Saturday, July 24, 2010

Follow the Fleet (1936)

Oh, I hope I never run out of Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movies. In this movie they play Bake and Sherry. Bake is in the Navy, Sherry is a dancer who once rejected Bake's marriage proposal. When Bake comes into town on shore leave, he runs into Sherry, and they both rethink their separation. Bake messes up Sherry's very important audition, though, and all bets are off. How do you say sorry? Give someone a monkey and screw with their next big audition, not necessarily in that order.
There was also a bizarre side-story involving Bake's friend Bilge, played by Randolph Scott. After having one great date with Sherry's sister Connie, he felt that he was still free to play the field, and she felt that they had made an amazing connection and were getting married. Bilge's thoughts on Connie's thoughts? "She's a swell kid, but she's serious... She's sappy like you [Bake] - she wants to get married." And oddly none of Connie's friends told her that she was being a bit silly fixing up her father's giant boat just for Bilge and waiting for his proposal after just one date. There wasn't even any word from him while he was back at sea, and still she waited. She was told oh, he's just being silly... He'll figure it all out in time. She is told to fight for her man. But she practically imagined him! Nonetheless... do you think she got him in the end?
While watching the movie, my dad was busy looking up information about it. Apparently the dress worn by Ginger Rogers when she and Fred Astaire danced to "Let's Face the Music and Dance" (above) was so heavily weighted that she had to learn how to move while wearing it. And apparently she bonked Fred Astaire in the face. It was weighted so it could then effortlessly do things like this:
...which is of course a very important part of a Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire movie.

Despite my love of the actors, I really want to give this movie one star. But I'm going to give it two stars due to the scene where they navy guys are all practicing for a benefit show on the ship deck, and some of the men have to be "dames." I really don't want to see it again, though. There were entertaining moments, but I think the whole buzz behind this movie is that it has what is considered to be one of Astaire and Rogers's best dance numbers (with the 25 pound dress). But that was not enough for me. I still love them in general, though!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Where the Boys Are (1960)

Four "co-eds" from a fictional university in the midwest head to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break (which is still called spring vacation in 1960).

Apparently a wild spring break time in 1960 meant crowded beaches, public drunkenness, long discussions about sex while fending off the advances of young men, and limbo.
The four girls rent a hotel room and set about finding boys - all except the one who seems to be named Merritt - although that name seems preposterous - who is brainy and wants to study. But of course she ends up meeting someone, it's a silly teen beach movie!
The girls have the cutest outfits, the cutest lines...
MERRITT: Okay, what happened to you?
MELANIE: I've been dining, I've been dancing, I've been drinking! Shh!
MERRITT: (to Tuggle) Put on some coffee, I'll get her things off.
MELANIE: Mair I've been drinking grasshoppers! Mair have you ever tasted a grasshopper?
MERRITT: Not intentionally, no.
MELANIE: No, Mair no, not a grasshopper that hops, Mair, a grasshopper in a glass that's green!
TUGGLE: You'll be green, too, in the morning.

The upbeat story takes a dark turn towards the end that left me kind of green, myself. I started to give it three stars but I think that having date rape be part of a beach movie - with the message that you'll be ruined for life if you don't stay a virgin till you get a ring - is a little harsh, so I'm deducting a star.

Still, it's an entertaining look at what life might have looked like on the cusp of the sexual revolution when good girls were still supposed to be desperately trying to hold on to old-fashioned values against the turning tide and the evening's entertainment might include a live girl in a fish tank. How's a good girl to compete with a soaking wet dime-store version of Marilyn Munroe?
Two stars - might be persuaded to watch again...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mame (1958)

Few things to note right off the bat:
- this version is not the musical
- this is going in my top ten - or at least my top fifteen

Rosalind Russell plays Mame, the flamboyant single aunt into whose care Patrick Dennis is deposited after his father's death. Mame knows how to redecorate her large New York City home; Mame knows how to throw a party; Mame knows how to dress (the costumes in this one are a real treat), but what does Mame know about raising a child?

It turns out that Mame's frank manner and doting affection more than make up for her lack of experience. In a series of scenes from Patrick's life, we see him pulled between the staunchly conservative influence of the trustee of his father's estate "Uncle Dwight" and the flaming liberal influence of Mame.

It's a fun and funny series of incidents with lots of colorful characters and one very cute kid. I also loved the funky decor which almost functioned as an extra character. There are two long-suffering servant characters - a Chinese butler/valet and an Irish maid who are ridiculously and endearingly loyal. How they resisted making them sillier and more offensive I'll never know, but they aren't bad.

I am very fond of zany Aunt Mame and her antics. Four stars and I definitely plan to watch again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Wings of Eagles (1957)

I could not finish watching this movie about a Navy pilot played by John Wayne. He's a maverick who likes to take risks and drive his wife crazy. There's a lot of stuff about the need to fund the Navy's airplanes and pilots and the politics surrounding that which I didn't care enough about to follow.

I plan to come back and finish it, but I might not. John Wayne is ALWAYS playing John Wayne and I guess I'm not as interested in how the Navy learned to land planes on boats as I thought I might be.
UPDATE: Well I did go back to this and skipped to the end to see what happens. Seems he ends up a big hero (surprise) and retiring with some impressive war wounds. At least I thought they were war wounds until I skipped around and discovered they were caused by a domestic accident. Also his long suffering wife is LONG-suffering.
I guess bio-pics tend to be like this: long and rambling and not making much sense or necessarily paying off the way you think they will.
One star, not planning to watch again.

1776, the Musical (1972)

A musical comedy about the founding of the country? Sign me up for that! At present moment I am watching the decision to debate independence in congress be decided by Rhode Island after returning from the privy.

Ribald jokes, complaints about the plumbing and the flies - this is probably a pretty realistic portrayal of congress, actually. I know history has to be manipulated a little to allow for the right number of characters and things like rhymes in songs - but is that really much worse than the changes that are made in history books?
I was about to say something about this movie making history interesting to young people but since Kimberly just fell asleep I am going to abandon this line of thought.
Two stars for the movie, three stars for making me think about US history on Forth of July weekend.
Will probably try to watch again with the kids next week.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

I think it's time for me to see a really really old Bette Davis movie. Perhaps one where she's not made up to look like a psychopath or acting the part of a psychopath. Because as good as she is at being a psychopath (and I really think she's one of the best), I think she may have done other work. Or has she?
Anyways, I did have to see this movie. It's well-known, and I hadn't seen it yet. And I did enjoy it. It just makes me wonder what else Bette Davis can do. This film is as creepy as the Baby Jane doll in the above photo. For an even creepier photo, search for color shots of Bette Davis's make-up on the internet. Davis plays an aging child star stuck caring for her crippled former grown-up star sister (Joan Crawford). While Joan Crawford's character is entirely dependent on Baby Jane, she is also more than a little afraid of her and is working hard on a plan to sell the house and move, sending the wacky Baby Jane to a place where she can be cared for.
Unfortunately, Baby Jane is not as dumb as she is insane. When she figures out what her sister is trying to do, she doesn't approve. And people start dying.

Three stars, and I would see it again, mostly to help others experience it.