Let Us Live (1939) John Brahm

   let_us_live2.jpg   Let Us Live is based on a March 1936 Harper’s magazine article by Boston Globe crime reporter, Joseph F. Dinneen, called Murder in Massachusetts. Dinneen’s true story focuses on two taxi cab drivers identified by almost a dozen witnesses for killing a man during a Lynn, Massachusetts movie theater robbery. The real killers, arrested about three weeks later were small time Jewish hoods Abraham Faber and brothers Irving and Murton Millen. The real killers’ story is rather fascinating in itself. Abraham Faber seemed like an unlikely individual to become a hoodlum. Faber attended MIT, graduating with a degree in aeronautical engineering. The Millen brothers were thugs. Small time hoods who hauled illegal booze during the prohibition days. The threesome apparently knew each other from days gone by growing up in Roxbury, Mass. Unemployed during the Depression, Abraham Faber reconnected with his childhood friends and the trio began a small time crime spree. In January, 1934 they graduated to murder when they shot a man during the Paramount theater robbery in Lynn, Mass. One month later, they robbed the Needham Trust Co., killing two police officers and wounding a fire fighter in the process. About three weeks later in New York City two of the men were arrested and confessed to the crimes. The third man was arrested in Boston. The taxi cab drivers arrested for the first murder were released. The Farber-Millen gang were convicted and executed in June of 1935. 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