DOUBLE BILL #9: Morning Glory (1933) and Stage Door (1937)

collage-2017-12-10

Ah, the theater. That wonderful thing out there, drenched in magic and lights, that only a handful of people will break into and conquer. It’s an everlasting institution that will never go out of style. And rightly so. And in my opinion, capturing the essence of the theatre and everything about it in film isn’t easy and Morning Glory (1933) and Stage Door (1937) have managed to do just that in their own way.

In Morning Glory (dir. Lowell Sherman), Katharine Hepburn plays Eva Lovelace, an aspiring actress with a dream in her heart and a goal in her mind. She arrives at the offices of the Easton Theater, hoping to speak to Louis Easton (Adolph Menjou) in order to get a role in an upcoming play. While there, she meets all sorts of theatre folks: Rita Vernon (Mary Duncan), the ‘diva’, Robert Hedges (C. Aubrey Smith), a veteran character actor, Joseph Sheridan (Douglas Fairbanks Jr), the young playwright, and, of course, Louis Easton, the powerful theatre producer that everyone wants to impress. As the events unfold, this little world is presented to us in unashamed fashion and Eva Lovelace is the perfect representation of the wannabe-actress at the center of it all: a wide-eyed, eccentric, ambitious woman, with a childlike innocence that is yet to be spoiled and the belief that she can and will make it. Katharine Hepburn won her first of four Oscars for this performance and you can see why. That wonderful Katharine Hepburn quality was there all along and Eva Lovelace was the perfect character for her to shine with.

In Stage Door (dir. Gregory La Cava), she plays Terry Randall, a well-spoken amateur actress who arrives at the Footlights Club, a theatrical boarding house in New York, hoping to get a room. The other aspiring actresses take a disliking to her straight away, because of her upbringing and superior attitude, which doesn’t go down too well in a house full of young, wannabe starlets. As is pointed out many times throughout the film, there’s never a dull moment at the Footlights Club. Amongst its many eccentric and dynamic characters, there’s Jean (Ginger Rogers), Terry’s cynical roommate, Linda (Gail Patrick), the ‘Queen Bee’, Eve (Eve Arden), the wise-cracking amateur, Judy (Lucille Ball), the loveably sarcastic one, Anne (Constance Collier), the aging actress and Terry’s supporter and, of course, Kay (Andrea Leeds), the tragic actress who wants a break-through more than anything in the world. Stage Door, to me, is the best depiction of not only the theater community and its never-ending struggles, but also of female friendships and their many nuances. It’s so true-to-life, relatable and poignant – particularly with regards to the sleazy producer Anthony Powell (Adolph Menjou), a character who is evidently still relevant – that it amazes me how it’s not more widely ackowledged for its efforts to depict both of these worlds so accurately.

Both of these films do a terrific job with their subject. Morning Glory relies on a few stereotypes to get the point across, even if for comedic effect, while Stage Door deals with these stereotypes in a more human way. However, both of them are unafraid in their quest to showcase showbusiness and nearly all of its elements, including the abhorrent exploitation and abuse of power. And this was in the 1930s!

Although Stage Door is the better movie of the two and certainly one of the greatest movies of the decade, you can’t go wrong with either of them. They hold a mirror up to showbiz and it ain’t going to be pretty. But damn, it’s going to be good.

Advertisements

5 things I love about The Lady Eve (1941)

The-Lady-Eve-Featured

I mean, what’s not to love, really? It’s just a delight of a movie. And like any screwball comedy, this is one of those movies that you can watch over and over. So I thought I’d share with you some of the things I love about it:

– Preston Sturges. Preston Sturges. Preston Sturges. He was a genius. He’s the screenwriter screenwriters don’t know they want to be like. He started out quite late – so there’s hope for all of us – and then later on in life, he famously said one of my favorite quotes of all time: ‘When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten-cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.’ Bliss.

– The chemistry between Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. They were perfectly cast in this, and they play off each other brilliantly. Barbara Stanwyck could do anything you threw her way, so her comic ability comes as no surprise, and Henry Fonda is just wonderful in everything and this rare comic role (oh, there should have been more!) is a delight.

– The characters. Screwballs are nothing without their supporting cast and The Lady Eve is a goldmine of colorful characters. From the ‘Colonel’ (Charles Coburn), to Muggsy (William Demarest), to Horace (Eugene Palette), everyone is on point in this.

– The scene with the horse ALWAYS makes me laugh. ‘Stop that! Oh sorry, I thought it was the horse.’ It’s so silly, but just the way she says that, without even trying to be funny, is pure gold.

– The ‘You don’t know what you’ve done to me’ scene. This, to me, is one of the archetypal scenes in screwball comedy. It’s so perfect. The sexual innuendo, the playful seduction, the witty dialogue… This is screwball at its best.

There are loads more, of course. The Lady Eve is one of my favorite screwballs ever and did I ever mention how much I love Barbara Stanwyck?

Noirvember Wrap-up

And here we are. Noirvember ends today *starts sobbing*. But there’s more next year! So, to wrap this up, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on it with you. Firstly, I am never again doing a Top 30 list. I regretted it the day after it was posted, simply because it is so darn-tootin’ly hard. I swear, I almost had a panic attack. And then I read the list again, and I started thinking that maybe some of them should have been higher or lower, not to mention the debate between Raw Deal and Crossfire, which took me 20 minutes. And then, The Killers and The Big Combo, which I MAY have already changed my mind about (meaning The Big Combo might be higher). Not to mention, that I haven’t seen every single film noir ever, which always leaves this kind of stuff up for an update. But no, I’m done with this. It’s too hard. Secondly, in order to do this list, I watched a lot of films last month, to have the list ready for the 1st November, which means October was actually my personal Noirvember. And it was glorious. It’s such a great feeling watching and re-watching the films you love, and discovering a new-found love for a film that maybe you didn’t think much of to begin with (like Detour). And thirdly, I enjoyed every single one of your posts, both on your blogs and on Facebook since I’m friends with many of you. You guys are awesome. Keep it up and Noirvember on!

Likeable characters in film noir

3

I know, I know. Everyone in noir is such a hot-headed bastard or a devious femme fatale or a crooked cop. Well, not everyone. There are those characters in noir that are just good people, or at the very least, characters that make you sympathize with them, whether it’s because they’re trying to get their life back together, or they help out other characters, or whatever it is. Certain characters in noir are just nice and likeable. Here are some of them:

Susan (Jean Wallace) from The Big Combo (1955) – Oh, poor little angel. She wants to get away from Mr Brown (Richard Conte) so bad that she will deliberately harm herself in the process. You just want to hug her and take her away from everything and you cheer her on when she finally breaks free.

Moe (Thelma Ritter) from Pickup on South Street (1953) – As street-smart, wise-talking and instantly likable as you’d expect from a Thelma Ritter character. And her exit might be one of the most heart-breaking things I’ve ever seen in a film.

Dennis (Dennis O’Keefe) and Tony (Alfred Ryder) from T-Men (1947) – Their friendship is beautiful albeit brief and their journey throughout the film is nerve-wrecking and extremely tense, which makes you root for them even more.

Captain Finlay (Robert Young) from Crossfire (1947) – The detective with a conscience. His monologue at the end makes you understand why the solution to this crime is so important to him.

Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) from The Big Heat (1953) – He just wants to do his job, bring the bad guys to justice and go home to his family at the end of the day. He’s got a good heart and good values, which are hard to find in film noir.

Debbie Marsh (Gloria Grahame) from The Big Heat (1953) – She’s probably the most likeable femme fatale ever. In fact, I’m not too sure about her being a femme fatale at all. She’s caring, understanding and kind-hearted and her scene with Bannion in the film’s resolution is just so tender and bittersweet.

Laura (Gene Tierney) from Laura (1944) – She was surrounded by people who loved her, who used her, who were obsessed with her, who thought of her as the greatest thing in New York City. And she never lost her sense of self, strength, unassuming confidence and determination.

Laurel (Gloria Grahame) from In a Lonely Place (1950) – Because we don’t know what actually happened until the last scene, we’re left with the same doubts and fears as Laurel throughout the film and it’s like we’re watching the whole thing through her eyes.

Pat (Claire Trevor) from Raw Deal (1948) – With her narration, she guides her though the film while giving us an insight into her personal and emotional turmoil and we connect with her. Raw Deal is Pat’s film.

Ann (Marsha Hunt) from Raw Deal (1948) – She’s the moral compass of the film. And even though Pat and Ann are love rivals fighting over Joe (Dennis O’Keefe)’s affections, you kind of wish they would go off together, leaving that cad behind, Thelma and Louise-style.

Chris Cross (Edward G. Robinson) from Scarlet Street (1945) – He just hurts my soul. He didn’t deserve any of it and his last moments are probaby the darkest moments ever in film noir. It’s just painful to watch.

There are many others, of course. Maybe I’ll do a part 2 one of these days.

#Noirvember

6 film noir opening scenes/sequences I love

Noir.jpg

The Killers (1946) – two shadows on the ground announce the arrival of the titular killers, stepping out from behind the diner they will enter in just a few seconds. It is one of the most excitingly scary scenes in all of film noir.

T-Men (1947) – Like a tiger lurking in the shadows, T-Men’s opening scene (after the introduction) is as cold and intimidating as it gets and it sets the mood perfectly for the most nerve-wrecking noir ever.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) – cars everywhere – the Homicide Squad – and a voice-over monologue by Joe Gillis (William Holden) make this one of the most exciting opening scenes ever.

The Big Combo (1955) – a boxing match, followed by a woman running away from two men, who finally capture her and tell her that Mr Brown wants her to see the match. Everything you need to know about The Big Combo is in those first 2 or 3 minutes.

Double Indemnity (1944) – A car speeds through Los Angeles, ignoring the STOP sign, in a foreshadowing way. Then Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) walks into his office to tell his story. And we’re off… The narration is fantastic and every detail is on point.

Laura (1944) – That insanely awesome opening line is made even more awesome by the fact that it is spoken by noir’s most eccentric character of all time. He is then introduced to us sitting in the bathtub writing his newspaper column. Genius.

Of course, there are many, many more to choose from, but these are the ones that come to mind right now.

#Noirvember

DOUBLE BILL #8: 1946 and 1947 (Noir edition)

collage-2017-11-10When it comes to great years for film noir, anything between 1943 and 1955 is gold. 1944 has Double Indemnity and Laura, 1950 has Sunset Boulevard, In a Lonely Place and The Asphalt Jungle, not to mention 1955 and The Big Combo and Kiss me Deadly. So, to be honest with you, I could have chosen anything, but in the end I had to go with 1946 and 1947.

1946, to me, is the most versatile of all years for film noir. We have the hot and steamy Gilda, the electrifying chemistry of Bogie and Bacall in The Big Sleep, the unshakable love affair that is Notorious, the puzzle-like plot of The Killers, the suburban masterpiece The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and of course, the most brilliantly bizarre noir all of time, Decoy. Not to mention countless others. It was such an exciting year for noir, such an extravaganza of boldness and ground-breaking filmmaking and I never really realized that until I did my top 30 favorite noirs and saw that a lot of them actually come from 1946.

1947, on the other hand, was the year of the sadistic killers. Robert Ryan in Crossfire, Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, and, of course, Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill (God, has there ever been such a despicable pair of humans in any noir?). On top of this, there’s also the twist-filled The Lady from Shanghai, the heavy and hush-hush T-Men, and, of course, the noir of noirs, the masterpiece that is Out of the Past. Oh, who doesn’t love Out of the Past?

You can’t go wrong with either of these. Both of them produced an array of masterpieces, and, personally, I think 1946 might be the greatest year for film noir of all time, closely followed by 1947. But that’s just my personal opinion. Either way, you’ve got a winner.

My Top 30 Favorite Films Noir

Noirvember is finally here and to celebrate, I’m going to share with you my top 30 favorite noirs. I did a top 20 last year and I felt like it wasn’t enough. I left some of my big ones out and it almost killed me, so this year I thought a top 30 was in order.

CRITERIA

  • This is a very personal and very subjective list. I’m not claiming these are the 30 greatest noirs, I’m saying these are MY favorites.
  • Neo-noirs will not be included, because The Old Hollywood Garden focuses on the classic period primarily.
  • Because noir is a very broad genre (why do they have to make this even more difficult?!), I tried to stick to films that most closely resemble and fit into the noir category.
  • I have seen 55 films noir, so you can imagine how hard this was. Feel free to ask me about any noir you didn’t see on the list.
  • Because I haven’t seen every film noir ever made and because tastes and preferences change overtime, this list can be updated in the future.
  • As always, you’re more than welcome to share your personal favorites on the comment section.

Here we go!

30. The Woman in the Window (1944)

      Dir. Fritz Lang

the-woman-in-the-window-painting

 

‘I don’t want to make trouble for anybody. I can, of course, but I don’t want to.’

 

 

 

 

 

29. The Blue Dahlia (1946)

      Dir. George Marshall

bluedahlia02

‘Half the cops in LA are looking for you.’

‘Only half?’

 

 

 

 

 

28. Decoy (1946)

      Dir. Jack Bernhard

s_106764jean_gillie_la_rapace_09

 

‘People who use pretty faces like yours don’t live too long anyway.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

27. Detour (1945)

      Dir. Edgar Ulmer

Detour-Cover-1

 

 

‘Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you for no good reason at all.’

 

 

 

 

26. Touch of Evil (1958)

      Dir. Orson Welles

TouchOfEvil1

 

‘He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?’

 

 

 

 

25. The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

      Dir. Orson Welles

kpeozivhyrru9x7zefptzho60xw

 

 

‘Killing you is killing myself. But you know, I’m pretty tired of both of us.’

 

 

 

 

24. In a Lonely Place (1950)

      Dir. Nicholas Ray

lonelyplace3

 

 

‘I was born when she kissed me. I died wen she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.’

 

 

 

 

 

23. Scarlet Street (1945)

      Dir. Fritz Lang

bennett-robinson-scarlet-street

 

 

 

‘Can’t you get those lazy legs off that couch, baby?’

 

 

 

 

 

22. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

      Dir. John Huston

ASPHALTJUNGLE_C033287_HDMASTER1.mov.01_42_34_07.Still015.tif

 

‘Experience has taught me never to trust a policeman. Just when you think one’s all right, he turns legit.’

 

 

 

 

21. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

      Dir. John Huston

annex-bogart-humphrey-maltese-falcon-the_04

 

‘I’ll be waiting for you. If then hang you, I’ll always remember you.’

 

 

 

 

 

20. Mildred Pierce (1945)

      Dir. Michael Curtiz

crawford%20joan%20mildred%20pierce_01

 

 

 

‘She plays the piano like I shoot pool.’

 

 

 

 

 

19. The Third Man (1949)

       Dir. Carol Reed

retroback_el-tercer-hombre7

 

‘Oh Holly, you and I aren’t heroes. The world doesn’t make any heroes outside of your stories.’

 

 

 

18. Raw Deal (1948)

     Dir. Anthony Mann

 

17

 

 

‘I want to breathe. That’s why I want to get out of this place. So I can take a deep breath again’

 

 

 

 

 

17. Crossfire (1947)

      Dir. Edward Dmytryk

1947-crossfire-06

 

 

‘I was in a stinkin’ gin mill, where all he had to do to see me was walk in, sit down at the table and buy me a drink.’

 

 

 

 

16. The Big Sleep (1946)

      Dir. Howard Hawks

the-big-sleep-bogie

 

 

‘What’s wrong with you?’

‘Nothing you can’t fix.’

 

 

 

 

15. The Big Heat (1953)

     Dir. Fritz Lang

042-the-biig-heat-theredlist

 

‘You know I’ve been meting your kind now for ten years. Sacred rabbits who never see a thing. You wouldn’t stick your big fat neck out for anybody, would you?’

 

 

 

14. Pickup on South Street (1953)

     Dir. Samuel Fuller

pickuptilted

 

‘Even in your crummy line of business you gotta draw the line somewhere.’

 

 

 

 

13. Kansas City Confidential (1952)

     Dir. Phil Karlson

kansascityconfidential_600X337

 

‘I know a sure cure for a nosebleed. A cold knife in the middle of the back.’

 

 

 

 

12. Gilda (1946)

      Dir. Charles Vidor

184a181532ceb8401836d9680896b135

‘Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much that I think I’m going to die from it.’

 

 

 

 

11. T-Men (1947)

      Dir. Anthony Mann

tmenplates

‘They had to know all the answers. Failure to do would mean a bad grade later on in the shape of a bullet or an ice-pick.’

 

 

 

 

 

10. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

     Dir. Lewis Milestone

van-heflin-lizbeth-scott-and-barbara-stanwyck

 

‘A sure thing is never a gamble.’

 

 

 

 

9. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)

    Dir. Otto Preminger

Where the Sidewalk Ends_Dana Andrews in a tradmark fedora and overcoat

 

‘That’s a fancy way of trying to frame somebody – getting yourself knocked off. A guy’s gotta be outta his head for that. I didn’t know a guy could hate that much. Not even you.’

 

 

 

8. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

    Dir. Alexander MacKendrick

hero_EB19971021REVIEWS08401010361AR

 

‘Match me, Sidney.’

 

 

 

7. The Big Combo (1955)

    Dir. Joseph H. Lewis

film-noir

 

 

‘First is first and second is nobody.’

 

 

 

 

 

6. Notorious (1946)

    Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

picture-25

 

 

‘Dry your eyes baby, it’s out of character.’

 

 

 

 

 

5. The Killers (1946)

    Dir. Robert Siodmak

the-killers

 

 

‘If there’s one thing in this world I hate, is a double-crossing dame.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Out of the Past (1947)

    Dir. Jacques Tourneur

outofthepast_jeffandkathie

 

 

‘And then I saw her – coming out of the sun. And I knew why Whit didn’t care about the forty grand.’

 

 

 

 

3. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

    Dir. Billy Wilder

untitledfghj

 

‘Alright Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.’

 

 

 

 

2. Laura (1944)

    Dir. Otto Preminger

Behind-the-scenes-Laura-1944-05

 

‘I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. The silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass. It was the hottest Sunday in my recollection.’

 

 

 

Before I reveal my number 1 noir, here are a few honorable mentions: The Hitch-hiker (1953), Kiss me Deadly (1955), Pitfall (1948), Fallen Angel (1945), The Chase (1946), D.O.A (1950)…

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

  1. Double Indemnity (1944)

         Dir. Billy Wilder

annex-stanwyck-barbara-double-indemnity_nrfpt_03__crop

‘It sounds crazy, Keyes, but it’s true, so help me. I couldn’t hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.’

 

 

That’s it from me!

Happy Noirvember, everyone!

7 things I love about Some Like It Hot (1959)

somelikeithot-monroe-curtis-lemmon-dinner.jpg

Ah, Some Like It Hot. Who doesn’t love Some Like It Hot? In fact, I’d go as far as to say that very few movies are as universally beloved as this. And why not? It’s simply perfect, in my opinion. It’s my 5th favorite film of all time and it has remained firmly in the top 5 since the first time I watched it. And while I love absolutely everything about it, I thought I’d share with you 7 of my most favorite things.

– The song ‘Runnin’ Wild’. I love, love, love that song! In fact, I love all the songs in it (‘Down Among The Sheltering Palms’ is just beyond lovely), but Runnin’ Wild is upbeat, crazy and fun, like the film itself.

– The chemistry between Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. One of the greatest trios in movies history. They feed off each other brilliantly and all three of them are at the top of their game.

– The name Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators. I mean, how great is that?

– The ‘party’ on the train. It is so wacky, you just want to join in!

– Jack Lemmon and Joe E. Brown doing the tango. Always cracks me up!

– The scenes on the yacht. Hot and adorable, at the same time.

– The fact that when it’s over, you want to watch it again. It’s such a feel-good movie! It’s one of the movies that you can watch over and over again and never tire of it. It just makes you feel so happy and cosy!

 

Here’s to Some Like It Hot, the ultimate desert island movie!

 

DOUBLE BILL #7: Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956)

collage-2017-10-10

John Ford and John Wayne. One of cinema’s greatest and most celebrated director-actor partnerships. They made dozens of films together and they were one helluva team. For this Double Bill, I’ve decided to talk about their first major film together, Stagecoach (1939), and the one that’s usually considered to be their best, The Searchers (1956).

Stagecoach follows the troubled journey of a group of people on their way to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Alcoholic doctor Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell in an Oscar-winning performance), prostitute Dallas (Claire Trevor), prim and proper Mrs Mallory (Louise Platt), gambler Hatfield (John Carradine), alcohol salesman Mr Peacock (Donald Meek), and their stagecoach drivers Buck (Andy Devine) and Curly (George Bancroft) leave their town of Tonto and head towards Lordsburg, knowing they will most definitely encounter the Geronimo gang. Somewhere along the way, the Ringo Kid (John Wayne in his breakthrough role) makes their acquaintance – in one of cinema’s most spectacular entrances – and jumps on board. Off they go…

Here we have this group of people who probably wouldn’t have met or bonded otherwise, bound together through necessity and in a very confined place, no less, and we get to watch them slowly opening up to each other. Doc and Dallas, in particular, also share a bond because of the fact that they were kicked out of town due to prejudice and intrigue, instigated by the town’s women. I love that. I love the fact that Stagecoach is about the relationships. That’s what’s so interesting to watch. A group of outcasts forced to leave town forming unlikely relationships with each other. Think of it as Grand Hotel (1932) meets Street Scene (1931) on horseback.

Seventeen years later, we have The Searchers. It starts off with – you know what’s coming – one of the most iconic shots ever. I know it’s been talked about endlessly, but you can’t deny it, it’s just majestic. As the door opens, we welcome our hero. Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) is back. But not for long. Soon after he returns home, a raid takes place while he led away from his house. He comes back to find his family has been killed and his nieces Debbie (Natalie Wood) and Lucy (Pippa Scott) have been kidnapped. Ethan, Brad Jorgensen (Harry Carey Jr) and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) set out to find them, no matter what it takes. Our journey begins along with theirs…

The Searchers is emotional. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s compelling. We care about the characters. We recognize their flaws and we understand their actions and emotions. We’re with them throughout, and we’re rooting for them the whole time. And despite the emotional roller-coaster it puts you through, the ending is entirely satisfying, albeit bittersweet. And it will make you cry, believe me.

I like a Western with a heart and a conscience. Stagecoach and The Searchers have them in spades. Both of them could fit into the category of ‘Western for people who don’t like Westerns’ and that’s ok. It’s not a cliche, it’s true. And when you’re talking about John Ford and John Wayne, you know you’re in good hands.