gene Tierney plays the Kansas girl he steals from his stuffy cousin (Allyn Joslyn). With Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Laird Cregar, Spring Byington, Florence Bates, Eugene Pallette, Louis Calhern, Clarence Muse, Adele Jurgens, Clara Blandick, and Scotty Beckett and Dickie Moore as Henry at 7 and 15, Signe Hasso as the French maid, and Anita Bolster as Mrs. Cooper-Cooper. Loosely based on the Hungarian play Birthdays, by Laszlo Bus-Fekete. This film has no connection with Warren Beatty's 1978 HEAVEN CAN WAIT, which is a remake of the 1941 HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, which was taken from an American play called Heaven Can Wait, by Harry Segall. 20th Century-Fox. Lubitsch's first film in color.

The Heiress

US (1949): Drama
115 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

This William Wyler production is very likely the best film adaptation of Henry James, with the possible exception of THE INNOCENTS. The screenplay, by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, is based on their stage version of James's Washington Square, and at first the period settings and clothes may make the movie seem a little heavy and stagey, but then Wyler's mastery of the psychological nuances can have you drawing deep breaths. It's a peerless, super-controlled movie, in the same mode as Wyler's 1952 CARRIE, though more fully sustained. Wyler's greatness here is that he can hold the elements of the film in his palm without constricting the actors. He frees them. Montgomery Clift is just about perfect as James's fortune hunter Morris Townsend and Olivia De Havilland does her finest work ever as the heiress Catherine Sloper. With Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins, Vanessa Brown, Betty Linley, Ray Collins, Selena Royle, and Mona Freeman. Music by Aaron Copland; art direction by John Meehan and Harry Horner. Academy Award for Best Actress (De Havilland). Paramount.

Hell in the Pacific

US (1968): War
103 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune are the stars and there's nobody else in the movie-just this American soldier and this Japanese soldier stranded on a Pacific island during the Second World War, and neither speaking a word of the other's language. Haven't you always longed for a movie full of Toshiro Mifune grunting and Lee Marvin muttering to himself? Actually Marvin is rather funny talking to himself, but the theme is-you guessed it-brotherhood. The director, John Boorman, and the cinematographer, Conrad Hall, get so glittering flashy that they make the Pacific island a pile of sequins, and Lalo Schifrin's score sparkles like the purest ersatz. Cinerama.

Hell's Angels

US (1930): War
127 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

The aviation footage is still something to see, with great shots of zeppelin warfare; toward the end of the first half, a zeppelin looms through the clouds, which part at moments to show London below. And the dogfight sequences, with a camera mounted on the front of a plane, still have a kinetic immediacy. There are experts who believe that this spectacular footage, which Howard Hughes worked out on blackboards and with model planes before he staged it, contains scenes that have never been surpassed. But the First World War story, involving two brothers, Oxford men who join the Royal Flying Corps (Ben Lyon and James Hall), and Jean Harlow, as the smoldering woman they both love, is plain awful. Written by Howard Estabrook and Harry Behn, the movie, which started shooting in 1927, was planned as a silent. Hughes, still in his early twenties, financed and produced, and he also directed, after disputes with a couple of directors whom he had hired. He lost money on the film because he spent so much to get the effects he wanted; the sequence of the zeppelin's flaming descent cost several times as much as a conventional movie of the day. After the film was previewed, he decided to add sound. That's when Harlow was hired (replacing Greta Nissen, who had a Norwegian accent). Hughes also hired Joseph Moncure March to write the dialogue scenes and James Whale to direct them, and after 31 months in production and an expenditure of almost $4 million, the film opened. And, of course, audiences howled at the corny story and at Harlow's ludicrous wriggling and slinking. Reactions to the film have always been divided-it inspires admiration and laughter.

Heller in Pink Tights

US (1960): Western
100 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Sophia Loren, as a blond international actress, tours the Far West with Anthony Quinn's theatrical troupe, in George Cukor's only Western. The best parts are the theatrical performances of Mazeppa and La Belle H�l�ne, and some interchanges between Margaret O'Brien and Eileen Heckart, who play a stage mother-and-daughter team. The film is handsomely made, but the material is flat in an inoffensive sort of way, and Cukor dawdles; the final edit was not his, and he was unhappy with it. Adapted from a Louis L'Amour novel by Dudley Nichols and Walter Bernstein. With Ramon Novarro, Edmund Lowe, and Steve Forrest. Hoyningen-Huen� was the color consultant. Paramount.

Hello Frisco, Hello

US (1943): Musical
98 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

The Barbary Coast, again. Mediocrity enshrined. A musical from 20th Century-Fox, with Alice Faye, John Payne, Jack Oakie, Laird Cregar, June Havoc, Lynn Bari, Ward Bond, George Barbier, and Aubrey Mather. The paste-up score ranges from "You'll Never Know" and "Hello Ma Baby" to such lethal jobs as "It's Tulip Time in Holland." Bruce Humberstone directed.

Hello, Dolly!

US (1969): Musical/Dance/Comedy
146 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The whole archaic big-musical circus here surrounds a Happening-Barbra Streisand-and it's all worth seeing in order to see her. Directed by Gene Kelly. 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Henry V

UK (1945): War/Drama
137 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Shakespeare's Henry V is the story of the playboy Plantagenet who grew up to become a great leader and, at 27, defeated the armies of France at Agincourt. There, at the last major stand of medieval chivalry, the English archers, outnumbered five to one, cut down the fatally encumbered knights of France. Laurence Olivier once said that it was the sort of juvenile role that you can't play when you're a juvenile-"When you are young, you are too bashful to play a hero; you debunk it. It isn't until you're older that you can understand the pictorial beauty of heroism." He came to it at the right time. His production-it was his first time out as a film director-is a triumph of color, music, spectacle, and soaring heroic poetry, and, as actor, he brings lungs, exultation, and a guileful wit to the role. The film has true charm. With Renee Asherson as Princess Katherine, Leslie Banks as Chorus, George Robey as Falstaff, Esmond Knight as Fluellen, Leo Genn as the Constable of France, Felix Aylmer as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Niall MacGinnis as MacMorris, Robert Newton as Ancient Pistol, Harcourt Williams as Charles VI, Max Adrian as the Dauphin, Robert Helpmann as the Bishop of Ely, and Ernest Thesiger as the Duke of Berri. The music is by William Walton; the cinematography is by Robert Krasker and Jack Hildyard. (2 hours and 14 minutes.)

Henry V

UK (1989): Historical/Drama
137 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This fast-paced version, adapted and directed by its young star, Kenneth Branagh, isn't exultant, like the version made 45 years earlier by Laurence Olivier. Branagh emphasizes the price paid for war: the bloodshed. And, in keeping with his generation's supposed disillusion with war, he minimizes the play's glorification of the English fighting man. His conception of how to film the play is to look closely at the conniving, the misgivings, the ego wars. (This epic noir doesn't indicate why the French lost at Agincourt.) Branagh is not an overnight great moviemaker; his attempts at spectacular effects strain his inventiveness. But as an actor he has something of James Cagney's confident Irishness; he's intensely likable, with a beautiful, expressive voice, and a straightforwardness that drives the whole film ahead. He and the other performers are so up that you feel their pride in working on true dramatic poetry. It's a company of stars: Paul Scofield as the melancholy French king whose face foretells the doom of his army, Christopher Ravenscroft as the herald Mountjoy, Derek Jacobi as the Chorus, Judi Dench as Mistress Quickly, Robbie Coltrane as Falstaff, Brian Blessed as Exeter, Richard Briers as Bardolph, Richard Easton as the Constable of France, Alec McCowen as Ely, Robert Stephens as Pistol, Emma Thompson as Katherine, Geraldine McEwan as Alice, Christian Bale as Falstaff's boy, and best of all, perhaps, Ian Holm as the chattering Welshman Fluellen. Released by the Samuel Goldwyn Company.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Her Cardboard Lover

US (1942): Romance/Comedy
93 min, No rating, Black & White

A mistake that Norma Shearer made when she was old enough to know better. Her companions in this overstuffed whimsey that turns into sheer misery are Robert Taylor and George Sanders. George Cukor is listed as the director; it's up to him to refute the charge. With Frank McHugh, Elizabeth Patterson, and Chill Wills. From a Jacques Deval play that had been filmed in 1928 with Marion Davies, and in 1932, as THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER, with Buster Keaton; the adaptors (John Collier and Anthony Veiller were among them) must have hidden even from their families. J. Walter Ruben produced, for MGM.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

US (1941): Fantasy
93 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In this scatterbrained fantasy, the soul of Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery), a contender for the heavyweight championship, arrives in the hereafter fifty years before the appointed time through the overzealousness of a Heavenly Messenger (Edward Everett Horton) who has snatched Pendleton from an airplane crash that he was supposed to survive. The problem of getting Joe back into mortal flesh so that he can win the championship is so acute that it's taken over by Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains), a high executive on the Other Side. The slickly hammy Rains gives Mr. Jordan a sinister gloss, as if he were involved in some heavenly racket, like smuggling Chinese; James Gleason has the contrastingly gruff-voiced role of the fighter's manager. There's too much metaphysical gabbing and a labored boy-gets-girl romance, but audiences loved this chunk of whimsey. With Evelyn Keyes, Rita Johnson, John Emery, Donald MacBride, Halliwell Hobbes, and Benny Rubin. Alexander Hall directed; Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller adapted Harry Segall's play Heaven Can Wait. (Remade as HEAVEN CAN WAIT by Warren Beatty in 1978.) Columbia.

Hester Street

US (1975): Drama
92 min, Rated PG, Black & White, Available on videocassette

A modest comedy about the assimilation process among a group of Russian-Jewish immigrants living on the lower East Side in 1896. Independently made, this first feature by the writer-director Joan Micklin Silver begins lamely, but it wins one over. Carol Kane is lovely as the timid, pious, rejected wife of a sweatshop worker who has broken away from the Old World traditions that she represents. Mel Howard plays Bernstein, the scholarly boarder who loves her. The weaknesses are in the casting and the handling of the aggressive characters, and in the thin, audience-pleasing attitudes toward the Americanization process. With Steven Keats and Dorrie Kavanaugh; adapted from a story by Abraham Cohan.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

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