Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)

OMG I'm in love with Preston Sturges!
About a year ago, I had a conversation with noted television producer Scott Moschella and he recommended Preston Sturges to me. I've created a Tivo wishlist, but this is the first movie I've captured with it - and it was AWESOME. So, thanks, Scott!

Trudy Kockenlocker is a small-town girl who can't resist a man in uniform. So when her overly-strict father forbids her to attend the farewell dance for the "boys" she convinces local sap Norval Jones to take her to the movies and then sneaks off to the party.

Poor Norval! Trudy plays him like a fiddle, tears up his car, and leaves him waiting at the movie theater all night. When she finally returns, she can't remember where she has been.

From what she recalls, Trudy thinks she might have impetuously married one of the soldiers under an assumed name. Unfortunately for Trudy, she turns out to be pregnant.

Of course, adorable devoted Norval is eager to help her out of this jam and, of course, hilarity ensues.

Trudy's little sister, Emmy, is one of the gems of the film with great deadpan lines.

It's almost like a Farrely Brothers film except - it's so feel-good and the plot, despite being 64 years out-of-date, is not predictable. It's just a great cast of characters in a comedy of errors compounding errors compounding errors.

Four stars, will definitely watch again and I'm sure I'll get more out of it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

When Worlds Collide (1951)

Oh, wow.

The planet Zyra and the star Bellus are hurtling toward Earth! Zyra will pass close enough to cause chaos on Earth ("1:00 on the afternoon of July 24," to be precise)... There will be tidal waves! Eruptions! Nineteen days later Bellus will collide with Earth and destroy us all! After this discovery is made by a scientist in South Africa, our dashing star, David, a mere courier, is hired to fly the data to the American scientist Dr. Hendron. Dr. Hendron's scientist daughter Joyce is immediately smitten with David, eventually dumps her fiance, and sets off the love story portion of the movie. Dr. Hendron, meanwhile, is laughed at by the scientific community when he makes his information public. He ignores the laughter, though, and sets off to build a rocket that will take about 40 lucky people away from Earth before the star hits and land them on Zyra, where they hope to start a new colony for the survival of our culture.

Just look at their rocket...

What to say about this movie? One thought I had as I watched was that an interesting drinking game might involve drinking something each time you can identify anything about this movie that seems to have led to something in a current disaster movie. Maybe someone else can work out the details.

The other big thought I had is that this is probably just one step away from being a perfect Mystery Science Theater movie. I certainly sounded like I was on Mystery Science Theater while I was watching it. Hopefully I wasn't too annoying!

burlap space suits...

I really cannot give this movie more than one star, but I can totally imagine watching it again. Thank you so much to my dad for buying (!) this movie and lending it to me.

(Why??? Why are people currently in pre-production talking about a 2008 remake of this movie??? Did someone feel it is important to remake it without the burlap space suits?)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Notorious (1946)

I have watched and re-watched so many Hitchcock movies, and it just occurred to me that I have never once spotted Hitchcock doing one of his cameos, aside from after the movie if there's a DVD feature that shows it to me. I'm going to choose to believe that this is because I am so involved in the plots of the movies and not that I am completely unobservant. Anyways, I've been meaning to see this one since "Suspicion," because I had parts of the plots confused.

Notorious: Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia, the daughter of a Nazi spy who killed himself in prison. Cary Grant plays an American agent, Devlin, who recruits Alicia to spy on her father's former friends. He brings her to Rio de Janeiro, where she is expected to infiltrate a group of German scientists. When Alicia and Devlin first arrive in Rio, they don't know the full details of Alicia's assignment. As they wait for their orders, Alicia falls in love with Devlin, and Devlin does his best to pretend that he has not fallen for her. Devlin finally receives word that the assignment calls for Alicia to seduce a former friend of her father's who was once in love with her, Alexander Sebastian ("...Claude Rains was the invisible man..."!). He is horrified and tries but fails to tell the other American agents that it is not a job Alicia should be made to do. He returns to Alicia's apartment (where she has been preparing a lovely romantic dinner for him), and tells her the assignment. Alica is just as horrified as Devlin and is upset by the seemingly emotionless way in which Devlin tells her about it. All she wants is for Devlin to admit that he loves her and does not want her to take the assignment. Devlin is unable to do this and doesn't even tell her that he tried to get her out of it. This all leads to Alicia's wonderfully delivered line, "Oh, we shouldn't have had this out here. It's all cold now." Alicia is reintroduced to Sebastian, very quickly marries him, and begins to feed Devlin information about the scientists who meet frequently at the house. Unfortunately for Alicia, Sebastian discovers her treachery, putting her into even greater danger. I will not give the ending away. Just know that Cary Grant is wonderful.

I realized that while I watch Cary Grant movies, I am always evaluating which Cary Grant characters I would run away with. Devlin, I think, is not quite right for me. It would be too tortured what with neither of us giving away our feelings. I remain most likely to run off with Johnny Case from "Holiday." Four stars for this movie... I am sure I will see it again someday. Time to see "Holiday" again!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Father Goose (1965)

I confess I could not get this movie the first time around. And I confess it's become sort of a favorite since then. It's a strange movie, probably mostly because of the weird chemistry between the very young prim French woman and the older slovenly drunk American soldier.

And yet, it's got something - I'm starting to sound like a broken record tonight so maybe this means that Cary Grant is the something. A man who can somehow leap over absurdity in a single bound and make us love the ridiculous. I wonder if Steve Martin is like the closest thing we have to a Cary Grant in our generation only - let's face it, Steve - not quite as handsome.

Yup, CG has the physical comedy down like John Cleese or Steve Martin - and yet he has more charm than George Clooney double-dating with Richard Gere. I'm telling you, he is the MAN.

Cary, you are the MAN.

Anyhow, back to the movie...CG plays a drunk and disorderly soldier left alone to watch for planes on an island in the South Pacific. He is only motivated by his desire to find liquor that his commander has hidden on the island to motivate him.

Enter a damsel in distress...Cary is sent to fetch a diplomat's grown daughter escorting a troop of other diplomats' daughters who have crashed? or been abandoned? on a desert island nearby. He rescues them to his island and they set up house, sort of.

Cary befriends the children, the prim and proper diplomat's daughter can't stay prim and proper on a desert island, and the rest is...history.

The best scene involves a snake bite and is about halfway through the movie.

For that scene if nothing else, this one is also a must-watch.

Three stars. Am watching again right now.

Operation Petticoat (1959)

Cary Grant just keeps working!

Here he is in 1959 playing the captain of a submarine in a tough spot. I'm a little hazy on the details, but somehow this luckless submarine has never seen a battle and yet has too many mechanical problems to be approved to go back into action. Nevertheless, they need to get it under way.

There is a lot of comedy at the expense of the way the Navy runs things. All about requisitioning toilet paper and the black market for parts and supplies. Tony Curtis plays the man adept at working back channels to get things.

The sub ends up taking off without it's proper top coat of paint, so it's pink. Then Tony Curtis convinces the captain to take some WAC nurses on board for the ride. And - you guessed it! - hilarity ensues.

There is a lot of entertainment in young Tony Curtis and mature Cary Grant playing off each other. There is plenty of sexism (and racism where the islanders of the South Pacific are concerned) to go around and the whole movie just gets very silly when they go into battle with the women aboard.

However, there are redeeming points including:

- A scene in which Cary Grant demands Tony Curtis give up his tight white tennis shorts for regular army gear.
- A female engineer teaching a male engineer a thing or two.
- An indescribible scene with a pig being passed off as a soldier.

Two stars - and yet it is a MUST watch.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Houseboat (1958)

This is kind of like "Parent Trap" meets "Swiss Family Robinson" or something...

Cary Grant plays a successful businessman - or is he a diplomat? I forget - oh he's a lawyer - whose estranged wife is killed suddenly before they are officially divorced. The wife's parents and sister expect to take his three children and keep them on the family farm, but the CG impulsively decides he will take them to live with him.

However, he hasn't been a hands-on parent in a long time and he quickly loses track of his impish son. Cue Sophia Loren, the bored daughter of a famous conductor who is being wined and dined in Washington while her father conducts the symphony. She sneaks out to go slumming a la Audrey H. in Roman Holiday, really.

Along the way, she picks up the runaway boy with a kind word and then can't shake him. Finally she takes him home, but they've both become so disheveled that his father assumes she is a maid. Treats her quite rudely. Soon he has a change of heart and decides to hire her as a nanny.

All this leaves us house boat. The house boat is the result of a very silly side plot but the whole story unfolds pretty amusingly. There is even a boy chasing Sophia and the sister of the dead wife chasing Cary to add to the fun.

The odd, precocious young children and the absurdity of a stunning, accomplished young woman (Sophia Loren!) chasing after an older man with three kids are outweighed by the sheer silly charm of the scenes.

Also, there are a few songs. The catchiest song became my anthem this spring when I watched the movie - it's about living life with a Bim Bom Bam and it's as nonsensical and pleasant as the whole darn film.

Three Stars, will watch again.

Side note: Cary Grant had been married to Betsy Drake for nine years at the time of the filming (I put Deborah Kerr the first time I posted this but I was tragically WRONG thanks Barbara for figuring it out!). But he had a terrible crush on Sophia Loren and insisted that she be cast in this movie (did they invent the traveling composer father to explain why she was foreign?). Unfortunately for him, Sophia was already involved with Carlo Ponti, the Italian filmmaker, to whom she became engaged during the course of filming. Apparently this made for a rather tense time on the set once it was announced. OMG just found out that Betsy Drake wrote the original script which was then re-written to accommodate Sophia AWK-ward.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Saboteur (1942)

Three stars. I would probably watch it again some day.

At the beginning of the movie Barry (Robert Cummings) is working in an aircraft factory. Suddenly a fire starts in one of the hangers. When Barry and his friend rush over to help, the mysterious Mr. Fry (Norman Lloyd), hands them a fire extinguisher. Barry's friend enters the hanger and is blown up. Within a few hours, Barry is suspected of sabotage. It turns out that that fire extinguisher handed to him by Fry, that Barry then handed to his friend, was full of gasoline. Barry runs from the police to try to find Fry and clear his own name. Eventually, after a wonderful scene involving a horse chase (yay, a horse chase!), Barry takes refuge in the cabin of a wise blind man. Being a wise blind man, the man can of course hear that Barry is wearing handcuffs, knows Barry is wanted as a dangerous saboteur, but also is able to sense that Barry must be a good-hearted man who has been wrongly accused. The wise blind man tells his niece Pat (Priscilla Lane of Arsenic and Old Lace) to take Barry to the blacksmith to have his handcuffs removed. Pat is not quite convinced of Barry's innocence and tries to take him to the police station, and Barry is forced to abduct her and drag her along with him as he continues to run from the law.

It is worth watching this movie because:

*You get to see Hitchcock's art.
*Barry and Pat spend part of a night riding in a train caboose with some kindly (and some grumpy) circus performers. The bearded lady is very sweet, of course.
*Pat writes a "Help Me!" note in lipstick and throws it out the window of a skyscraper.
*There is an exciting chase and much drama inside and hanging from the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

This must have been a scary movie when it came out in 1942, what with the American citizens colluding with Nazis and committing horrifying acts of sabotage.