Saturday, April 21, 2012

Did anyone ever really trust a Romanian Count before WWII?

And as you see in Watch On The Rhine you couldn't trust them during the war either. As well I added Room at the Top and Talk of the Town to my list, creeping closer to 400.

Watch On The Rhine (1943) - Bettie Davis and Paul Lukas who won best actor, are refugees from Europe at the start of WWII. They are committed Fascism fighters raising money to send back to Europe so they go back to Bettie Davis's family in Washington DC. And as my post title hinted, a Romanian count is living there spending all his time playing poker at the German embassy. He tries to sell Paul Lukas out, fails and is killed by Paul Lukas who takes all of his fundraising and flees back to Europe.

This film is more of a propaganda film, it was made during the war and without knowing how it will end (obviously) this film has a interesting characteristic to it. Like Mrs. Miniver a year earlier, movies about WWII made during WWII are more intense than those made after the war. But it did go up against Casablanca, so it wasn't the best film, but worthy of the top ten, even in the top five.

Room At The Top (1959) - English film from the new era of movie making that occurred in the late 1950's in England. A gritty drama about a man who will do whatever it takes to succeed right after the end of WWII. He keeps angling for a better job and looks to marry a rich man's daughter. Along the way he falls in love with a married woman who he promises to be with, but then goes with the rich girl. She gets drunk, dies in a car accident and he gets himself nearly beaten to death but is brought to the wedding on time and marries the rich girl he got pregnant.

It reminded me somewhat of A Place in the Sun, but not as good. That and you can't compare Laurence Harvey to Montgomery Clift, or the rest of the cast for that matter. Since this was the last film to see for 1959, and the 390 film I saw overall, here is the final verdict for the year. Ben-Hur is still the best picture, a classic epic. A Nun's Story would be second from fine acting from Audrey Hepburn, close third is The Diary of Anne Frank, depressing but still a great drama. Anatomy of a Murder gets fourth because Otto Preminger is a great director, with the exception of Skidoo, and Room at the Top fifth since it was a tough year.

The Talk Of The Town (1942) - A somewhat preachy movie that has an incredible acting team with Carey Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman about a man being framed for arson and murder. Carey Grant is the town anarchist and all around angry guy. He's framed for burning down the factory and killing a night watchman. He flees from jail and hides out at Jean Arthur's rental home who she is preparing for law professor Ronald Colman. While there he thinks Carey Grant is the gardener, gets into great philosophical discussions with him, all the while Jean Arthur is trying to get Ronald Colman to take up Carey Grant's case but wouldn't do it anyway since he is going to be nominated for the Supreme Court.

As you can guess it all works out for the best, but a good film anyway. It did lose to Mrs. Miniver and rightfully so.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Does proving that a German Psychiatrist doodles mean him diagnosing you as a manic depressive invalid?

In the world of Frank Capra it sure does! I'm sure you've guessed by now that I have seen Mr. Deeds Goes To Town and two other classics including a strong eyebrow acting role from 1946. But first...

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936) - The Frank Capra classic that won him his second best director for the 1930's. A typical Capra style like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or Meet John Doe, this time it's a small town poet from New England who inherits 20 million dollars from a long lost uncle and moves to New York City. Not only the typical fish out of water story, but everyone is out to con him from his money or to embarrass him in public. Yet as the hero he is not the bumbling fool people take him for and when he decides to give his money away they try to declare him insane. A unrealistic trial by the state, he wins over everyone and is the hero who gets the girl.

Is it sappy? Yes. Is it unrealistic? Yes. Is it a great movie? Yes. The story may be annoying at times, but Gary Cooper is great and you will enjoy every minute. As compared to The Great Ziegfield, as I've said before nothing was going to beat that movie because of what Florenz Ziegfield meant to the entertainment industry and he was missed.

The Smiling Lieutenant (1932) - A classic from before the self imposed censorship from the movie industry came about. A silly musical about an officer in the Austrian army winking at a visiting princess who is offended. Trying to avoid an international (or continental) incident, he has to be their escort while visiting Austria and ultimately has to marry her. Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins are comical and lustful in a well acted film. Even though I don't like musicals, the songs relate to the story, the songs are rather comical and the sexual situations are what you would seed about forty years later in films, not what you expect when you think of movies from the 1930's.

This is a great film, but you can't use basic movie math to compare it to the best picture of 1932, Grand Hotel, you will need to do movie calculus. In this case you would apply the Lionel Barrymore algebraic equation. Did Grand Hotel have Lionel Barrymore? Yes. Did The Smiling Lieutenant have Lionel Barrymore? No. The answer is Grand Hotel was the best film of 1932, it just as simple as that.

The Razor's Edge (1946) - Based on the W. Somerset Maugham's novel, where he is one of the main characters. Does that mean he's not real or it's not a novel???? And Tyrone Power's eyebrows, Gene Tierney, Tyrone Power, Anne Baxter and Herbert Marshall all make up an all star cast. About a WWI vet who decides to find himself by traveling around Europe and Asia and finds enlightenment in India starring at a mountain. In other words, he became a hippie after the war and traveled like a bum trying to become a zen master. Gene Tierney is shallow and loves him but wants the life of luxury in Chicago (joke's on her) and then becomes bitter when his eyebrows show up ten years later.

It was a very good movie, but nothing could beat The Best Years of Our Lives the year after WWII ended. I don't think Gone With The Wind could win, so there is no need to compare it but just say it was one of the better films for the year.