Let Us Live (1939) John Brahm

let_us_live2With Henry Fonda in the lead role of an innocent man convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair, this 1939 film brings to mind Alfred Hitchcock’s better known and similar themed work, The Wrong Man. And like his character in Hitchcock’s film, he cooperates with the police, since he has nothing to hide, only to find himself arrested, and convicted, for a crime, he did not commit. In this case murder. Continue reading

The Major and the Minor (1942) Billy Wilder

There was no love lost between Billy Wilder and film director Mitchell Leisen. Over the course of many interviews Billy expressed his strong feelings that Leisen ruined his scripts. He had no regard for the written word, changing, moving and deleting lines without a thought to storyline. Yet in Cameron Crowe’s essential, “Conversations with Wilder,” Billy states, “Midnight, that was a good picture.” The distaste for Leisen seems to stem more from the making of “Hold Back the Dawn,” the final film Wilder, and his partner Charles Brackett, wrote for Leisen (their final screenplay before Wilder embarked on his directing career was “Ball of Fire” for Howard Hawks who Wilder admired). “As a director,” Wilder said to Crowe, “he was alright. You could get to be an old man writing just Mitch Leisen pictures.”  In “Hold Back the Dawn,” there was a scripted scene involving a cockroach that was never filmed. Wilder and Brackett worked on this scene for many long hours but Charles Boyer refused to talk to a cockroach, as the script dictated, a bit which would have showed a softer side to his character. Leisen, siding with his star, just cut the scene out without regard. This burned Billy and they fought and fought, but Billy, just a writer, low in the Hollywood hirarchy, lost the battle. In Leisen’s defense, one just has to take a look at “Midnight” and “Hold Back the Dawn” and ask how bad can he have destroyed them? Both of these films are good and still contain the wit and intelligence of Wilder’s and Brackett’s work. What’s lacking, is the acidic cynicism that Wilder’s self directed films contained throughout much of his career. I liked that cynicism, it is part of what separated and defined Wilder from most everyone else.      Continue reading

Interview with Author Jacqueline T. Lynch

JTLynch author photo

Novelist, Playwright, Film Historian, New England Historian and now Biographer, Jacqueline T. Lynch is a multi-talented artist who also brightens up blogland with three always interesting and intelligent blogs: Another Old Movie Blog, New England Travels and Tragedy and Comedy in New England.

Ann Blyth: Actress Singer Star is her most recent book. It’s a thorough in depth fascinating look at the career of the beautiful, diminutive in height, but big in talent and compassionate actress. Blyth made 32 films: dramas, comedies, adventure, and musicals. She could act, sing and dance, yet today is mainly remembered for her role as the spoiled and vile daughter of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce. In this new and important biography, Ms. Lynch rectifies the situation by giving Ann Blyth her rightful place as one of cinema’s greats. Continue reading

Short Takes: Recent Viewings Take 2

I’ll See You in My Dreams

DreamsCalling all Baby Boomers! Finally, an honest, realistic,  touching, poignant  look at the boomer generation reaching the age of retirement. An endearing performance by Blythe Danner as a widow, able to retire and live comfortably thanks to an insurance policy on her husband who passed away twenty years ago. Her daily life is one of quiet routines; reading The New York Times, playing cards, bicycling, playing golf with the girls, all who live, unlike Danner, in a retirement community.  Danner’s performance shows how much this talented actress has been wasted in so many menial roles over the years. It’s a performance  that should be remembered come award season. I’ll See You in My Dreams is a bittersweet, emotionally rich film. A must see!  Continue reading

Kid Galahad (1937) Michael Curtiz

Harry-Carey-Wayne-Morris-and-Edward-G_-Robinson-in-Kid-Galahad-1937Kid Galahad is a solid entertaining Warner Brothers film starring Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, so you can hardly go wrong. The film was directed by Micheal Curtiz who just a few years later would direct Bogie in one of cinema’s greatest classics, Casablanca. Here Bogie is still a second string player in one of his typical, for the time, gangster punk roles he was being typecast to play. He had the unlikely name of Turkey Morgan. Like what tough guy has a nickname of Turkey? Continue reading

My Twenty Five Top Film Noirs

film-noir-blackWhat is Film Noir? Well just take  look at Double Indemnity or Criss Cross and you will get the idea. Filled with treacherous woman and dumb men, along with odd camera angles and stark contrast like black and white photography, film noir’s peak period arguably ranges from 1941 to 1958. The term was coined by the French. After the war, an influx of American films began to flood the European cinemas. The French critics noticed a much darker, pessimistic, fatalistic tone in  many the films and coined the phase film noir or dark cinema. Continue reading

My Submission to the Childhood Countdown

I happen to be taking a look at Aaron West’s Criterion Blues blog and noticed his recent posting of his Adolescence and Childhood film list that he submitted for the upcoming Countdown over at Wonders in the Dark. I have been participating in WitD’s annual Countdown series for a few years, actually since it first began and thought wow, why haven’t I done this before. So I am borrowing Aaron’s idea (it’s possible some other participant(s) has done this in the past, if so, I am unaware) and posting my own submission.

As mentioned, this year’s countdown is on favorite films about Childhood. Now these are not children or young adult films pumped out by Disney or whomever. They are films that are about childhood or have a significant role by a young person. This, as usual brought up a lot of discussion between participants (emails were flying!) on just what constitutes a film about childhood,  and where does childhood end and adulthood begin. In others words, just because there is a child in the film, it does not qualify as a film about childhood. My own thoughts, and what I used as a guideline were childhood ends with the end of one’s high school years, generally seventeen. My second guideline was there had to be a significant role by a young individual that was important to the storyline. Subsequently, you will find a film like Shane, a western whose plot is more about  the Van Heflin, Alan Ladd and Jack Palance interplay than the young boy. But the young boy’s role is an important part in the film. We see much of what happens through his eyes. You will also note that I included Mildred Pierce which I don’t believe anyone else submitted. Mildred Pierce, a film about childhood? Well, Veda, played by a thirteen year old Ann Blyth, is significant to the story, and we all know about how young vile, uncaring, self-centered  teens who believe the world revolves around them can be and Veda is a poster girl for vile.

Anyway, whether one agrees with my choices or not, below is my submission which will be tabulated with all the other entries. A final list will be compiled with a review by one participant posted each weekday until the complete list of 60 films are revealed. The Countdown will started sometime in June. Continue reading