Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vicki Lester? Vicki Lester. Vicki Lester!

As you can guess from the title I just watched A Star Is Born. I have an update of four films that I have just recently seen, I'll start with the 1937 classic.

A Star Is Born (1937) - This is film number 355 I have seen of the 485 nominated so far. This is the original version that was remade two times later. I haven't seen the others but I vaguely remember the 1970's one with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, I think it was a musical or probably had some singing. All I can remember was that I think it was on channel 4, Kris Kristofferson had his shirt off and I think he fell of a motorcycle. Not sure if that was in the film and don't plan to verify it any time soon. I know Babara Streisand is a talented actress and sings well, but I did see Prince of Tides and that is enough of her for a long time. Kris Kristofferson was a singer who became an actor or the other way around, but not that great ether way. He was good in Heaven's Gate except when he looks like 50 at his college graduation.

The film is a classic Hollywood success story of a girl from the mid-west going to Hollywood and becoming a star. The film is in technicolor so it has that faded retro look of old WWII films done in color. Janet Gaynor is the bright eyed young woman who wins her way into the arms of Fredrick March, a leading actor who is a massive drunk. Am I crazy or did Fredrick March look like a young Robert Duvall? Also the great Andy Devine who was a staple in many westerns and some classic John Wayne movies. And not to forget Adolphe Menjou whom I had not seen before I stated this project, but I am beginning to see in many of the films I have been watching, and he was a great actor.

This is from a very different time, a time when the media didn't cover all the mishaps of actors. The studios would pay off police and the newspapers to keep their actors from public embarrassment. Not saying this was better or worse than today, just different. Lionel Stander, mostly known for the butler on Hart to Hart in the 1980's plays the studio publicity director who has to clear these things up.

Overall it is a great movie. It's listed as a drama but it very much like a comedy with great throw away lines and funny scenes. Much better than I though it would be, but still not as good as The Life of Emile Zola, but close.

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) - The second film I saw was Broadway Melody of 1936, doesn't look like it was a sequel of the 1929 Best Picture, just a standard depression era film. Full of songs, dance scenes and great costumes, this was the type of movie you would go to see and forget the failings of the incompetent Roosevelt economic policies. Even though it is a musical, I was surprised to see Jack Benny as one of the lead actors, and he made it worth watching.

Just like A Star is Born, this too is from a different time. Jack Benny is a newspaper reporter who constantly is attacking Robert Taylor who is producing a new Broadway play. How does he handle this, he goes to Jack Benny's office and beats him up after each article is negatively written about him. Try and see that happen today. And how does the editor of the newspaper handle this, he gives Jack Benny a raise for being so hated. Yep, a different time.

Otherwise there isn't much plot except for making up a famous singer to fool the producer who's high school sweetheart then pretends to be. It is neat to see Buddy Ebsen tap dancing, man was he tall. Doesn't match up to Mutiny on the Bounty at all, but it does have the big musical finale that is expected.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) - How did I get stuck with another musical? Simple, I watch movies in the order that I tape them. The oldest film on the DVR after Broadway Melody of 1936 was this one. A movie from a simpler time in Oregon, when a trapper could go to town and trade his pelts for flour, molasses and a wife. The film also shows that marriage by capture is the only way to get a wife. Just kidnap the woman you want, keep her on your farm until the pass melts and when her family arrives she won't want to leave. Just like real life, except that you'll be in jail for the rest of your life.

Lavish dancing scenes, obviously from ballet dancers dressed as woodsmen, but rather comical at times. Not a great film, especially when compared to On The Waterfront, but what you would expect from the 1950's.

Bound for Glory (1976) - I jumped on the list and watched Bound for Glory right after it taped, mainly since it was the last film of 1976 that I need to see. The Woody Guthrie story as preformed by Kung Fu David Carradine and Melinda "You'll shoot your eye out" Dillon, the mom from A Christmas Story.

The film covers the late 1930's part of Woody's life, years before Arlo was born, as he leaves Texas to go to California and becomes a folk music star. You could watch this film and see that he was an artist who wanted to perform his music how he wanted. You can also see that he was an adulterer who would abandon his family and sabotage his career when things would be going good for him. Lot of well known music and does drag on pretty long, but most films of the 1970's were longer than usual.

To make a final comparison of 1976, the best picture was Network. A film that 35 years later is still relevant and such a great drama. Right up next to it in a very close second is Taxi Driver, a powerful, intense, gripping movie that is so good. Solidly in third is Rocky, a good movie that could have won other years, say 1983, but not this year. Forth is All The President's Men about Watergate and fifth would be Bound for Glory. Not because it was bad, but it went up against four really good films.

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