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What Was The Last Movie You Watched?

Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
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851
Remember, folks, "Smart Girls Don't Talk", at least in this 1948 crime romance, starring Virginia Mayo as socialite with a depleted bank account and Bruce (don't call me Herman) Bennett as a cultured, smooth, night-club owning gangster with falls for Mayo in his own gangster way. She needs dough, he has dough, it is simple, no?

Actually, no; gangsters, no matter how genial, usually build their fortunes with the help of violent maladjusteds, and one of Bennett's henchmen shoots somebody, and Mayo's likable brother, fresh from medical school, gets drawn into a sordid demi-world, and bad things happen. Mayo realizes just how rotten Bennett and his ilk are, so the last part of the movie she tries to get the goods on him so that the law can put him away. Stay until the end to see if Bennett loved Mayo even if she double-crossed him.

Directed by Richard L. Bare, who did a gazillion shorts on the theme of So You Want to... (be on a jury, be a gladiator, and others), and 166 episodes of Green Acres.

Then in a complete change of pace, we watched Keep Your Powder Dry (1945), with Lana Turner, Laraine Day, and Susan Peters (billed in that order) as a trio of enlistees in the Women's Army Corps. Personalities clash, leading to snippy remarks, balanced out by some hilarious wisecracks and grousing about military life. Edward Buzzell, who was a Broadway notable who went out to Hollywood to film the movie version of a stage play, directed with a light touch and a sure hand.

Basic training didn't seen all that rough, and it was interesting to see some (certainly) real footage of WACs marching on the parade ground, etc. Lee Patrick, as a vaudevillian who joins the war effort, gets the funniest lines. We enjoyed it very much.
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
Messages
1,388
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St John's Wood, London UK
View attachment 545446
Letter from an Unknown Woman from 1948 with Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan


In the Romantic Era, love was a transcendental experience, a force beyond reason and logic. While a few embers of that idea burn today, as most people still marry for love, love now is rationalized. We use apps to align likes and, at all costs, we keep our own identities.

This makes movies like Letter from an Unknown Woman, a Romantic Era throwback picture, much like Wuthering Heights or Peter Ibbetson, a bit foreign to modern audiences that expect a different type of love and a different type of female character.

If you can put that modern viewpoint aside and let yourself be absorbed in the spirit of the Romantic Era, then you can enjoy Letter from an Unknown Woman as a beautiful and poignant tale of love, hope and loss.

Joan Fontaine plays a girl growing up in early 1900s Vienna who is smittened by her neighbor, a handsome, brilliant young pianist. He doesn't notice the shy girl, though, as he's a successful musician and, more importantly, a playboy who has women coming and going.

Several years later, after her family moved to Linz (home of the much-beloved linzer tart), Fontaine refuses an advantageous proposal, which angers her parents. She then moves back on her own to Vienna to, in modern terms, stalk her former neighbor played by Louis Jourdan.

They meet and share a long and wonderful romantic evening; this is the coin of the realm in Romantic Era stories. The evening ends with a long and (one assumes) wonderful tumble in the hay, with a little pianist on the way as a result.

Jourdan, unaware of the baby on the way, goes on a trip with a promise to return, but he doesn't keep it. Fontaine never tells him about the baby. She raises the boy on her own until she marries a kind and wealthy general who gives her and the boy a beautiful home.

Today's rational world would say things worked out well for Fontaine, but the Romantic Era wasn't rational. So students of that period know what is coming next: Jourdan returns and Fontaine swoons.

To tell more is to give the story away, but of course, there will be much angst, passion and a surprisingly emotionally cold reveal, followed by an equally surprising act of symbolic sacrifice. It's a Romantic ending worthy of Anna Karenina.

Like in Anna Karenina, the woman is the story here, making this Fontaine's movie. From a girl with a crush, to a young woman giving herself to the man she loves, to a mature woman facing a life-altering decision, beautiful and reserved Fontaine owns every one of her scenes.

The camera loves her and she understands that less is often more in acting. Her performance is quietly captivating, so much so, you forget she is acting. In her long career, this is one of Ms. Fontaine's finest performances.

Jourdan is very good playing the male lead as his job is to look handsome, check, and to be unawarely selfish, check. The trick he pulls off successfully is being selfish, but not mean or unappealing.

Director Max Ophuls is in his comfort zone with Romantic Era stories. He moves the pace along, something not all directors of this style of material master. With beautifully detailed sets, he also creates a wonderfully warm and magical atmosphere for fin-de-siècle Austria.

Letter from an Unknown Woman is a moving and sensitive homage to a bygone era; to a time when poetry and novels, not movies, capture the Romantic Era's unabashed belief in transcendental love.

Today with brazern gratuitous sexual license and a lack of profundity in scripts it shouldn't surprise us
when a classic like Letter is seen with its depth and solid scale that most modern fare simply cannot match
this genre for quality. Current society reads less so literature steps aside for cheap writ, ribaldry, slapdash
third rate comedy almost moronic in its simplicity and meaningless in its tone.

And I know Joan Fontaine was a sister to another actress, ahh.
 

Edward

Bartender
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24,695
Location
London, UK
Caught the latest Matrix - Resurrections - on streaming last night. Fun enough for a dumb action flick. Certainly head and shoulders above the tedious sequels to the fun enough (if vastly overrated) original picture. Reeves is a much more compelling screen presence than he was twenty years ago, imo. Also nice to see a leading lady who is a contemporary of a middle-aged male lead in a Hollywood picture.
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
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5,172
Location
Troy, New York, USA
Watched home films: A Beautiful Young Mind about an autistic maths wizard who placed on the UK Maths
Olympiad team; and The Man Who Knew Infinity that portrayed Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan,
who spent two years at Trinity under famed Cambridge mathematician GH Hardy. Absolutely wonderful.
After reading a dazzling short story about mathematics I remembered both films but NOT their titles! Thanks FL you just saved me a boatload of searching!

Worf
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
Messages
1,388
Location
St John's Wood, London UK
After reading a dazzling short story about mathematics I remembered both films but NOT their titles! Thanks FL you just saved me a boatload of searching!

Worf
Glad to be of service sir. See you at the wrap review party; mind you, a Fast A level paper with all the i dots and t's crossed, particulars, angles and dangles with pictures too.
 
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New York City
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A Bedtime Story from 1933 with Maurice Chevalier, Helen Twelvetrees and Edward Everett Horton


A Bedtime Story is not quite a romcom, not quite a musical and not quite a drama, but instead, it is really a lighthearted fairytale with almost enough charm to overcome its thin story and choppy directing.

Maurice Chevalier plays a wealthy titled Parisian playboy who finds a baby in his limousine one evening. The baby, making his first screen appearance, is played by the huge 1930s infant star Baby LeRoy, whose most famous screen pairing would come later with W. C. Fields.

Womanizer Chevalier, engaged, but about to have three separate rendezvous with comely women that night, misses them all as he becomes smittened with the baby. Women being miffed at Chevalier, like the three from that evening, are a big part of the movie.

That is the setup with the rest of the movie being the fallout from Chevalier's changed life as he decides, on a whim, to keep the baby with the legal niceties being ignored for the present.

Director Norman Taurog tries to do three things with his movie from here. One, he employs all the normal screwball baby comedy including both a crazy splathing bath scene and several scenes where the baby breaks men's expensive pocket watches.

Two, he has singing star Chevalier perform several songs because, just like Elvis movies several decades later, that's what the public wanted and expected from a Chevalier picture at that time.

Finally, Taurog develops a narrative about Chevalier trying to disentangle himself from his very complicated old life - from all his paramours, plus his fiance - while he falls in love with the poor, pretty and waiflike baby nurse, played by Helen Twelvetrees, whom he hires.

The baby screwball stuff and Chevalier's singing will either work for you or not as both are very dated today. The story, too, is hardly original, but it does have its moments as Chevalier shines best when he's doing his charming rogue Frenchman thing.

He's helped along by his butler, played here by Edward Everett Horton doing his usual exasperated and put-upon shtick, which makes him a perfect straight man for Chevalier. Their scenes together are some of the best in the movie.

Twelvetrees, a now-forgotten but talented actress and leading lady of the early 1930s, never fully engages in this one. Other than a few cute scenes early on with Chevalier, when her character first arrives, she plays her nurse role too staid for the movie's romcom angle.

That's an issue since the fun in this one is supposed to be the journey of Chevalier and Twelvetrees falling in love and overcoming hurdles, hurdles that include several women and one jealous husband who are quite angry at Chevalier.

There is the standard, for the 1930s, near-climatic scene of rich people staying in a big mansion for a weekend and getting either confused or angry about who winds up in whose room at night. Of course, a few women wind up in Chevalier's, but it feels uninspired.

The resolution of the baby's fate, which was never really in doubt, plays fast and loose with the adoption laws of even the 1930s. Like several other things in this movie, the adoption is tossed in almost haphazardly when the writers, seemingly, realized they needed to close a loose end.

A Bedtime Story has several good scenes, but it never comes together as the key element needed to carry the movie, the love story, doesn't come alive. All that's left, then, is some screwball baby comedy, a few songs and Chevalier's charm, but it's not quite enough.
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
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1,388
Location
St John's Wood, London UK
^ Chevalier was like a bottle of run of mill French wine that aged splendidly into true vintage.
I always appreciated his l'eminence grise presence, and he came to the stage in mature youth seared
by First World War combatant duty and prisoner of war service.
 
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16,755
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New York City
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Go Naked in the World from 1961 with Gina Lollobrigida, Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Franciosa


The 1950s loved its big, bold and usually filmed-in-color family-saga pictures. While Go Naked in the World was made in 1961, trends don't turn in perfect sync with the calendar, as this is a 1950s movie in spirit and style.

Its story and characters are mainly two dimensional, which gives this overall modest production a made-for-TV-movie feel that still has its moments, if you're in the mood for over-the-top melodrama.

Anthony Franciosa plays the disaffected son of a wealthy self-made Greek immigrant played by Ernest Borgnine. Borgnine is imperious, but loving in his own way. Yet he gives that love only on his own demanding terms, which pushes his son away.

Franciosa, whom we meet as he's getting out of a stint in the Air Force, is no joy himself. He seems to like fighting with his father and bemoaning the "burden" of being a big man's son, but he has no real path in life and still, occasionally, takes the old man's money.

Borgine has cowed his wife into the shadows, leaving him only his late-teen daughter. She tries to get along with her father, while doing what she likes behind his back, probably because she sees how badly direct confrontation has worked out for her older brother.

Mid-twentieth-century America produced many books and movies about tremendously successful first-generation immigrant men being too hard on their children. The kids' values and outlook are American, not "old world," which leads to endless family discord.

The twist here, and it's a saponaceous doozy, is that Franciosa starts dating a woman, played by Gina Lollobrigida, whom any sentient person in the world can tell is a high-priced hooker. Yet, Franciosa misses all the clues and falls in love with her.

That's not the "doozy" part, though, as that comes a little later when Franciosa brings her home to meet his parents. We then learn that Papa has employed the services of Ms. Lollobrigida for his own personal use. Dear God, the son is in love with his father's whore.

When Franciosa finally realizes who Lollobrigida is, he does what any emotionally immature man would do and blames her for being a hooker. The problem is these two really love each other, but getting past the "you banged my father for money" hurdle is a tough one.

That is pretty much the set up with the rest of the movie being Borgnine and Franciosa yelling at each other, then saying they love each other, then fighting again. At the same time, Franciosa and Lollobrigida yell at each other, then say they love each other, then fight again.

The entire plot is too contrived and obvious to really touch you. Plus, Borgine, a fine actor, is stuck with a character who is too inconsistent to be believable. You never really know if he is a stern-to-the-point-of-being-mean father or a dominating-but-loving papa.

Franciosa's character is more consistent as he's basically a spoiled jerk whose one honest feature is calling his father on his BS. He is unlikeable in a not engaging way. You keep thinking call-girl Lollobrigida deserves better.

Which brings us to Lollobrigida who is the most sympathetic character: the emotionally lonely whore usually is. Her performance portrays a deep sadness combined with a call-girl's remoteness that makes her the one person you care about in the movie.

The climax, no spoilers coming, is pretty extreme, which damages a story already suffering from poor construction and low credibility. Still, if you're up for a poor-man's version of mid-century cinematic melodrama, Go Naked in the World is a passable choice.


N.B. Made up or not, Gina Lollobrigida is a heck of a good name for a mid-century Hollywood bombshell.
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
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1,388
Location
St John's Wood, London UK
^ I'll say. Tres bella signorina mi Gina. Rumour had one evening that she was over at King's for an award
honoraria some such so I dashed right but no Gina no. Spent days downing aspirins with coffee and munching
tomatoes. Swear she caught me in Hunchback for life, most adorable lass on sandals.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,695
Location
London, UK
I didn't know they had made a fourth movie; I might have to track that down. I liked the first one a lot, but it's sequels were nothing more than "action/adventure" cash grabs.

Matrix: Resurrections It hit cinemas in 2021 when a lot of us were still covid-cocooning, or it might have had a lot more attention. Largely down to Covid and its impact, I didn't see anything in the cinema between Joker (Autumn 2019) and dial of Destiny (July 2023).
 
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12,714
Location
Northern California
Out of the Fog on TCM’s Noir Alley. Once again, I saw that John Garfield was in it so I had to give it a shot. At some point, I realized that I had seen it once upon a time. Worth it just for the performances of Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen.
:D
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
Messages
1,388
Location
St John's Wood, London UK
^ Maugham like Fitzgerald is too tempting to leave well enough alone so remakes periodically premiere
to inevitable compare with different focus and slant using this or that lead for emphasis, but underlying all
is actual literary greatness and theme. Themes that hold exemplary human mortals out in stark portrayal
amidst history. Shakespeare excels in this. I find Oppenheimer much to type in this regard.
Razor plucked a veteran protagonist then earmarks his era with a most compelling examination of it and the
impact wrought his entire self mind, heart, soul. Hemingway is another. That particular generation of First War
men made mark with truth writ blood. Razor captured that moment. Kids today are not exposed to literary
splendour and consequently live far more in the shallows.
 
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New York City
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A Letter to Three Wives from 1949 with Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Paul Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Thelma Ritter and Jeffrey Lynn


A Letter to Three Wives is an impressively constructed story that is also contrived as heck, but you don't care as director and co-writer Joseph L. Mankiewicz created such engaging and lively characters, driven by a witty plot device, that you just enjoy the ride.

In a bedroom suburb of New York City, three wives are shaken to their core when together they receive a letter from the town's siren saying she has run off with one of the three women's husbands. Through flashback sequences, we learn that all three have reason to worry.

Linda Darnell plays the wife who grew up poor and "nabbed" her rich, older boss, played by Paul Douglas. Theirs is a combative relationship where he thinks she married him just for his money and she thinks he now feels trapped and bitter.

Jeanne Crain plays the pretty "hayseed" who married the town's handsome, rich "catch" during the war, when class distinction was palliated by foreign surroundings and uniforms. Now, she feels her husband regrets that he "married down" and is embarrassed by her.

Finally, Ann Sothern plays the successful writer of crassly commercial radio programs. Her large income emasculates her school teacher husband, played by Kirk Douglas. Their marriage is a chess match of passive aggression that periodically breaks out into open hostility.

Mankiewicz uses this elaborate setup to explore the themes of class, money and culture in mid-century America, but his movie is no boring docudrama, as humor, passion, insecurity and, often, love pour out from this well-penned script.

Darnell grew up poor in a shack next to the railroad tracks, where the family is so attuned to the loud trains that household conversation is routinely paused when a train noisily rattles by only to resume once it passes. It's a perfect detail that explains Darnell's drive.

Her marriage to the older Douglas is a bit cliched - wealthy middle-aged divorced man marries poor pretty girl - but these two talented actors imbue it with real passion. At first you think you understand them, only to learn later that you really didn't.

Equally engaging and even more complex and nuanced is Sothern and Douglas' marriage, as his insecurities about being a teacher, a job he clearly loves, are painfully laid bare by his wife's financial success at a job that panders to the public.

His wife is trying to get him to give up teaching for the lucrative field of radio, but he keeps getting on his high horse, while bemoaning the low pay and low esteem of teaching. That his passion for his job undermines his own argument never becomes apparent to him.

As their homefront cold war unfolds, their maid, played by the outstanding Thelma Ritter, serves as the "plain" talker who exposes so many of Sothern's fake claims to be doing this or that for her husband. Douglas is a blowhard, but Sothern's a bully - it's good stuff.

Crain's marriage to the rich "catch," played by Jeffrey Lynn, is the weakest of the three relationships as there is little complexity involved, with both characters being not much more than archetypes. Still, it allows Mankiewicz to shine a light on class snobbery.

For the modern viewer, the movie is also a nice trip to a small, successful mid-century American city with a still thriving downtown, comfortable homes, woody wagons, fancy "hi-fis" and people dressing up to go to dinner at their friends' homes.

The script itself, full of witty observations, sharp barbs and funny asides, echoes Mankiewicz' All About Eve script, except it has the suburbs filling in for the theater as a setting.

A Letter to Three Wives is a wonderful snapshot of America at a point in time, but its story about how class, money and status affect business, friendship and marriage is timeless. Plus, the dialogue and acting have held up very well over the ensuing seventy-plus years.
 
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Matrix: Resurrections It hit cinemas in 2021 when a lot of us were still covid-cocooning, or it might have had a lot more attention. Largely down to Covid and its impact, I didn't see anything in the cinema between Joker (Autumn 2019) and dial of Destiny (July 2023).
Yes, that time frame would explain it. My late wife was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers in June of 2019, so my focus wasn't exactly on which new movies were opening. Thank you!

BTW, I had an opportunity to watch the first 20-30 minutes of Resurrections, but something came up and I had to stop. I'm hopeful I'll be able to get back to it soon.
 

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