Wednesday, July 1, 2015

ANGEL FACE (1952)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 41 of 50)


Another Robert Mitchum film noir! Well, sign me up! According to the commentary track, this was largely a forgotten B-movie, until those pesky French new wave critics cited it as one of their favorite movies. I can't say I liked it as much as Mitchum's Odd Man Out, but this Otto Preminger film is worth seeing as well, if only for the "car goes down the cliff" scene. It may even be worth seeing it twice to catch all the subtleties, now that I think of it. 

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..(tie) Herbert Marshall and Leon Ames. It seems when I've been choosing my imaginary award, I've come across several people that I've considered for one movie and passed on only to come up for another movie for me to select. Herbert Marshall played the put upon husband of Bette Davis in The Little Foxes and here in Angel Face, he plays yet another brow beaten husband! And he does it with his typical dignified English stoicism. Herbert's many roles include parts in the 50's horror classic The Fly and as Bette Davis's husband (again) in The Letter. I haven't seen The Letter, but I'm willing to bet things don't turn out good for Mr. Marshall. Here's to you, Herbert!

Barbara O'Neill, Jean Simmons and
that poor old chap Herbert Marshall
Leon Ames capably played the head of the household in Meet Me in St. Louis

In Angel Face, he plays the skilled lawyer who successfully defends Jean Simmons during her murder trial. Ames makes the well-written courtroom scene awfully fun by refuting every thing that the prosecutor (poor Jim Backus!) dishes out and still seem reasonably likable throughout. Perhaps because he's so open about what he's trying to do, you really can't hate him. At least not too much.

But when I think of Leon, I will always first and foremost think of him as the neighbor in one of my favorite TV shows from childhood, Mr. Ed

If I'm in trouble, I'd like Leon Ames defending me.
And a special Elisha Cook the third award goes to Bess Flowers...Bess has a few lines as Leon's secretary here, which is more than she does in many of the 865 IMDB credits she had during her career. 865! Well, someone has to play the part of the party guest in the background, courtroom spectator and nightclub table extra! Often that person was Bess Flowers. As you can imagine, her most frequently listed role on IMDB is uncredited.

I like her autographed picture below that says "thanks for remembering."


Sunday, June 28, 2015

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 40 of 50)


Frank Capra's romantic comedy is pretty much a prototype of all romantic comedies that followed. The plot has a spoiled runaway heiress (Claudette Colbert) and a cynical newspaper (Clark Gable) reporter finding each other on the road. She wants to get to New York. He wants a story. They bicker. They bond. They fall in love. My favorite scenes are the ones in the auto camp where the two begin to bond and conspire to avoid detectives on their trail. A must for film buffs.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..(tie) Ward Bond/Alan Hale. Ward Bond has a small but funny role as the bus driver who simply can't get the best of Clark Gable. Ward would later have a more significant role for Capra as Bert the cop in It's a Wonderful Life (Who wants to see liver pills on their honeymoon?). He could also be seen in numerous John Ford movies, as well as Sergeant York, The Maltese Falcon, Gone With the Wind (as the Yankee captain) and many others.


Alan Hale Sr. has the role of the guy that picks up Gable and Cobert during the famous hitchhiking scene. His character sings loudly to his hitchhikers, singing improvisationally based on whatever his passengers most recently said. And he's pretty funny. His character also apparently has the strange criminal scheme of driving off with whatever possessions his riders have when they aren't looking. Oh, well. It's a plot device to give the two leads a car late in the movie.

Hale was one of most heavily used character movie actors in the 30's and 40's (frequently with Errol Flynn), racking up 250 movie credits before his death in 1950.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 39 of 50)


It has been a long time since I last saw The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles's follow-up to Citizen Kane. It is based on Booth Tarkington's classic story of a rich family whose fortunes are off-set by progress and the coming of the automobile personified in the person of entrepreneur and suitor (Joesph Cotten) to Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello). The leading character is the spoiled son of Isabel, George Anderson (Tim Holt).

The film is beautiful to look at and features lively performances and Welles uses his famous quick cuts to maximum effect and the story moves along at a rapid pace. Some like this film more than Kane, but I'm not willing to go quite that far. The major flaw is the happy ending tacked on by the studio. Damn studio execs strike again!

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Agnes Moorehead. Agnes had a nice but small role in Citizen Kane as Kane's mother. Her role in Ambersons is larger and she has a field day as George's emotional Aunt Fanny. Agnes runs the gamut of emotions from bitterness and jealousy to ultimately resignation and acceptance.

After many years in movies, Agnes appeared in one of the most famous episodes of The Twilight Zone (The Invaders). She is probably best known as Endora, the wicked witch from the 60's sitcom Bewitched.



Monday, June 22, 2015

GOING MY WAY (1944)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 38 of 50)


I'm not sure that there are too many film buffs who wouldn't take exception to Going My Way winning the Best Picture Oscar for 1944. It's a nice film, but the story of a radical (as much as Bing Crosby can be radical) priest being assigned to a floundering parish under the guidance of the crusty but lovable Father Fitzgibbon doesn't seem exactly groundbreaking. But it's a pleasant enough film, and a good one to check out to remember the time when Bing Crosby was Hollywood's biggest movie star. But should this really have beaten out Double Indemnity for Best Picture?

Speaking of Double Indemnity: The short career of ingenue Jean Heather (eight film credits) featured the interesting coincidence of her having important supporting parts in Going My Way and Double Indemnity, the two top contenders for the Best Picture Oscar that year. She plays Barbara Stanwyck's step-daughter in Double Indemnity and the young girl who Bing Crosby teaches about singing in Going My Way


Carol James in Going My Way

Carol James in Double Indemnity

And yet another Little Rascal alert: Going through these fifty films, I first came across former Little Rascal Stymie Beard in Jezebel. Then I came across former Little Rascal Dickie Moore in Sergeant York and Out of the Past. And Going My Way features former Little Rascal Alfalfa Switzer as one of the tough kids Bing teaches to sing. I guess I should consider adding Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window to this list just to include Spanky McFarland's bit part as a boy scout in that one!

"Stymie" in Jezebel
"Dickie" in Sergeant York
"Alfalfa" in Going My Way
"Spanky" in The Woman in the Window
And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Barry Fitzgerald. It's hard not to give this to Barry, even though he already won Best Supporting Actor and was also nominated for Best Actor for the same film! Other memorable roles for the Irishman include And Then There Were None, The Quiet Man and Bringing Up Baby, but its' the role of Father Fitzgibbon that he is best remembered for.