Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Indiscreet (1958)

Cary Grant... Ingrid Bergman... "romantic comedy." Sounds like what I need right now. All in all, it was silly and not the best work by either of them, but it turned out to be an entertaining movie to watch while packing and doing school work. Really, the last part of the movie is where most of the comedy enters the picture. I chuckled at the ending line.
Anna Kalman (Bergman) has given up on finding the right man. Her most recent find, "the one who looked like a Greek statue," has turned out to be rather silly. Or in Anna's words, "He talked like a Greek statue. I don't think he knew more than a dozen words." Anna's sister doesn't seem to have a very good opinion of men herself, telling Anna, "I don't know what you expect from a man. You know there's a limit to how entertaining they can be." But Anna believes "they ought to be able to talk a little, simple sentences."

And then Philip (Grant) enters the room, and it's love at first sight for Anna. Philip is dashing, speaks clearly and intelligently about monetary policy while wearing enormous glasses, and is an excellent dinner date. Unfortunately, after their first dinner together, Philip admits, "I'm a married man, Miss Kalman." And thus begins the tortured staring at each other set to music, the long phone calls, and the secret dinners and late night drinks.
But, spoiler:
Philip, it turns out, has developed an insane way of dating without raising any expectations. "I don't care to be married," he says. "On the other hand, I have no intention of giving up women." Anna has found herself a catch. Hilarity and revenge ensue.

Two stars. If it weren't for the fact I own this movie as part of a box set, I probably wouldn't be tempted to see it again. For great Grant and Bergman, watch Notorious.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

"Oh Dexter, I'll be yar now... I promise I'll be yar." And with statement, the independent, smart, and funny Tracy Lord (played by Katherine Hepburn) gives in to her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and admits that women should be sweet and manageable and that she has been wrong to be so strong in the past. Warning: Although I do love some things about this movie, I'm not feeling very generous toward it at the moment. I forgot between viewings just how many painfully obnoxious moments there are.

The movie begins with Tracy preparing for her marriage to a second husband. The first marriage, we learn, ended because of Dex's (Grant's) drinking problem. A paper wants to do a story on the wedding (Tracy is high society), but Tracy is too private to allow photos. The paper's head honcho happens to have a story on Tracy's dad, who happens to be having an affair. He blackmails Dex into bringing a reporter and a photographer into Tracy's family home, promising to sit on the story on Mr. Lord as long as there's a story on the wedding. James Stewart plays the wonderfully sarcastic reporter who falls for Tracy. Much hilarity ensues, involving swimming, champagne, crooning, and huge hangovers.
My problem with the plot, is that we are later shown that Dex's drinking wasn't really the worst of things in Dex and Tracy's marriage. The worst of things was that Tracy was a "distant goddess," unable to accept frailty in others or to offer womanly warmth and support. First Dex tells Tracy this. Then James Stewart makes some statements confirming it...only he doesn't mind. He's new enough to like putting her up on a pedestal as a "queen." Then... final straw... Tracy's somewhat-estranged father returns from his affair with a young dancer in NYC and essentially blames Tracy for the fact that he had an affair.

And here it is, the most annoying part of the movie:
Mr. Lord: What most wives fail to realize is that their husband's philandering has nothing whatsoever to do with them.
Tracy: Oh? Then what has it to do with?
Mr. Lord: A reluctance to grow old, I think. I suppose the best mainstay a man can have as he gets along in years is a daughter - the right kind of daughter.

And then he goes on to explain. You see, Mr. Lord just needed a way to hold on to some of his youth, but instead of being blessed with a sweet young daughter to help him, he ended up with a harsh, shall we say "shrew," of a daughter who had a "prejudice against weakness." Seems she didn't like putting up with a constantly drunk husband or a dad who was off very publicly cheating on her mom.

Another way of looking at this movie is that it is in the "divorced, but will they find their way back together?" category of films. Cary Grant seems to be in a bunch of these. I believe the lesson in this film is that if you let yourself be tamed, yes, you can have a second chance. Despite my rants, I'm still giving this three stars, because the acting was fantastic, and I'm willing to put some blame on the time period in which it was made. And Dex does at least tell Tracy, "Be whatever you like, you're my redhead," and he has given up his drinking when he returns. Anyways, I know I'll see this and rant and laugh many more times.

P.S. - Something enjoyable that does not come with a rant:
With 12 movies on this blog already tagged with "odd precocious little girl," I can't believe one of them was not this movie. Virginia Weidler, as usual, plays the perfect "odd precocious little girl," from her early comment about the papers being "full of innundo" to her dramatic interpretation of a spoiled little rich girl, when she and Tracy try to mess with the reporters sent to do the story on Tracy's wedding.
And of course there's her comment about the fancy dress she wears to the wedding...
Mrs. Lord: I think that dress hikes up a little behind.
Dinah: No... I do.
I am a huge fan of Virginia Weidler.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fiesta (1947)

Another Esther Williams film that doesn't even feature swimming? What does she do?
Bullfighting of course! My friend Yvonne and I sat down to watch this movie even after all of my warnings that a non-swimming movie in the Esther Williams box set volume 2 was bound to be scary. And we did have fun...

The story begins in a town in Mexico, when former star bullfighter Antonio Moralas meets his new baby daughter. He does very little to hide his disappointment that she is a girl. Even his assurance of, "Don't think I'm disappointed because she is a girl," is negated by his elation when a twin baby boy appears minutes later. "Gracias!" he tells his wife, and the whole staff is invited to drink to the baby boy. Even when the little girl grows up to be Esther Williams (playing Maria Morales), Mr Moralas only has eyes for his son, who he expects to become a great bullfighter like himself. Sadly for Mr. Moralas, though, his son Mario (Ricardo Montalban) is busy writing concertos that are "as beautiful as a hundred butterflies." Maria is the one who's interested in bulls.
The plot thickens when Maria sends Mario's concerto to a famous composer, the composer shows up to meet Mario the genius, and Mr. Moralas hides the visit from Mario so as not to distract him from bullfighting. When Mario learns of his father's deceit he runs off. Of course the only way Maria can think of to bring him back is to dress herself as her twin brother and enter bullfights in his name. Of course.

Questions raised:
Does a bullfight really end when you tap a bull on the head? And does that really make the bull just lie down and act pleasant? Or does that just work for Esther Williams? I assume the real thing ends with something more gruesome... Perhaps that's why the camera swings away right before she taps the bull on the head...

Two stars, because I'm feeling generous, and someone was doing a nice job working with the animals in the bull ring, but once was enough.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

To Catch a Thief (1955)

Every once in a while it's nice just to watch a movie I already know I like. Enter To Catch a Thief, a Hitchcock film with great acting, great dialogue, and fascinating wardrobe choices. And of course Cary Grant is Cary Grant, looking suave even in a crazy red with white polka dots silk scarf wrapped around his neck.
But of course he is suave, not only is he Cary Grant, he is playing John Robie, a former jewel thief turned hero of the French resistance. Robie comes under suspicion after a string of jewel thefts, all bearing his famous mark. With the police on his tail, he escapes by boat to Cannes, where he makes his first costume change. And yes, he continues to look suave floating to shore in his new plaid bathing trunks.
A worried jewelry insurance agent convinces Robie to try to clear his own name by catching the copycat burglar. Robie is equipped with a list of the insured and any personal details that could help him to keep a good watch on then, prompting the well delivered, "I wish I'd known someone in the insurance racket when I went into the burglary business." Robie quickly settles into the Ritz Carlton Hotel under a fake name in order to befriend and keep an eye on the heavily jeweled Jessie Stevens. And there he meets her daughter Frances, played by Grace Kelly. Grace Kelly's dresses are honestly reason enough to watch this movie. Leaving aside whether or not I could pull any of them off, I want them. Especially this one:
In fact, the only outfit of hers in which I have no interest is the "bathing costume" below:
Robie is not put off by the bathing costume, though. What puts him off about Frances Stevens is when she reveals that not only does she know he's really Robie "the cat," but she believes he is in fact guilty of the current crime spree and... wants to join him. Robie just isn't interested in "women who need weird excitement."

Cary Grant climbing around on rooftops, Grace Kelly's dresses, a Hitchcock mystery to solve...I love this movie.
One more great line I couldn't work in above...
Jesse about her daughter Frances: "Sorry I ever sent her to that finishing school. I think they finished her there." Four stars, and I will definitely watch this again.