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Discussion in 'The Moving Picture' started by Amy Jeanne, Aug 5, 2007.
The Ides of March (2011)
Susan Slade from 1961 with Connie Stevens, Troy Donahue, Dorothy McGuire and Lloyd Nolan.
I've only seen about four or five Troy Donahue movies from his heyday (plus a few more when he popped up, incongruously, in movies like The Godfather later in his career). But in that heyday, he seems to have nearly had a lock on the young all-American boy with a chip in his shoulder (a safe '50s-style chip, not a burn-it-all-down-late-'60s chip) who wants the bookend-to-his-looks blonde all-American girl, but encounters some obstacles in his quest - poor family status, a troubled background, forbidden out-of-wedlock sex, lack of money or something similar.
Susan Slade is just a less-well-known version of the movie that was the peak of the Donahue canon, A Summer Place. Fortunately, Susan Slade focuses more on Connie Stevens (not sure if I think she's pretty enough to star opposite Donahue, but no one asked me) as she takes on the usually-reserved-for-Sandra-Dee role of cute upper-middle-class girl who needs to rebel (safely) against her parents' approved path in life - especially the part about not having sex until married.
All the other stuff going on in the movie - her father's successful engineering career, the family's move to an incredible (if it's your thing) mid-century modern house blended with Japanese elements, the hackneyed riding-a-horse metaphor for learning to trust after a fall, etc. - are just filler as we watch Stevens go from good girl to young woman exploring her sexuality and rejecting her parents' approved choice (the boss' boring son who's a bit of a stuck-up *ss).
To be fair, for its day, it was probably risqué with (spoiler alert) an out-of-wedlock pregnancy being handled with sympathy by Steven's parents, despite all the bending and twisting done to conform to late-'50s norms. The real problem in this one - besides the cheap-and-predictable romance-novel plot - is Donahue's wooden acting. His range was never impressive and, even at his best, his performances were never engaging, but he seems to be sleepwalking through this one, except when he overacts with exaggerated anger.
That said, I have a weak spot for these '50s/early '60s soap-opera movies - I refuse to admit how many times I've seen Peyton Place or The Best of Everything - so, despite its flaws, I still enjoyed parts of Susan Slade. Some of that has to do with knowing what was coming next in America (and, by proxy, its movies), which was the rage of the late sixties when problems like the ones in Susan Slade would seem silly - not worthy of a movie - compared to the blow-it-all-up attitude of that latter time. Hence, today, it's almost an indulgence to enjoy the last time saponaceous and tightly-circumscribe-by-social-norms movies like Susan Slade would be made.
Started the TCM restoration of Greed, the 1924 von Stroheim project that was essentially a page by page filming of the book McTeague. Inter-titles and production stills are used to fill in some of the blanks.
You'll never think of ZaSu Pitts the same way again.
I don't think I've ever thought of her the same way again after hearing her name for the first time.
She had a remarkable career. Six years after "Greed" she was being dunked in barrels of molasses by Thelma Todd.
Summer and Smoke from 1961 starring Geraldine Page, Lawrence Harvey and Rita Moreno
Possibly the only question to ask at the start of a movie based on a Tennessee Williams play is what will be the body count?
Because you know, by the end, a bunch of broken people with shattered lives will be piled up in the corner; the point of the play is to see how they get broken or, for those already broken, how they can be further smashed.
It's a tough assignment, but it's what you sign up for when you choose to watch a Williams play.
And Summer and Smoke doesn't disappoint as immediately we meet a late-twenties woman (Page) in a fin de siècle southern town trying to survive repressed emotions, unrequited love and hovering spinsterhood all brought to a boil by the return home of her childhood friend (Harvey) - the object of her unrequited love and now a wayward young doctor.
Page, a minister's daughter with Victorian values who knows her "window" is closing, does connect emotionally with the wild young doctor that's "dating" a girl from the "wrong" side of the tracks (Moreno), but when he tries to advance their relationship sexually, Page flees and later gives him a lecture on morality, sin, God - you get it.
All that's heavy and slow moving - as is the "I'm disappointed in you, son" relationship prodigal-son Harvey has with his by-the-book physician father - but if you can put up with the first hour or so of drudgery, several climatic moments toward the end do captivate.
One is when Harvey, starting to see the wreckage of his wine-women-and-song life pile up - his father lay dying from a gunshot indirectly caused by Harvey's partying, Harvey is facing an unwanted marriage owing to gambling debts, and a fever clinic needs him to fill in for his now bed-ridden dad - has a come-to-Jesus tete-a-tete with Page.
There, he argues for a life of physical pleasure all but free of commitment and she argues for a life of restraint and charity driven by religious rectitude, but neither one fully believes his or her own arguments anymore as each is experiencing the downside of absolute devotion to their beliefs. (Spoiler alert) But unfortunately, it's too late for inchoate revelations to save them.
Harvey's father dies and Page and he part in anger as Harvey heads off to save the fever clinic. Fast forward and Harvey returns, which inspires Page - now open to bringing passion and understanding to their relationship - to try again, but crushingly for her, she discovers a now-matured Harvey - leaning toward her views on love and marriage - is already engaged to one of Page's younger friends. Ouch, that freakin' hurt.
So ends another Tennessee Williams trip through soul-destroying relationships and life-ruining passions. As to that body count: one dead father, one going-to-prison father (Moreno's, who shot Harvey's dad), one tossed-aside fiancee (Moreno), one broken father who's lost his daughter's love and respect (Page's - she's given his hard-core religion the heave-ho) and one completely wrecked young woman - Page. And all in just under two hours.
Friday night was definitely How Much of a Couch Potato Can We Be? Night: first, the remake of Aladdin with Will Smith, courtesy Amazon Prime; then, Ladies They Talk About (1933) with Barbara Stanwyck as part of a gang of bank robbers, and Preston Foster as an evangelist-political reformer who reconnects with her after they both left Benecia, California, as young folks.
"The Big Sleep" - Of course I'm a bit confused, not my first viewing... Still don't know who killed the chauffer and why. Don't know who shot Geiger and why... Can someone illuminate me.. or am I just getting old.
You may be getting old, but that's not why you can't figure out the plot of "The Big Sleep". Everyone has that problem.
I remember Roger Ebert making the statement that the plot of "The Big Sleep" was "incomprehensible".
I have watched it with the specific goal of not paying any attention to the stars, acting, or scenery and just trying to figure out who shot who and why.
It can't be done...
I still like it and watch it any time it's on, but stopped trying to figure it out long ago.
I agree with @EngProf. There are a number of reasons I enjoy watching The Big Sleep, but coherent storytelling is nowhere on the list.
With regards to the chauffeur, legend has it that Howard Hawks and screenwriters William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett couldn't figure out who killed him either, so they called Raymond Chandler who angrily told them the answer was right there in the book. Chandler later called to apologize because he himself couldn't remember, so he looked through the book and couldn't figure it out either. Chandler left it for them to decide.
With that ⇧ very notable exception, I did find that reading the book cleared up most of the plot confusion from the movie. It was refreshing after decades of not knowing what the heck was going on, to finally read the book (a few years ago) and, overall, understand the story. That said, I enjoyed the movie for decades without really getting it.
What if they made a nice movie that was also a good movie?
What if there was no violence, no gratuitous sex - no gratuitous anything - and it was still good?
What if it was set in present day, but had a timeless quality to it - a fairytale quality to it?
What if it was about a somewhat broken person who wasn't smashed - destroyed by drugs or alcoholism or emotionally crippled by a vicious childhood (so, not "that" movie) - a person who could be fixed by kindness, decency and a little more inner gumption?
What if the nice people were also real people - not Hallmark made-for-TV movie characters?
It's all but impossible to do, except if the right script, the right director and the right actors come together as happened in 2016's This Beautiful Fantastic.
Other than a few small false notes, This Beautiful Fantastic works from beginning to end. A withdrawn young woman with some OCD and dreams of being a writer all but hides away from life working as a clerk in a library while living in a small rental house with a run-down garden.
When threatened with eviction owing to her neglect of the garden (upkeep is in her lease agreement) and because of a fallout between her reclusive and cantankerous old neighbor and his cook, her insular world is challenged as she takes in the cook and reaches out to the same neighbor for guidances in repairing the garden. Throw in her meeting a quirky young inventor and potential suitor at work - where her job is at risk owing to her tardiness and a persnickety boss - and our atypical heroine, played with beautiful nuance by Jessica Brown Findlay, is forced to open her life up or crash.
That's it, that's the plot and it hardly matters as the magic is in the small - her growing relationships with the cook, her neighbor and the inventor / overcoming her fear of gardening while pulling her neighbor out of his cocoon / the beauty of her house and garden - now blooming under tender care - an obvious but effective metaphor for her own personal growth.
There's more small, more quirky and more fun, but it will all either engage you or not - it's that type of movie. Kudos to the writers, director and actors as it took every knob adjusted just right for this one to work: turn any one of them a tiny bit one way and it becomes a cloying mess, the other way and it loses its magic. But the knobs were set all but perfectly in This Beautiful Fantastic as I'm still smiling just thinking about it.
On TCM now is "Inherit the Wind."
Has Gene Kelly had a better role?
Yes, he's sung, he's danced, he's been the lead in other movies - he's famous for some of those, but not this one - but I'm not sure he has ever more perfectly fit a role than in "Inherit the Wind."
JOHN WICK 3 PARABELLUM starring Keunu Reeves
not as good as JOHN WICK 1 & 2
mostly gun fu, knife fighting, ninja stuff and the soundtrack was not as good on the 3rd one
the original was a lot better
Dunkirk on a laptop computer while on TD.
Great movie, not too bad on the small screen, obviously better at the theatre and my 75" screen at home though! RTU tonight!
Two for the Seesaw from 1962 staring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine.
The late '50s / early '60s saw the movie wheel make a big turn toward movies showing more realistic adult situations including the gritty side of life and no longer only when tucked inside a film-noir structure.
The Sweet Smell of Success (noir), The Children's Hour, Paris Blues, The Apartment and this one, Two for the Seesaw - amongst others - revealed a world of lying, scheming, cheating adults having affairs, sex out of wedlock and all sorts of other wanton things, thus, debunking the wholesome image of '50s America.
While less well known than the others mentioned above, Two for the Seesaw holds it own in moving Hollywood's needle more toward a realistic representation of life. As with the pre-code '30s movie, though, these early '60s-era movies let you know what was going on, showed you enough of it all for realism, but didn't gratuitously throw every nasty, viscous and ugly thing in life in your face.
Today we need a word past gratuitous for the sex, drugs, violence and cruelty that regularly makes it to movies and, heck, TV, with the mindnumbingness of it all arguing that the pre-code '30s and early '60s movies might have had a more effective formula for engaging the viewer in life's struggles and challenges. Those movies didn't hide what was going on; they showed you enough to understand, but left the last needle track, the last punch to the face, the last knocking of the knees to the imagination.
Two for the Seesaw brings a WASPy mid-western lawyer (Mitchum) - trying to rebuild his post-divorce life - to New York City where he meets an ethnically Jewish, kind and enervated-from-life at, what, all of twenty five years old, struggling ballerina wannabe (MacLaine). Just pairing those two types was envelope pushing for the time - but throw in their casual sex, drug using friends and general disregard for many of "the rules" of the time and the movie is just shy of groundbreaking.
Was Mitchum miscast or a brilliant choice? If the idea was to put two people together who don't natural match up, it's brilliant as you know the only way these two antipodes could connect is after life had beaten them both up enough for any decent lifeboat to look appealing.
And that leads to the story: not can opposites attract - we all know they can - but can they sustain a long-term relationship? Can upright lawyer Mitchum resist the pull to his old world of a certain kind of manners and emotional stoicism, represented by his always-calling ex-wife? Can a live-out-loud MacLaine understand and accept a quietly kind man who wants to help her or does she need the drama and - in an early, if rough-edged, kinda feminism - financial equality she's used to in her Greenwich Village-style relationships?
It is a bit uneven and forced in spots, but its freshness for the time - and still challenging themes today - keep it engaging. Director Robert Wise, one of my favorites, who comfortably operates in all sorts of genres - his sci-fi The Day the Earth Stood Still and musical The Sound of Music being just two examples - always creates three-dimensional characters dealing with fully fleshed out real-life situations.
Finally, Two For the Seesaw's shot-on-location New York City street scenes and tenement apartments (which still looked that way in the '80s when I first hunted for an affordable apartment in NYC) are wonderful early '60s time travel. Plus, you'll have the advantage that I didn't of knowing that MacLaine's character's name is not Kibble (I kept saying to myself throughout the move, "that can't be it") but Gittel.
My wife and I have been watching Outlander on Netflix. I just mentioned to her a couple of nights ago that the lead female character must be contractually obligated to show us her nipples at least twice per episode. Now I must admit that a certain amount of this is not appalling to me, however gratuitous is definitely the perfect word choice here.
The Woman on the Beach on TCM this morning. Kind of had it on for background atmosphere and kind of because it starred Robert Ryan. It is an okay flick, but nothing I would go out of my way to watch again.
Agreed. My girlfriend and I watched a handful of episodes of that show. I'd say it's basically soft porn. Initially we enjoyed the story, but it quickly became soap opera-y and repetitive. We might go back, but there's so much else on and only so much TV time.