GENE TIERNEY DOUBLE FEATURE: November 16th-The Wonderful Urge from 1948 (Director: Robert B. Sinclair, Writers: Jay Dratler, Stars: Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney, Cinematography: Charles G. Clarke, Runtime: 82 mins)
Where The Sidewalk Ends from 1950 (Director: Otto Preminger, Writers: Ben Hecht with Story by Victor Trivas, Frank P. Rosenberg, Robert E. Kent and Based on Night Cry by William L. Stuar, Stars: Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle, Runtime: 95 mins)
First we got a screwball comedy about a reporter named Thomas Jefferson Tyler he comes under the honesty of an heiress he is reporting on, but she finds out he was lying to her. o Sara Farley enacts a plan to pretend they are married to screw with him. They fall in love, obviously. In Where The Sidewalk Ends a tough cop starts investigating a murder. When he tracks down who he believes to be set up as a fall guy, a punch and bad fall kills this man. Now this cop-played by Dana Andrews, is in a rush to cover his tracks but when his boss thinks it was the father of the fall guys wife, he starts trying to figure a way out.
I think That Wonderful Urge has a good premise and some neat scenes and ideas, but ultimately does not work out. I think something might be off with the chemistry between the two leads who I generally like. However in this film I really prefer Gene Tierney. I find her pretty fun and fantastic as Sara Farley, especially when she screws over Tyone’s character when he decides on an impromptu marriage with his real girlfriend. She can turn on the charm and a second later let the facade of her story almost crack to get a touch of what her character is really feeling. Tyrone Power however, I think he’s solid and he has energy in scenes but I feel like the two leads are a little mismatched. A shame really, because I was enjoying this film for the most part.
Where The Sidewalk Ends is a very good noir film with Gene Tierney not getting a lot to do, sadly. She’s very good as the wife of the suspect turned murder victim and daughter of the next suspect. She and Dana have chemistry, but less here than in Laura which I rate about the same as this. Back to Tierney, she’s giving a lot for a performance that is under written and it reminds me that she is an underrated performer who was probably saddled in a company that did not have a lot for her. The studio system had its pros and cons and of the old Hollywood days, Fox had no solid identity. They did a little of everything and made a number of classics but were not to the level of MGM, nor Warner Brothers. Moving on to other performers, Dana Andrews is very good here but I can safely say The Best Years of Our Lives is my favorite performance by him, then followed by Laura. Karl Malden is very good as the police lieutenant. A very well rounded cast.
I think the story starts off good, hits a slow down point and has trouble ramping the action back to where it needs to be. however that first half is very engaging. From the way that opening credit sequence is shot to the gambling house segment, the start of the investigation to Dana Andrews character trying to dispose of the body. The tension with the lieutenant zeroes in on the wrong guy-all great stuff. Then it takes a break and while Dana and Gene are very good together, I think it just loses steam right there. Still, a quality film noir.
November 17-Charlie’s Angels from 2019 (Director.Writer: Elizabeth Banks with Story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn, Stars: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo and Patrick Stewart, Cinematography: Bill Pope, Runtime: 118 mins)
Elena, a scientist on a project called Calisto reaches out for help when her boss ignores dangers with the device. The Angels (Sabina and Jane) along with a Bosely (its a rank) go to investigate but are attacked by a hitman. That Bosely is killed, and now Elena, Sabina and Jane are working with another Bosely to secure the Calisto devices and see who sold them out. There are some twists and turns to it all, but with spy movies there has to be, right?
So as I type this the film is DOA at the box office and its a shame because this is a feel good, breezy, stupid fun action spy flick. yes there is a bit of cheesiness to it, and I shook my head but I smiled. It opens with Kristen Stewart being charming and then a quick take out of some guys. We establish Sabina and Jane, move on to meet Elena and set the story up. Firmly establishing her boss as the asshole. We get an understanding of the Angels and their structure. I actually like the idea of Bosely as a rank and all the different Angels there are. The story moves pretty quick and keeps moving, but enough time to breath and enjoying the characters. I liked for example their operation inside Elena’s place of business while trying to retrieve the Calisto devices. Them all dressed in a similar way as to one of the other employees and each operating with a specific task. Some fun movie spy craft stuff. Lots of fun movie spy craft.
Unlike some action films, it does not blow its load half way through. Third act action and wrap up is satisfying. The fight scene between Jane (played by Ella Balinska) and Hodak (Played by Jonathan Tucker) was very good. The action scene inside factory and the rock quarry in the center of the film is also quite an entertaining section. Overall the film has a pretty, smooth and slick look which works for the high fashion and style of Charlie’s Angels brand. It really should be playing more to the female audience but I wonder if a bad marketing plan has to do with it. I saw this film in spite of the trailer. I also want to mention how much I enjoy Chris Pang’s character fawning over Kristen Stewarts character. Too bad its doubtful there will be a sequel cause that would have been a great running joke.
Overall, damn this was a real fun film. You should check it out.
JOAN CRAWFORD IN THE 30S DOUBLE FEATURE: November 18th-Sadie McKee from 1934 (Director: Clarence Brown, Writers: John Meehan and Based on “Pretty Sadie McKee” by Viña Delmar, Stars: Joan Crawford, Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh, Runtime: 93 mins)
The Bride Wore Red from 1937 (Director: Dorothy Arzner, Writers: Lots, Stars: Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Robert Young and Billie Burke, Cinematography: George J. Folsey, Runtime: 103 mins)
I am writing this over a day later so the story details are fuzzy. Sadie McKee leaves her maid job because of how her employers spoke of the. an she loves. He ditches her for a job, she marries a rich guy and a lot more. Its about her relationships. Joan Crawford was good, story was interesting, however its pacing and developments never really pulled me past the thought ‘Its okay.’
I liked the Bride Wore Red better. Just a little better. A rich dude finances Joans characters rich two week vacation. Joan pretends to be a socialite (I don’t feel like checking) and live the high life. She wants to seduce away a rich man so she can maintain this new life. Franchot Tone plays the handsome postmaster of the local town she has feelings for. I think Joan once. ore is fantastic, Tone I find more interesting here than Sadie McKee. I think it has a more dynamic look and style to it. However I think I like my Joan Crawford films from the 50s and upward.
November 19th-Riffraff from Year (Director: J. Walter Ruben, Writers: Frances Marion, Anita Loos, and H. W. Hannaford, Stars: Jean Harlow and Spencer Tracy, Cinematography: Ray June, Runtime: 94 mins)
Riffraff is about the relationship between Spencer Tracys character and Jean Harlows. He works for a fishing company and tries to be the big union man, she loves him even though he pisses her off. It tracks Spencers failings and struggles, hers to try to keep it together and ultimately stealing in an order to try and help him. Seriously what feels like some rom-com turns into a drama and has some interesting film choices.
I love Jean Harlow but I am basically left with her other films. The ones that are less talked about, not as fondly remembered. I still have Dinner at 8 but really thats it. I picked this one because of Harlow and Tracy in Libeled Lady which is way better than this. Both are good, specifically Harlow who can turn anger into lust with a twitch of her lip. She is fantastic. Tracy is good but this is not top tier Tracy by no means. No one else in the film really comes up as good, though Joseph Calleia does what he can with his character.
Story wise the tone shifts and changes I think hurt it to some degree. The good stuff comes and goes too much and we get either Harlow or Tracy usually performing with someone not really too interesting to watch. Also, unlike Hold Your Man where you root for Gable and Harlow together I don’t think Tracy’s Dutch deserves Harlow’s Hattie. I will say the film looks fine. Some good set pieces and what appears to be location shots. Its not a bad looking film. Its just this feels like a film only to see for Harlow.
November 20th-Danger: Diabolik from 1968 (Director: Mario Bava, Writers: Many and Based on Diabolik by Angela and Luciana Giussani, Stars: John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell and Michel Piccoli, Cinematography: Antonio Rinaldi, Runtime: 105 mins)
Danger: Diabolik is based on the Italian comic, a type of heighten crime book. A masked criminal takes on major heists and battles other underworld types. In this film Diabolik is pissing off the authorities and even bests members of a syndicate who try to play nice with the cops. Made around the same time as Barbarella, another Italian comic turned film by the same producers. Mario Bava, the horror film icon, tackles this film and despite his wonderful palette of colors, interesting set design, and some intriguing ideas crafts a rather boring film. Boring like Barbarella is boring but, I would argue, Barbarella is at least a little funner?
I think that’s all I got.
November 21st-Dance, Girl, Dance from Year (Director: Dorthy Arzner, Writers: Vicki Baum, Frank Davis and Tess Slesinger, Stars: Maureen O’Hara, Louis Hayward and Lucille Ball, Cinematography: Russell Metty, Runtime: 90 mins)
Dance, Girl, Dance is about a pair of dancers played by Maureen O’ Hara (as Judy O’Brien) and Lucille Ball (as Bubbles aka Lily), a rich man and his troubled marriage, and a ballet impresario played by the underappreciated Ralph Bellamy. It tracks these two dancers who are something of frenemies/rivals. Bubbles is at times pretty mean to Judy but at the same time is helping her out. They each try getting to know the rich guy (James Harris Jr. played by Louis Hayward) but he is still not over his ex (played by Virginia Field). Ralph Bellamy’s character is fascinated by Judy who he meets by accident after she ditched the audition but they run into each other outside his business. Soon learns the talented dancer in Lily’s Burlesque show is the same one who wanted to audition. Lots of stuff going on.
This film is quite a picture. I understand why it has become a early feminist classic. While it does seem like it is built around two women going after the same rich man it really is about two working women and how they go about things to make money. Maureen’s Judy O’Brien does like the Jimmy character but also sees he is complicated, while Lucille’s Bubbles sees him as an out to working-though she is pretty successful as a burlesque dancer. Then there is the little bit with Virginia Field as the ex wife, who does love her former husband but both have issues that need to be resolved. Jimmy Harris is really a red herring in the story, and Ralph Bellamy’s Steve Adams is not the other love interest who wins, so much as the guy who could give Judy a shot who does. A man who wants to help a woman. He might be attracted to her, but Steve really comes off as a guy just trying to help. It is a pretty impressive story for 1940 and its directed by a woman with two female co-writers. Pretty impressive. The dialogue passes the Bechdel test, which was not a thing at the time and I’m sure many films would have failed at the time. Its a well handled film, with the dances being mostly impressive but I minus points for the blackface dancers. Luckily that’s short. Its also sad as there are some black people in the film, though they are background. … Still, its a simple looking movie that packs a lot of punch.
Maureen and Lucille are fantastic. Maureen is playing the good girl, and is damn fine at it. She has a sweetness and you really feel her struggle. She wants to dance, loves to dance, but she also has confidence issues. Lucille Ball is a bit of a bitch, but also more complicated. She helps Maureen’s Judy paying her overdue rent and also getting her a job. However she can be catty and takes pleasure in watching her fans boo Maureen at her shows. Both are great, and I really dug the night court scene. Louis Hayward gets second billing and while he’s fine, his character is just a red herring. He helps move plot elements forward and the reconciliation with his ex-wife is a great twist but neither are that great of characters. Important for the story but not fleshed out, but good performances. I dig Ralph Bellamy. I didn’t know much about hi until this year but this guy has been in a few important black (and black adjacent) comedies which are either classics or at least important things I saw growing up. Plus this year I got to see him in a few fascinating classics and I loved his part in My Girl Friday, even if I was not as moved by that film as others. Still good. Ralph is just such an amiable persona, so damn likeable and even if he plays he spurned love interest you still hope he lands on his feet. I liked him a lot for his rather small part because I believed he just wanted to help this woman.
Overall, a really cool film. Loved it.
CAROL LOMBARD DOUBLE FEATURE: November 21st-Twentieth Century from 1934 (Director: Howard Hawks, Writers: Lots, Stars: John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, and Edgar Kennedy, Cinematography: Joseph H. August, Runtime: 91 mins)
Made for Each Other from 1939 (Director: John Cromwell, Writers: Rose Franken, Jo Swerling and Frank Ryan, Stars: Carole Lombard, James Stewart, and Charles Coburn, Cinematography: Leon Shamroy, Runtime: 92 mins)
I like Carol Lombard, but I don’t find a lot of her films memorable. Twentieth Century was good for her and John Barrymore. Made for Each Other was a disappointment. I have things to do so I am not in the mood to force myself to do a major write up for the last entry of the week.