Friday, December 28, 2012

Jane Eyre (1943)

Hmmm.  I do remember that I did not love the book.  Or rather, I loved the first half and didn't particularly like the second half.  Not so sure how I felt about the movie.  A little hard to watch.  I think I was knitting, though, so at least I was getting something done.
I think my problem with Jane Eyre, or at least with this adaptation, is the usual problem of not understanding why the heroine is in love with the man.  Makes it hard to care what happens to them.  Orson Welles plays such a distant and sometimes cruel Rochester.  I was rooting for the movie to diverge from the book so that Jane could end up with the nice man she meets after her failed wedding attempt.  But it was not to be.  Maybe Rochester was just as hard to take in the book - I read it so long ago that I really can't remember - but having to see him and listen to him made it so much worse.

One star.  Probably won't see it again, but I would be willing to watch other adaptations.

Born to Be Bad (1934)

A must-see in the quest to see all attainable Cary Grant movies.  Not a must-see in a quest to enjoy classic movies.
Unwed mother raises son in bookshop owned by kind old man.  Now lives on own.  Raising son to take care of himself in a tough, tough world... to steal, lie, wreak havoc, perpetrate fraud.

Son is unharmed while rollerskating into Cary Grant's character's truck!  Cary Grant's character is rich?  Pretend son is terribly injured.  Lawsuit!

Plan backfires!  Mother declared unfit!  Son taken away!  Cary Grant and wife try to do right by "injured boy."  Have him stay at their lavish home.  Oops, boy's mother arrives to stay and attempts to take Cary Grant for herself.  Cary Grant is momentarily a slut.

Silly one star (zero star?) movie that I don't plan to see again.  In search of a good Cary Grant movie that I have not yet seen...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Let's Make Love (1960)

Let me first say that I watched this movie in three installments at the gym.  This led me to wonder really inconsequential things, like, why does Amanda (Marilyn Monroe) knit in the first section of the movie but not in the second section?
"What are you making?"
"I haven't decided yet.  It keeps my hands busy."
It turns out she does in fact knit in the third section... she knits sequined yarn in a musical fantasy dreamed by Jean-Marc Clement (Yves Montand).  Phew.  I was worried about continuity.
I also noticed that I was not in any rush to go back to the gym to find out what happened to the characters.

Let's Make Love is your standard "I must pretend to be someone I am not so that you will see the true me and love me.  And then you will quickly (VERY QUICKLY) forget how humiliated you felt by my lying and fall into my arms" movie.  Sometimes this works for me, sometimes it doesn't.  This time it didn't.  Maybe because I just couldn't get myself to care at all about the characters.

Poor Jean-Marc Clement.  He is a French billionaire, and someone is making an off-Broadway musical that uses ten seconds of its stage time to make a joke about him!  His PR man convinces him to visit a rehearsal to show that he can laugh at himself, thus making other people laughing at him seem a little more friendly.  And there on stage at the rehearsal, slithering down poles in a sweater and panty hose, is Amanda (Marilyn Monroe).  Jean-Marc is told he bears a striking resemblance to Jean-Marc Clement, Amanda makes disparaging remarks about the "real" Jean-Marc Clement, and Jean-Marc decides to assume a new name and get cast in the show as himself to get close to Amanda.

More songs, skimpier outfits, Jean-Marc making hoity toity remarks...  and so on.

Highlight for me:  When Jean-Marc needs to learn how to dance (so to better woo Amanda), Gene Kelly comes to his office and gives him a lesson.  Not a great scene, but got me to perk up and pay attention.  Cameos from Bing Crosby and Milton Berle as well.

Two stars, and I don't want to see this again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bell Book and Candle (1958)

When watching a classic movie marathon, it may be advisable for me to stop when the movies switch from black and white to color. Or maybe just to skip overly dramatic movies involving witches.
Gillian (Kim Novak) is a bored witch who longs to experience "normal" life.  Especially after running into her neighbor Shep (James Stewart).  Despite her aunt's attempts to persuade her to use magic to make Shep hers, Gillian is adamant that she will not mess with his life.  She holds strong only until she realizes that he is about to marry her college nemesis.  A little humming to her cat, and Shep falls madly in love with Gillian.  Drama ensues.  Would he really love her without tricks?  Is he really going to publish a book that exposes witches as real?  Is her warlock brother (played by Jack Lemmon) really providing the author of the book with information?  Will anyone forgive her for stopping the book from being published?  Will Shep still love her if she tells him the truth about herself?  Will she ever learn to cry?  And the drama goes on...

One star. I'm not sorry I watched it, but it did not quite help me to forget that I was running a 99.9 degree fever, and I really don't need to see this again. I did learn that after making this movie James Stewart asked not to be paired with young starlets as romantic interests anymore.  It was starting to feel creepy.  Good for him.  This is a lesson that Cary Grant never learned. The movie also made me reminisce about Veronica Lake's funny I Married a Witch (1942). I would definitely see that again.

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Shop Around the Corner is wonderful enough as a funny romance about two people who fall in love through their anonymous pen pal letters to each other while unable to stand each other in person. What makes it more than wonderful is that it is also a story about the shop in which they work.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the scenes that had nothing to do with the question of "when will they get together?"  While rooting for Klara Novak and Alfred Kralik (Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart) to realize what is happening to them, we also get to follow Kralik's friendships and the ups and downs of Mr. Matuschek's (Frank Morgan's) store. 
This is a movie of great dialogue:

Alfred Kralik: [asking co-worker Pirovitch about cost of living for a married couple] Suppose a fellow gets an apartment with three rooms. Dining room, bedroom, living room.
Pirovitch: What do you need three rooms for? You live in the bedroom.
Alfred Kralik: Where do you eat?
Pirovitch: In the kitchen. You get a nice big kitchen.
Alfred Kralik: Where do you entertain?
Pirovitch: Entertain? What are you, an embassador? Who do you want to entertain? Listen listen, if someone is really your friend, he comes after dinner.
And then of course there is the dialogue between Klara and Alfred, who are just so stubborn and determined to be mean to each other.
Alfred Kralik: Are you disappointed?
Klara Novak : Psychologically, I'm very confused... But personally, I don't feel bad at all.

Four really big stars. To be watched again.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vivacious Lady (1938)

Some reasons I love this movie:
1. When Professor Peter Morgan (Jimmy Stewart) falls in love at first sight with night club singer/dancer Francey (Ginger Rogers), I believe it.
2. So many crazy scenarios are made possible by Peter's decision to wait before telling his very conservative university president father that he has married the unknown Francey during a trip to New York. Unfortunately, Peter doesn't manage to tell his family about Francey for a long long time.

3. Although Peter's cousin Keith shows early signs of wanting Francey for himself, when Peter and Francey are forced to spend their first night apart, Keith brings them each one of the toppers from their wedding cake to keep them company.

4. Ginger Rogers is tough. As Francey, she takes the woman who wants to be Peter's fiance and flips her right over her shoulder. She was provoked. A very funny scene.
5. The dance scene...
Three stars because the acting was great and the plot was really very funny. It think it lost that fourth star just for being a little too long. There were just a few too many crazy hijinks keeping the couple apart. Apparently TCM agrees. They called it "everlong." But I would definitely see this again.

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's a Wonderful World (1939)

Turner Classic Movies is really a wonderful thing... So many movies not available on Netflix or from the library... Like this one with Jimmy Stewart. Stewart is detective Guy Johnson, arrested for hiding a client who has been framed for murder. While in a train en route to prison, Johnson notices a newspaper ad that may just be the clue he needs to lead him to the real killer. Johnson's dramatic escape from the train is witnessed by poetess Edwina Corday, played by Claudette Colbert. The rest of the movie is one crazy hijink after another.
There is the kidnapping of the poetess,
The handcuffing of the poetess to himself,
The poetess's realization that Johnson is not a dangerous escaped convict, but a noble detective trying to save his client from death row... a realization that leads to many misguided attempts to help him,
And a stolen disguise.
Apparently Claudette Colbert was unhappy with the bickering road trip similarities between this movie and It Happened One Night, but I didn't mind. Three stars just for reminding me that Jimmy Stewart can be good in laugh-out-loud comedy. I would be happy to see this again. "I swear by my eyes."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Man Godfrey (1936)

Eccentric rich people can be very funny. Especially if one of them is played by Carole Lombard, who is wonderful at appearing effortlessly nutty in a variety of situations. In this situation, Lombard plays Irene Bullock, one of two Bullock sisters in a family in which each member is insanely eccentric in their own special way. Irene is an expert at throwing fits, sobbing, fainting, and overdramatizing. She is very good at getting her way, even if it takes drawing out her fits over months. Irene's sister Cornelia is more sinisterly eccentric. She is good at making biting comments and scheming up ways to destroy the lives of others. Mrs. Bullock is just dotty. She sees pixies when she's hung over, and she keeps a protege named Carlo, who spends his days eating the family's food and pretending to practice his music. He also can do an intensely accurate gorilla impression to try to cheer up Irene when she's having a fit. Mr. Bullock, the apparent long-suffereing man in a family of loopy women, is only slightly less eccentric than the rest of his family. His eccentricity seems to be that he is incapable of keeping the rest of his family in check. Enter into this crazy family the dignified butler Godfrey (William Powell), and you have My Man Godfrey.
Of course even Godfrey has his eccentricities, though. Before becoming the butler for the Bullocks, he was a living in a New York City dump. How did he end up working for the Bullocks? He was picked up in a scavenger hunt. Mrs. Bullock earned points by finding a goat... Irene Bullock managed to get the catch of the evening, a "forgotten man." After Godfrey helps Irene win the scavenger hunt, she impulsively hires him as the family's new butler, and he enters their crazy home...

...Irene falls almost immediately in love: "Oh, you're more than a butler. You're the first protege I've ever had."

...Mr. Bullock loses all semblance of control over the family finances: "Why should the government get more money than your own flesh and blood?"

...Cornelia seethes over the fact that Godfrey did not help her in the scavenger hunt and plots revenge: "Godfrey knows I'm not being personal, but after all, none of us would like to wake up some morning stabbed to death."

...and Mrs. Bullock demonstrates her crazy thinking about the world: "[Godfrey's] the first thing [Irene's] shown any affection for since her Pomeranian died last summer."

Godfrey calmly goes with the flow, intervening only when Irene is a little too amorous:
G: "Hasn't anyone every told you about certain proprieties?"
I: "Oh you use such lovely big words. I like big words. What does it mean?"
G: "Well, I'll try to simplify it. Hasn't your mother ever explained to you that some things are proper and some things are not?"
I: "No she hasn't. She rambles on quite a bit, but then she never says anything.
I would watch this again. Three stars. One for Carole Lombard, who is always entertaining, one for making me laugh even when there were holes in the plot, and one for William Powell's Godfrey, who is keeping an eccentric secret of his own.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rebecca (1940)

I love this movie. Joan Fontaine plays the second Mrs. de Winter, never given a first name in either the book by Daphne Du Maurier or the movie. While working as a companion to an elderly rich woman, the second Mrs. de Winter meets Mr. de Winter at a resort in Monte Carlo. He is moody and mysterious from the moment she meets him, an encounter during which he appears to be about to jump off of a cliff. She is completely unsure of what to make of him or if he even likes her. She is taken by surprise when he proposes marriage to her rather than lose her, when her companion packs up to sail off to New York.
When the second Mrs. de Winter arrives at the luxurious Manderley with her new husband, we find out why it is that she has no name of her own. She is living in the shadow of the first Mrs. de Winter... Rebecca. She is also at the whim of the creepy Mrs. Danvers, who came to Manderley with Rebecca and has remained devoted to her even after her assumed death in a boating accident. Mrs. Danvers is not so happy to see a new Mrs. de Winter taking Rebecca's place. And Mr. de Winter is too moody and busy to notice what is happening to his new wife. Or does he regret having married her at all?
Really the only thing that annoys me in Rebecca is the way Mr. de Winter treats his new wife from the moment he meets her. I know he is supposed to be a damaged, grief-stricken man, but being damaged and grief-stricken are more handy for explaining away intense moodiness than for explaining away why he thinks his new bride is a little child.
(1)"I'm not hungry."
"Eat up like a good little girl."
(2)He hides her tennis racket behind a plant after declaring they should go for a drive.
(3)"Stop biting your nails."
(4)"I'm asking you to marry me you little fool!"
But the future Mrs. deWinter does not seem to mind any of this. It seems to be what she expects. It is only the intense moodiness that seems to get her down. I suppose I should just be happy to be a young woman in the 21st century. Three stars, and I want Joan Fontaine's wardrobe from the movie. I would definitely see this again someday. It also makes me want to reread the book.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm No Angel (1933)

Well that was confusing... It is definitely a one star movie, but I just clapped at the ending. And not because it was over, but because I was laughing hysterically.

This movie raised a lot of questions for me:

Why was it not a bigger deal that when Tira (Mae West) was caught entertaining a rich man, her jealous co-worker showed up, hit the guy over the head, and the two of them left the man for dead in the hallway? It seems this was just a minor little mishap that created a need for Tira to make some more money.
"I think he's croaked."
"Where am I gonna put a stiff in this joint?"
"Put him out in the hall."

What did Tira's fortune teller think of her plan to make more money in the circus (she's in the circus!) by sticking her head in the lion's mouth during her lion act? She carries around an astrology booklet and seems to read it every morning, yet the new act seemed pretty impulsive.
"I'll even stick my head in the big cat's mouth!"
"Say, if them lions don't show some sense, I'm goin' down there and bite her myself."

Was Mae West really sticking her head in a lion's mouth? It sure looked like it. Where did the movie studio get all of those lions? And why can't I find a picture of them?

Why does Mae West include "Mmm-mm" at the end of almost everything she says? Character or actress? I suppose it goes well with phrases such as:
"When I was born with this face, it was the same as striking oil."
"Crazy for me, the guy's a pushover for me."
"I'll tell you this much. You're gonna like what I have in mind."
It also does go quite well with spritzing perfume all over one's self while singing, "No One Loves Me Like That Dallas Man..."

When on earth did Jack Clayton (Cary Grant) fall in love with Tira, and how did I miss it?
Jack arrived 49 minutes into the movie, and then 1 minute later they were talking marriage. The entirely unbelievable romance makes it impossible for me to give this movie more than one star, no matter how many ridiculous scenes made me laugh. The unbelievable romance and the cringe-inducing scenes with her black maids, that is.

Very important question: If David had been watching the final court scenes of the movie, in which Mae West saunters around the court room "Mmm-mm-ing" and cross-examining witnesses, would it have been more useful than the studying he was doing on his own for the bar?

And why did I not wear a crown at my wedding?

I will only see this movie again if Amy watches it with me. I'm not sure I would laugh as much seeing it a second time alone. Story and screenplay by Mae West.