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What Was The Last Movie You Watched?

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
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I came across several YouTube Gloria Grahame snippets while nervously waiting for the
Ohio Derby to roll yesterday. She's my choice to play Burma in my fantasy imaginings still
her talent and looks hold up well today with discernible depth to match.
Need to see her bio played out in Movie Stars Don't Die in Liverpool with Annete Benning.
 

Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
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878
Did we mention Buck Privates, from 1941, with Bud and Lou? It was some time back, another edition of family movie night. The kids liked the comedy bits, not so much the songs (which I enjoyed). There were frequent laugh out louds from the grown-ups, especially the dice game scene.

Noir icon Lawrence Tierney heads the cast in The Bodyguard, from 1948. Directed by Richard Fleisher, so there's some tough action, and some interesting close ups, where the actors walk right up to the lens, filling the screen. Tierney is a boundary-pushing homicide detective, and Priscilla Lane his fiance; he gets fired, but immediately is offered a job as a bodyguard for the rich boss of a meat-packing empire, Elizabeth Risdon. Attempts are made on her life, and the cop in Tierney comes to the fore, investigating the goings-on. Fast-paced, with IMDb alleging a one hour and 2 minute run time.
 
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Never Open That Door from 1952, an Argentinian film.


Director Carlos Hugo Christensen made a movie based on three Cornell Woolrich short stories, but owing to the demands at the time of Argentinian theaters, he broke his effort into two movies: the first containing two stories and the second movie containing just one.

The two movies are widely considered classics of "Argentinian film noir." With their beautiful black-and-white cinematography, haunting atmosphere and tales of lust, greed, betrayal and retribution, often going horribly wrong, they echo the themes of America's dark film genre.

In the first tale in Never Open That Door, a brother is trying to help his sister, who is in some kind of trouble, but she won't tell him what it is. The sister has lost a lot of money gambling, but the brother only finds this out indirectly when he sees that funds are missing from their account.

Angry that she has misappropriated family funds to pay off her debt, his reproach of her leads to dramatic consequences. He then learns, in a frighteningly quiet and oblique way, that his attempt to avenge the harm done to his sister has gone tragically wrong.

In the second vignette, a poor blind mother who lives with her pretty young niece talks glowingly about her son who has been away for eight years. The mother ignores the slight of him having never written to her as her love makes excuses for his behavior.

He then comes home but proves not to be the good son she thought he was. In a slow turn, the blind mother realizes she must stop her son from doing more bad things. The final harrowing scene foreshadows Audrey Hepburn's blind girl fighting for her life in 1967's Wait Until Dark.

These overviews have been intentionally vague as the only way to enjoy the movie is to see the two different plots develop without knowing their twists. Just like in good short stories, much of the fun is in their surprises.

Something good is happening on screen when a ringing phone causes intense fear in a character and the viewer, or when a car accidentally running over a misplaced shovel has you gripping your armrest. Christensen masterfully places several moments like these throughout his movie.

If these vignettes also sound somewhat like TV episodes from Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Twilight Zone, that's because these short, tightly written tales feel very much like high-end episodes of those future TV shows.

There is also a subtle complementary commentary weaved into both vignettes. The first story is all about a rich world - penthouses, swanky nightclubs, furs, jewelry, etc. - that looks pretty, but can often be a cauldron of lies, deceit and intense pressures.

The second story, though, is mainly set on a poor rural farm where the religious mother and niece are happy and respected in their community. The son, though, reaching for more, like the gambling sister in the first vignette, shatters the comity of his home.

Never Open That Door, now beautifully restored, is a window into post-war Argentinian cinema that avers noir's themes of greed, lust and betrayal, lurking just below the surface of societal respectability, were as relevant south of the border as they were north.

There is also something very modern about a late 1940s Argentinian film noir movie being based on short stories written by an American writer born in New York City. It's an organic cultural exchange that is more sincere than many of our forced, modern efforts.

Worse, today some would be offended (read: those who are always offended) that an Argentinian film was based on an American-penned story. The rest of us (read: the adults in the room) just applaud the healthy and felicitous cultural cross pollination.

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Edward

Bartender
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Hainan Airlines earlier in the week, a rewatch of Dial of Destiny and Oppenheimer. Both hold up to a fourth and second rewatch respectively. Also caught The Great Escaper, a fictionalised vrsion of the true story about the ninety year old ex RN guy who, having missed the official date to apply for the organised trip to Normandy for the 70th Anniversary of DDay , so slipped out of his nursing home and went on his own. Not a bad picture. There are some nice bits in it (meeting some German vets, proper recognition of the cost of war and PTSD nodded to). It suffers a bit too much from being a self-consciously "heart-warming British film for award season" for my tastes, but it does neatly avoid falling into the trap of flag-waving nonsense.
 
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Hainan Airlines earlier in the week, a rewatch of Dial of Destiny and Oppenheimer. Both hold up to a fourth and second rewatch respectively...
I didn't think Dial of Destiny held up to a first watch. I honestly didn't think Mr. Spielberg could have done worse than Temple of Doom, but he proved me wrong.

I haven't seen Oppenheimer yet, but I'm looking forward to it despite the mixed reviews it has received here in the U.S..
 

Edward

Bartender
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I didn't think Dial of Destiny held up to a first watch. I honestly didn't think Mr. Spielberg could have done worse than Temple of Doom, but he proved me wrong.

I haven't seen Oppenheimer yet, but I'm looking forward to it despite the mixed reviews it has received here in the U.S..

Dial does seem to have been an opinion-splitter - which is fair enough really. I liked it better than Skull. Temple I still have a lot of affection for as it was my first Indy. In the abstract I think of it as the weakest of the bunch, though in truth when I actully rewatch it it's always better than I recall. It's tempting though towodner how the whole series might have turned out with a great director - afraid I've not got a huge amount of time for Spielberg's style otherwise. I genrally find him overproneto the sacharine.
 
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That's funny.
Born August 1984, I never was into the Indiana Jones merchandise. I only once saw a small part of the 2nd, nothing else.

BUT, try to imagine, if RICK DECKARD would be the protagonist, not Dr. Henry Jones! Then, I would give it a chance.
 
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If I Should Die Before I Wake from 1952, an Argentinian movie


If I Should Die Before I Wake is the third Cornell Woolrich short story that director Carlos Hugo Christensen turned into a movie. It was originally the last installment in the movie Never Open That Door, but theaters wanted shorter movies, so Christensen broke his movie into two.

While that tidbit of Argentinian movie history is interesting, If I Should Die Before I Wake works wonderfully as a stand-alone movie. It might even have benefited from the forced separation as it's a haunting and timeless effort worthy of consideration on its own.

A young boy, Lucio, is a bit of a clown at school as he teases the girls he clearly likes, doesn't pay attention in class and gets into minor scrapes. None of this pleases his stern but not unreasonable father, a police detective who feels his career has stalled.

In order to learn how a female classmate gets so much candy, Lucio makes a firm promise (think pinky swear) to her. She then tells him that a "nice man" gives it to her and promises to give her even more soon. Hearing this, the deep dread you feel as a viewer is awful.

The girl is then reported missing, but other than suspecting a serial killer, the police, with Lucio's father heading up the investigation, have no clues. Lucio, honoring his promise to the girl, says nothing even when he, as all her classmates are, is questioned.

The girl is eventually found dead - it's that horrible - but the crime is never solved. Time goes by and Lucio and his dad continue to struggle to find common ground. Lucio is still messing up at school, which prompts his dad to become sterner, which only drives them further apart.

Lucio then becomes friendly with another female classmate who seems to have an endless supply of expensive colored chalk. When she tells Lucio about the "kind man" who gives them to her, the pit in the viewer's stomach is even deeper this time.

When she goes missing, Lucio is initially distracted by a fight he has with a bully at school and then the ensuing punishment by the school and his father. Haunted, however, by the previous incident, Lucio doesn't sit still like he did before.

His efforts to save the missing girl, which require overcoming his fears, overlap with the police investigation, headed up, once again, by his father. It's a brutally tense race to try to save the girl that has you white-knuckled gripped on your armrests.

Woolrich's story with director Christensen at the helm perfectly captures the difficult nuance that every child has to learn at some time: when is it right to break a promise and where is the line between "snitching" and working for the greater good?

It's one of life's hardest lessons that doesn't really get that much easier as an adult, which is why the movie is timeless despite its dated appearance. Lucio's struggles with his father are also perennial, as we see a father and son, both sincere, talk right past each other.

All of this takes place in a noir / The Twilight Zone atmosphere as the innocent look of childhood - kids dressed in nice school uniforms playing games at recess - is juxtaposed with the menace of a psychotic killer stalking young girls with promises of candy and gifts.

If I Should Die Before I Wake and its cognate Never Open That Door are parables or fables with If I Should Die Before I Wake even being introduced by a voiceover comparing it to a fairy tale with monsters and heroes: think psychotic killers versus young boys and police detectives.

Argentinian movies like If I Should Die Before I Wake show that film noir was a world-wide phenomenon, which is hardly surprising as all countries have crime, psychotics, fear, angst and dark forces to contend with.

What makes Christensen's movies relevant today is, yes, their impressive and engaging noir style, but even more so, the haunting and powerful way they capture timeless human struggles and challenges in seemingly "simple" stories.
 
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It's tempting though to wonder how the whole series might have turned out with a great director - afraid I've not got a huge amount of time for Spielberg's style otherwise. I generally find him over-prone to the saccharine.
I do know a few people who disliked "Dial" as much as I do, but I don't know where they stand on the franchise or Mr. Spielberg in general. For me some of his movies fall under the "acquired taste" category, if I've watched them at all. Scanning the list of movies he's Produced/Directed, I find I've not watched far more than I've watched.

That's funny.
Born August 1984, I never was into the Indiana Jones merchandise. I only once saw a small part of the 2nd, nothing else.

BUT, try to imagine, if RICK DECKARD would be the protagonist, not Dr. Henry Jones! Then, I would give it a chance.
Ah, Blade Runner. I really don't get all of the fuss; visually interesting, but overly long and quite boring.
 

Edward

Bartender
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I do know a few people who disliked "Dial" as much as I do, but I don't know where they stand on the franchise or Mr. Spielberg in general. For me some of his movies fall under the "acquired taste" category, if I've watched them at all. Scanning the list of movies he's Produced/Directed, I find I've not watched far more than I've watched.


Ah, Blade Runner. I really don't get all of the fuss; visually interesting, but overly long and quite boring.

Blade Runner I remember being very disappointed in when I first saw it - I was still a Star Wars fan at the timee and expected something quite else. I came to enjoy it much later on when I'd developed an apreciation for noir and understood what they were driving at. One of a few films I appreciated much more when I got older.... Rebel Without a Cause falls hard in the same bracket.
 
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Psycho from 1960 with Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam and John McIntire


Psycho is still a scary movie. Despite all the imitations and expansions on its themes and style that have been done since its release, and despite being sixty-plus years old, Psycho is still a compelling horror/mystery/thriller movie that pulls you in and scares the bejesus out of you.

Director Alfred Hitchcock knew he was making something different and special with Psycho's tale of greed, a warped Freudian Oedipus complex and violent murder. He hawked it like P.T. Barnum, but he had the product to back up the hype.

Full-figured Janet Leigh plays a Phoenix office worker with a California boyfriend, played by John Gavin - a boyfriend she sleeps with when he's in town, in a cheap, sweltering hotel room on her lunch breaks - who can't marry her because his alimony payments have him all but destitute.

Leigh, a ten-year trusted employee at a small real estate concern, then absconds with $40,000 late on a Friday and heads to California to be with her boyfriend. This feels fake as nothing in Leigh reads criminal, and more importantly, nothing in her reads idiot as she will be caught.

It's all just a setup, though, to get Leigh to the Bates Motel, a small, empty establishment on a now abandoned local service road because of the new highway. The hotel is mid-century austere, but tucked up behind it on a hill is a creepy Victorian house that seems of another time.

Nervous Leigh meets the motel's genial, young, good-looking but off-in-some-way owner, played by Anthony Perkins. He bonds a bit with Leigh before she settles in for the night alone in her room with her $40,000 and guilty conscience.

Everything that happens from here, for the few people who haven't seen the movie, would be a spoiler, so just know that several classic moments in movie history are coming, moments that are so iconic they've been riffed on innumerable times since.

There is the classic shower scene brilliantly enhanced by Bernard Herrmann's music score, the car painfully slowly sinking into the swamp, the silhouetted mother in the window and a "don't go down into the basement" moment for the ages. These have all become cultural touchstones.

Bernard Herrmann's original and often piercing score throughout, not just in the shower scene, plays a pivotal role in amplifying the film's tension and horror, making it one of the most memorable and influential soundtracks in film history.

There is also the slow-grinding investigation driven by Leigh's sister, played by Vera Miles, and Leigh's boyfriend, Gavin, who go from slightly hostile to maybe interested in each other as they force the investigation for the missing Leigh forward.

In addition to Miles and Gavin, Simon Oakland as a-bit-too-cocksure psychiatrist, John McIntire as a thoughtful sheriff and John Anderson as a slick investor help round out an impressive cast that makes almost every scene engaging.

Martin Balsam, too, deserves mention as the smart private detective, hired by Miles, who catches Perkins' biggest mistake. Yet even Balsam didn't realize the level of evil he was dealing with. Balsam is one of those quiet professional actors who elevates every movie he is in.

None of this, though, would work without Perkins' incredible acting as possibly the most-broken cinematic mama's boy of all time. His affable but fidgety personality, with a frightening anger trigger that seems to make him calmer but crazier, is performance at its zenith.

His portrayal of Norman Bates delves deep into the character's disturbed psyche, bringing a psychological complexity that elevates the horror beyond mere physical threats. You don't want to be in the room alone with this man.

This overriding feeling of dread is advanced by Hitchcock's decision to shoot in black-and-white, in a mainly color era. Hitch coupled that with innovative camera angles and editing techniques to create an atmosphere of intense suspense and unease that still resonates with audiences today.

Yet, despite its black-and-white film, the movie doesn't scream 'film noir' or 'horror,' but instead has a timeless 'anywhere' feel. The Bates Motel exists forever in some kind of The Twilight Zone madness.

A classic film fan can almost get Hitchcock hagiography fatigue because the famed director's legend exists on such an elevated plane, in part, because Hitch put it there himself. But then you watch one of his movies, like Psycho, and you are simply glad he did what he did.
 
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99 River Street from 1953 with John Payne, Evelyn Keyes, Peggie Castle, Brad Dexter and Frank Faylen


Most movies land somewhere on a continuum that runs from near reality to full-on fantasy depending on the vision of the writers and director. 99 River Street is film noir stylized for effect, not reality. It's an artistically dark world of shady characters and a behind-the-eight-ball good guy.

As a product of the early 1950s, 99 River Street stands out for its gritty portrayal of urban life, its characters' insecurities about their social status and its reflection of mid-century anxieties in a country still finding its peacetime sea-legs after WWII.

It's a world where values are too black and white, and situations often set up a too-obvious good-versus-evil divide. The result, though, isn't comic-book simple, but life exaggerated for examination. It's old-style storytelling set in noirland, and it's all the better for it.

John Payne plays a former heavyweight contender who had to retire from the ring due to an eye injury at a time when sports stars weren't instant multimillionaires. Payne now drives a cab, which his wife, played by Peggie Castle, who married him when he was on his way up, isn't at all happy about.

Payne is basically a nice guy who is trying to make his post-boxing life work by saving up to buy a gas station. Castle, though, doesn't want to be married to a taxicab driver or a gas station owner, so she's been stepping out with a polished hood, played by Brad Dexter.

Dexter just pulled a big diamond heist. He plans to sell the stones to a fence, played by Jay Adler, and then go abroad with Castle. The last piece of the puzzle is Evelyn Keyes playing a wannabe actress and a friend of Payne's who plays Payne hard and then tries to make amends.

It's a complicated story in which Payne, a guy who uses his fists when he's overwhelmed with frustration, learns that his wife is having an affair and plans to leave him. It gets worse for Payne, ironically, when things go awry for Dexter and Castle with Adler, their fence.

After several twists, Dexter kills Castle, she was in the way of the diamond payoff, and he sets Payne up to take the fall. Keyes, meanwhile, makes Payne look the fool so that she can get a part in a play, but then feels so bad, she sticks by him as he tries to prove he didn't kill his wife.

The rest of the movie is Payne and Keyes arguing and working together as they try to elude the police and find Dexter, the only one who can clear Payne of the murder. What holds this convoluted tale together is its noir style and themes echoing a very old story.

99 River Street is essentially a one-night Homeric journey for Payne as he has to plumb the depths of noirland, with its seedy bars, mindless thugs, gun fights and arrant immorality, trying to prove his innocence so that he can return to his normal world a wiser man for the experience.

He is an honest guy pulled into a noirish hell by his selfish and greedy wife and her corrupt boyfriend. He's helped in his journey by a woman, Keyes - who has her own mini Homeric experience - and his good friend, the taxi company's dispatcher, played by Frank Faylen.

He meets hellish characters like Dexter, a two-dimensional bad guy completely indifferent to anyone else's life, and Adler, a thinking man's criminal, who hires muscle to protect his corrupt enterprise. The muscle here is so violent and mindless that you think of Satan's minions.

An over-the-top waterfront battle of good versus evil ends Payne's journey. One can imagine two endings having been filmed: one where Payne is victorious and goes on to live a normal life - back home to till the soil - and one where he dies in battle as good sometimes does lose to evil.

Director Phil Karlson, with a modest budget, created his obviously staged noirish world on sets. It's a place of gritty gyms, haunting theaters, dark alleyways, big cabs speeding along cobblestone city streets, stern cops and massive freighters abutting violent waterfronts.

Karlson's use of black-and-white cinematography, with shadowy lighting and dramatic angles, nicely complements the noir aesthetic, enhancing the picture's overall foreboding tension and moodiness.

The actors - Payne, Castle, Adler, Dexter and Faylen - understood they were playing caricatures in a noirish fable and properly gave straightforward performances requiring them, often, to deliver obvious dialogue.

Keyes, despite being saddled with an awful 1950s poodle hairdo, shines here as her character quickly evolves from a selfish young woman to the hero's aide-de-camp who is often smarter and stronger than the hero she guides. A bar seduction scene of hers is one of the movie's highlights.

Payne's transformation from a frustrated ex-boxer to a determined man fighting for his innocence, just like Keyes' evolution from a selfish actress to a loyal ally, is an engaging character growth story that adds nuance and complexity to the movie.

99 River Street is a morality tale wrapped in noir packaging; it's the Iliad and Odyssey boiled down to one brutal night in a stylized urban jungle of 1950s America. It's old-style storytelling - it's pictures on caves - just told through film projected on a screen.

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The Makioka Sisters from 1983, a Japanese movie


To fully appreciate The Makioka Sisters, the movie, you have to first read The Makioka Sisters, the novel by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. A classic of 20th-century Japanese literature, Tanizaki's opus follows the travails of the upper-middle-class Makioka family in the late 1930s.

It's an engaging melodramatic tale of four adult sisters somewhat stuck in the rituals and glory of their prestigious family's past, while trying to navigate the shifting sands of Japanese culture and modernization with the world on the brink of a global war.

Tradition demands the sisters marry in age order, yet when the shy but strong-willed third sister rejects one family-approved suitor after another, the youngest sister, embarrassingly for the family, tries to elope.

Tradition also has the oldest sister resisting her husband's career-driven transfer from Osaka, the site of their "main" house, to Tokyo.

These and many more "small" dramas play out in a large book that adds up to a revealing look at the country. Today, it is also a wonderful time capsule of pre-war Japan. It's a long novel that engrosses you in the lives of the sisters with a series of side stories and narratives.

It's also too long to bring to the screen in a movie with even a two-hour-plus runtime, as the story is too hard to boil down and the characters too complex to capture in a single film. If ever a book needed serialization (a 1970s-style miniseries), The Makioka Sisters is it.

This is not a slight against noted Japanese director Kon Ichikawa who, working with a small budget, captured some of the beauty and intricacy of the novel in his attractive and thoughtful film that, perforce, chose to focus on only a few characters and narratives from the book.

The wonderfully named third sister, Yukiko, centers the drama. Her refusal to marry one of the family-selected suitors "stops the production line," as the fourth sister can't marry until Yukiko does. The fourth sister, very Western in her thinking and attire, isn't sitting still though.

You will, however, probably be an hour into the movie until you've sorted the four sisters and their names out unless you've read the book or Googled them. The other story captured from the novel is the oldest sister's husband's struggle to assert his authority as head of the family.

In Japan, a man might choose to take his wife's family's name if it is a prominent family lacking male heirs, as the Makiokas were in the 1930s. The husband of the oldest sister then becomes the titular head of the clan, but earning everyone's respect is a different story.

It is hard from the movie to understand all this nuance even though it is eventually explained. The aforementioned move to Tokyo, which will take the Makiokas away from their traditional base of power and respect, Osaka, is a strong point of contention within the family.

Taken on its own, those two plotlines fail to capture the sweep of the novel. Too many story intricacies, mini-dramas and character traits are dropped for the movie. Many wonderful details of the culture, such as the importance of the very expensive kimonos, are lost or sped past.

Ichikawa, however, effectively shows the emotional growth of the sisters and their relationships maturing over the course of the movie. These siblings come to better understand and respect each other's struggles and challenges.

When the oldest sister finally considers her husband's position at work and not just her desire not to move, you see a woman and a marriage mature before your eyes. The same maturity is felt when the family comes to respect Yukiko's approach to marriage. It's real-life growth.

Ichikawa also captures some of the beauty of Japan from that time – the kimonos do get briefly showcased, as do the Kyoto cherry blossoms, much beloved by the Makioka Sisters who make an annual trip to see them in bloom – but he has to leave much from the novel behind.

While using only limited exterior on-location shooting, Ichikawa, in a few scenes, gives the viewer a sense of how Japan looked back then: the cities are modern, bustling, and well served by trains and trams, while the beautiful countryside resembles pre-industrial-revolution Japan.

The way to enjoy The Makioka Sisters, if you've read the book, is to ask little of the movie and just delight in its visually beautiful capture of 1930s Japan. If you haven't read the novel, and if you can keep the names and cultural nuances straight, you might like the film's condensed story.

Some books don't translate well to the screen. None of the several attempts to film The Great Gatsby have done the book full justice. The Makioka Sisters sits in the same category, as Tanizaki's story is meant to be appreciated slowly and lovingly by turning the pages of his novel.
 

Julian Shellhammer

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The Cobweb (1955) with Vincent Minelli directing Richard Widmark, Laura Bacall, Gloria Grahame, Lillian Gish, Charles Boyer, and introducing John Kerr. Deliver the story in Cinemascope and Technicolor, and one would expect a smash blockbuster sensation, would one not? Unhappily, no.
Widmark and Boyer are head psychiatrists at a mansion serving as a clinic for well-to-do patients, with Bacall and Gish as staffers. The patients are by turns docile or uncontrollable, and the doctors and staff are full of issues and problems and relational train-wrecks. We watched it on a whim, and only stuck it out to the end to see how all the messes got un-messed. We were sorely disappointed. As Mel Cooley might say, "Yich!"
 
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High Noon from 1952 with Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Katy Jurado, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges and Otto Kruger


High Noon was written as an allegory denouncing the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigation of communist activities in Hollywood in the late '40s/'50s, but it's one of the great classic movies of all time because it works as a straightforward Western even if you know nothing about HUAC.

Leaving the political battle and baggage of HUAC aside, High Noon is a brilliant piece of filmmaking because its surface appearance of a simple good-versus-evil morality tale is contradicted by the complex underlying moral questions facing almost every one of its characters.

Screenwriter Carl Foreman and director Fred Zinnemann don't give you the full story and background of most of the characters, so just like in real life, the viewers are left to make judgements, or not, based on partial information.

The basic story is clear: On his last day in office, the town's sheriff, played by Gary Cooper, marries his Quaker bride, played by Grace Kelly, and just as the newlyweds are getting set to leave the town for good, a telegram arrives announcing that a convict Cooper had arrested and who had sworn revenge on Cooper was pardoned and is returning to town on the noon train.

The townspeople want Cooper to leave figuring if there's no Cooper, there's no trouble, but once out of town, Cooper realizes he'll have to face the returning convict at some point, so why not in the town where he has friends.

Boom, right there, the simple morality tale gets grey as Cooper isn't returning "to save the town," as much as to have the showdown now and on what he believes will be favorable-to-him turf.

From there we see an incredible amount of grey morality: Cooper's former young deputy, played by Lloyd Bridges - angry at Cooper because he didn't recommend him for the sheriff's position and because those two share a past with the same woman, a Mexican beauty and entrepreneur, played by Katy Jurado - is less than supportive.

Jurado's motives, too, are mixed, as she claims she'd stand by Cooper if he was still "her man," but since that's over (she still has feelings for him, though), she's selling her business and getting out before the trouble starts.

Everyone has a story: the mayor thanks Cooper for cleaning up the town, but sees no need to have this fight now in his town; some townspeople agree, others seem willing to support Cooper, kinda, but of course, everyone has a family to worry about "and who'll take care of them if I'm dead."

The bulk of this classic "morality tale" has Cooper going all over town trying to recruit deputies only to find everyone has his reasons for not signing up, especially if no one else has signed up first. We know Cooper cleaned up this town, but we don't know enough to judge each person's decision.

An entire movie could be devoted to Cooper's Quaker wife's battle of conscience (and kinda is in 1985's Witness) as her religious beliefs against violence are tested in a most-visceral way when her husband is being shot at by cold-blooded killers.

While Cooper and Kelly anchor the film in two outstandingly understated performances, the cast is equally good. Mitchell is recognizable to modern eyes playing a very political mayor, just like Bridges is playing a cocky but immature kid and Jurado is playing a scorned former lover.

Additionally, Harry Morgan, Otto Kruger and others in supporting roles bring a nuance and believability that draw you into this short but powerful movie.

The climactic gun battle (no spoilers coming), just like the rest of the story, has an effective austerity that modern Hollywood would ruin today by turning it into a videogame of violence.

High Noon is a man, a wife, a killer and townspeople all making tough decisions as the clock, hauntingly shown throughout, ticks closer to noon. With a low-budget starkness belying the complex moral questions on full display throughout, High Noon is a classic, in part, because it is neither as easy nor simple a story as it appears to be on the surface.

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Millie from 1931 with Helen Twelvetrees, John Halliday, Joan Blondell and Lilyan Tashman


"Men are all tramps"


You just never quite know what you are in for with a precode. Made in 1931, Millie's production quality is clunky, its editing choppy and its directing uneven, but for real life, this precode lets it rip.

Helen Twelvetrees plays an innocent young girl who elopes with a handsome young man. We see her virginally nervous on her wedding night and then, three years later, she and her husband are living in a fancy home with an infant daughter.

When Twelvetrees learns that her husband has been stepping out on her, though, she divorces him. Out of pride, she accepts no money and even leaves her daughter with him, believing his money and social standing will give the young girl advantages that she can't.

Now the movie really gets going. Twelvetrees wants to support herself, so without skills, she gets a modest job and moves into a tiny run-down apartment. Meanwhile, two of her old girlfriends, played by Joan Blondell and Lilyan Tashman, try to entice her into a different life.

That would be their life of high-priced prostitution; although, it is a bit palliated here as even precodes had some censorship. Twelvetrees resists until she learns that her current boyfriend, like her ex-husband did, is stepping out on her. That seems to break her.

While it's not completely clear, Twelvetrees appears to go the "escort" route, but she does resist the advances of an older gentleman, played by John Halliday. Fast forward several more years and Halliday is making the moves on Twelvetrees' sixteen-year-old daughter.

Once again, Millie, takes a dramatic turn as Twelvetrees' responds in such a way that she ends up on trial. Finally, proving that precodes are never done flaunting convention, the trial is illegally manipulated, yet the verdict stands.

Millie is a giant soap opera that has little shock value for modern audiences, but at the time, it was pretty scandalous. It's also hurt today by the aforementioned bumpy directing, editing and storytelling.

Offsetting some of that are strong performances by Blondell as the happy hooker and Halliday as the smarmy older man. Even though Twelvetrees slips into a stagey style of acting now and then, she still delivers a moving performance.

In Millie's eight-five minutes, you see a bride nervous about losing her virginity on her wedding night, serial infidelity, divorce, a mother giving up her daughter, upbeat prostitutes and even a capital offense and, in truth, none of it is really condemned or even punished.

It's 1931 and Millie's message is a very modern one (and is as ridiculous then as now): "all men stink, so it doesn't pay to be a 'good girl'." Instead, Millie says, girls should just get what they can using what they have. Everything is up for grabs in precode Hollywood.
 
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Daughters Courageous from 1939 with Rosemary, Lola and Priscilla Lane, plus Gale Page, John Garfield, Fay Bainter, Claude Rains, Donald Crisp, May Robson, Frank McHugh, Jeffrey Lynn and Dick Foran.

Warner Bros. wanted to make a sequel to the successful movie Four Daughters, but since it had killed off a key character played by John Garfield in that first movie, it made Daughters Courageous with all but the same cast and a somewhat similar family setup.

The charming sisters, played by Rosemary, Lola and Priscilla Lane, plus Gale Page, are back, as are most of the other players, including Garfield, May Robson, Frank McHugh, Jeffrey Lynn, Dick Foran and Claude Rains.

Warner Bros. even tossed in Fay Bainter and Donald Crisp, giving A-list director Michael Curtiz a talent-heavy cast to work with. This time, the family at the center is headed by Bainter, who was abandoned by her wanderlust husband, Rains, when their four daughters were just babies.

We meet the cute, spirited and nice "Masters" girls, all in their early twenties now, living near the beach, and just like in Four Daughters, they are looking for husbands or to turn their present boyfriends into husbands.

The centering conflict is that mother Bainter is about to marry the nice and financially secure local banker, played by Donald Crisp, just when her charming scoundrel of an ex-husband, played by Rains, shows up trying to wheedle his way back into the family.

The other conflict has Priscilla Lane becoming interested in the local bad boy, played by Garfield, despite Lane being pursued by a normal guy, played by Jeffrey Lynn. It takes you a second and a half to see the parallel between the Bainter-Rains dynamic and the Priscilla-Garfield one.

The problem here is if you look closely, the central conflict is a nasty one. Rains might be charming now, but abandoning your wife with four baby girls, leaving them to fend for themselves, is horribly selfish - it's cruel - and all but unforgivable.

You don't watch this movie, though, or any of the three movies in the Four Daughters series for their plots, which are forced and obvious, or their believability, which is highly suspicious, but for their charm. The girls are cute and fun and the family is one you would like to be in or live next to.

Most of the fun spirit from Four Daughters is here as the sisters rib each other, but sincerely love each other too. One likes to rearrange the furniture, another aspires to acting and third is singularly focused on marriage, which all gets made fun of in a lighthearted way.

It mainly works because cuteness and acting talent can overcome a lot, but it is also a bit too constructed here. You can tell Warner Bros was trying very hard (too hard) to recapture the magic of Four Daughters. Plus, the roles are so similar that it is easy to confuse the two movies.

The other weakness is Garfield's character. In Four Daughters, he's a tortured artist, someone the audience can make excuses for, as we all understand the "tortured artists" template. Here though, Garfield is just a surly kid who appears lazy and selfish, despite having a kind father.

It's hard to understand his bad temper and condescension. It's harder still to understand what Priscilla sees in him. Garfield in Daughters Courageous doesn't show the vulnerability that made him appealing in Four Daughters.

Bainter, Rains, Crisp the Lane girls, Page, Lynn and the others, though, make Daughters Courageous a fun romp. You just enjoy spending time with this fictional, but pleasantly appealing family facing a "crisis" or two that you know they'll get through.

If you don't think too hard, you can just enjoy the mild melodrama of Daughters Courageous as four adorable sisters share clothes, secrets and, in one case, even a potential boyfriend. It's studio-era fluff, but it's so well done, you just smile and go along for the contrived ride.
 

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