Saturday, February 25, 2012

Film Review: Lilies of the Field (1963)

The original film poster.
Photo Courtesy of
TCMDb: An itinerant handyman in the Southwest gets a new outlook on life when he helps a group of German nuns build a chapel.

     "I'm gonna' build be a chapel," Homer Smith says. It is that one line which explains the whole premise of Lilies of the Field, the award-winning film that won Poitier his Oscar for Best Actor--making him the first black man to win the award (Hattie McDaniel had won in 1939 as Best Supporting Actress, making her the first black woman to win the coveted Oscar).
     No matter what one's religion is, or absense thereof, everybody that loves classic films--or even in the broader sense, loves films in general, should watch this film. It is not to upset, but rather to give hope and faith--in whatever faith that you believe in.
     I, myself, do not know what to say about this film. While I believe in God, in Heaven, in the Devil, and in Hell, I do not believe that any one religion triumps over all others. Though this film's premise is how a black handyman builds a chapel for German nuns, I didn't feel as thought I was being overloaded with religion. Instead, I felt as though I was getting a booster shot in perseverence, strength, acceptance, and love.
     As mentioned before, this is the film that won Poitier his Oscar for Best Actor . . . he deserved it. He owns this role. There is no other man that could've done it as well as Sidney Poiter did it. If one had, it wouldn't be the same. It's not that it would be bad, it's not that it would be better, it would just be different.
     Lilies of the Field is based off the novel of the same name by the author William E. Barrett. The film was shot in just two weeks in Arizona. There was so little faith (no pun intended . . . I think) in the film that director Ralph Nelson had to put his house up for collateral and Poitier gave up his usual salary, agreeing to do the film for a much smaller salary and a percentage of the profits (TCM). We know how both their efforts to get this film made paid off.
     I could go on about this film, but I don't really think words could describe how much an essential this is for everyone to watch, especially my words. All I can say is that I give this film 4/4 stars with my highest recommendation.
     Here's a scene of Poitier trying to teach the nuns a hymn (which I love). Sidney really gets into it, and I think it's funny and lovely at the same time:

Did you know that this isn't Sidney singing, but
rather Jester Hairston who also wrote the song?
Oh, and the nuns? They don't actually sing that bad.
They were thought to be too good, and were told to
sing horribly. The scene was dubbed over and after
the voices were flattened in editing (TCM).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dogathon: The Proud Rebel (1958)

David and Lance
Photo Courtesy of
     TCMDb: A young boy becomes mute after seeing his mother killed in the Civil War and his father decides to take him and their dog on a trek to find a cure for his condition, but the road ahead is full of evil sheepherders and hard-to-find money.

     Dog is, as the saying goes, man's best friend. They are loyal, they are protective, and, most of all, they are loving. It are those three qualities that make this film, The Proud Rebel. I got this film for $3.99 at Books-a-Million using the gift card that my oldest brother got me for Christmas. I'd never heard of it, but the synopsis peaked my interest, and I decided to go for it. I'm so glad that I did.
     The film stars Alan Ladd, Olivia de Havilland, Dean Jagger, and Alan's son, David Ladd in his second film role, and whom portrayed Alan's mute son in the film. The Border Collie, Lance, was played by King.
     One of the things that I love most about this film is its simplicity. It is not hard to follow, it's message is simple: Love conquers all. The actors are superb, and little David Ladd is brilliant for not until the very end does he speak. The relationship between father and son is real. Yes, I know they were actual father and son in real life, but sometimes those certain relationships don't cross over onto screen very well. This one did.
     I've only seen two films of Alan Ladd's, this one and The Deep Six, so I honestly don't know what one pictures when they think of him, but if I had to guess, I'd have to say that he is remembered for making ice look hot when he co-starred with Veronica Lake in such films as This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key. In The Proud Rebel, however, he seems like the devoted dad who is willing to do anything, except compromise his beliefs or accept charity, to help his son speak again.
David, Olivia, and Alan.
Photo Courtesy of
     Olivia de Havilland, just as I had expected, was marvelous as the woman that takes Ladd on to help work off a prison fine that he accumalates when trying to protect his son's dog, Lance, and because she likes his boy.
     The dog, Lance, portrayed by King, is the type of dog that every little boy wishes for. He's smart, he's protective, and he's always right there, doing just as the boy, David, tells him to. In the film, the dog is a brilliant sheepherder, and Dean Jagger and his sons, want him for their own. Ladd at first refuses, knowing that his son and the dog are incredibly close, and that David would be heartbroken if he were to lose him. But when he has a chance to get a doctor to take a look at David, and to find out if there is anything that they can do to get David to speak again, and when another man offers a lot of money for Lance, he has to make the decision to keep the dog, and make the boy happy, or sell the dog, and hear his son speak. A delima that no father wants to face.      
     For this simple, but still moving film, I give a 3/4 stars. If you haven't seen it before, I recommend it wholeheartedly, and if you have seen it, you know, there's no harm in revisiting it.
David Ladd.
Photo Courtesy of

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Film Review: To Sir, With Love (1967)

To Sir, with Love
One of Sidney's best.
Photo Courtesy of
     TCMDb: A substitute teacher changes the lives of the slum children in his class.

     The idea of becoming a teacher has always hovered around at the back of my mind as long as I can remember. It was never what I really wanted to do, however. Not even when I watched those Lifetime based-on-a-true-story TV movies about teachers taking a class of ill-reputed students, many with a terrible home life, and make them into star students that feel accomplished and loved. Sure, it tugged at my heartstrings, and I thought for a moment, I'd like to do something like that in my life, but never before did I ever really give the idea of becoming a teacher serious thought.
     There is racial and social tension. While the racial tension was quite obvious, after all, a black man teaching mostly white students? Not too hard to detect. The social tension, in my personal belief, was a lot more subtle. Sure, all the students were hard off and that's made quite obvious, but it's still more subtle. The glances, the smirks, the disbelief that Sideny could ever straighten them out, all of it very subtle.
     I started giving it serious thought this year though, large part due to the fact that I had my dreams of becoming a medical examiner dashed when I took chemistry the first part of the semester and completely stinking at it. It was then that I started thinking of everything that I really, really liked doing and learning. A lot of things popped up, but the two serious ones that stayed in my mind was that I love English, I love to read, love to write, and that I'm a history nut. I love learning all that stuff. So then I had to think what career really gave me a chance to do. Well, the only thing I could think of was becoming a teacher. I thought at first that the idea would make me cringe, but to my amazement, once I had the idea, I found that I quite liked it. For the most part, I like teachers. And the few that I haven't, well . . . You win some, you lose some, I guess.
Sir and the students.
Photo Courtesy of
     When I came up with the idea to do a Star of the Month, and decided that Sideny Poitier would be my first star, I really had to think about what would be considered his essentials. The first two were quite easy, but then I had to think of three more. Many consider this film to be one of Sidney's greatest. Before I was going to make it one of my Sidney Poitier Essentials, I had to watch it first.
     Well, as you can see, it became an essential.
      To Sir, with Love is based off of the autobiography of the same name by E. R. Braithwaite. This film made my decision to become a teacher feel so right. It became my foundation. It hit me as I watched Sideny slowly but surely make his students realize that they didn't have to be who they thought they had to be, but rather who they wanted to be, that that was what I wanted to do. I didn't want to be like the man that Sidney played, but rather someone who could do something like that if I ever had to.
     I'm not a very emotional type of person, or rather, I'm not one to get very sentimental (I'm the type of person that stays away from the Hallmark channel, and then when I do watch something on Hallmark, I feel as though I just ate a tablespoon of sugar and its sweetness hurts my teeth). To Sir, with Love, however, didn't make me feel that way. Instead, it made me give a little triumphant nod of the head, and a "That's nice of them." when they give Sidney Poitier a sending off party.
     In short, if I were an ill-reputed teenager with nothing to look forward to in my future, and getting an education was the least important thing in my life, I'd want someone like, if not Sidney Poitier himself, to be the one to show me that my life didn't have to be that way. That I could be someone, and that education was one of the key principle players in making me achieve to be a better person.
     An interesting thing about this film is that the title song, To Sir, with Love became a number one hit for Lulu, the Scottish singer. It went #1 in the United States.

                                               Lulu singing, To Sir, with Love

     All in all, I give this film another 3.5/4 stars. I definitely recommend that you watch this film if you haven't. I don't know if it'll inspire you to be a teacher or not, but either way, it's a fantastic watch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Meme

     Seeing as that I'm still very much a newbie on this whole blog bit, I've decided that another milestone for me, and for this blog, is to partake in my very first meme. And what better one to do then the one that foreverclassics is doing? Incidently, hers is the first blogathon that I also did for Bogie.
     Well, shall we have a go at this then?

1. What is your favorite romantic comedy?

This is a hard one, but I'll go with:

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Psst! Do you think you can get me out of here?
Photo Courtesy of
2. What is your favorite romantic drama?

This one, however, is easy:

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) 
(My favorite film of all time)
I'll light your cigarette for you, Cary . . .
My favorite actor and actress; can't get any better.
Photo Courtesy of

3. Worse romance film you've seen?

It's so stupid, and has absolutely no plot, but I still like it, because, well . . . Just look:
Did you honestly think those disguises would fool me?
Photo Courtesy of
Paris When it Sizzles (1964)

4. How do you feel about the majority of romantic films being labeled chick flick?

It's absolutely stupid.

5. Favorite on-screen couple?

Again, hard, but after deep and considerate thought, I'm going to have to go with:

Cary and Katharine
(Photo shoot for Holiday, circa 1938)
I just love this picture!
Photo Courtesy of
6. Favorite off-screen couple?

While I love them all: Bogie and Bacall, Tracy and Hepburn, I feel as though this couple gets blindsided just slightly, and so I'm going to go with them.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
One of the most enduring and sweetest loves.
Photo Courtesy of
7. Best kiss in a movie?

 As much as I love Cary, and believe me, I do, and as much as I wish that I could trade spots with Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, or any other woman that he made a film with, and I boy do I wish, I'm going to have to go with my other love on this one: Dean Martin. Here's a compilation of his kisses (I couldn't just pick one).

Dean Martin Kisses

How could any woman not want to be kissed by him?

8. Favorite romantic scene?

Dean and Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing (1960)

I just love this scene. I'd dance with Dean in a park
if I was even given half the chance. And is it just
me, or does the way Dean say, "Don't you like
dancing?" make you want to curl your toes and faint?

9. Who are two film characters that you wish gotten together, but never did?

James Stewart as Thomas Jefferson "Tom" Destry, Jr. and Marlene Dietrich as Frenchy in Destry Rides Again (1939).

The ending is terribly sad in my opinion.
Photo Courtesy of

10. Two actors you think would have good chemistry, but never done a film together?

Cary Grant and Barbara Stanwyck.
(And just for pure pleasure, Cary and Dean. I'd love to see how these two would've acted together)

11. Favorite romantic song (doesn't have to be in a musical)?

"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"
 Shall We Dance (1937)

I say "either" and "neither" just like Fred. :D
I don't know if this is my favorite, favorite, but I do
like it a lot.

12. Best score from a romance film?

Wuthering Heights (Cathy's Theme, 1939) or Anastasia (1956); anything Alfred Newman.

One of the greatest film composers ever . . .
Alfred Newman.
Photo Courtesy of
13. Most romantic film quote?

I don't care how many times it's used:

"Here's looking at you, Kid."

Bogie and Bergman.
Photo Courtesy of
14. A film you would recommend to watch on Valentine's Day?

If you want to have some slapstick fun, then Bringing Up Baby, the ultimate slapstick comedy ever made. If you want some drama with some romance, then Only Angels Have Wings, The Philadelphia Story, and/or The African Queen. If you're in the mood for some music, then Bells Are Ringing. And still yet, if you want some paranormal happenings, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and/or The Portrait of Jennie.

     Well, there we are: my first meme. It was really fun; I'll have to do more of these, and, perhaps, one day have my own.

Happy Valentine's Day!
(A.K.A. Single Awareness Day!)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Film Review: The Defiant Ones (1958)

One-sheet movie poster
The Defiant Ones film poster.
Photo Courtesy of
     TCMDb: Two convicts, a white racist and an angry black man, escape while chained together. 

     This, by all means, is not an easy film to watch, or at least it wasn't for me. It was, however, easy for it to become one of my favorite films ever.
     Having been born in the much later part of the twentieth century, '94 to be precise, I've never known what it was like to live in a time that the white people felt such hatred toward African Americans; when racism festered like an ugly sore that only grew until it poisoned the whole body and soul.
     That is just what this film is all about.
     Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are two convicts, chained together, who escape, when the vehicle holding them and several other groups of convicts chained together overturn, together. Tony's character, the Joker, is a racist, and Sidney's character, Noah Cullen, has been angry all his life.

     Law Officer: How come they chained a white man to a black?
     Sheriff Max Muller: The Warden's got a sense of humor.

     Two men. One black. One white. Each trying to secure the freedom that has been denied to them. Connected not only by the chains that clasps them together by the wrists, but also by their inability to accept the other as who they are. At least . . . that's how it is in the beginning, but when freedom is so close, just grazing their fingertips, and all they have to do is reach out a little further and grab it, a bond forms. Not one that is wanted by either, but nonetheless, it is there; it grows. And the festering sore that poisoned their bodies, begins to be smoothed with a balm that is more powerful than aloe could ever dream of being: Acceptance.
     They are tested from the very beginning. When they first escape, Joker and Cullen argue about which direction they should go in. Cullen knows that he won't make it in the south, and convinces Joker to cut through the swamp, and then jump a train to Ohio.
     Second, when they try to break into a small town's local general for food, Joker hurts his wrist severely and they are caputred by the town's citizens; they plan to lynch them the next day. They are able to escape that night, however, when a local citizen, Big Sam (Lon Chaney, Jr.), also a convict, sets them free.
Running through the swamp, chained together,
the train's whistle's cutting through the air.
Photo Courtesy of
     Third, the next day after they've escaped (again), they are surprised when a young boy named Billy holds a shotgun on them, but they're able to overcome him, and the boy takes them back to his farm. The boy's mother takes them in, and they are finally able to free themselves from the chains, and put food in their stomachs. The woman is attracted to Joker, and that night as Cullen sleeps and she tends to the Joker's injury, she tells him how lonely she is, her husband having left eight months previous, and they make love.
     The woman wants to escape in her car with the Joker. At first, Joker is reluctant to abandon Cullen, but decides in the end agrees to the plan. The woman advises Cullen to take the shortcut through the swamp to the railroad tracks, but after he leaves, she admits that the swamp is impenetrable bog and quicksand. Furious at his own inadvertant betrayal of Cullen, Joker starts to go after Cullen. The boy shoots Joker in the shoulder, and when Joker finally locates Cullen in the swamp, he protests that he is too weak to go on. Cullen and Joker, hearing the train whistle, stumble up the hill as the train crosses a trestle. Cullen leaps on, but cannot hold onto Joker, and both men tumble to the ground. Cradling Joker's head against his chest, Cullen muses, "We gave 'em a hell of a run for it, didn't we?" Then, as the man that's been after them the whole time walks toward them, Cullen sings his blues anthem, "Long Gone," and then laughs.
     So, while they didn't make it to Ohio, but once again caught, they were, however, able to escape from their soul-consuming hatred toward the other and learn to accept, respect and, obvious to the ending, love the other.

     All in all, this is a fabulous film, and one that I'd suggest to all. I give this film a 4/4 star rating. Also, if you'd like to see the film, it's showing on TCM February 17 at 2:30 EST. Watch it!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

7 Degrees of Sidney

     How is Sidney Poitier connected to Tina Fey? I guess I made this a little harder then I intended it to be originally, so I've changed it to fill in the blank. I'll give you a hint as to how everyone is connected, and all you have to do is "fill" in the blank. Hopefully this will be easier.

Poitier ==> Sammy Davis, Jr. ==> __3__ ==> Matthew McConaughey ==> __5__ ==> __6__ ==> Tina Fey

Poitier ==> Sammy Davis, Jr. = Porgy and Bess, 1951
Davis, Jr. ==> __3__ = Cannonball Run, 1981; shared no scenes; famous NFL player
__3__ ==> Matthew McConaughey = Failure to Launch, 2006
McConaughey ==> __5__= Spin on a Charles Dickens novel, film released 2009
__5__ ==> __6__ = The Invention of Lying, 2009; British comedian

__6__ ==> Tina Fey = The Office, 2011
Whoa! Give me a minute to think about
Photo Courtesy of

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Film Review: A Patch of Blue (1965)

One of Sidney's greatest; one of film
history's greatest.
Photo Courtesy of
     TCMDb: A blind white girl falls in love with a black man.

     One would probably think that after forty-seven years, this film wouldn't be as powerful as it once was. Yet, it is. Though it is much more common to see interracial couples today, it is still, to some, abhorrent and something that should not be allowed. Even if that wasn't the case, however, this almost entirely forgotten film today would still be powerful. It's power would be the beauty in which the film has a plethora of, the message that true love is indeed blind.
     I first saw this film about three years ago, which is about a year before I got into the classics heavily. I was down at my father's, searching for something to watch, when I came across this. It hadn't yet come on, but I saw what it was about, and it immediately had me. I just had to watch it.
     And so I did. It was my misfortune, however, that it began to storm during about the time I reached the middle of the film, and as storms are apt to do, I lost the signal, and was unable to finish it. God, I was miserable. I had to finish watching it. I had to know what happened. I kept hoping that the storm would quit even if it was just long enough for me to see the last five minutes. I was not so lucky. As soon as the storm ended, and I found that the film was over, I quickly went to youtube. You can find anything on there, and I was hoping that I would be so lucky as to find it. I did.
     This film was my introduction to Sidney Poitier. Oh, I knew who he was, I had seen him once or twice before, but this was my first full length Sidney Poitier film, and I immediately liked him. I liked his soft voice, his easy way on screen, his laugh, and I loved how he was so kind to the girl, Selina D'Arcey, played by the tragic Elizabeth Hartman.
Sidney Poitier & Elizabeth Hartman in A Patch of Blue
Selina and Gordon
Photo Courtesy of
     A Patch of Blue is one of the rare films that, throughout the entirety of the picture, had me aching. I felt the pain and humiliation that Selina had to deal with her mother Rose-Ann, played by the brilliant Shelley Winters. Then when Sidney's character, Gordon Ralfe, was introduced into the film, I felt the connection between the two: First, the camaraderie, the friendship. Second, the love that developed between the two. I felt Gordon's desire to teach, for Selina to learn, and I felt Selina's desire to be taught.
    As much beauty as there is in A Patch of Blue there is also an equal amount of pain, hatred. Shelley Winters, who played Elizabeth Hartman's mother, Rose-Ann, is one of the most despicable human beings ever to be portrayed on screen. The most harrowing part of it all is that as you watch her, you know, if not at the forefront of your mind, in the back of your mind that people such as Rose-Ann actually exist in the world, now more than ever before. Shelley Winters is quoted of saying that she hated playing Rose-Ann. Winters herself wasn't a racist, and so it was hard for her to play such a woman as Rose-Ann, who in all blatant honesty, is nothing more than white trash. Winters would go on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Rose-Ann D'Arcey.
Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters & Elizabeth Hartman in A Patch of Blue
Rose-Ann finds out about Gordon.
Photo Courtesy of
    In my personal opinion, while I very much think that Sidney deserved the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field, I also very much think he should have won for his role as Gordon Ralfe; yet, he wasn't even nominated for Best Actor. I'm not knocking Lee Marvin for Cat Ballou, I can't because I've never seen it, but I think that by not even nominating Poitier was one of the biggest slights ever made by the Academy. I also think that Elizabeth Hartman should have won the Academy for Best Actress instead of Julie Christie for Darling. Again, I'm not knocking Julie Christie, but I mean, really . . . ? (Or, if Hartman couldn't have won straight out, there could have been a tie between she and Julie Andrews for The Sound of Music.)
"Kiss me, Gordon . . ."
Photo Courtesy of
      A Patch of Blue is the first film to show a kiss between a black man and a white woman. Every time I watch this scene, I can't help but go, "Aww . . ." because, really, is one of the most tender, sweetest scenes of all film history. I think the reason why this is made so is because Selina, Hartman's character, is the one to initiate the kiss. Sidney doesn't move until the kiss is over and they are just embracing. The camera pans over Hartman's shoulder and gives a close up of Sidney's face . . . and everything that his character had been growing to feel is there on his face. It's beautiful.
     When I finally was able to watch the whole film, and I got to the ending, I wanted to cry. It didn't end the way I expected it to end, and I was disappointed, but then later, when I had time to think, I realized that it was the perfect ending to a perfect film. I'm not going to give the ending away, but I will tell you that it is one that will give you hope.
     I would recommend this film to anybody and everybody. It's timeless. It's beautiful. It's meaningful. It's heart-rendering. It's a film that you will remember, and it is one that you will want to see again. It's one that you will want to share with that someone that means something to you.
     If you haven't already guessed by now, I give A Patch of Blue a 4/4 overall score. I've made it one of my Sidney Essentials, I'd recommend that you make it one of your essentials period.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sidney's Essentials

     Alright, here's the line up this month for my five Sidney Poitier essentials. Now, remember, these are my essentials, so if I don't include one that you think I should have, well, all I've got to say is that's how the cookie crumbles. Make your own Sidney Poitier Essentials, just don't knock mine.

1. A Patch of Blue . . . Film Review February 4th (Saturday)
2. The Defiant Ones . . . Film Review February 11th (Saturday)
3. To Sir, With Love . . . Film Review February 18th (Saturday)
4. Lilies of the Field . . . Film Review February 25th (Saturday)
5. Something of Value . . . Film Review February 29th (Wednesday)

     The order in which the reviews fall in are not in the order in which I favor them; it's just rather what I feel like doing for that day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Very Happy Birthday to Clark Gable, Of Things to Come, & Introduction of Star of the Month . . .

Who's your friend, Clark?
Photo Courtesy of
     Today would've been, whom many consider the KING of Hollywood, Clark Gable's, also known as the rogue Rhett Butler, 111th birthday. Now, that, ladies and gentlemen, is a lot of candles . . . Clark was one of the greatest all time actors that the world has ever seen. He gets to claim classics such as Red Dust, It Happened One Night, and, of course, Gone with the Wind, as his. That is quite an accomplishment.
     Now, I've been thinking for quite a while now as to how I can make this here blog of mine better. There are so many wonderfully amazing classic blogs that I feel as though mine is inferior to all the rest, but I'm going to try my hardest to make that not so. So with that, all this month there will be coming added attractions that I hope you will all like as much as I enjoy doing them.
     So, with that in mind, here's the first biggest added attraction that will become a regular on here.
     I know very well that this isn't a very original idea, but I've decided that each and every month, I'm going to have a Star of the Month. My plan is to give a top five list of what I feel are essentials from the star's repertoire of films, and each week, do a review on one of them. I will also give a mini-biography on him or her, Did You Know?, 7 Degrees of Separation (I chose seven because that's my favorite number), and whatever else comes to mind.
     Just to throw a curve ball, to do what is least expected of me, because let's face it, I'm sure all of you (all of you that read this blog that is), think it's going to be Cary Grant or Dean Martin who will be my first Star of the Month. MaWahahaha! You are wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong--wr *Breaks off, clears throat* Okay, I'm good, I'm good.
     So, without a further ado, the first of The Shades of Black and White Star of the Month award (hmm, there's not really an award) goes to . . . *Drum roll*

Look! Even Sidney's excited about it!
Photo Courtesy of

     Tomorrow, I'll put up my Star Essentials, and this Saturday, I'll start off the first review for one of my said top 5 essentials.