Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Libeled Lady (1936)

Jean Harlow is my new favorite actress. She is the original blonde bombshell. I suppose that Marilyn Munroe did have more vulnerability, but I like Harlow for being the tough broad that she is, always a step ahead of the man, ready to head him off at the pass.

In real life she and William Powell were lovers and went to the Academy Awards together along with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard who was Powell's ex. It all sounds very free and 30s Hollywood.
I love Powell and Myrna Loy, so it's fun to find out who he personally was drawn to and see him play opposite her and Myrna in the same movie. In this movie he's the charming ex-newspaper man who is hired to seduce the heiress who is suing a newspaper for a false story.

In order to make his affair with ML a scandal, he has to be married to JH. It's quite entertaining, and I still don't know how it ends, which is good, but I'm really getting aggravated with Powell.


Okay, I finished watching - it was one of those comedies that keep you aggravated till the last second when of course it all works out. I know some people find those the best, but I felt aggravated on behalf of Spencer Tracy's character and Jean Harlow's character even AFTER they were all living happily ever after.

Well worth watching, some very fun, funny moments, but can't give it more than two stars and I WON'T watch it again.

It's also interesting to note that William Powell plays the same calm, wry, somewhat smug character out-witting everyone to his own advantage in these movies that he does in the Thin Man, but it's so much less sympathetic when he's outwitting people who you actually can care about like ST and JH's characters here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Pride and the Passion (1957)

Oh my schlocky goodness! If you are in the mood for some unbridled sentamentality about the heroism of a bloody resistance to occupation, this is your movie.

I was kind of avoiding this one. We now know that Cary Grant was so smitten with Sophia Loren that he would make just about any movie that cast him opposite her. In this movie she plays a Spanish peasant, Frank Sinatra plays a Spanish peasant, and Cary Grant plays a British naval captain - guess whose accent is the worst? I'll give joo wan gayce. Sinatra's accent begs the question - why do Americans playing people who wouldn't speak English have to speak with accents? In the beginning of the film, CG's character declares that the British sent him on this mission because he speaks Spanish and knows guns. Most of the Spaniards he spends the movie talking to are supposed to be peasants so we'll assume they don't speak English and the dialogue is kind of imagined to be translated from Spanish. So why does Sinatra have to speak heavily accented English? Why can't he speak like an American?

The movie is not quite as bad as Sinatra's accent, though. Mainly it concerns this giant gun, a cannon that is supposed to be 42 feet long and fire 96-pound cannonballs. It's kind of a cool concept - the gun was the pride of the Spanish army, but they are forced to abandon it during their retreat after being beaten by Napoleon. The Spanish resistance, with a little help from CG, who has been sent to retrieve the gun for Britain, decide to salvage it and try to move it to Avila, where the French have their headquarters in Spain, and attack the fortified city.

There are some great scenes involving the gun, those were my favorites. It's just huge and watching them figure out how to move it without alerting the French to its location is entertaining. It follows a good principle: you give your characters a clear goal and obstacles and you watch their character emerge as they problem-solve. And it works.

There is a love triangle: CG and FS both are in love with SL and she plays them both to get them to keep working on the project together when really they want to get into a fist fight over her. And there is resistance drama: FS rousing the peasants to do battle, FS authorizing his troops to steal from said peasants, and a couple of good scenes dealing with the finer points of guerilla warfare.

I would say it's actually not a horrible script, it's definitely a good story, but Sinatra's accent and to a lesser extent Sophia's accent and the little melodramatic touches get in the way. Also it's too long! 2:15!

Two stars for the story and the spectacular scenes with the gun. I'm going to try to forget Sinatra's accent. Will not watch again.