Duck Soup (1933) Leo McCarey

Revolution for the Hell of It, Abbie Hoffman wrote back in the late 1960’s but he was way too late in his call. Some thirty-five years earlier the Marx Brothers blew the lid off turning rebellion into a mischievous art form in Leo McCarey’s masterpiece of mayhem, Duck Soup. Marxist chaos rules in the land of Freedonia.

It is difficult to imagine what a depression era audience, the film was made in 1933, made of the pandemonium being presented to them on screen. Like in all previous films, the Marx Brothers have no respect for anything. All positions of authority are targets for ridicule. Anti-politics, anti-war, anti-authority; as Groucho once sang in an earlier film (Horse Feathers), Whatever It Is, I’m Against It.” To the Marx Brothers it was all fodder for their antics to exploit the self-righteous, the rich, and the pompous and most all themselves. Continue reading

The Awful Truth (1937) Leo McCarey

 

Along with Howard Hawks and Preston Sturges, Leo McCarey arguably epitomizes the art of the screwball comedy. Of course other filmmakers have dabbled in screwball with winning results like William Wellman (Nothing Sacred),  Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey), Mitchell Leisen (Easy Living) among others but these three men combined made some of the cleverest and funniest works of that period.

Made in 1937, “The Awful Truth” is one of the gems of this, for lack of a better term, sub-genre. Nominated for Best Picture, Leo McCarey managed to snag the Best Director award though the film lost to the more “important” and “esteemed” winner, “The Life of Emile Zola.”  Based on a play by Arthur Richard with an Oscar nominated screenplay by Vina Delmar, though it is said Dorothy Parker had much to do with the script. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock: 24 Frames Baker’s Dozen

As  kind of my own personal wrap up for the CMBA Hitchcock Blogathon I am listing my own baker’s dozen of Hitchcock favorites. Like any list, at least of mine, it is never set in stone as additional viewings and new insights tend to change the order with only a couple of exceptions. A couple may suprise some, at least in the order they are in. The top three seem to always remain in those same positions.  

…and feel free to submit your own list.  

1 – REAR WINDOW

3 – PSYCHO

3 – NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Continue reading

CMBA Hitchcock Blogathon: Notorious

This reposting is in conjuction with the Classic Movie Blog Association’s  Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon. For more Hitchcock reviews by other CMBA members see list after the review or click on the Hitchcock Blogathon ad on the right. 

Who ever said Alfred Hitchcock was not a romantic? After all, what could be more romantic than the final scenes in “Notorious” where we see Cary Grant coming to Ingrid Bergman’s rescue just in time to take her away from the murdering Nazi Claude Rains. True for the past two hours Grant forced Ingrid to whore herself  by playing a 20th Century Mata Hari, seducing and sleeping with Rains in order to obtain secret information. He then resents her for agreeing to do this and hates himself for forcing her do it. Yep, no one knew how to treat a woman like Mr. Hitchcock, just ask Janet Leigh in “Psycho” or Grace Kelly in “Dial M for Murder.”

“Notorious” is a dark perverted love story. It is also a story of espionage, spies, murder and sex with Grant and Bergman as two of the most glamorous spies this side of James Bond, and wouldn’t have Grant made a great James Bond. In this seductive tale, Bergman is Alicia Huberman, daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, though Alicia herself is a patriotic American, a party girl who loves to drink and has a reputation for promiscuity, which just happens to make her a perfect choice for a dirty job planned by American intelligence agents.  Agent Devlin (Grant) is selected to recruit her, by seduction if necessary, for the delicate mission. He does his job well, a little too well as she falls in love with him. One romantic evening, Devlin breaks the news on what she has been recruited to do. They want her to go to Rio de Janeiro where a known Nazi spy ring has congregated. There she is to ingratiate herself into the home and life of the spy rings leader, one Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), a man she has previously met. In a subtle (remember this is 1946) but still clear way, Devlin tells her to do what it takes, even to sleep with Sebastian if need be, to find out what he and his cohorts are up too.  Reluctantly she agrees. In love with Devlin, she practically pleads with him to tell her not to go through with this mission but Devlin never says the magic words, he has his orders. Poor Devlin, our dark hero is conflicted; he has feelings for Alicia yet resents her for accepting the job and hates himself for not stopping her. Continue reading

Susannah York 1939 – 2011

RIP

For the New York Times Obituary click here.

Recommended films…

The Sands of the Kalahari

Tom Jones

A Man For All Seasons

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Images

Superman

The Silent Partner

CMBA Hitchcock Blogathon is Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

 The one day, all day Alfred Hitchcock blogathon is coming! On January 17th,  The Classic Movie Blog Association presents the first Alfred Hitchcock blogathon. More than 15 classic movie blogs with be participating on Hitchcock and nothing but Hitchcock this coming Monday. A list of all the participarting CMBA bloggers will be provided on Monday.

Blondie Johnson (1933) Ray Enright

At a running time of 67 minutes one sits there wishing it was longer. This pre-code film gives Joan Blondell one of the rare opportunities to have a leading role and she takes it to the hilt. Though released in 1933, Virginia “Blondie” Johnson comes across as a 21st century woman, a prototype of today’s female using her intelligence and wit to climb to the top, in this case the mob world. On the surface the film may seem like just another rags to riches story, though on the wrong side of the track (this is a Warner Brothers film after all).  Continue reading

Dial M For Murder (1954) Alfred Hitchcock

“Dial M for Murder” was a successful play in both London and on Broadway (where it ran for 552 performances). Written by English playwright Frederick Knott (Write Me a Murder, Wait Until Dark), the hit play originally was turned down for production by London theater managers claiming there would be little interest in this sort of play. Eventually, the BBC showed interest and the play premiered on the British TV station in early 1952. The play made its West End debut when a businessman who owned a lease on the Westminster theater, and with no play ready to put into production, decided to take a chance and put on the low cost thriller with some of the same cast members from the television version. The show was a critical and commercial success.  In October 1952, the play opened in New York with Maurice Evans as Tony Wendice, (Ray Milland in the film). Evans had shrewdly acquired the North American rights to the play. Also in the Broadway cast were Anthony Dawson and John Williams, both who would recreate their roles later on screen. Williams won a Tony Award for his role as the Police Inspector.

Enter Alfred Hitchcock who loves a well plotted mystery.  Hitch was at the end of his Warner Brothers contract and needed a film to complete his obligations.  Women in peril has always been a favorite subject for writers ) and film directors, so the blending of these two talents was a natural fit. Knott wrote the screenplay which remained faithful to the play. Unlike most filmmakers, when they film a play, Hitchcock did not “open up” the story. He kept it confined to the apartment, where the entire play takes place, except for a couple of short scenes outside the apartment and one scene at a men’s club. Continue reading

24 Frames: 10 Best Classic Films Watched in 2010….For The First Time

Here they are, the top 10 classic films watched for the first time in 2010.  The list is truly an international one with five American, two French, one Italian, one Japanese and one German. Two of the films are silent works and two from the 1960’s, the most recent decade on the list. Anthony Mann was the only director to have more than one film in the top 10 (if you include the HM’s, Mann had three and Kurosawa had two). There are 15 honorable mentions all of which are worthy works in and of themselves and deserve to be seen.  For easy access, I have provided links to the films on the list I have written about. Continue reading

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) Leo McCarey

With the tough economic times we have faced over the past few years many families have been forced into situations they never envisioned, like grown children moving back in with their now aging parents, or in some cases, the other way around.

There also seems to be certain times when art is in perfect  alignment with the times. Whether a painting, a written work, a song or a film it seems to be exactly in synch with a point in time. Such is the case with the film I am writing about here, only the film happens to be over seventy years old.

The movie is  “Make Way for Tomorrow” which some folks may view as a tear jerker, however calling this film a tear jerker is reducing the significance of  a work that has much more substance and depth than a standard tissue wiper. “Make Way for Tomorrow” earns its emotional pull with honestly in its storytelling and the strength of its characters. Generally, when a  film attempts to tug at your emotions the filmmakers create an emotionally fake situation that  rips open your tear ducts without shame or reason; Arthur Hiller’s film version of Eric Segal’s bestselling waterfall, “Love Story” is prime example.  Here the film earns its sentiment honestly with the passion and love of the two elderly characters facing a crossroads in their final years that is out of their control, yet they still manage to hold on to their dignity.  Orson Welles once said in an interview to Peter Bogdanovich, “only a stone could remain dry” after seeing this film.    Continue reading