One of the spiciest of pre-code movies ever made was The Story of Temple Drake. It was based on William Faulkner’s decadent novel, “Sanctuary,” which was considered a scorcher for its time. Published in 1931, the novel dealt with rape, bondage and murder, and can probably be compared to today’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy in its notoriety. By the standard of the studios and the production code it was considered to be one of those books, like The Postman Always Rings Twice some 15 years later, a work that was too hot for the screen and could not be made into a movie. Yet, just two years after its publication, Paramount purchased the rights and it arrived on the screen, though not without some fine major tuning and modifications. The Hays Office refused to allow the studio to name the novel in any way on screen. Subsequently, during the opening credits it reads from a “novel by William Faulkner.” Still, the film remained and remains one of the most controversial and wicked of pre-code films. Faulkner, it is said, based his novel on a true story and wrote it expressly as a commercial venture to sell books with no consideration of artistic intent. Continue reading
Pickup on South Street is one of Sam Fuller’s few big studio films, and more importantly, one of his finest. Pickpocket pro Richard Widmark inadvertently becomes involved in stolen government secrets when he pickpockets the wrong woman, a tough talking Jean Peters. This is hard core noir mixed in with cold war paranoia. The film is filled with tough smart aleck talking guys and dames, no matter what side of the law they are on. Widmark is very good, but Thelma Ritter as Mo, the snitch, steals every scene she is in. Not a perfect film but damn near close. Continue reading
Here is Part Three in my ten part series of 101 Films to Watch Over and Over Again. More Woody Allen, along with Chaplin, Bogie, Abbott and Costello and Paul Newman. Below are links to the earlier entries in this series.
Broadway Danny Rose
Woody Allen creates a nostalgic world filled with the lower levels of New York’s show business community he knew so well from his early days as a writer and standup comedian. There is a colorful Damon Runyon like quality to most of the characters. Allen himself plays his classic Woody character, a more modern version of one of his childhood heroes, Bob Hope. Having seen the waif like Farrow in many films prior to this, her performance here as Tina Vitale, a hard-edged, tough Italian broad is delightfully unexpected. Despite Danny’s “bad luck” with his third-rate clients, he always remains upbeat. Even after being stabbed, figuratively speaking, by Tina, he is still there for his clients come the following Thanksgiving Day. He gathers his odd clientele in his rundown apartment for a holiday meal of frozen turkey dinners. Though the scene plays out as humorous, it is also very touching. Danny cares for and take care of these loveable losers. The film’s ending reconciliation between Danny and Tina is tender, sweet and well after spending an hour and a half with him, you know it’s so Danny Rose…and Woody Allen. Continue reading
This is part two in my ten part series on 101 Films to Watch Over and Over Again. Here you will find more Billy Wilder along with John Huston, Cary Grant, Jane Fonda, John Garfield and more. At the bottom of this post you will find a link to part one in the series if you missed it or are so inclined to revisit.
A funny, cynical tale by the master of cynicism, Billy Wilder. There is not one likeable character in the film. Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter is the original lonely guy. He’s a smuck willing to freely lend out his apartment for the sexual shenanigans of his superiors at work in hopes of climbing up the corporate ladder of success…and getting the key to the officers restroom. Fran Kublick (Shirley MacLaine) is an elevator operator at the office building of the Insurance company C.C. works for. He has a crush on her because she looks so sweet. But little does he know, she’s shacking up with the big boss, Mr. Sheldrake, an evil Fred MacMurray. Fran is being strung along by Sheldrake who keeps telling her he is going to divorce his wife when the time is right. Sure he is.
This is the 1950’s/1960’s. A pre-feminist, women’s lib world. Office politics and the corporate culture had no place for women. Well they did, but it’s at the bottom of the food chain. Men are in all the important positions. Women are there to type, take dictation, flirt and party with. They are then sent home as the men head back to their wives. The film is like looking thru a time capsule. For example, in the office party scene, booze flows freely, drunken behavior is acceptable. Women are pinched on the backside as they walk by, and their are couples making out in the hall. Welcome to Corporate America. Madmen gone Wilder.
And while the characters are unlikeable, they are played to perfection be a great cast, and not just the leads. Supporting players like Ray Walston, Hope Holiday, Edie Adams, Jack Kruschen, Joyce Jameson and Joan Shawlee all have their moments. Continue reading
It amazes me that the more films I watch, the more there is to discover. It’s a never ending black hole, and that’s a good thing. The thrill of a new discovery always sets the juices flowing. This year was no different.
Five of the ten films on my list are foreign. There are three from Italy, one a co-production with Algeria. One from England and one from France. Of the five U.S. films, two are silents and one a documentary. Decade wise, the 1940’s and 1950’s had three each. There were two from the 1920’s and one each from 1960 and 1990. All in all, a nice mix. If you are curious about the previous entries in this series, the easiest way is to go over to categories on the sidebar and select “Annual Ten Best Classic Films Watched…for the First Time.” I also included a dozen honorable mentions. Continue reading