Monday, November 30, 2009

Pagan Love Song (1950)

I am now the proud owner of TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Volume 2. The Box Set. Thank you Mom and Dad. Prepare for silliness.

My brother Jeremy very reluctantly sat down to drink tea and watch this movie with me when I received the box set...

Mimi (Esther Willimas) is a beautifully tanned, white resident of Tahiti. She longs to leave the island to find a higher calling than living in paradise. She already has a boat ticket away. Hazard Endicott (Howard Keel) arrives on the island of Tahiti (Hawaii) to take hold of a plantation he has inherited. When he first sees Mimi she is in a canoe with her friends. He mistakes her for a native islander and tosses coins for her to catch, while speaking to her in really painfully slow and loud English. Mimi decides to mess with him, adopting an island accent and pretending to be what he thinks she is.
***Jeremy rolls his eyes.***

Endicott hires Mimi's two friends (one of whom is a very young Rita Moreno) to be his housekeepers (although he really wanted to hire Mimi). He is surprised by how small and run down his plantation is, but his new workers tell him it will look great when it is cleaned up. Endicott sings a song about the "house of singing bamboo."
***Jeremy snorts.***

Endicott comes to love his new house and the island. He sings a song involving lines like "How-dee-doo" and "You are well I trust?"
***Jeremy laughs.***

Endicott sings a reprise of his "House of Singing Bamboo" song while holding a pig in his lap.
***Jeremy tries to leave, but is is convinced to stay at least a little longer and finish his tea.***

Endicott finally discovers that Mimi is not really a native, when she invites him to a party at her house. He shows up in island attire, only to feel out of place when he is surrounded by white people in fancy suits and dresses. Endicott and Mimi fall in love, and Mimi's family become hopeful that she will stay on the island to be with him.

Endicott ends up with three island children staying with him, and he sings with them about etiquette.
"Etiquette, etiquette, always fold your serviette..."
***Jeremy raises his eyebrows and says, "Okay Jess, enjoy." He leaves.***

And so on, with some twists and turns, one involving the native workers leaving Endicott's coconut crop outside where it can rot in the rain and him getting very very angry. It was not as much fun to watch once Jeremy left. He didn't even get to see the synchronized swimming. Not the real swimming and not the fantasy swimming.

I feel like I've been typing this a lot lately, but one star. It would be hard to have a good movie with silly, happy islanders, some of whom are probably white people with their faces painted. Oh my. I may someday watch it again, though, because as with my least favorite Cary Grant movies, I do own it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kiss and Make Up (1934)

Oh no no no! Not a good Cary Grant movie!

Cary Grant plays the dashing Dr. Lamar of the famous Dr. Lamar's Temple of Beauty. Having given up his scientific ideals after medical school, Dr. Lamar is a cosmetic surgeon and beauty specialist who promises to help all women achieve "the pink and white complexion that is every woman's birthright." Should I mention that these words are spoken as we watch a black African woman and her two daughters sitting on the floor of their tropical home and rubbing Dr. Lamar's suggested face cream all over their faces?

Of course all of the women in Dr. Lamar's life are desperately in love with him, from patients to secretary Annie, played by Helen Mack. One woman who is in the office to inquire about a procedure for her mother even strips down to her slip when asked before admitting that she is not in fact a patient. Dr. Lamar's beauty ideals and the female "masterpieces" that he has created around him blind him to the beauty of "normal" women such as Annie. Annie can't be bothered to powder her nose, and she is actually capable of getting dressed in 15 minutes, "zippers permitting."

Dr. Lamar's real trouble begins when he falls for a married patient. Mrs. Caron has been visiting him for a very long time, much to the displeasure of Mr. Caron (Edward Everett Horton). Mr. Caron is horrified by the transformation his wife has undergone and threatens, "Doctor, put my wife back the way she was when I married her, or I'll take steps." Mr. Caron does not want his wife back the way she was because of his great love for her, though. He finds her to be too high maintenance now and is also adamant that a beautiful wife will be surrounded by lovers. "Do you realize what the husband of a woman like that is up against?" At first Dr. Lamar resists all of Mrs. Caron's advances (because of course the woman is trying to trap the poor innocent man).
"Are you so professional with all your patients?"
"Then why am I so...honored?"
But when Mr. Caron finally divorces his wife, Dr. Lamar very quickly marries her, "his masterpiece." For some reason Annie remains enamored with Dr. Lamar through all of this, even when he ditches her in his apartment, where she is taking dictation for his book, to run off to meet his gorgeous former patient Mrs. Caron.

Dr. Lamar and his new wife go off on their honeymoon, bringing Annie along so that she can continue to take dictation for the book. Of course Mr. Caron is also at the honeymoon resort celebrating his new freedom. Who does he fall for? Annie.
Possible best exchange of the movie, after Annie meets Mr. Caron while swimming...
Dr. Lamar: You allow men to pick you up in the water?
Annie: Why not? I weigh less there.

Of course Dr. Lamar realizes that he cannot make it to dinner on time with a wife who needs so much primping time. And of course he is horrified by the tasteless food she eats. And of course he is disgusted when he sees her in her face mask at night. I'm sure you can guess the ending of the movie. But do you know what funny animal is featured in the unnecessary high speed car chase leading to the end? Watch if you want to find out. (Or read the labels at the bottom of this post...)

One star. I may someday end up seeing it again, though, because of the fact that I own it in a box set. A previously unmentioned reason to maybe see this movie is that there are a few songs involved. Less of a draw is the ode to corn beef and cabbage sung by Annie and Mr. Caron. More of a draw is the song that Cary Grant sings twice about "Love Divided by Two."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thirty Day Princess (1934)

Oy. One star. My knitting project helped me to survive the movie. I'm not sure I could survive seeing this again, even though I own it.

What to say? A rich business man visiting the tiny country of Taronia befriends the king and learns that the country is much in need of money. He brings Princess Catterina (Sylvia Sydney) back with him to help interest Americans in the plight of Taronia so that they will buy bonds to fund improvements in the country. Sadly, Princess Catterina comes down with the mumps right after arriving. Is the money-raising scheme doomed to end before it has even begun? No! The business man has the brilliant idea to find a look-alike, a "thirty day princess" to play the part until the real princess can get back out of bed. Nancy Lane (also Sylvia Sydney, of course) is discovered in an automat stealing food. It turns out she is an out-of-work actress desperate for any job. Nancy's first job as the princess is to seduce the grumpy newspaper man Porter Madison III (Cary Grant), who has been publishing nasty articles about his theory that the Taronian bonds are a scam. What happens next is too easy...

Here it is, the moment when Porter Madison III falls in love with Nancy Lane (in her princess disguise):
He cannot resist her playful tossing of the expensive crystal wine glasses as she makes toast after toast to her ancestors.

After this, the country is in love with the fake princess, Porter Madison III is in love with the princess... all goes along swimmingly until the real princess's dolt of a fiance shows up. Two more men who have become convinced that the Taronian bonds are a scam discover that there is in fact a missing New Yorker who looks a whole lot like the princess, and who better than the princess's silly fiance to help them uncover what is really going on?

Will Porter Madison III still love the princess when she is no longer the princess? Will Taronia get its much needed money? I bet you know the answers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) accepts a case from a beautiful lady, Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), who says that her sister has run away with a dangerous man. She wants the man trailed and her sister back. When Spade's partner tails the man through the city, he is shot and killed. To complicate matters, the man he was trailing is killed just shortly after, and the police are trying to implicate Spade in the murders.

Spade then goes about trying to find out what the lovely Brigid O'Shaughnessy knows about the events that have unfurled and what she was really after when she asked him to tail a man. While wanting Spade's help to reach her true purpose, O'Shaughnessy has no intention of actually telling Spade all that she knows. She can spin a good lie and is used to being able to manipulate the men in her life. She is no match for the brilliantly sardonic Spade, however.

Brigid O'Shaughnessy: Help me.
Sam Spade: You won't need much of anybody's help. You're good. Chiefly your eyes, I think, and that throb you get in your voice when you say things like, "Be generous, Mr. Spade."

As Spade gets deeper and deeper in to the case he comes across a large cast of characters, including a wonderful criminal played by Peter Lorre, all in search of a valuable statue...the Maltese Falcon. I think that one of my favorite scenes may actually have been the scene where Peter Lorre's character shows up to try to search Spade's office.

No more plot, because it's more fun to feel surprised in a movie like this. Four stars, mostly for Humphrey Bogart and his excellent delivery of funny dialogue. Will see again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shall We Dance (1937)

This movie delivered all of the silliness that I have come to expect from a Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire movie but oddly not all of the dancing. One of the "nearly" dance acts involved the two of them walking somewhat rhythmically back and forth on a ship.... But why did they not dance together more often?

"I haven't even met her... But I'd kinda like to marry her."
Petrov (Fred Astaire) is a ballet dancer (he can do anything!) who falls in love at first sight when he sees a flip book of the dancer Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers).

"What? You do not want to dance with the great Petrov? Don't be a silly horse!"
Petrov's first attempt to woo Linda involves pretending to a be a crazy man: dancing about her apartment, speaking in a heavy Russian accent, and telling her that she is not good enough to ever dance with him. It turns out that Linda is sick and tired of silly dancers falling in love with her. She is about to return to America to marry her long-time admirer Jim and get out of the dancing business. Petrov, his manager, and the whole ballet then set sail from Paris to America on the same ship as Linda. Petrov's manager shakes a former member of the ballet who is interested in Petrov by telling her that Petrov has been secretly married for four years. The rumor festers...

"Oh, you've ruined your sweater. I'll have to fix it now."
Petrov finally gets Linda to pay attention to him when he stalks her in the dog walking area of the ship. He starts paying other passengers to let him walk their dogs. Finally one day he has so many dogs with him that Linda's dog excitedly follows him. Soon Linda and Petrov are walking together daily. In fact, they walk so much that Linda's little dog gets tangled in his sweater and has to sit down and watch.

"Do you realize that you're the father of my child?"
A rumor that Petrov and Linda are married reaches the ship. Linda is horrified and thinks that Petrov has started the rumor just to escape another woman. When Petrov's manager is shocked to hear the rumor, Petrov points out that the manager in fact was the one who started it.

"Who's got the last laugh now?"
Linda charters a plane to take her off of the ship. She in her plane and Petrov on the ship eventually make it to New York. When Linda is forced to dance with Petrov in a restaurant where they are both dining separately she realizes just how much fun dancing with him is. Yay! A dance number!

"I'll turn that dream stuff into a nightmare that will make history. Poor Lin."
Linda's manager wants to keep alive the rumors that she is married to Petrov so that she will not marry Jim and leave dancing. He comes up with a brilliant scheme to use a very realistic dummy of Linda that had been designed for some old promotion. He sneaks into Petrov's room at night, drapes the Linda model over him, and takes some new pictures for the press. Luckily, Petrov is such a heavy sleeper that he is not woken up by the flash bulbs.

"You like potatoes and I like potahtoes..."
In order to evade reporters, Petrov and Linda put on dark sunglasses and go rowing and roller skating in Central Park. This leads to song and roller skate dancing. A very good way to prove that you are in fact not a couple.

"Peter, you've got to marry me... If we can get married now, I can start divorce proceedings in the morning."
Again, another brilliant plan. Get married, so you can officially get divorced, thereby proving that you are not in fact married.

"I didn't realize getting married was so depressing."
After Linda puts on an amazing hat and marries Petrov, she begins to realize that she doesn't really want to divorce Petrov the next day. Until the original trouble-making lady appears in Petrov's room.

"All because of you and your practical dummy!"
Everything is a mess! Will Linda go through with the divorce? Will Petrov win her back with his crazy scheme to dance with dozens of women all wearing incredibly creepy Linda Keene masks? What will happen?

"If he couldn't dance with you, he'd dance with images of you!"
Awwww. And so on... I guess just two stars, as sad as that sounds, and I probably won't see this again. The Gay Divorcee is definitely my favorite so far.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

So, here is my very naive question: Is there a movie in which Marilyn Monroe does not play a ditz? Yes, yes, I'm supposed to know things like this. I just haven't seen very many of her movies. Only Some Like It Hot and Bus Stop (Amy, do you remember Bus Stop?). Oh, and that little moment of a part in All About Eve. This time, Marilyn plays a ditz with glasses who has to take her glasses off any time there is a chance of being seen by men. "You know what they say about girls who wear glasses." Sadly, this causes her to bump into things frequently and get even more confused than she is with the glasses on.

Three models, Schatze (Lauren Bacall), Pola (Monroe), and Loco (Betty Grable) move into a luxury condo in order to meet and catch millionaires to marry. Unfortunately for them, the rent is much too steep and they are forced to keep pawning their rented furniture. Schatze, having been married and cheated before, is adamant that the girls not waste any time on men without a fortune. Men like the ones Loco keeps bringing home.

One of Loco's unacceptable finds, Tom Brookman, falls for Schatze, but she only has eyes for the rich Texan widower J.D. Hanley (William Powell). Little does Schatze know that Brookman is in fact a millionaire. But while Brookman goes to great lengths to court Schatze (even booking the three girls to model clothes for him in a store!), he is careful not to let Schatze know about his wealth lest she pick him based on that. While Schatze chases after Hanley, who is afraid that she would be wasting her life to marry an old man, her friends go off and find the loves of their lives: men with no money! I will not give away the hilarious circumstances under which they find their loves. Her friends' happiness eventually causes Schatze to re-think her obsession with rich men, with terrible timing for the poor Mr. Hanley.

Three stars, and I would definitely see this again. Now, if I only I could write a new ending for William Powell's character.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nancy Drew: Detective / Nancy Drew: Reporter (1938)

Gee, Gosh, was Nancy Drew really this ditzy? Not in the books. In fact, my friend Yvonne, who remembers the books quite well, was especially upset while watching Bonita Granville's pouty, ditzy performance.

In Nancy Drew: Detective, Nancy tries to find a missing rich lady who has disappeared right before donating a large sum of money to Nancy's prep school for girls. The search involves following a carrier pigeon by car, taking aerial photographs to find the kidnappers' house, and watching her friend turn an old x-ray machine into a radio transmitter to call for help. In Nancy Drew: Reporter, Nancy is disappointed in her assignment for a contest at the local paper and steals a real reporter's assignment. She finds herself trying to investigate a murder in order to clear the name of a framed woman. Nancy solves all of these crimes with the help of her reluctant "friend" Ted Nickerson (why the movie people changed his name from Ned is beyond me). She bosses him around, gets him in trouble, makes him dress up as a lady... he whines a lot and stumbles clumsily over things.

The world according to Nancy Drew:
"I think every intelligent woman should have a career."
"That conceited tweet-tweet!"
"Quit disturbing the molecules!"
"You hooligans!"
"I guess it's just my woman's intuition. Every woman has one, you know."
"Well statistics prove from ages 15-20 a woman is mentally 5 years older than a man of the same age."
"Guess my woman's intuition didn't function this time."

But, however ditzy she appeared to be in these movies, Nancy did get the job done. Two stars, and I really don't feel like checking out the rest of the series. My curiosity has been satisfied.