Saturday, March 31, 2012

Film Review: Back Street (1961)

A beautiful couple . . .
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TCMDb: Third screen version of the classic romance about a woman sacrificing everything for love of a married man.

    John Gavin and Susan Hayward make a stunning couple in the third version of Back Street. They are so wonderful to look at that even if the film didn't have a plot, it would be alright because then you wouldn't have to worry about keeping up with anything except looking at the two star leads. However, at the same time, casting John Gavin as Susan Hayward's love interest, Paul Saxon, in itself is strange casting if you consider the fact that at the time Susan was forty-four-years-old to Gavin's thirty, and that he was also over a head foot taller than she. Ah, but who cares? One, Susan hardly looks like she's forty-four, and Gavin fits very nicely into the whole "tall, dark, and handsome" genre that it hardly matters that she was fourteen-years-older than he was, and he over a head foot taller than her.
     I haven't seen the two previous versions of this movie with John Boles and Irene Dunne being in the first, and Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan, but I honestly don't see how I could possibly like those two versions better than I do this one.
Psst! Do you think he likes what he sees?
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     This movie, along with others as well, got me to thinking (look out Einstein!) how we romanticize so many things in the movies, but then when it actually happens in real life, we're ready to go after the couple in the same position with pitchforks and torches. Why is that? In the real world do we hardly ever cadone something of this relation, but when it happens in the pictures, we're all ready to pull out our hankies and weep buckets along with Rae as she chooses to live her life without being able to acknowledge Paul Saxon as her husband, and not being able to have children (well, she wouldn't back in those days). Instead, she has to watch him stay married to Liz, played by Vera Miles, and have two children with her.
     So, why is that we accept it in the films, but not in the real world? Okay, I'm done thinking (you can relax Einstein).
Let the heartbreaking begin . . .
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     This is what some might call a "three-hankie" picture, another couple of examples of "three-hankies" are Love Affair with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne, and the remake, An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. It's truly heartbreaking, so much that you beg for at least of five minute break, but if you do that then you have to come back to it and then start the heartbreaking all over again. It's kind of like taking off a band-aid: it's better to rip it off all at once then inching it away.
     I read a comment on youtube by a user who said that this is the "chick-flick to end all chick-flicks", and she (or he, I'm not sure) is right. Nonetheless, it shouldn't send femenists or men running for the hills. All around, it's a fine, entertaining picture, I give it a 3/4 stars.

     And to end my Susan Hayward, Star of the Month tribute, I'm going to leave you with a friend's fine tribute to Susan (whom happens to be his favorite actress).

Beloved she was.
Video Courtesy of

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Film Review: Untamed (1955)

Very . . . interesting . . .
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TCMDb: When the great potato famine hits Ireland, the diaspora begins as thousands emigrate. Among those leaving the Emerald Isle is Katie O'Neill and her husband, who decide that the promised land is South Africa and make their way there. Once there, they discover the hardships that are the reality of the homesteader experience. To complicate matters, Katie meets up with the love of her life, Paul van Riebeck. Will there be betrayal on the veldt?

     This is an oddball of a film in my opinion, and it's simply that way because of the subject matter. However, the acting, the direction, and the storyline itself are all top-notch.
     I've been a fan of the classics now going on three years, and while I love to watch all the classic movies that I can, like everybody, I have my favorites, and because of that I tend to stick to them for the majority of the time. That is part of the reason as to why I started doing my Star of the Month and their essentials--to get me out there and try watching different films from different actors and actress repoitoire that I might not have watched before. By doing this, I've discovered some wonderful actors and films.
Tyrone, Susan, and Agnes Moorehead.
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     This is one of those films.
     Untamed is a film that I would've loved to have been on myself, simply for the adventure. For a film to make me want to do that it's got to be pretty good for hardly ever do I really want to go anywhere and stay there for an extended trip--I'm a homebody, and proud of it. I wouldn't have minded being on this set, however, it would've been fun! (I also would've loved to have been on the set of The African Queen, wouldn't that have been a hoot and a half?)
     The one part that I loved about this film, despite it being so . . . different, is is the pairing of Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward. They worked so well together. This film was one of six remaining films that Tyrone made a few years before his untimely death in 1958, and I only wish that they had been able to work in one more film together.
Henry King directing Tyrone and Susan.
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     Susan Hayward, as I keep finding out as I watch her films, is perfect. She's tough, she's strong, and she knows what she wants. Mostly she's a woman that all other women should look up to. There are few parts in the film in which I don't entirely agree with her motives, but I'm always rooting for her so that in the end she'll get her man--which is in all reality all she wants.
     There wasn't a moment where I found myself bored as I viewed this film. It had too many exciting parts for me. It seems to me that this film is so action-packed and that it's got an exotic setting, South Africa, though it first starts off in Ireland, you don't really get to see much of it (which is about the only shameful thing that I could find about the movie), that you would think that it would be on DVD, but it's not. I'll never understand how some films that are so terrible that if you watch them you should wear a paper bag over your head--even in your own home--wind up on DVD, but a movie like this which has actully has a story to it, fantastic actors, and scenery which in itself is a feast for the eyes aren't on DVD.
Aw, ain't that sweet? Tyrone with his daughter, Romina, on
the set of Untamed.
Photo Courtesy of
     I suggest this movie to anybody that wants to watch something a little different, something that they haven't seen before, any Tyrone Power fan--ooh, what a handsome fellow he was, but because of his striking good looks, he was rarely was taken seriously in his films, which I find a great shame, and of course, any Susan Hayward fan.
     I give this film a 3/4 stars.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

March-in-March Blogathon: Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

Fredric March: Who knew Death was so
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TCMDb: Death goes on vacation to learn about mortal life -- and love.

     Death: I am--how shall I pursue it--a sort of vagabond of space. I am the point of contact between time and eternity.

     Before I say anything, I've got to get this off my chest: Brad Pitt ain't got nuttin' on Fredric March!
     There, I feel a lot better. First off, this is my contribution to Sittin' on a Backyard Fence's blogathon. Now, to get me started I just want to say that I saw the remake of this film, Meet Joe Black, years ago--long before I ever got into classic films, and so it wasn't until I decided to do this blogathon and I went in search of a film of Fredric's that I could do a review on when I came across this one. Until then, I had no idea that Meet Joe Black was a remake of an original (I should've guessed it though), and so I'm not going to lie to you and say that I didn't like it, because I did. Now that I've seen the original, however, I can most gladly tell you that I LOVE the original, and Brad Pitt seriously has NOTHING on Fredric March, though he shouldn't feel too bad about it because so few actors really do have anything on him.
     The whole premise of the film is that Death wants to know what makes us as humans the way we are. He wants to expereince life, experience what we feel, and wants to know why that everybody fears him--Death. So, he tells Duke Lambert, played by Guy Standing, that he is going to take the form of Prince Sirki, a friend of the Duke's who would have been arriving soon to visit him, and test his experiment for three days. However, the Duke must not tell anyone who he really is, and they all must treat him as though he were a real person. If he is unsatisfied--well, he'd just do his job and someone would be seeing him in his true form. Like anyone would, the Duke agrees to the terms.
Death as Prince Sirki.
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     Despite it's age--seventy-eight-years-old--this film is still so very much enjoyable today as it was when it was first viewed back in 1934. It's dry humor and wit is still just as lyrical to the ears--especially mine since that's the kind of humor I personally enjoy the most.
     Fredric March makes this whole film for me. I doubt that if it had been anybody else, I'd like it just as much. March portrayed with just the right amount of seriousness, curiousness, and cynicism to make the character of Death feel real. I believe that if Death was real in the fact that it was a single person, and that it wondered about how we as people choose to live our lives, what makes us happy and what makes us mad and still further yet what makes us sad, Death would be very much like the character of Death that Fredric March plays him as.
Death never looked so good.
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      Also, with March as Death, I cannot help but feel sad for him, too. When Grazia gives him a flower, and he discovers that as a human he cannot make it wither and die as he does when he is in the form of Death, he cannot help but look at it, and touch it. He is amazed, and the look on his face when he realizes that the flower is not wilting and dying just makes my want to give him a big hug. It's a subtle expression, but it's a powerful one.
     While I really like this film, I will admit that at some parts it tends to get a little overly dramatic. The woman that plays Grazia, Evelyn Venable, tended to lean toward the dramatics--a lot. Her voice was low and had that far-off dreamy quality which didn't work for me in the majority of the film (though she's not in it for the most part), but then by the end it didn't bother me as much. Then near the end when Duke Lambert finally tells his family and friends who March is, not really Prince Sirki, but Death, the thing that all men fear, they go way over on the dramatics for my taste, but thankfully it's only for a couple of minutes. Really those were the only things that bothered me about the film, and they hardly rank high enough to ruin a good movie, which is exactly what this was.
     Having seen Meet Joe Black, I had thought that this film would end in just the same way, but quite to my shock and amazement, it didn't at all. It did a complete roundabout on me, and I liked that. To have a film end like that was a pleasant surprise.
     I can see how this picture might turn out to be a big bore for some, so I suggest this only to Fredric March fans. I, being a Fredric March fan, liked it a lot so I'm going to give this picture a 3.5/4 stars.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Film Review: My Foolish Heart (1949)

A truly heartbreaking film.
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     TCMDb: A young innocent's life is shattered when she falls for a World War II flyer.

     There's one thing that no one can deny about the old black and white films of the yesteryears': They really knew how to make you want to weep buckets, or at least make a handkerchief extremely wet. The best films that are like that were made during the World War II years, or the immediate years following the war, and are about the war itself, or the effects that it had on the home front. Basically, in short, films made during, following, and are about the war are usually really sentimental, and can most of the time get cynical people such as me tearing up even just a little bit.
     My Foolish Heart with Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward is one of the films.
     As my whole Susan Hayward Star of the Month tribute has progressed, I have became a really big fan. I really hadn't seen too many films of hers before, but then when I started to watch them when I decided that she would be my star of the month, I realized what I was missing out on: an extremely talented and versatile actress. I've found as I watched her movies that while she can be dramatic, it's not really that noticeable; it's subtle. She, more than so many other actresses who are no less talented than Susan Hayward, seems more . . . real.
     In Smash Up: The Story of a Woman, it was as though she really was Angelica Evans, and every other woman that was an alcoholic. In They Won't Believe Me, while her character in the very beginning isn't very likable, or at least she wasn't to me, she grows on you; you realize that she's not really at all the woman that she says she is. And in My Foolish Heart, she is the embodiment of every woman that loved a man so completely that when she lost him to uncontrollable circumstances, she just didn't know how to continue on.
     The film is told in flashback, and while in many cases this can be the death of a film, it's not of this one which is basically because you've got about a good ten to fifteen minutes of the present, and then it goes back to the "past" which is for the rest of the movie the "present", and only until about the last eight to ten minutes does it go back to the original "present". (I hope I didn't lose anyone on that explanation.) to put it simply, the reason why it's so easy to follow is because there is not jumping back and forth. Just the beginning, middle, and end which is tied up nicely in a bow.
I was a good girl once . . .
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     One thing that makes me like this picture so much is how well Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward are together. I think they're perfect. He, the cynical man, and she the good girl find each other, and their lives as they both knew them to be individually are changed. Their chemistry is subtle, barely noticeable unless you look for it, but believe, me it's there. I don't care how good of an actor or actress you are, then or now, if you don't have chemistry, it's quite noticeable. Some might disagree and say that they have no chemistry whatsoever, and to that I can only say to each his own.
Walt, I'd like for you to meet Eloise Winters. Eloise, I'd like
you to meet Walt Dreiser.
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    Another one is how real they seem. It's as though Walt and Eloise at one point in time really did exist, that they still exist today somewhere out there. Walt and Eloise could have been our grandmother our grandfather, heck, they could be any man and woman today. This picture may have been done only a few years after the war, and it may have happened during the war, this picture can--and does--still connect with today's audience over the fact that it's mainly about a man and a woman coming to know one another and falling in love, and, ultimately, losing one another. How is that unlike today?
Love is as real today as it was yesterday and will be
tomorrow. Photo Courtesy of
     Susan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal in My Foolish Heart for the 22nd Academy Awards, it was her second nominaion for Best Actress (her first having been for Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman two years previously in 1947), she lost that year to Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress.
Walt and Eloise saying goodbye.
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     The film also received a nomination for Best Music, Song: My Foolish Heart written by Victor Young and Ned Washington. The title song was sung by Martha Mears, and though it lost out to Baby, It's Cold Outside by Frank Loesser, it went on to become a jazz standard.
"I do love you, El. I'll tell you twice you don't have to ask
me again. I love you."
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     Now, some may see Dana Andrews as being a complete jerk in this film, and though why he might be in a couple of spots, I didn't see him that way at all. More than anything I saw him as the cynical man who's a couple of shots ahead while the world is a couple behind and is dragging to catch up with him. Perhaps another reason as to why I didn't see him as being a complete jerk is because I understood him: He was afraid. He didn't want to go to war, he didn't want to leave everything he knew behind, but he did so anyways, and just as he had perdicted that he would, he paid the ultimate price for it.
Back to the present.
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     My Foolish Heart is based off of J.D. Salinger's 1948 short story, Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, and so far it is the only authorized film adaptation of one of his works. Though I have not read the story, or any of Salinger's works, apparently the film adaptation is completely different from the story, and due to Salinger's disastifaction, he refused to let any of his other works to be filmed, including The Catcher in the Rye. Also, though it was nominated for two Academy Awards, the film did not impress critics, The New Yorker said it was "full of soap-opera cliches". It really hasn't fared better as time has passed, but I don't really care because it's less often than not do I ever agree with the critics about a film. Though, much to my suprise, Leonard Maltin and I do agree. I like Maltin a lot, but we've hardly ever agreed on a film's rating. On this one, however, we do: 3/4 stars. I recommend this film for those that love a good love story, and fans of either Susan Hayward or Dana Andrews.

Friday, March 23, 2012

7 Degrees of Susan

     Alright, here's the second installment of 7 Degrees. I hope, I pray, that this one will be much easier than my first one was. Alright so here we go. How is Susan Hayward connected to William Powell? To my knowledge, Susan and William never did a picture together. I do not, however, know if they were friends in real life (if anyone knows, tell me), but even if they were, I want to know how they are connected movie wise. I'll start you out:

Hayward ==> __2__ ==> __3__==> Mark Stevens ==> Olivia de Havilland ==> __6__ ==> William Powell.

Hayward ==> __2__ = Young and Willing, 1947; Barbara Stanwyck's Golden Boy.
__2__ ==> __3__ = Miss Grant Takes Richmond, 1949; everybody's favorite Red Head.
__3__ ==> Mark Stevens = The Dark Corner, 1946.
Stevens ==> Olivia de Havilland = The Snake Pit, 1948.
de Havilland ==> __6__ = Amabassador's Daughter, 1956.
__6__ ==> William Powell = Any of 14 films made together.

Do you think they'll figure this one out, Pardner?
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     Well, I hope this one is a lot easier than the first one was . . . and if it's not, well, I'll have to go cry in a corner or something because I don't know what to do! . . . Nah, I'm just kidding . . . Or am I?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Film Review: They Won't Believe Me (1947)

Too Many Women Loved Him! is right . . . of course, I can't
really blame them for loving Robert Young.
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TCMDb:  A faithless husband is charged with a murder he didn't commit.

     Father doesn't know best in this exciting mystery of a will they, or will they not believe me?
     Some, the ones who've already seen this film, might wonder as to why I chose this film as being one of my Susan Hayward's Essentials. After all, in all technicality, it really is a Robert Young vehicle. I chose it because despite the fact that her role is small in scale compared to others, she's the catalyst for the premise of the picture.
     Larry Balantine is the sort of fella you probably shouldn't like, but nonetheless you do. He cheats, he lies, and he stays in a loveless marriage (at leat on his part anway) because of money. Yet, you get the feeling as though underneath it all, he's actually a really good guy . . . a good guy who just doesn't know how to learn that sometimes it's not life that has dealt you the bad hand of cards you've got, but rather yourself.
Skipper and Larry.
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     Robert Young as Larry Balantine is married to Greta, played by Rita Johson. If there was any love in the marriage on his part, it is gone; Greta, however, is obviously still very much in love with her husband. For reasons not given, however, Larry has fallen in love with Janice Bell, or Skipper as Larry sometimes calls her, played by the formidable actress Jane Greer. When his wife finds out about this, she, to the amazement of Larry (and myself), she agrees to let him go, but then, she mentions this house that she had just bought in California and how she had got Larry a job that she knew he had always wanted to, and he realizes (as do I) that she would do anything to keep him: she loved him that much. He also realized that while he didn't exactly love her, he did love her money. Greta agrees to forgive and forget if he'll stop his philandering. He agrees.
Larry and Verna: Dynamite.
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    His mistake, however, was for agreeing because it's while in California working for a company that he meets Verna Carlson. At first she seems to be exactly what she is: a Golddigger. She even admits that's what she is. But then, she genuinely falls in love with Larry, and Larry with her. Now, with the rules of the game changed, what are they going to do?
     This was a fantastic movie, and even though it's more of a Robert Young film, I believe that Susan Hayward given the amount of screen time that she has does a marvelous job and that's why I made it one of my Susan Hayward pictures. I give this film a 3.5/4 stars. If you are interested in seeing this film, which I recommend that you do if you whether you are a Susan Hayward fan, a Robert Young fan, or just a lover of films in general, TCM is showing this film Friday, March 30th at 5:00 EST.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Film Review: Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947)

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TCMDb: A singer's wife turns to the bottle when she fears she's lost her husband to success.

    Sometimes the subject of a film leaves me a little weary. There are some subject matters that are just hard to watch, and that is exactly what Problem Pictures were all about. "Problem Pictures" are films such as The Lost Weekend and The Snake Pit--pictures that addressed the problems of the day such as alcohol and insane aslyums. Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman is one of the best of those problem pictures.
     Loosely based off of singer Dixie Lee's life, Bing Crosby's first wife, Smash-Up lets you know in the very first scene that something very serious has occured, and that it was not something that just happened, but rather something that has been built up into something overpowering, controlling, and relentless. We know from the very first scene that Angelica Evans, Susan Hayward, has hit rock bottom. We just don't know why.
     By the second scene, however, we do: Alcohol. It's the devil's drink. It has ruined the lives of many men--and women.
     I have not seen too many of Susan Hayward's films, but I know that she was one of the greatest actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood--and of any othe time for that matter. For some unknown reason to me, however, she is not as well remembered today as such actresses as Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck. This film, out of many of her works, prove that she should be. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress (the first of five nominations).
Eddie and Susan.
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     From the very beginning, this film grabbed be by the throat and refused to let me go. I felt for Susan throughout the whole film. Her happiness in the very beginning when she and Ken Carraway, portrayed by Lee Bowman, married and had their daughter, I felt her fear when she began to take up alcohol after her husband had become a success and she was afraid she was losing him, and I felt her anger when she knew she had hit rock bottom but she didn't know how to get back on top.
Thatta Girl, Susan!
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     Eddie Albert also co-stars in this film as Steve Nelson, Bowman's best friend, and the single person that doesn't give up on Angelica. I've always liked Eddie Albert and he gives a fine performance. Marsha Hunt, who plays Martha
Gray, Ken Carraway's secretary, gave a fine performance as the woman who's unrequited love for Ken makes her a true *puts hand over mouth to muffle explicit word*. I detested her throughout the whole film, and even when she breaks down toward the end and tells Ken and Steve why she acts the way she does, I still can't forgive her. The picture of Angelica going at Martha during a party is one of my favorite scenes in the whole film. Given the fact that Angelica was drunk by the time this scene occured really shows how good she give it to a woman that had the audactiy to try and steal her man from her (she saw right through Martha. What woman wouldn't?).
    I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and one can safely bet that it's on my list of films to own. It's a must see for anyone, no matter if you're a fan of Susan Hayward's or not. It's a powerful film and one that no would should miss out on seeing. I give this a 3.5/4 star rating.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Susan's Essentials

     Here's my five essentials for Susan Hayward. I hope you find one that might interest you if you haven't already seen it.
  1. Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman . . . Film Review (March 10, Saturday)
  2. They Won't Believe Me . . . Film Review (March 17, Saturday)
  3. My Foolish Heart . . . Film Review (March 24, Saturday)
  4. Untamed . . . Film Review (March 28, Wednesday)
  5. Back Street . . . Film Review (March 31, Saturday)

Friday, March 2, 2012

March: Star of the Month

     I've deliberated over how I should go about this, and so to be fair, I've decided that I'll go boy-girl-boy-girl etc. So, while Sidney Poitier was my first boy Star of the Month, for my first girl, I'm going to go with:

Susan Hayward
The red-hot Susan.
Photo Courtesy of
     My five essentials for Susan Hayward will be published tomorrow.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

7 Degrees of Sidney: The Answers

     Okay, so, to be quite honest, I'm shocked that NO ONE got the answers to this. Perhaps I stretched it out too far for us classic film lovers, but I figured that I would try to show how far one generation could be connected to the next. I guess next time I'll have to keep it more in our area of knowledge, won't I?
     Anywho, here's the answers:

Poitier ==> Sammy Davis, Jr. = Porgy and Bess, 1951
Davis, Jr. ==> 3 = Terry Bradshaw, Cannonball Run, 1981; shared no scenes; famous NFL player (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Bradshaw ==> Matthew McConaughey = Failure to Launch, 2006
McConaughey == 5 = Jennifer Gardner = Spin of Charles Dickens novel (Christmas Carol -> Ghosts of Girlfriends Past); film released 2009
Gardner ==> 6 = Ricky Gervais; The Invention of Lying, 2009; British comedian
Gervais ==> Tina Fey = The Office, 2011

     Yep. That's how they are connected.