WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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Lzcutter
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Lzcutter »

Decided yesterday that I needed to get some movies cleared off my Tivo in anticipation of Summer Under the Stars coming in a few weeks.

I watched The Thief of Bagdad with Doug, Sr. While I felt it was a tad too long, the art direction and set design of William Cameron Menzies was sensational. Anna May Wong was terrific as the treacherous hand maiden to the princess and Doug, well, we all know how I feel about Doug.

Stamboul Quest with Myrna Loy and George Brent. Interesting espionage story with Loy as a Mata Hari spy and Brent the man who falls in love with her.

From Headquarters a nifty little precode with a young George Brent as a detective trying to clear his true love's reputation in a murder investigation. Marvelous little film with lots of snappy dialog and great support from Eugene Pallette, Henry O'Neill and Robert Barrat. Interesting use of punch cards to sort a database to willow down the suspects.

The Rich are Always with Us a piece of romantic fluff with the always interesting Ruth Chatterton, a very young Bette Davis and George Brent. A rather convoluted story of love among the rich set.

Right now, it's Rancho Notorious.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Birdy »

Tonight or Never, 1931, with Gloria Swanson and Melvyn Douglas. It's kind of a sizzler, and you've got to love that 1931 style! Of course, Gloria acts like she's still in silents, which we can't help but love about her. Melvyn was very elegant and handsome, a quality I thought he lost somewhat in the mid-30s. I never quite bought his leading romantic roles at that time, but now I see what got him there.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I've always wanted to watch Tonight or Never, thanks for reviewing it for me, Birdy. I never quite caught on to Melvyn Douglas perhaps seeing one of his early movies it'll become more apparent.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by kingrat »

Kingme, I also love John Frankenheimer's 1960s thrillers. Seven Days in May is a solid film.

Lynn, I'm with you on The Thief of Bagdad and the delights of Doug, Anna May Wong, and William Cameron Menzies. Stamboul Quest is a charming film, with George Brent more appealing than usual. Myrna Loy is always appealing.

TCM has been showing several of Bette Davis' early films, such as The Rich Are Always With Us and The Man Who Played God. In those films Bette seems like a tiny thing, all arms and legs, with blonde hair and so much energy you can't look away from her. Is it my imagination, or after she became a star was she usually photographed to seem taller?
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MichiganJ »

Lzcutter wrote:I watched The Thief of Bagdad with Doug, Sr. While I felt it was a tad too long, the art direction and set design of William Cameron Menzies was sensational. Anna May Wong was terrific as the treacherous hand maiden to the princess and Doug, well, we all know how I feel about Doug.
kingrat wrote:Lynn, I'm with you on The Thief of Bagdad and the delights of Doug, Anna May Wong, and William Cameron Menzies.
While I like The Thief of Bagdad, I think the sets, while magnificent, overwhelm even the great Fairbanks (although not Wong, who really does stand out.) I also think that many of the effects are amazing, but the Pegasus really doesn't work.

I'd love to see Bagdad on Blu-ray. And I'm sure my opinion would favorably change if I saw it on the big screen.
Birdy wrote:Tonight or Never, 1931, with Gloria Swanson and Melvyn Douglas. It's kind of a sizzler, and you've got to love that 1931 style! Of course, Gloria acts like she's still in silents, which we can't help but love about her. Melvyn was very elegant and handsome, a quality I thought he lost somewhat in the mid-30s. I never quite bought his leading romantic roles at that time, but now I see what got him there.
I like Tonight or Never a lot, and you are spot on about both Swanson and Douglas. Even in Airport 1975 Swanson was doing pantomime, in the best possible way, of course.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Lzcutter »

TCM has been showing several of Bette Davis' early films, such as The Rich Are Always With Us and The Man Who Played God. In those films Bette seems like a tiny thing, all arms and legs, with blonde hair and so much energy you can't look away from her. Is it my imagination, or after she became a star was she usually photographed to seem taller?
David,

You aren't alone in that thinking. Marco and I saw another early Bette Davis film earlier this year at the Stanford and I remarked then how tiny she seemed before she became a major star.

As she gained stature as an actress, she seems to have gained some major gravitas in the way she came across on screen. She stopped seeming so small and dainty, that's for sure!
Lynn in Lake Balboa

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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by moira finnie »

Lzcutter wrote:
TCM has been showing several of Bette Davis' early films, such as The Rich Are Always With Us and The Man Who Played God. In those films Bette seems like a tiny thing, all arms and legs, with blonde hair and so much energy you can't look away from her. Is it my imagination, or after she became a star was she usually photographed to seem taller?
David,
You aren't alone in that thinking. Marco and I saw another early Bette Davis film earlier this year at the Stanford and I remarked then how tiny she seemed before she became a major star.

As she gained stature as an actress, she seems to have gained some major gravitas in the way she came across on screen. She stopped seeming so small and dainty, that's for sure!
I'm sure it has something to do with her own sense of worth and self-confidence as an actress, but do you think that one reason she became a more formidable figure on screen was because as she became a bigger star, her closeups and medium shots become longer and more frequent? I noticed in Fog Over Frisco (1934), most of her scenes are photographed straight on, not from above or below as they became later (most noticeably in Now, Voyager, when Sol Polito helped to make her a real presence). Her early films also show her more often in longer shots, and with others and she was photographed more as part of a group, rather than alone. Her clothes changed too, becoming much less fussy (her dresses always seemed gauzy and/or patterned early on) and more striking.

It's funny, but she seemed like a ship in full sail in films like The Little Foxes, though that was again partly the turn of the century clothes and Gregg Toland working under Wyler.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by kingrat »

Moira, I agree completely about The Little Foxes. Bette looks unusually buxom in that film. I believe you're right that in the early films she's often in long shot as part of a group, whereas once she becomes more of a star she gets more close-ups. It's a good thing someone finally realized that platinum blonde wasn't her best look.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

The thing that sprung to my mind when I read your discussion of Bette's early films isn't that I felt she was small rather that she was buxom and quite becomingly so. The early thirties seemed to be an era when chests were flatter and clothes clinged but Bette had a real womanly figure about her. I can't think of any other actress of the era that was as lovely upholstered.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by kingrat »

Somewhere I'll Find You (1942) is a curious film (D: Wesley Ruggles) which re-teams Clark Gable and Lana Turner. Lana holds her own against Gable, and she's lovely despite one of those 1940s helmet hairdos. Both play reporters, as does Robert Sterling as Gable's younger brother. Gable strongly opposes his isolationist editor who believes in appeasing the Axis powers. After Pearl Harbor, all three reporters wind up on Bataan for the predictable but rousing patriotic finale. Of course we're supposed to root for the two stars to get together, but the script has Gable stealing his brother's girl (because she probably isn't a good girl, see), letting her fall in love with him, then dumping her. A jerk played by Clark Gable is still a jerk. I thought Lana would have been much better off with the good guy younger brother.

Good supporting work by Lee Patrick and Reginald Owen as married friends of the brothers, by Patricia Dane who wants to take Gable's mind off Lana, and by newcomers Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn playing soldiers. Carole Lombard died during the making of this film, and it was almost abandoned. Although the title is a Noel Coward song, we never hear it.

For an MGM movie with a star like Gable, there's some remarkably poor lighting. In the restaurant scene Lana's face is sometimes blotted with shadows (and this is anything but noir), and then for the reverse shots there are some shadows on Gable's face.

If you're interested in references to Russia in Hollywood films, the restaurant in question is Russian. Gable greets the proprietor with "How's the Russian bear?" and the response is something like "Standing upright and walking tall." Obviously this is Popular Front time, with Hollywood coaxing Americans to praise the Russian armies fighting against Hitler.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by moira finnie »

Somewhere I'll Find You (1942) is a curious film
I've always wondered if Somewhere I'll Find You (1942) might have had more than one director. The shifts in tone seemed odd to me. The frothy battle-of-the-sexes stuff seemed fresher in the '30s in numerous Gable-Loy movies, though that style was what helped build director Wesley Ruggles' reputation at other studios, particularly Paramount. Unfortunately, he was apparently not quite as adept at drama, which really seemed tacked on. I can't imagine what audiences who had recently lost loved ones at Wake Island and in The Philippines could have felt about the "Boy's Life" adventure stuff in the battle scenes. That sequence in combat near the end always seems to come out of an entirely different movie. This movie apparently had more than one stop and start of production, which might have led to uncredited individuals directing scenes. MGM contract directors Woody Van Dyke and George Cukor were well known for "finishing" movies for others when scheduling conflicts occurred. Like Michael Curtiz at Warner's, they also sweetened and goosed limp movies before release.

Two reasons that may be why this movie seemed so choppy, (aside from the lame script):
Lana Turner was reportedly suspended during production for a time after she married Artie Shaw (without asking Louis B. Mayer's permission, apparently). Clark Gable was not able to act in the film for a time either, due to Carole Lombard's untimely demise in January. He really didn't want to finish it, and is supposed to have told MGM "You'll have to get them to change the title. I couldn't walk on a set with those word before me." (It was supposed to be retitled Red Light, a name that probably made the Production Code ofc. blanch. That title was not changed and it was released with the original one, despite Gable's request. A 1949 George Raft movie was entitled Red Light)

Since we discussed the great poster and title images that Jacques Kapralik made for MGM films recently on this board, I can't resist tossing this one for Somewhere I'll Find You (1942) out there. I think the artist had fun caricaturing Clark Gable's distinctive face, don't you?
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by kingrat »

Thanks, Moira, that's such a cool poster.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by JackFavell »

Thanks for another brilliant Jacques Kapralik piece! I love how well he captures the stars' idiosyncrasies.

I've never been able to watch Somewhere I'll Find You all the way through. I can't look at Gable or the film without thinking about what he went through, and it's just not a strong enough film to make you forget. I suppose I should give it another try.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MikeBSG »

On Monday I watched "The Looking Glass War," a 1969 adaptation of a John LeCarre novel.

Didn't much care for it. This seemed like the kind of project that would have been best served by a muli-hour "PBS Mystery" type format, much the way they did Len Deighton's "Game Set and Match" in the late 80s.

The most interesting thing about "Looking Glass War" was seeing Anthony Hopkins as a good guy, an MI 6 official who lets himself get concerned about the Polish sailor sent into East Germany.
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MikeBSG »

Yesterday, I watched "To the Last Man," a 1933 pre-Code Western directed by Henry Hathaway, starring Randolph Scott. The film marks Shirley Temple's first screen appearance. John Carradine is lurking about in one scene as well.

I really liked this, although the DVD was made from the Forties re-release print and the image wasn't great.

I was especially smitten by the film's blonde heroine, played by Esther Ralston.

Overall, this was a surprisingly gritty film. Given that I had always thought pre-"Stagecoach" Westerns (with the exception of 1932's "Law and Order") weren't really worth looking at, it was a real revelation to me.
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