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
Barbara Stanwyck was always at her best when her character came from the wrong side of the tracks. She seemed to have a natural affinity for those whose lives have mostly been filled with hard times, scrapping by the best way they can. Maybe, it had to do with her sad Brooklyn upbringing, her mother dying when she was four, pushed from a streetcar by a drunk, and her father leaving only weeks later, never heard from again. That kind of pain has to leave an indelible mark on one for life. Yet, beneath the tough exterior would hide a gentle desirous heart longing for acceptance and love that would eventually show itself. This double side of Stanwyck’s persona is clearly on display many of her films including this 1940 holiday comedy/drama, Remember the Night.
MacMurray is prosecuting Assistant District Attorney, John Sargent. He arranges through a legal technicality, to have Lee Leander’s (Barbara Stanwyck) trial for shoplifting postponed until after the holidays. This results in Lee, unable to post bail, having to spend the long holiday week in a jail cell. Sargent, in a twinge of guilt, or holiday spirit, arranges through a shady bondsman to have Lee’s five thousand dollars bail paid for. When the bondsman delivers Lee to the ADA’s apartment, she is cynical enough to have no doubt, her payback to him will be in sexual favors. To her surprise, D.A. John Sargent expects nothing in return. He really just did not want her to spend Christmas in jail. The look of surprise in Lee’s eyes and face is priceless when this realization hits her. Continue reading
There are some films you can never get enough of, right? Some are pure comfort food, some are annual seasonal delights, some are visually stunning, some bring back happy memories and others you, well, just find some indescribable need to just watch repeatedly. The pleasure of watching a favorite film over and over again fills your pleasure dome like an excellent piece of Belgium chocolate. If you are a serious student of film, repeatedly watching a film will reveal what makes it so powerful by studying the editing, the lighting, how the music is used and much more. On a lighter note, it’s simply the joy of being with an old familiar friend. There is the anticipation of knowing what’s coming next. It could be Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot when he sees Marilyn Monroe for the first time at the train station saying, “Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!” Or it could be Edward G. Robinson as Rico, in Little Caesar, shot down and uttering his last words, “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?” However you want to look at it, people do love watching favorite films over and over and over.
I have been working on my own list for a while, longer than I want to admit. I attempted to put the list in some kind of order finally succumbing to the simplest…alphabetical. As the title states, I have come up with 101 favorite films. The key word is “favorite.” The list was actually was a lot longer, but I limited it to 101. It was tough and this resulted in many films I love having not made the final cut. In the end, these films are my go to movies that I never get tired of watching.
A final note: This occasional series will be in ten parts, ten films per post except for the final post which will contain eleven entries. Like all lists, at least my own lists, this one is always subject to change. You will also note, the list consist of all English speaking films, mostly American. Originally, I included foreign language films, however, I decided that would be a list for another occasion. And now… Continue reading
Woody Allen: Reel to Real is a new e-book from Take2 Publishing. Written by Alex Sheremet, the author examines, in-depth, the Woodsman’s complete film career, right from its earliest days to the present. He examines, not only Woody’s directed films, but those he had a role in as an actor. The book is the most far-reaching analysis of Allen’s career so far. Continue reading