Saturday, April 25, 2015

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 19 of 50)


The good: From Here to Eternity boasts a fine all-star cast headed by Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift. It won several Oscars including Best Picture of 1953. The bombing of Pearl Harbor finale holds up well. Began to tip the iceberg for American films to deal with more adult themes. When Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kiss on the beach as the waves roll over them has proven to be one of the most famous scenes in movie history.The black and white photography during the daytime scenes is impressive. 

The not-so-good: The story line is basically a military soap opera. The music is overdone, often swelling to overly dramatic proportion. The classic beach scene is undercut by Deborah Kerr's line "I never knew it could be like this." And the bombing scene occurs awfully late in the movie. And those adult themes don't go very far past the tip of the iceberg, for example, Donna Reed's role as a prostitute is toned down to the point that she is hardly recognizable as what she's supposed to be. And Private Prewitt's death scene is just plain strange.


And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Ernest Borgnine. Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra took home the supporting actor Oscars for From Here to Eternity, but how about Ernest Borgnine as the vicious heavy Fatso Judson? This was really Borgnine's first major role and he plays the vicious son-of-a bitch to the hilt. Borgnine's career was interesting in that he played supporting villains on and off for the next half century, but also occasionally had starring roles, including his sympathetic Oscar winning role as Marty in 1955. He also starred in the successful sitcom McHale's Navy in the 60's and  off course did the voiceover as Merman in Sponge Bob after the turn of the century! A career that truly ran the gamut!




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 18 of 50)


A Touch of Evil is Orson Welles's later film noir set on the U. S. Mexico boarder. There may be some plot points that are a little sketchy, but the overall impact of the film is so strong and involving, I didn't care. 

The movie stars Charlton Heston as a Mexican lawman and Janet Leigh as his American wife. But it is Welles himself as Police Captain Hank Quinlan that really steals the show. Quinlan is overweight, drunk, unprincipled and thinks himself above the law when he's on a case. As impressed as we might be with Welles the director, Welles the actor is pretty good too.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Akim Tamiroff. The Russian born Tamiroff was a character actor who played mostly ethnic characters in over a hundred films, including Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville. In Touch of Evil, he plays a Mexican hood named Joe Grandi. But Joe is not nearly as sinister as Quinlan. In fact, he is responsible for a lot of the film's comic relief with his constant losing of his toupee and his inability to control the actions of his underlings.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 17 of 50)


This Orson Welles's late 40's film noir is definitely not his most accessible film. The plot involves Irishman Michael O'Hara (Welles) who falls hard for a tasty blonde who is married to a jealous husband and gets caught up in a game of deception and blackmail. The film is full of plot twists and includes a memorable finale set inside a hall of mirrors of an abandoned amusement park. Orson's wife of the time Rita Hayworth is quite good in an unusual and challenging role for her.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Everett Sloane. Sloane is best know as Kane's worshipful associate Bernstein in Citizen Kane. With that character in mind, it is interesting to see him in The Lady from Shanghai as Hayworth's jealous lawyer husband who grows to detest and tries to set up Michael O' Hara. He plays a brilliant attorney with bad legs and and unfortunately beautiful wife. It's film noir and those dames will always lead to your downfall.
  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

ACE IN THE HOLE (1951)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 16 of 50)



Ace in the Hole is probably the most famous Billy Wilder film that I had never seen before. It is the story of a little news story about a man trapped in a cave that gets blown up by an opportunistic reporter played by Kirk Douglas. And it is dark. And it is seedy. And it is a movie that is so bleak and has such a dearth of unsympathetic characters, I'm surprised that even a director as respected as Wilder got it made! The alternative title of the film was The Big Carnival, which is what the reporter turns this story into it.

Spike Lee commented that Wilder had a crystal ball peering into the future of modern day news coverage and how things are in today's media. It's easy to imagine the plot of this story being played out today each night on The Nancy Grace Show or on various Internet news outlets. Definitely not a feel good movie, but certainly a good one.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Ray Teal. Ray Teal is one of those guys that I've seen if probably dozens of movies and television shows over the years (Out of 340 IMDB credits!), but I honestly didn't know his name before I saw Ace in the Hole. He is best known for his long run as the sympatheic sheriff on Bonanza. In Ace in the Hole, he plays also plays a sheriff, but this sheriff is crooked, opportunistic and pretty much only cares about being re-elected. It's a real meaty role for Mr. Teal. And I ain't votin' for him for sheriff!