Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monkey Business (1952)

Despite what the box might make you think, this movie is not about Marilyn Monroe's character at all. This is a movie about Barnaby (Cary Grant), who thinks he has created some magical formula that makes you act and feel much younger than you are, and his wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers). Marilyn Monroe plays a secretary at the chemical lab where Barnaby works, and she goes along with him on his day of feeling 20. They roller skate, go to the pool, crash a car... But Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers are the fun parts of this not-so-wonderful movie.
If I could ignore the fact that the plot is touched off by a chimpanzee getting loose, accidentally creating a brilliant chemical formula, and then dumping the formula in the water cooler so it can begin to confuse and alter everyone, I could concentrate on the fact that I would like to see more of Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers. "Tell me, is anyone giving a party tonight we can stay home from?" Grant and Rogers have some good lines together. And she dances, and he even does a cartwheel. And he sings. Just leave out the chimps, and put them in a different movie together. Two stars, because this movie was so much better than Thank Your Lucky Stars, which I also just wrote about, but I am ready to search out other Grant/Rogers films.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Browsing in the library and picking up an un-heard of movie... is it a good idea? Not really.
This movie has a lot of big names... most of them play themselves. Despite the fact that the synopsis on the box claimed there was a plot, it took a good 20 minutes before I believed there was one, because I just kept hearing the stars' names in the movie. And nothing was happening. Eddie Cantor (himself) hosts a radio variety show. Edward Everett Horton (not himself) and friend hear Dinah Shore (herself) sing on the show and decide that they must have her for their upcoming star-studded production. Sadly for them, Dinah comes along with allowing Cantor to be on the board, and Cantor has really annoying ideas.

Most of the plot comes from a wanna-be singer who ends up with a contract to sing on Cantor's show, without Cantor's permission. Excited wanna-be singer meets an annoying wanna-be songwriter woman, and the two of them, along with a "homes of the stars" tour guide, stalk Cantor as he throws them out of his sets multiple times. The tour guide, by the way, is played by Eddie Cantor. Much of this might have been at least a little funnier had the name Eddie Cantor meant anything to me before this movie. There is some hilarity (insane asylum, elephant...), but mostly there is just a really boring movie with some awful dialogue and musical acts.

Low points: Bette Davis's (as herself) number in the musical production and Olivia deHavilland's (as herself) number

High point: Errol Flynn's (as himself) musical number... "Oh that voice is so divine... I'm sorry it isn't mine"

Was this movie fun for the people in it? Was it entertaining when it came out? One star, and I really don't want to see this again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Top Hat (1935)

Ahhhh. This is a four star movie and near perfect Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Zany and fun plot, great lines, lovely (and insane) dresses, and fancy footwork. The only reason I call it "near perfect" and not "perfect" is that Astaire and Rogers kept their feet mostly on the ground in this movie. No unusual dancing up and over furniture or on walls to make it extra exciting. But I can't always expect dancing on walls.

The movie opens beautifully with Jerry Travers (Astaire) trying to silently fold his paper in a "silent" club while waiting for Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton), the producer of a show in which he's about to star. Horace sets Jerry up staying with him in his hotel and then tells Jerry that he wants Jerry to fly to Italy with him after the show to meet up with his wife Madge (Helen Broderick) and some girl Madge wants to fix Jerry up with. Jerry doesn't really want to go.
Jerry: "Is she expecting me for a weekend or a wedding?"
Horace: "You know how wives are..."
Jerry: "No I don't. How are they?"
Horace: "...always have a scheme... It's time you found out for yourself."

Jerry especially doesn't want to go anywhere after he meets the beautiful Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers), another hotel guest. Jerry meets Dale when he tap dances in the room above her while she's trying to sleep, and she has to come upstairs and give him a piece of her mind. Jerry tells Dale that she can help cure him of the dancing with a good hug, to which she replies, "Well I'll call the house detective and tell him to put his arms around you." I'm choosing to think of the whole thing as a meet cute... Jerry woos Dale with flowers and then by paying off a hansom cab driver to give him the cab so that Jerry can drive Dale to the stables the next day. Dale discovers Jerry is her driver only when he starts to tap dance above her.
Dale starts to fall for Jerry at the stables when he dances with her in the rain.
Jerry: "May I rescue you?"
Dale: "...I prefer being in distress."
The thunder drives Dale to seek out Jerry for comfort in the gazebo in which they are both waiting out the storm, and pretty soon they are dancing and in love.

Happiness leads to mistaken identity and anger, though, when it turns out that Dale is Madge's friend. And Dale, never having met Madge's husband, thinks that Jerry is really Horace. She is suddenly horrified by his advances, slaps him, and gives him the motivation he needs to fly off to Italy to continue to woo her. He has no idea what he did to make her so mad.

The rest of the movie is all about mistaken identity and is, in my opinion, hilarious. It also seems to have pretty much the same cast as my other favorite mistaken identity movie, The Gay Divorcee, also a must-see.
Dale tells Madge that Madge's husband is chasing her:
"Really, I didn't know he was capable of that much activity... Did he catch you?"
Jerry wants to propose to the still confused Dale:
"Alright, you go find all about her past, and I'll go find out about her future."
Jerry and Dale dance with a crazy dress Dale is being payed to model:
And Dale receives nutty advice from Madge about how to protect herself from further advances:
"Here or there, as long as you remain a spinster you're fair game for any philandering male... You know um, what you really should have is a husband you can call your own."

Ahhh, what a movie. I will definitely see this again someday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)

What an annoying movie. My quest to find an old an un-insane Bette David movie led me to this accidental find while browsing in the library. Sometimes there is a reason for not having heard of a movie.

Joan Winfield (Bette Davis) is an heiress about to elope with a band leader she has only known for a few weeks. Her oil rich father does not approve. When Joan and her fiance hire a pilot to fly them to Vegas for a quick wedding, hilarity ensues. Pilot Steve Collins (James Cagney) has just lost his plane to creditors. What to do? Call up Joan's dad of course and offer to fly her to her dad rather than to Vegas. Collins charges $10 per pound, just the right amount to pay his creditors. Joan's father thinks this sounds good because, "She won't weigh so much after an all night trip."

Joan doesn't much appreciate having her fiance tricked out of the plane and then being kidnapped. Her early attempt to jump out of the plane backfires, though, when Steve loses control of the plane trying to stop her and they crash land in the desert. There is a running gag in which Joan and Steve take turns falling on cacti throughout the movie. The cacti get their own dopey music, and Joan, while she still hates Steve, gets to lie across his lap while he picks prickers out of her butt. All while going through his picnic basket of fattening food... Steve is still hoping to get more money upon delivering her.
The dopey cacti music was just one sign that this was a dopey movie. Joan and Steve spend some time with an old hermit living in a ghost town, they cave in an old mine, there is a joke about marriage: "One of you's gettin' married, the other's going to jail. So you really got a lot in common," and eventually the characters don't couple up as originally planned. A slapstick comedy that caused more groaning and cringing than laughing. One star, and I don't really want to see this again. Still in search of entertaining early Bette Davis movies...