A French-made documentary about the Spanish Civil War, compiled by Frédéric Rossif. Fancy, highly emotional, and not as informative as it might be, but some of the footage is very fine. With an English narration.
This thinly fictionalized version of the Gabrielle Russier case has an unconvincing air of high-minded rectitude. It turns what appeared to be a gleaming social tragicomedy (in Mavis Gallant's reporting, especially) into one more bathetic, sacrificial love story, set in the French equivalent of our counterculture. As the schoolteacher in love with her teenage student, Annie Girardot acts like a cross between Greer Garson as a mother superior and Greer Garson as the Maid of Orleans in love. Bruno Pradal brings youthful sensuality to the boy and gives the only halfway decent performance--though he seems to be used as a stand-in for Gérard Philipe. The boy's parents (who bring charges against the teacher) specialize in cold, malignant looks, while the rest of the adult cast is stereotyped for life-denying callousness or cynicism or impotence. The students are so life-enhancing they look stuffed; love is coming out their ears. Directed by André Cayatte, from a script he and Russier's lawyer concocted. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.
Illegitimacy tearjerker. This time it's Olivia De Havilland who gives up her bouncing baby so he'll have a name. John Lund bats his eyelashes as her dashing aviator lover, and also as the son when, in the inevitable progression of events, she becomes a successful business-woman (she operates a cosmetics outfit, like Elizabeth Arden's) and meets up with him (wearing wings like his father before him). As an example of the "woman's picture" this doesn't have any of the grubbiness or conviction of the Barbara Stanwyck STELLA DALLAS, but De Havilland works hard confecting cold cream, and her exertions won her the Academy Award. The atmosphere of lugubrious sensitivity is probably just about what the director, Mitchell Leisen, wanted. (He had a better side that came out in comedy.) With Roland Culver, Phillip Terry, Mary Anderson, and Bill Goodwin. Charles Brackett, who produced this glossy package, also wrote the script, with Jacques Théry. Paramount.
In this picture, Humphrey Bogart, the greatest cynical hero of them all, found himself in Martinique, where a beautiful big cat of a girl named Lauren Bacall slouched across the screen for the first time and managed to make the question "Anybody got a match?" sound like the most insolent and insinuating of demands. Howard Hawks directed this slickly professional, thoroughly enjoyable Second World War melodrama, which was taken from what Warner Brothers advertised as Ernest Hemingway's novel, with William Faulkner listed as co-writer (with Jules Furthman) of the screenplay--making this the only movie on record with two Nobel Prize-winning authors. Don't be misled: it's the Warners mixture as before--sex and politics--but better this time. Asked to explain the genesis of this film, Hawks explained that once when he and Ernest Hemingway were hunting together, he had claimed that he could take Hemingway's worst story and make a movie of it. Hemingway asked which was his worst, and Hawks said To Have and Have Not. According to Hawks, Hemingway then explained that he had written it in one sitting when he needed money. Hawks made good on his boast, but he and the screenwriters cheated a bit: the movie deals with what may have occurred in the lives of the characters before the novel begins. (Footnote for somebody's Ph.D. thesis on "Novel into Film": the novel's ending was used to polish off John Huston's film version of Maxwell Anderson's dreary play Key Largo; the novel's plot was used for another movie, THE BREAKING POINT, directed by Michael Curtiz, in 1950; and the short story "One Trip Across," which Hemingway had expanded into To Have and Have Not, was used for an Audie Murphy movie, THE GUN RUNNERS, directed by Don Siegel, in 1958. And no doubt the Hawks version altered the Hemingway original in order to combine elements that had made big box office of Curtiz's CASABLANCA.) This film belongs to the movie era in which characters were clearly defined, and if a man was perverse, you knew he was a Nazi. The refreshingly, daringly sexy Bacall burst through the conventions of the era. A writer said of her that her "husky, underslung voice, which is ideal for the double-entendre, makes even her simplest remarks sound like jungle mating cries." Hoagy Carmichael provides the music and accompaniment for Bacall's facial exercises; the singing voice is that of Andy Williams, and it never sounded sexier than when coming out of her. Lauren Bacall's début had, in a sense, been pre-tested: Jules Furthman had worked out that good-bad girl act for Betty Compson in DOCKS OF NEW YORK (1928) and perfected it on Marlene Dietrich in MOROCCO (1930). With Walter Brennan, Dolores Moran, Sheldon Leonard, Marcel Dalio, and Dan Seymour (literally, the heavy).
When Gregory Peck got the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as an upstanding widowed lawyer practicing in a small Alabama town in the early 30s, there was a fair amount of derision throughout the country: Peck was better than usual, but in that same virtuously dull way. (There was the suspicion that Peck was being rewarded because the Lincolnesque lawyer shot a rabid dog and defended an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman.) Robert Mulligan directed, from Horton Foote's adaptation of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize novel, and it's all terribly conscientious--the clapboard houses, the slatted porch swings on rusty chains, the Chevy phaetons on dusty streets, the high moral sentiments, the specs on Peck's nose. Mulligan slows the pace down when he wants to suggest the mysteries of childhood or to arouse warm emotions; this works only intermittently. The movie is part eerie Southern gothic and part Hollywood self-congratulation for its enlightened racial attitudes. Brock Peters, who flares his nostrils mightily, is the black man on trial, and Robert Duvall is the brain-damaged Boo Radley, of whom the lawyer's children (Mary Badham and Philip Alford) are terrified. With John Megna, Ruth White, Rosemary Murphy, James Anderson, Collin Wilcox, William Windom, Alice Ghostley, Crahan Denton, Frank Overton, and Richard Hale. Cinematography by Russell Harlan; music by Elmer Bernstein; art direction by Alexander Golitzen and Henry Bumstead. Universal.
James Clavell wrote and directed this feebly well-intentioned English movie. It's BLACKBOARD JUNGLE reshaped to bring mist to your eyes. This time Sidney Poitier is the teacher--a West Indian--and he inspires and reforms the whole bunch of tough East End teenagers (and their teachers, too). The film's awkwardness and naïveté seemed to be what made it a box-office favorite. In movies like this one, Poitier's self-inflicted stereotype of goodness cancels out his acting. Adapted from a novel by E.R. Braithwaite; with Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall, and Christian Roberts. Columbia.
Sheer excruciation. Mario Lanza, as a boy from Bayou country, singing the execrable "Be My Love," and such minor horrors as "The Bayou Lullaby" and "Boom Biddy Boom Boom." Whoever it was who thought of teaming Lanza with Kathryn Grayson had a streak of malignant humor: when those voices collide and his big chest meets her big bosom, pop culture is at climax. With David Niven, James Mitchell, Rita Moreno, J. Carrol Naish, and J. Clinton Sundberg. Directed by Norman Taurog, from a script by Sy Gomberg and George Wells; with choreography (of sorts) by Eugene Loring. Produced--inevitably--by Joe Pasternak; that man has a lot to answer for. MGM.
Erskine Caldwell's novel turned into a folksy comic strip. The director, John Ford, and the scenarist, Nunnally Johnson, were up against censorship problems; still, that doesn't account for the broad pointlessness of the rustic humor or the glossy studio lighting of the poor whites cavorting in front of their Georgia shacks. The whole thing seems deranged. Charley Grapewin plays Jeeter Lester as a familiar corn-liquored old scamp, Gene Tierney is a glamourized Ellie May, Marjorie Rambeau is Sister Bessie, and Elizabeth Patterson is Ada. With William Tracy, Dana Andrews, Ward Bond, Zeffie Tilbury, Russell Simpson, Grant Mitchell, and Slim Summerville. Based on Jack Kirkland's theatre version of the novel; the play--considered hot and sensational--was a huge success. 20th Century-Fox.
William Faulkner wrote a story called "Turn About," which had to do with the First World War rivalry between the aviators and the men in the torpedo boats; it had no heroine. Adapted to the screen, it became a vehicle for Joan Crawford, and the subject became how she can be freed from her old love so that she can give herself (in marriage) to Gary Cooper. There are some (uninspired) flying scenes, and some tolerable sequences on the high seas; the personal relationships are heavy-handed and rather baffling--maybe because although Crawford is the star, she really doesn't seem to have a place in the picture. The director, Howard Hawks, must have been confused, too; he gets minimal results from the cast. Cooper and Roscoe Karns aren't bad, but Robert Young and Franchot Tone use most of their energy trying for clipped British accents. Also with Louise Closser Hale. MGM.
The title refers to the earlier pairing of Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer in LOVE AFFAIR and WHEN TOMORROW COMES. This time, she's a widow, a small-town mayor who doesn't know that she needs love, and he's a sculptor from the big city, commissioned to do a commemorative statue of her late husband. During their various misunderstandings, each becomes engaged to a high-school student, and a million laughs ensue, all of them from the people in the picture. With Charles Coburn, Mona Freeman, and Elizabeth Patterson. Directed by Charles Vidor; among the many writers employed were Virginia Van Upp and Herbert Biberman. Columbia.
Tony Richardson whizzes through the Henry Fielding novel, but he pauses long enough for a great lewd eating scene. With Albert Finney as the foundling hero, Hugh Griffith, Joyce Redman, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood, Susannah York, Diane Cilento, David Warner, Wilfrid Lawson, Rachel Kempson, and George Devine. The script is by John Osborne. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Score. United Artists.
Ginger Rogers, a telephone operator, has three suitors: Alan Marshal is the millionaire of her dreams, George Murphy is a car salesman sure to get on in the world, and Burgess Meredith is a happy-go-lucky mechanic somewhat loose in the head. The movie is a series of sketches, as the heroine, trying to choose among them, dreams of her future life with each. (Her final choice leaves the viewer sceptical.) A nice detail: when she imagines marrying the millionaire, she sees newspaper headlines announcing her marriage; just under the large type there is a small heading, in quite insignificant type, reading, "Adolf Hitler Assassinated." Garson Kanin directed this Cinderella comedy from a script by Paul Jarrico. It's a little too jaunty and much too comfy in its sterotypical assumptions, but a lot of people enjoyed it. Phil Silvers turns up in a bit. (Remade in 1958 as THE GIRL MOST LIKELY.) RKO.
One of the most preposterous of the many variants on the Enoch Arden theme. A cherub-faced chemist named MacDonald (Orson Welles) gets so badly shot up in the First World War that he prefers to let his wife (Claudette Colbert) think he's dead; he returns, transformed bewilderingly into a shattered European, to find that she has married the industrialist for whom he's going to work. Wearing a wig and false whiskers, dragging a gimpy leg, and rolling gutturals around on his tongue, Welles is so transparently Welles that it's pretty funny that Colbert doesn't recognize him. That's the only humor in this pallbearer-paced weeper. With Natalie Wood as the child the poor goof can't reveal himself to, and George Brent, Lucile Watson, and Richard Long. Directed by Irving Pichel, from Lenore Coffee's script, based on Gwen Bristow's novel. RKO.
Three of Noel Coward's light, corrosive social comedies are performed by excellent casts in this production, directed by Anthony Pelissier. The bill includes: THE RED PEPPERS--two vaudeville hams bicker their way through a Saturday night, with Kay Walsh, Ted Ray, Martita Hunt; WAYS AND MEANS--at a Côte d'Azur houseparty, a bankrupt couple persuade a burglar to rob the rich American down the hall and split with them, with Valerie Hobson, Nigel Patrick, Jack Warner, Jessie Royce Landis; FUMED OAK--a hag-ridden suburbanite tells off his in-laws, with Stanley Holloway. Too patently "clever" and "ribald" to be taken very seriously, these playlets are nevertheless models of skillful entertainment.
Alberto Moravia's divertissement on the cops and robbers theme features a prodigious family of thieves--father Vittorio De Sica is a dignified and accomplished pickpocket, his big pussycat daughter Sophia Loren is a happy delinquent who can't understand people who work for a living, and his two little sons can strip an automobile in 30 seconds flat. As several critics pointed out, this comedy has only one drawback: when the magnificent Sophia sails across the screen, one forgets to read the subtitles. With Marcello Mastroianni. Directed by Alessandro Blasetti. In Italian.
A busy, forgettable Clark Gable-Myrna Loy screwball melomrama. He's a daredevil newsreel cameraman who fakes war stories and will do anything for a scoop and she's a celebrated "aviatrix." One of his dirty tricks wrecks her reputation, and they carry on a love-hate affair that jumps around from China to the Amazon jungle. The director, Jack Conway, flails about trying for laughs and he settles for facetiousness. The movie looks as if it were made up of odds and ends of scrap footage, and it's crudely racist, in a casual, dumb-jokey way; in the jungle Gable projects a reel of disaster footage in order to frighten the natives, and he jeers at their response--he refers to them as "jitterbugs" and calls the medicine men "monkeys." This hero's cockiness and unscrupulousness seem intended to be likable, but Gable can't bring it off, though Myrna Loy, who is simply dressed and fairly quiet, manages to be very charming, despite the idiotic things she has to do. With Walter Pidgeon, Leo Carrillo, Walter Connolly (in perhaps his worst performance--as Gable's expostulating, dyspeptic boss), Marjorie Main (who has a nice, dry way with her few lines), Virginia Weidler, Willie Fung, Johnny Hines, Al Shean, Henry Kolker, Frank Faylen, and a couple of accomplished black actors whose names are not easy to come by. Laurence Stallings and John Lee Mahin wrote the script; Lawrence Weingarten produced, for MGM.
Michael Pertwee, who wrote such English comedies as LAUGHTER IN PARADISE and YOUR PAST IS SHOWING for the director Mario Zampi, had a good idea here, too. (It bears some relationship to an O. Henry story.) A gang of crooks (George Cole, Sidney James, and company) kidnap the wife (Brenda de Banzie) of a tycoon (Terry-Thomas) and discover they are holding a cold potato. The tycoon, who is having an affair with his secretary, is delighted to be rid of his wife and has no intention of ransoming her. Furious, the wife becomes the mastermind of the gang. Zampi didn't do the gimmick justice; he directed clumsily, confusing shouted dialogue with wit. Elliot Silverstein handled the same idea (and did worse by it) in the 1967 THE HAPPENING; the plot turned up again in the 1986 RUTHLESS PEOPLE, with Bette Midler in the Brenda de Banzie role.
In MY FAVORITE WIFE and its many variations, the husband with two wives is generally frantic. Here, Jean Arthur, caught between Fred MacMurray and Melvyn Douglas, loves the dilemma. A well-written, light-spirited comedy, adapted by Claude Binyon from Somerset Maugham's play Home and Beauty. The cast includes Harry Davenport, Melville Cooper, Edgar Buchanan, and Dorothy Peterson. Directed by Wesley Ruggles. (A musical version in 1955 starred Betty Grable and was called THREE FOR THE SHOW; it was one of Grable's last and best pictures.) Columbia.
Marvellous fun. Dustin Hoffman is both the hero and the target of this satirical farce about actors. He plays Michael Dorsey, a brilliant, "uncompromising" New York actor whom no one wants to hire because he makes things hell for everybody. When Michael's girlfriend (Teri Garr) goes up for an audition for a role in a soap and is rejected, he makes himself up as a woman, presents himself as "Dorothy Michaels," and lands the job. And Michael finds himself when he's Dorothy--not because he has any secret desire to be a woman but because when he's Dorothy he's acting. He's such a dedicated, fanatical actor that he comes fully alive only when he's playing a role--you can see it in his intense, glittering eyes. Michael is in the guise of Dorothy when he meets his dream girl--Jessica Lange, who's like a shock absorber to him; she says her lines in such a mild, natural way that it makes perfect sense for him to stop in his tracks and stare at her in wonder. With Bill Murray, Charles Durning, George Gaynes, Geena Davis, Doris Belack, Dabney Coleman, and, as Michael's agent, Sydney Pollack, who also directed. Pollack does some of his best work yet in the opening sequences--a crackling, rapid-fire presentation of the hopes versus the realities of out-of-work actors' lives. The script is credited to Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal, but Don McGuire wrote the first draft, and Elaine May and many others worked on it. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.
It features MTV motivation: I pose, therefore I am. The strapping Kelly McGillis is an astrophysicist employed to teach the elite fighter pilots in training at San Diego's Miramar Naval Air Station; she sidles into rooms and slouches, so she won't overpower her co-star, the relatively diminutive Tom Cruise, who is supposed to be the most daring of her students. When McGillis is offscreen, the movie is a shiny homoerotic commercial: the pilots strut around the locker room, towels hanging precariously from their waists. It's as if masculinity had been redefined as how a young man looks with his clothes half off, and as if narcissism is what being a warrior is all about. In between the bare-chested maneuvers, there's footage of ugly snub-nosed jets taking off, whooshing around in the sky, and landing while the sound track calls up Armageddon and the Second Coming--though what we're seeing is training exercises. What is the movie selling? It's just selling, because that's what the producers, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, and the director, Tony ("Make It Glow") Scott, know how to do. Selling is what they think moviemaking is about. The result is a new "art" form: the self-referential commercial. With Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Meg Ryan, Rick Rossovich, and Tim Robbins. The script is credited to Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., though the producers acknowledge that other writers were involved. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.
Hitchcock's 51st feature is a larger, slower, duller version of the spy thrillers he made in the 30s. Apparently he expects us to identify with the waxwork Cuban rightists who are spying for the U.S.; he expects us to accept the creaking late-late-show romances, and the Arrow-collar-shaving-cream-ad hero (Frederick Stafford), and all the people who look like cutouts and behave like drab, enervated versions of spies in his earlier films. Per-Axel Arosenius, Michel Piccoli, and Philippe Noiret have a few moments, and Roscoe Lee Browne perks things up briefly, but most of the other performers waste away in their roles. With John Vernon, John Forsythe, Dany Robin, Karin Dor, Claude Jade, and Michel Subor. From a Leon Uris novel, adapted by Samuel Taylor. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.
John Barrymore is completely charming as the shabby, unworldly science teacher who is bounced from his academic environment and lands in the business world of delightful depravity; handed his first martini, he gulps the olive with the liquid. The film was made in the period when teachers were considered virtuous recluses and the academic world was called the ivory tower. At the time--which really wasn't so long ago--the attitudes in this gentle comedy were thought very modern and sly and cynical. Produced by David O. Selznick, it's an elegantly designed picture; it was directed by Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast in his too leisurely, "continental" style--everything is a little too slow. With Myrna Loy as the sophisticated woman who is attracted by the teacher's innocence. Adapted from Marcel Pagnol's play by Benn W. Levy and (though uncredited) Ben Hecht. There have been several other screen versions; Louis Jouvet, Fernandel, and Peter Sellers have all played the teacher. Music by Max Steiner. RKO.
Comic grand larceny in Eric Ambler terrain--Istanbul. The gang in this Jules Dassin thriller includes Peter Ustinov, Melina Mercouri, Maximilian Schell, Robert Morley, and Akim Tamiroff, and they all work too hard at being merry, lovable scoundrels. Music by Manos Hadjidakis. United Artists.
Much fun; a sophisticated fantasy, with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett as a high-stepping married couple, George and Marion Kirby. Killed in an automobile accident, they return as elegant, ectoplasmic pranksters and drive banker Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) to happy distraction. Norman Z. McLeod directed this adaptation of a Thorne Smith novel; the picture was such a hit that it led to a series of movies and then to a TV series, but don't judge this one by what followed. This is the one to see, and for those who don't know why Constance Bennett was a big movie star, her provocative, teasing Marion Kirby should provide the answer. With Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, Hedda Hopper, Arthur Lake as a bellboy, and Eugene Pallette as a house detective. A Hal Roach Production; released by MGM.
The third in the vaporish series doesn't have the style or wit of the first two; it's a standard mystery with spooky trimmings, mostly set in an old mansion, with hands in the dark, sliding panels, and trap doors. Constance Bennett is gone, and the heroine is Joan Blondell; she's a blessing, as always, but she doesn't have much help from the plot. Stabbed to death, she reappears as a facetious phantom who expects Topper (Roland Young again, looking tired) to find her killer. Roy Del Ruth directed. The cast includes Billie Burke (still Mrs. Topper), Carole Landis, Eddie Anderson (as an all-too-easily-scared chauffeur), and bulldog-jawed Donald MacBride, as a choleric policeman. Produced by Hal Roach; released by United Artists.
A sequel to TOPPER, but this time Cary Grant has vanished altogether (except in the introductory footage lifted from the first film). Constance Bennett, as Marion Kirby, and Roland Young, as Topper, are still around, however, and the film, though talky and overextended, is generally bright. Topper goes to Paris for a divorce, and Marion follows him; the action takes place mostly in a Riviera hotel. As before, Norman Z. McLeod is the director, and Billie Burke and Alan Mowbray are on hand. Also with Verree Teasdale, Franklin Pangborn, Alex D'Arcy, and the dog known as Asta in the Thin Man pictures, who turns up here as Mr. Atlas. A Hal Roach Production; released by United Artists.
The viewer is asked to admire Joan Crawford's legs and her acting, which consists of pushing her mouth into positions meant to suggest suffering. The first is easy; the second impossible. In this misbegotten melodrama with some musical numbers, she finally settles for a blind musician (Michael Wilding). Which, all things considered, is a remarkably sensible decision. With Gig Young, Marjorie Rambeau, and Eugene Loring. Directed by Charles Walters. MGM.
Alf Sjöberg directed this famous study of adolescent despair and mean-spirited, authoritarian education. It was written by the 25-year-old Ingmar Bergman, who worked on it as Sjöberg's assistant. Stig Järrel plays the sadist schoolmaster; the student and the shopgirl whom he victimizes are played by Alf Kjellin and Mai Zetterling (who also became directors). Gunnar Björnstrand and others of Bergman's troupe may be glimpsed in small roles, looking very young. In Swedish.
Sloppy, clumsy Hitchcock thriller with Paul Newman as an American nuclear scientist who says he's defecting, and Julie Andrews as the girl who tags along--pure heart, piping voice, and all. With Lila Kedrova, Tamara Toumanova, and Ludwig Donath. Brian Moore is credited with the original screenplay, but probably his friends don't mention it. Universal.
Steamy hot and very funny. This tropical comedy-adventure, set in a Warners mockup of a plantation in Honduras, has James Cagney, Ann Sheridan, and Pat O'Brien shouting double-entendres at breakneck speed. Sheridan is sultry and rowdy as a vagrant nightclub entertainer wandering through the jungle nightclub circuit and taking the natives' minds off banana picking. O'Brien plays the tough plantation manager, and Cagney, with a mustache, is the breezy, belligerent foreman who deals with a crisis a minute, including George Tobias as a revolutionary, Andy Devine as a hopelessly incompetent No. 1 Boy, and cucumber-cool Helen Vinson, always a troublemaker. The picture borders on satirical farce; the target is the typical Hollywood treatment of South American bandits and tropical passions. William Keighley directed, from a script by Richard Macaulay and Jerry Wald; cinematography by James Wong Howe.