Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine

A reporter turned author is having trouble finishing his book. Discussing the ills of capital punishment with his future father-in-law, they concoct a scheme to frame him for an unsolved murder. Once he is convicted, they will prove his innocence and reveal the flaws in the system. The father-in-law carefully documents all their activities as they plant evidence.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this, but as a fan of Fritz Lang, I gave it a go. Enjoyed it though I will admit it is nothing compared to “Metropolis”, “Secret Beyond the Door” “Scarlet Street” or “M”.

Bleak subject? No chemistry between Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine?  Not enough tension? It did not do well at the box office and is not listed in Lang’s top films. But it IS still a Fritz Lang picture. Noirish  lighting. Funky camera angles.

Interesting concept though, and there’s a surprise at the end. Well worth a watch if you enjoy classic films and mystery.

There was a remake in 2009 with Jesse Metcalfe. Haven’t seen it. Usually, I’m not a big fan of remakes, but might have to give this a go for comparison.

 

 

 

Le Samourai (1967) (French) Alain Delon, François Périer , Nathalie Delon, Caty Rosier

I first saw Alain Delon in Zorro when I was around 11 and was swept away. Recently perusing a list of Top 100 best foreign films, Le Samourai popped up. Great!

I’ll say off the bat that this is a film buff’s movie. If you need fast action and lots of special effects you will be bored silly and hate it. In fact, the most animated character in the film is an agitated, caged bullfinch. A man of action heart throb in Zorro; he’s stony cold with dead eyes here.

And yet, here are some review snippets:

“I was completely blown away. This movie can be summed up with one word: minimalism.”

“stark originality”

“a blend of stylistic and thematic excellence”

All while being darned close to a silent film the dialogue is so sparse.

Still reading? Here’s the tricky part– the movie won’t really much sense until the end. You have to keep watching.
The plot is simple: a hit man’s job is not clean, there are witnesses including a piano player who looked him right in the eye. So his employer isn’t pleased, the cops are darned sure they’ve got their man but they don’t absolute proof. The employer wants him dead, cops are following him and harassing his girlfriend (Delon’s wife at the time, Nathalie, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world at the time)  to admit her alibi for him is a lie. 

The film begins with a quotation from the Bushido, the samurai code “There is no solitude greater than a samurai’s, unless perhaps it is that of a tiger in the jungle.”  Delon’s character, Jef Costello, moves with purpose, seemingly devoid of emotion. I’d hazard that the Terminator was modeled after this performance. Unrelenting and calculating.

The film itself– considered perfection by film-makers for it’s use of color, timing, atmosphere, camerawork and locations. At a time when films were shot on sets, this was a notable departure, being shot on locations in Paris, but not a Paris that you’d recognize from iconic photos– it’s mostly subways, stairwells, narrow streets.

My favorite scene is the first one. A dim room so still you wonder if it is a photograph. A hint of movement, there is a haze of smoke. Where is it coming from? Oh! There is a man on the bed blowing smoke rings. This moment capture the feel of the whole film– action and non-action, a gorgeous minimalist canvas (honestly, the colors of the walls and texture are mesmerizing) that speaks without words.

For more info at Internet Movie Database: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062229/?ref_=ttmi_tt
Perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/le_samourai

 

MIDNIGHT LACE (1960) Doris Day, Rex Harrison, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowell

I’m going to kill you, Mrs. Preston,”   promises an unnatural high-pitched voice that ought to set the goosebumps scampering over your skin.

   An American woman (Doris Day), wed three scant months to an Englishman (Rex Harrison), lives in London and is terrorized by a stalker threatening to kill her. The threats always seem to come when she is alone and has no one to corroborate her experiences which occur with increasing frequency.

   This film may seem tepid amidst today’s offerings of graphic violence and terror, but for Doris Day fans, old movie fans and folks who just don’t want graphic frights, this movie holds up. The story takes off in the first moments; suspects abound, the tension never slacks.

   Doris Day refused to act in any other such film and opted for comedies for the rest of her career. No small wonder as her character, Mrs. Preston is under stress from the first moments of the film. In one climatic scene, her method acting turned to real hysteria and she collapsed.

   Costume designer Irene Lentz was nominated for an Oscar for her outfits in Midnight Lace. She and Doris Day were friends, and Day trusted her for her costumes as well as her own wardrobe. If you enjoy Hollywood fashion, this film is a goodie just for that.

   As a huge Myrna Loy fan, it is a treat that she is Mrs. Preston’s kind aunt. Roddy McDowell has only a few scenes but they are noteworthy and memorable. I’m not much of a Rex Harrison fan and this role did not make appear to push his acting abilities, but no grumbles about his work here.

LINKS:

Related article about Irene Lentz:

 https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/irene-lentz-costume-designers-chic-430898

 Midnight Lace Trailer:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozEIitjahuU

 

 

 

 

HOLIDAY (1938) Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn

Like the classic oldies? Have you seen Holiday (1938) with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn?  You might have missed it… it didn’t get as much notoriety as Philadelphia Story or Bringing Up Baby and that’s a shame.  Hard to imagine now, but Katherine Hepburn had built herself a bad reputation earlier in the 30s and was not a box office draw.  This is the perfect vehicle for her– a strong, quirky, well-to-do Main Line woman who doesn’t want to bend to societal demands. 
   The story is straightforward — a self-made man with a middle class background (Grant) falls in love with a woman (Doris Nolan) born into the Seton dynasty –one of the six richest families in the U.S.  He meets the family and soon discovers that getting married will be as complicated as getting marrying into a royal family.  There are rules and expectations.  And respectable society folk do not chuck their positions to find themselves as Grant’s character Johnny Case yearns to do, “…to try to find out who I am and what goes on and what about it.”( Unfortunately, this is perhaps why the film was not as well received as it should have been… post-Depression era folks did not embrace this philosophy.) As plans move forward he realizes he has more in common with his betrothed’s sister Linda (Katherine Hepburn).
Hepburn and Grant did four pictures together, three (including this one) with director George Cukor.  I for one, will be hunting up more Cukor films as this is a gem for many reasons:
  • acting is sublime–it is obvious that not only Hepburn and Grant had chemistry but they must have enjoyed their supporting cast members as well –Lew Ayres who plays her trapped and alcoholic brother; Edward Everett Horton (love him!!!) and Jean Dixon who play a sweet couple who are like surrogate parents to Grant. Scenes where they all escape the formal socialite scene to be themselves in the playroom are delightful.
  • Most of the film takes place in the Seton home –a home so large it has an elevator and a kitchen just a bit smaller than  a private airplane hangar. Opulent and stunning, it is a silent but shimmering character in the picture. 
  •  Costume designs by Robert Kalloch! Unfortunately, many animals died to make this film as there are quite a few fur wraps and hats to be seen but this was an age when clothing was ELEGANT.
Justin Chang recently wrote a review in the Los Angeles Times commenting that Holiday is the best of the Hepburn/Grant collaborations:

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2020-01-09/critics-choice-cary-grant-katharine-hepburn-holiday

For more detail, please check out Margaret Perry’s blog (with a fun little meme of Grant and Hepburn doing a dance over a couch:

https://thegreatkh.blogspot.com/2013/07/dynamic-duos-in-classic-film-katharine.html

 

 

Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947)

George Sanders

There are multiple movie versions of Bel Ami, based on the story by Guy de Maupassant, one of my favorite writers, but THIS one happens to have a young Angela Lansbury as the lovelorn Clothilde, and George Sanders as the status-and-power craving Bel Ami. Looking both handsome and a bit Snidely Whiplash, eh?

Warren William, the “Pre-Code King”

and one of my favorite actors of the era, Warren William in a small role as Laroche-Mathieu.

The plot is straightforward: Bel Ami moves himself up the social ladder by marriage and deceit. Callous and plotting to the point of psychopathy, he is loved faithfully by Clothilde. She sees his villainy and calls him out for it. His downfall (not a spoiler, we know it’s coming) arises when he attempts to buy what he believes is an available title of an aristocratic family. As noted in the plot synopsis on the Internet Movie Database page, “The moral, at the end, is it is okay to mess with French women, but trifling with French titles is going too far.”

Credit: Les Adams: <a href="http://http://<longhorn1939@suddenlink.net&gt;

NIGHT TIDE (1961)

The trailer does not do this movie justice.
Had this film not been included in a “cult classic” set of 6 and had I only seen the trailer, I would have gone no farther. But I saw a review that said, “the best mermaid movie I’ve ever seen.” Well that made me laugh, I mean, I can only think of a couple like the Tom Hanks/Darryl Hannah movie and a movie called Mermaids with Cher… the closest that one gets is girls in the bathtub.

Dennis Hopper and Linda Lawson

This IS the best mermaid movie (unless you suffer from attention deficit in which case you’ll struggle, as relying on the atmosphere, the plot ambles along as a young sailor pursues a relationship with a peculiar and beautiful woman who is a seaside side show mermaid.) But is she really a mermaid? And worse, is she responsible for the deaths of two men–former boyfriends? The pace contributes to the woogie surreal world our sailor finds himself in… do Sea People exist? Is he in danger? And who is the strange witchy-woman who keeps showing up ? 

CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962)

 

Carnival of Souls cover

Iggy talked me into watching this odd movie and I’m glad I did.

It’s not scary, it’s artsy and peculiar. Won’t give away the plot too much, but here’s the gist: two vehicles are playing chicken on an old wooden bridge. One car goes into the river and only one passenger survives. The woman, an organist, takes a job at a church near an abandoned seaside carnival that seems to draw her to it. And a ghoulish man keeps appearing to her. What does he want? 

Sadly this film was not well received and came close to disappearing. Fortunately, it was rediscovered and redistributed in 1989, this time to more favorable criticism. It has become a cult classic. If you like artsy films, this is a must see. The lighting, music and the carnival set are sublime… dream-like. Filmed at the magical, abandoned Saltair Amusement Park utilizing its massive ballroom, one of the largest ever built. A pity this is the writer/ director’s only film. I’d say it’s comparable to the 1946 French film La Belle et La Bete (Beauty and the Beast) in terms of mood and atmosphere.  

To Have and Have Not (1944) Bogie and Bacall

No small wonder Humphrey Bogart fell in love with Lauren Bacall while making this movie… she smolders.  Intrigue, spy stuff, action, romance, this film is perfect and glossy. It features one of the most iconic scenes of its era: the “you do know how to whistle, don’t you?”   
I don’t think I’ve ever been that cool in my life… and she was only nineteen!
Cassablanca is a classic Humphrey Bogart picture and also a must-see… but while Cassablanca has the star-crossed lovers-who-must-part ending, To Have and Have Not is the opposite– soul mates who are meant to stay together. And while it’s a war time film, the drama is balanced with romance and a bit of comic relief with Walter Brennan as a sweet, drunk friend.
In 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, author Stephen Jay Schneider notes that the director wanted a true partnership between the two main characters– Slim is not going to slip into an apron, stay at home and bake pies while Harry goes out to fight the fascists and win the war; they will do it together. She is “as intrepid and daring” as her counterpart. Funny how women’s roles shifted so much between the 40s and the 50s…
Some interesting trivia about the movie can be found at the Internet Movie Database website that follows–for example, the movie notion launched because director Howard Hawks made a bet that he could make a great movie out of the worst Ernest Hemingway story! (I think he won the bet.)  Bogart said he fell in love with her portraying her character, Slim, who…more trivia… was based on Howard Hawks’ wife…see below–
More trivia:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037382/trivia

Found a public domain photo of the real “Slim” with husband Howard Hawks and their dog:    Slim indeed!!! Is there a size smaller than zero? I think the dog has a bigger waist!

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) : Marilyn Monroe Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft

Fatal Attraction caused a sensation in 1987 with Glenn Close terrorizing Michael Douglas as an obsessed lover. I haven’t seen it since, but I do recall it was riveting. Glenn Close scared everyone and “fatal attraction” became a cliché.
It was a reboot of Play Misty for Me (1971) , one of Clint Eastwood’s directorial efforts. Watched it twice a long time ago… as I recall, overall, it had great tension, but dragged in places and the film was kind of grainy. It’s probably been cleaned up and re-released…I should try it again.
Not a big Marilyn fan, I stumbled on this recently. WOW! It holds up! Marilyn did a terrific job as a combination of vulnerable, unhinged, lost but dangerous woman.
The plot: she’s had a troubled past, and her cousin, an elevator operation in a hotel, gets her a job as a hotel babysitter. But while she’s babysitting, she meets a man just jilted by his girlfriend… the man reminds her of her dead boyfriend, and soon she believes he is her boyfriend, and will do anything to keep him.
To be honest, I’m not a Richard Widmark fan…not sure I buy the ending, but I loved Anne Bancroft! I’ve never smoked, but wow, she knows how to work a cigarette…I can see why they were so popular in the movies. 

 

Charade (1963)

charade ttitle

It’s hard to imagine this movie being successful with any other actors.  Audrey was 35 and Cary was 59… hard to imagine that she’d fall in love just like that…but he IS Cary Grant after all and  this movie is just fun. And so 60’s! : the cartooning in the opening credits, the music, her hairstyle and clothes (Givenchy designed Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe–check it out).

The plot:  She went off on a ski holiday with a friend. While she was gone, someone threw her husband from a train. When she gets home, she finds he had sold everything in their house in Paris — and, ooh la la, what a house!  She has nothing. Along comes Cary Grant, a nice older gent who wants to take care of her. Soon, three men are after her, threatening her. She has something they want. What?

    charade back jacket   charade cover