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What Was The Last Movie You Watched?

Edward

Bartender
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Recently watched An American PIckle, starring Seth Rogan. Very fun little piece of whimsy - I believe already reviewed here a few pages ago. I enjoyed its irreverent takedown of both the 'artisanal' retro hipster thing, and its satire on the culture wars.

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Night before last was Bill and Ted Face the Music. I'd not heard good things, but I enjoyed it well enough. The plot is thin, and you won't find much new here if you've seen the first two. The young ladies playing their daughters, however, are very good (and I thought a nice choice to see females rather than boys in the role). They (particularly Ted's daughter) carry forward the familial traits very well. Reeves and Winter look like they're having a ball, playing the characters with real continuity from the original films. What I liked most, however, was the respect with which they treated the historical figures represented by the band. In particular, the portrayal of Jimi Hendrix is lovely: not the obvious, lazy "wild man smashing flaming guitar" thing, but instead they really bring out his joy in music, and in particular his love of classical music, in particular Mozart.
 
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Roman Holiday from 1953 with Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert


The story of a young, pretty princes breaking out from her royal gilded cage for a day-or-so-long rumspringa, where she meets a regular guy, falls in love and then has to choose between the life of duty she was born into or following her heart, come what may, was not a new tale in 1953 and has been retold in endless variations ever since.

In 1953's Roman Holiday, though, director William Wyler, along with co-stars Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, with an assist from the city of Rome itself, created the definitive movie version of this wistful love story.

It's hard to decide what to praise first. In her breakout role, twenty-four-year-old Audrey Hepburn sparkles as the cosseted princess who takes flight for a day or so to experience freedom and "regular" life.

Her joy at sitting at an outdoor cafe, buying gelato from a street vendor or riding on a Vespa is infectious. It's youth and beauty and freshness and wonder all springing from one stunning, lythe and vivacious girl.

But our heroine needs a charming young man for accompaniment on her brief adventure, so Hollywood served up the perfect offering in handsome "regular guy" Gregory Peck playing a reporter who sees a career-making story all but fall into his lap when he finds the momentarily wayward princess sleeping on a public bench.

Peck plays tour guide, friend and mentor to the innocent princess, ostensibly to get a story, but really to be a love interest to round out Hepburn's few days of freedom.

Peck's motives are conflicted - he even brings along his photographer friend, wonderfully played by Eddie Albert, so that his story will have accompanying pictures - but there's no real menace in Roman Holiday as the movie is all about a fleeting moment of joy.

Rome itself, still a bit tattered and frayed from WWII, provides a picturesque background of old world elegance with a youthful vibe for Hepburn and Peck to run around, get into harmless scrapes with the locals and elude the secret service agents looking for their missing princess. And while that fun is going on, these two attractive and nice people, naturally, fall in love.

Wyler and team are too smart to allow this fairytale to become cloying, so you are always reminded that this "perfect" love story faces an all-but-insurmountable challenge as Hepburn is no ordinary girl and Peck is not royalty.

The climax of Roman Holiday, which could easily have become overly sentimental, strikes a poignant balance between warmth and reality to complete one of Hollywood most-charming romantic comedies ever. Hollywood will never stop retelling this story, but it's unlikely it will ever get it more right than it did with this one magical picture in 1953.
 
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Wild Boys of the Road from 1933 with Fankie Darro, Edwin Phillips and Dorothy Coonan Wellman


Hollywood was once called the dream factory for a reason: it sold (and still sells) fantasy and escapism, which is why, in the 1930s, it didn't put out that many pictures focused exclusively on the hardships of the Depression. People weren't anxious to hand over a difficult-to-earn dime for a movie ticket to see, on the screen, the same misery they could see for free all around them.

Of the small number of pictures that did show the worst of the Depression, The Grapes of Wrath is probably the best known, but Wild Boys of the Road, too, doesn't pull any punches in its reveal of one of the harshest of the era's brutal struggles.

Two former middle-class teenage boys, played by Frankie Darro and Edwin Phillips, leave home when they realize they are burdens to their now-unemployed parents. They hop a freight train with vague plans to get to "a city" and get jobs.

They quickly meet a teenage girl, played by Dorothy Coonan Wellman, posing as a boy, which we learn was a survival tactic after, in a gut-wrenching scene, we see her about to be raped by a railroad worker. In what could only happen in a pre-code movie, the boys then dispense the ultimate vigilante justice on the worker and the viewer, at that moment, is not worried about due process.

If there had been any youthful innocence left in these kids before, it's gone now. It's all harsh survival from here as the railway "detectives" try to chase the kids, now part of a larger gang of similar boys and girls, from the trains at each station, while the police often try to do the same when the kids build tent cities.

The kids scrounge for food and clothing, panhandle, take any job and steal (that's not shown too much, but you get it) as they move around the country with a vague hope it will be better somewhere else.

In the movie's second brutal scene, during one of the "raids" on the trains, as the kids are trying to escape the railway "dicks," Phillips falls on the track and loses his leg to an oncoming locomotive. It is an excruciating long and painful sequence. Director William Wellman had no interest in sparing his audience in this one.

The story climaxes with the kids in New York City where Darro gets arrested when he's duped into committing a crime. A kindly judge offers the three - Darro, Phillips and Wellman have stuck together the whole time - some hope, and there's even a passing reference to government programs, but Wellman's point had already been made.

Wellman understood that personalizing the stories in Wild Boys of the Road would make the misery real for the audience. At the beginning, we see Darro and Phillips, average teenage boys worried about cars, girls and dances, quickly jolted into the harsh realities of life when their families' fortunes change in a flash.

It's hard to leave the theater and return to a comfortable home after that, without some of the movie's images unpleasantly bouncing around inside your head.

That personalization only works because Darro, Phillips and Wellman, despite looking like some of the three healthiest and most well-fed children in America at that time, convincingly portray kids thrown into an ugly adult world with no real skills to survive.

The movie business itself would not have survived long had it fed America a constant diet of Wild Boys of the Road movies, which is why today, pictures like it are a valuable part of the documentation of the era.
 
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Next Time We Love from 1936 with Margaret Sullavan, Jimmy Stewart and Ray Milland


Ursula Parrott wrote popular romantic novels in the 1920s and 1930s, many of which were made into successful movies. The novels were a bit formulaic, but with strong female characters, they were ahead of their time and frequently risque, covering topics like divorce, extra-marital affairs and children born out of wedlock.

In pre-code Hollywood (1930-1934), the movies made from her novels hewed to the books' stories as those topics had yet to be deemed out of bounds by the Motion Picture Production Code. Unfortunately, movies made later, such as Next Time We Love (a title awkwardly changed from the book's Next Time We Live), were so altered to fit the Code's standards that the point of the story was often lost by the time Hollywood was done with it.

Next Time We Love suffers this fate as Tinseltown's Code-forced rewrite undid the core of the story and the motivation of the characters. It left us with a broken tale of young love that's confusing as heck as we don't really understand why it's broken.

Jimmy Stewart plays a young newspaper man who meets a college student / actress wannabe played by Margaret Sullavan. They fall deeply in love, get married and, initially, struggle to pay the bills after he loses his job as a foreign correspondent that he, effectively, quits in order to be with her when their first child is born.

Up to now, the story is working, but then it all gets messed up in a way that any normal couple would have worked out with a few heart-to-heart conversations. Instead, Stewart's best friend, played by young and handsome Ray Milland, helps Sullavan restart her acting career (she stopped when she was pregnant). She quickly becomes successful.

With Sullavan now the primary earner in the family, Stewart's ego is bruised, so she, unbeknownst to him, gets him his foreign correspondent's job back. The rest of the movie is these two putatively deeply in love people being too proud to admit they want to be together, so they pursue their careers which take them further and farther (he goes overseas, she to Hollywood) apart.

The climax, a few years later, has more Code-driven nonsense leading to a marriage-is-a-wonderful-institution ending that made the entire movie silly unless you believe an articulate newspaper man and intelligent actress were incapable of having one real conversation over several years. There's also a side story about Milland's character, a successful actor himself, pinning away for Sullavan that was denuded of all the grit it had in the book by the Motion Picture Code.

Jimmy Stewart, Ray Milland and Margaret Sullavan, all talented actors, are at the peak of their youthful pulchritude in this one, so the movie is worth one watch just to enjoy their performances. There's also some fun time travel to the mid 1930s, especially to that era's incredibly energized newspaper industry.

Unfortunately, though, the Motion Picture Production Code so mangled Ursula Parrot's light but enjoyable page-turner story that by the time it made it to the screen under the tortured title Next Time We Love, it made almost no sense. Sometimes you could read between the lines in a movie to get to the real story, but not in this one. Instead, you really do have to read the book.

Somehow, the arbiters of 1930s morality had decided Americans could handle reading about the messiness of real life in books, but they were not mature enough to see that same messiness portrayed on screen.
 
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The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951 with Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe and Hugh Marlowe


So many movies and TV shows have copied and expanded on the ideas in The Day the Earth Stood Still that it takes a little movie-history perspective to appreciate the freshness, at the time, of director Robert Wise's crisp interpretation of Harry Bates' story and Edmund H. North's screenplay.

With a modest budget and the limitations of 1950s movie-making technology, The Day the Earth Stood Still won't wow modern audiences with special effects or elaborate sets, but maybe that is a hidden gift as it forced director Wise (who's directed impressive movies in several different genres) to focus on developing the characters and storylines.

The story itself is almost austere. A spaceship lands in Washington D.C. An alien and a robot alight. The human-in-appearance alien, played by Michael Rennie, tries to explain his purpose, but the public is scared and the military responds with force. In response, the robot vaporizes the nearby military's weapons, while Rennie goes into hiding amongst the population.

Rennie, staying in a boarding house and trying to understand "regular" earthlings, meets a fellow boarder, a young war-widow living with her son, played by Patricia Neal. As Rennie gets to know Neal, her son and her suspicious-of-Rennie boyfriend, played by Hugh Marlowe, there are a variety of responses on both sides - fear, antagonism, kindness, humor and more - which personalizes the alien Rennie to the humans and the humans to the alien.

Away from the "big message" that's coming, it is these small interactions that are the heart of The Day the Earth Stood Still. It's the "you'll learn not to hate someone who is different from you if you really get to know them" lesson, smartly shown not preached. It's Neal's and Rennie's acting talents in these scenes that convincingly carry a story that could easily have slipped into camp.

Rennie, still in hiding and now trying to arrange a meeting with the "scientists of the world," solves some ridiculously complex-looking formula a famous physicist, played by the always wonderful Sam Jaffe, is working on. It further personalizes Rennie, but it also reminds us that the earth is just one small dot in the universe. Plus, it's always fun when the "smart" alien humbles even the most-brilliant human.

The military, portrayed here as nearly thoughtless and hyper aggressive, continues its hunt for Rennie, leading to the movie's climax. (Spoiler alert) Rennie, now back at his ship and protected by the robot, delivers an ultimatum to earth: Don't bring your wars and violence to space or we will destroy your planet.

There's more to Rennie's message: he explains how the aliens have turned the policing of their world over to robots so that they no longer have to worry about violence. It's a lovely thought until you ask the inevitable "who watches (or programs) the watchmen" question.

The Day the Earth Stood Still's powerful message does have an element of condescending simplicity and the movie's special effects look more like a high-school science project. Still, it is an incredible early effort at bringing serious science fiction to the screen that has been copied and riffed on ever since. It should also remind modern movie makers that story, characters and ideas, not wizbang special effects, are what make truly great movies.


N.B. A large spaceship lands in Washington. A giant robot emerges who proceeds to vaporize all the military weapons aimed at it. The impregnable robot then stands, sentry like, outside the also impregnable ship, yet the military assigns just two (two!) lackadaisical soldiers to guard the ship and robot at night. If earth's leaders were really that stupid, the planet would deserve to be vaporized.

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Worf

I'll Lock Up
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"The Phenix City Story" - Made in the late 50's this no holds barred tale of a smallish Southern Town owned and run by murderous gangsters would seem laughable if it weren't essentially a true story. This movie, shot in the town itself and acted by actual citizens (including the local brothel keeper named "Ma") is almost documentary like in it's portrayal of a city corrupted from top to bottom. Drugs, prostitution, illegal (and crooked) gambling all combine to get the town labeled by "Life", "Look" and "Time" as the "The most sinful town in America". Numerous attempts at reform have failed over the decades. Finally the son of a local lawyer, who himself just returned from prosecuting War Crimes in Europe, decides to take a hand. His father who is running for Attorney General of Alabama is gunned down in cold blood. The town is ready to explode until the Governor is convinced to send in the National Guard as all other law enforcement is owned by the mob.

This film pulls little or no punches. The actor portraying the leads father wears the actual suit the real man was shot in. A child is murdered and thrown in front the protagonist's home with a note saying his children were next. It's only after you find out that the rousing ending did not exactly play out as depicted that you realize that despite the horrors shown in the film, real life Alabama, on the eve of the Civil Rights struggle was even worse (thanks Noir Alley). I don't recommend this film for the squeamish or faint of heart.

Worf
 

Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
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751
View attachment 456385
The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951 with Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe and Hugh Marlowe


So many movies and TV shows have copied and expanded on the ideas in The Day the Earth Stood Still that it takes a little movie-history perspective to appreciate the freshness, at the time, of director Robert Wise's crisp interpretation of Harry Bates' story and Edmund H. North's screenplay.

With a modest budget and the limitations of 1950s movie-making technology, The Day the Earth Stood Still won't wow modern audiences with special effects or elaborate sets, but maybe that is a hidden gift as it forced director Wise (who's directed impressive movies in several different genres) to focus on developing the characters and storylines.

The story itself is almost austere. A spaceship lands in Washington D.C. An alien and a robot alight. The human-in-appearance alien, played by Michael Rennie, tries to explain his purpose, but the public is scared and the military responds with force. In response, the robot vaporizes the nearby military's weapons, while Rennie goes into hiding amongst the population.

Rennie, staying in a boarding house and trying to understand "regular" earthlings, meets a fellow boarder, a young war-widow living with her son, played by Patricia Neal. As Rennie gets to know Neal, her son and her suspicious-of-Rennie boyfriend, played by Hugh Marlowe, there are a variety of responses on both sides - fear, antagonism, kindness, humor and more - which personalizes the alien Rennie to the humans and the humans to the alien.

Away from the "big message" that's coming, it is these small interactions that are the heart of The Day the Earth Stood Still. It's the "you'll learn not to hate someone who is different from you if you really get to know them" lesson, smartly shown not preached. It's Neal's and Rennie's acting talents in these scenes that convincingly carry a story that could easily have slipped into camp.

Rennie, still in hiding and now trying to arrange a meeting with the "scientists of the world," solves some ridiculously complex-looking formula a famous physicist, played by the always wonderful Sam Jaffe, is working on. It further personalizes Rennie, but it also reminds us that the earth is just one small dot in the universe. Plus, it's always fun when the "smart" alien humbles even the most-brilliant human.

The military, portrayed here as nearly thoughtless and hyper aggressive, continues its hunt for Rennie, leading to the movie's climax. (Spoiler alert) Rennie, now back at his ship and protected by the robot, delivers an ultimatum to earth: Don't bring your wars and violence to space or we will destroy your planet.

There's more to Rennie's message: he explains how the aliens have turned the policing of their world over to robots so that they no longer have to worry about violence. It's a lovely thought until you ask the inevitable "who watches (or programs) the watchmen" question.

The Day the Earth Stood Still's powerful message does have an element of condescending simplicity and the movie's special effects look more like a high-school science project. Still, it is an incredible early effort at bringing serious science fiction to the screen that has been copied and riffed on ever since. It should also remind modern movie makers that story, characters and ideas, not wizbang special effects, are what make truly great movies.


N.B. A large spaceship lands in Washington. A giant robot emerges who proceeds to vaporize all the military weapons aimed at it. The impregnable robot then stands, century like, outside the also impregnable ship, yet the military assigns just two (two!) lackadaisical soldiers to guard the ship and robot at night. If earth's leaders were really that stupid, the planet would deserve to be vaporized.

View attachment 456383
That silly auto-correct inserted "century" instead of "sentry." It really bugs when they due that.
 
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That silly auto-correct inserted "century" instead of "sentry." It really bugs when they due that.
That's a great catch, but it could have been my error as I often mess up homonyms, even ones that I know, but somehow, when I'm writing, I just don't notice that I got them wrong. Either way, thank you. I'll go back and make the correction.
 
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My Summer with Monika from 1953 with Harriet Andersson and Lars Ekborg


My Summer with Monika, an early and not-so-dark Ingmar Bergman film, is a Swedish take on teenage angst and rebellion in the 1950s.

Harriet Andersson, the titular Monika, plays a late-teenage girl bored and frustrated with life.

She has a grimmy job as a clerk in a wholesale produce business with men who are way-too touchy. Her home life is not much better as she lives with her parents in an overcrowded apartment with noisy younger siblings and an often-drunk dad.

Emotional, impulsive and aggressive Andersson picks up a quiet boy played by Lars Ekborg. After the early fun of dating, a fed-up-with-life Monika impulsively talks Ekborg into running away with her. They take his father's small motor boat and spend a summer on an isolated island.

The summer is a fantasy moment as these two experience freedom while exploring each other sexually. Andersson, a full-figured woman, plays Monika as an instinctually seductive and erotic young girl, the kind a teenage boy would fantasize about running away with to an island.

The summer isn't just fun and games, though, as these two have all but no money, so they live in a raw back-to-nature way where thoughtful Ekborg accepts the situation and tries to plan a bit, while emotional Andersson pings from elation to despondency depending on the moment.

It's a minor spoiler alert to tell that Andersson gets pregnant and the movie, after a little more island frolicing, gets serious. Ekborg wants to go back to town, marry Andersson, get a job and continue his studies so that he can support his new family now and then, after school is finished, provide a better life for them.

Andersson goes along, but back in the city, in a small apartment, with little money and the daily strain of taking care of a baby with her husband away at work all day and trying to study at night is not easy for this impulsive and selfish young girl.

The climax is handled in a real-life way, but My Summer with Monika had already said what it wanted to say with its long summer island sequence.

It is in those scenes that Bergman captured that moment when two kids are young, innocent, in love, free of most responsibilities and discovering their sexuality in an uninhibited way.

Shot in black and white and with a grit and grime that is present at the edges of even the island scenes, Bergman's Swedish rumspringa is never false as real life stalks Andersson and Ekborg the entire time.

Teenage angst and rebellion are a universal phenomena as almost all young kids struggle with the push and pull of responsibility versus play, of planning versus spontaneity, of inhibition versus impulse.

In My Summer with Monika, Bergman takes us on a powerful and engaging coming-of-age journey with two very different kids who, in less than a year, go from a life of restraint, to one of extreme freedom and, then, to one demanding even greater restraint than before.
 

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
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Excellent review. One thing worth noting is that My Summer with Monica was released in America... as a "racy Swedish movie with nudity"!

Of course, Bergman wasn't operating under the Hollywood Production Code, not to mention that his quest for emotional realism was very different from most American movies of the time.

Bergman's reputation overseas as a brilliant director with unique insights on the human condition didn't take off until Smiles of a Summer Night a couple of years later. And even after that, the "racy Swedish movie" thing remained common for years. Even in my youth in the late sixties, there were films like the censorship-battle-inducing I Am Curious (Yellow) in that vein.
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
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5,018
Location
Troy, New York, USA
"Hellraiser" (2022) - This HULU flick is a "modern" retelling of the Hellraiser origin story. It's not bad but I still prefer the original. The new film expands the lore and gives us 5 new levels of the "Puzzle Box". The Cenobites are new and reimagined. Not as gory as it's predecessor but a scary trip nonetheless. Tough job all in all considering the original introduced up to a level or horror and gore we'd never seen before, anytime or anywhere. Hard to get over the initial shock of seeing the "bites in action for the first time. If' you've HULU or the bundle its well worth seeing.

Worf
 
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Fanny from 1961 with Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Boyer


Charm is hard to pull off on screen, but Fanny the movie, driven by Fanny the character, as portrayed by Leslie Caron, is charming without being cloying or cute (okay, it's cute, but not "cutesy") as its underlying sadness is never far from the surface.

The setting, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, helps as the town is pretty in a classic French seaport-town way, without being Disneyfied. But as always, it's the characters that matter with, in addition to Caron, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Boyer creating personalities that perfectly balance whimsey and humor with passion and struggle.

Caron plays a young local girl deeply in love with a young local boy, played by Horst Buchholz. She wants love and marriage, but he wants to get out of, what he believes is, the provincial town he grew up in.

Caron seduces him into having a moment of passion with her the night before he's set to run away to sea and then, as she believes he'll resent her if he stays, tells him the next morning that she's in love with someone else. That's all the encouragement he needs to hop on his ship as planned.

Of course, Caron learns a bit later that she is pregnant, so with the blessing of Buchholz father, played by Boyer, Caron agrees to marry Boyer's friend, a nice, older, wealthy merchant, played by Chevalier who wants Caron as a wife, but even more so, wants a son to carry on his family name.

As part of this grand bargain - Chevalier and Boyer know she’s pregnant - struck in a time when Caron needed a husband quickly to avoid the shame and ostracism of an "illegitimate" child, Boyer becomes the baby's godfather.

So what we have, in the very Catholic France of that era, is long-time friends coming together to quietly solve a "family" problem in a well-intentioned way. And for the most part, it works.

Chevalier is a kind and loving husband and father; Caron, not in love with him, comes to appreciate how lucky she is, despite carrying a sadness for having missed the great love of her life, while Boyer's anger at his son leaving him for a life at sea is mollified by the joy of his "godson," whom he knows is really his grandson. It is a bit confusing.

Just when everything is going well, Buchholz, of course, reappears to upset the family's delicate harmony, especially as he immediately bonds with whom he doesn't know is his son. The scriptwriters make it all work out in a way consistent with the charm and pathos of the movie, but you might be rooting for a different outcome.

What distinguishes Fanny, though, is not the, for the time, typical story about how an "oops baby" is covered up, but the way the abiding love of the characters is presented with a mirthful outlook.

Chevalier and Boyer "fight" like life-long buddies who know that their arguments are just the enjoyable paces they go through to reaffirmed their abiding friendship.

Caron, though, is the fulcrum of the movie as her character shows a maturity beyond her years, first, in telling a lie in sacrifice to Buchholz and, then, in appreciating what her older husband and her baby's godfather have done to help her. She maintains the delicate equilibrium of a giant lie, with charm, restraint and understanding.

Fanny's blend of romance and drama works because just beneath its enjoyably pretty and funny surface is a tale of pain, longing and sacrifice. It's real life spiffed up, but not made so pretty that you don't recognize it. Plus, Caron, Chevalier and Boyer create characters that are so endearing you wish you could meet them.
 
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Forbidden from 1932 with Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou and Ralph Bellamy


Director Frank Capra, who loves showing people making major life-long sacrifices, pours on the melodrama in Forbidden, a pre-code soap opera on steroids that is successfully carried over the finish line by a strong cast.

Barbara Stanwyck plays a mousy librarian in a small town who, frustrated that life is passing her by, draws out her savings for a luxurious vacation in, then, glamourous Havana. There, she meets a handsome and exciting man, played by Adolphe Menjou. He's a successful lawyer with a bright political future. Their romance continues when they return home.

Stanwyck is now working for a big city paper (we just have to go with it) where a smarmy, rising editor, played by Ralph Bellamy, takes a liking to her, but she's in love with Menjou.

Stanwyck and Menjou have strong on-screen chemistry, which helps us believe these two would stay together even after Stanwyck learns that the reason Menjou hasn't asked her to marry him is because he's already married.

The real soap suds come, though, when he tells Stanwyck his wife is a kind and good woman he can't leave because she is an "invalid" owing to a car crash that happened when Menjou was driving. Dear Lord.

Stanwyck learns this from Menjou just as she was about to tell him she's pregnant at a time when the "right thing to do" was for Menjou to marry her.

Stanwyck doesn't want to wreck Menjou's marriage and career, so she doesn't tell him about the baby and, then, disappears from his life. It's hard, at this point, to see the actors with all the soap suds bubbling up.

A few years later, Menjou is now district attorney. Stanwyck is still working for Bellamy's paper, while raising her baby. Menjou accidentally runs into her and the baby and they resume their affair.

When the press sees Menjou with the baby, he and Stanwyck agree that he will present the young girl as a "gift" he adopted for his invalid wife (the assumption is she can't have children) to save his marriage and career. Dear Lord.

Bellamy, meanwhile, becomes Menjou's sworn enemy because he suspects something is phoney about rising-political-star Menjou's adoption and because he suspects Menjou and Stanwyck are having an affair.

We then flash forward about fifteen years where we see that Stanwyck, while still working for Bellamy, has kept a scrapbook of Menjou's career (and, by proxy, her daughter's life) and that she is still his mistress. Stanwyck clearly decided to selflessly devote her life to Menjou.

The climax (no spoilers coming), amazingly, amps up the melodrama as Stanwyck has to make two life-shattering sacrifices for Menjou, but with Bellamy becoming pathological in his drive to bring down Menjou, will it be enough?

Forbidden works because Stanwyck is believable as the woman so in love with Menjou, who is a weak and vain, but not intentionally evil man, that she would, effectively, sacrifice her life and her relationship with her child to save his marriage and career. It has happened in real life, especially back at a time when "taboos" like these were often covered up.

Bellamy, too, keeps this ricocheting story afloat as he is surprisingly good playing a viciously mean man. Normally, in this period of his career, Bellamy didn't get the girl because he was too much of a milquetoast, but here he shows he had plenty of range and bandwidth as an actor.

A few years after its release, with the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, Forbidden was, well, forbidden from being shown in theaters. Today, it's hard to understand why, as nothing salacious is shown on screen, but the Code wouldn't allow a mistress, who had a baby out of wedlock, to be portrayed in a sympathetic light.

For modern audiences, these pre-code movies reveal that the public back then, as distinct from the motion-picture censors, understood and accepted the messy realities of life. These messy realities were often tucked into the subtext of Code-era movies, but thankfully, owing to pre-codes like Forbidden, for a few years in the early 1930s, movies provided a more-honest look at American society.
 

Worf

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"So Ends Our Night" - This 1941 offering from United Artists slams the Nazis in a manner most of the major studios were not and would not do until America was firmly in it. Only "The Mortal Storm" made in 1940 from MGM comes even close to laying it on the line like this offering. The film attempts to detail the dangers facing refugees who have no passports and hence no "legal" status. In pre-war Europe as they are shuffled from country to country, border to border with each detention being worse than the last. The story is shown through the plight of 3 central characters. Josef Steiner (Fredrich March) is a disaffected German Officer from WWI who refuses to join the fun. He escapes from a concentration camp and is in Austria before it gets swallowed.

Ludwig Kern (played by a VERY young Glenn Ford) is a half Jew whose mother's has been killed by the Nazis and who's father is also stateless. He meets March in the detention center. Called "Baby" by the other more senior refugees Ford is taken under March's wing as he attempts to show the green kid how to survive on the bum. Essentially how to gamble, fight, drink and keep his head on a swivel. The final piece of the triangle is Ruth Holland (played by Margret Sullivan) she is a Jewess betrayed and abandoned by her full Aryan fiancée once her heritage is known. Trained as a chemist, she survives working as a lab assistant in countries soon to be swallowed up by the coming war.

Ruth and Ludwig meet by accident at a boarding house in Prague and inevitably fall for one another, they are soon joined by Steiner who they run into working as a "Carny" at a circus. The three become close friends as they navigate the world of the stateless only to eventually wind up in France. The remainder of the film revolves around them attempting to survive and obtain some kind of "papers".

The best thing about the film are the performances of all involved. March, Ford and Sullivan are on top of their game and the supporting cast, full of familiar faces, adds and does not detract. In that it's filmed in 41, two years after the official breakout of the war, the audience knows that every country they visit is soon to be swallowed up. This lends an overwhelming and palpable sense of dread in the background of the whole affair.

Not a masterpiece but an good film nonetheless. I recommend it.

Worf
 
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⇧ What an excellent review by Worf. Love the line, "...keep his head on a swivel."

I saw the movie So Ends Our Night a couple of days ago (I DVR'd it from a recent TCM showing) and was about to post these ⇩ comments, but if you only want to read one review of the movie, I recommend reading Worf's above.

So-Ends-Our-Night-9-600x400.jpg

So Ends Our Night from 1941 with Fredric March, Glenn Ford and Margaret Sullavan


Casablanca famously opens with the description of a trail of haggard and desperate refugees fleeing Europe owing to the Nazi conquest of the continent. But before the Nazi had taken over almost all of Europe, refugees were fleeing Germany, and other countries it subsequently invaded, in a frantic attempt to remain free of Nazi subjugation.

So Ends Our Night looks at these refugees who, as persons without a state, had no legal right or way to live anywhere. For 1941, before all the horrors of WWII where fully known and for a Hollywood that had been timid throughout the 1930s to hurt its business in Germany, it's one of the few hard-hitting anti-Nazi movies that was made before the US entered WWII.

Fredric March plays a German who, as a member of the resistance, escapes a concentration camp and flees Germany paperless (no passport, visa, etc.). He is, effectively, forced to leave his sickly wife behind. A Gestapo officer, played by Erich von Stroheim, offers March a passport if he'll name fellow resistance members' names, but March refuses.

Now illegally in Austria before it was conquered by Germany, March meets a young refugee, played by Glenn Ford, who fled Germany because he is half Jewish. After being chased out of Austria by the authorities - they have no legal right to be there - Ford and March, now illegally in Prague, meet another refugee played by Margaret Sullavan.

Sullivan had to leave her middle-class life in Germany behind because she is Jewish. Ford and Sullavan, both young, are attracted to each other, but their relationship takes time to develop as the demands of survival trump romance for these desperate kids.

From here, So Ends Our Night documents all the small and big travails and challenges experienced by March, Ford, Sullivan and other refugees trying to survive - trying to earn a living for food and shelter - in states where their very existence is illegal.

With no passports or visas, they can't get jobs in the open and, of course, the market for illegal labor is flooded with refugees. They also have to maintain a constant vigilance for the police who would arrest them, which would lead to deportation after time spent in jail.

Along the way, they meet some kind people who help them, but also, many people who cheat or expose them. They move from one rooming house or barn to another and from one country to another in a fruitless search for a place to live something that approaches a normal life.

As refugees, instead, every day is lived in constant fear, yet, and this is amazing, they manage to keep much of their humanity. We see them sharing their small amount of food with someone who has none or singing along to an upbeat song because there is still some hope inside them.

March is a survivor who finds ways to make money, which, as the self-appointed surrogate parent to Ford and Sullivan, he kindly shares. Being (one assumes) written and filmed before France was conquered, France is seen as a possible sanctuary by these refugees, but we sadly know how that will end.

It will end as represented in the famous refugee trail seen in the opening of Casablanca. This makes So Ends Our Night, effectively, a precursor movie that explains the origins of that famous movie's harrowing trail of humans.

Owing to its small budget and being an independent production, So Ends Our Night lacks the professional and polished production quality of a major studio offering, but stars March, Ford and Sullivan deliver passionate performances that personalize the plight of the refugees.

With von Stroheim very effectively representing Nazi evil, So Ends Our Night is a solid and early entry in what would become a long and, sadly, very necessary line of movies documenting and exposing Nazi atrocities.
 
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