Thursday, May 28, 2015

SPELLBOUND (1945)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 30 of 50)


Spellbound is a movie that has its moments, but doesn't go down as one of my favorite Hitchcock films. The story of an amnesiac who might have committed a murder isn't bad, but the resolutions coming from his dreams aren't particularly convincing. I don't think if I dreamed about three seven of clubs playing cards that it would logically add up to me thinking about the ritzy Twenty-One Club, but I could be wrong. The highlight of the film has to be the elaborate Salvador Dali backdrops to the patient's dreams. It's also interesting to see Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman teamed up, but as I said, there are better Hitchcock films out there.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Leo G. Carroll. A Hitchcock regular, Leo always seemed to pop up as an urbane professional in such films such as Rebecca, North by Northwest and as the head psychiatrist in Spellbound. An exception to this type of casting I saw recently was Carroll as the houseboy Joseph in Wuthering Heights. 

Carroll later went on to play Cosmo Topper in the television series Topper and was the head of the spy agency in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He also served as a verse in the song Science Fiction Double Feature from The Rocky Horror Picture Show...I know Leo G. Carroll was over a barrel when Tarantula took to the hills...



Monday, May 25, 2015

SERGEANT YORK (1941)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 29 of 50)


Sergeant York was the right movie at the right time for 1941 American and became the biggest box-office hit of that year. Unabashedly sentimental, but charming in its simplicity, the story of contentious objector turned World War I hero Alvin York may seem too corny for some, but I rather liked this almost too good to be true tale. Gary Cooper does a fine job as York, even if he was much older than the character he was playing. 


And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Walter Brennan. Brennan was probably the premeire supporting actor of his generation. Probably the only reason he didn't win an Academy Award as the pastor in Sergeant York is because he had already won the award three times! Director Howard Hawks also used Brennan in his later classic films To Have and Have Not, Red River and Rio Bravo.


Other notable supporting players include: George Tobias (later Abner Kravitz in Bewitched), June Lockhart (later the hot mom on Lost in Space), Joan Leslie (Cooper's lovely romantic interest), Ward Bond (later as Bert the Cop in It's a Wonderful Life),  Howard Da Silva (later Ben Franklin in 1776), Noah Beery Jr. (later as Pappy in The Rockford Files) and we have yet another...

...appearance by Dickie Moore!
In one of those strange coincidences that seem to happen when you are going through some of those films I have seen two movies in a row by former Little Rascal Dickie Moore after not seeing him in anything since I watched The Little Rascals so many years ago! Dickie plays Alvin York's younger brother this go round.



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Friday, May 22, 2015

OUT OF THE PAST (1947)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 28 of 50)



The tough guy in a trench coat and a snap brimmed hat played by Robert Mitchum is trying to go straight. He's got a new life and a new girl, but his past comes back to haunt him. Other classic noir elements include: the beautiful but deadly dame played by Jane Greer, the crime boss played by Kirk Douglas who keeps sucking Mitchum back into his old life, the dark setting and tone from director Jacques Tourneur, and of course that snappy dialogue from screenwriter Daniel Mainwairing. We also get a complicated plot that is more than a bit confusing at times, but as long as you can kind of keep up with who is double crossing who and what the motivations of the characters are, you'll be alright. 


And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Kirk Douglas. Like Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas went through a period of playing supporting roles. This was only his second movie, but he already shows a lot of the charisma that would quickly lead him into becoming a headline star. 



And let me also give an acknowledgement to former Little Rascal Dickie Moore, who plays a deaf-mute gas station attendant. 





Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 27 of 50)


A movie I haven't seen since I was a kid, but the plot is pretty much the same as I remember it.
Rocky and Jerry are two childhood friends. One becomes a hardened criminal and one goes straight and becomes a priest. The Neighborhood toughs, who Jerry tries to set on the straight and narrow, come to practically worship Rocky. When Rocky gets caught after after a memorable shootout with the police, he is sentenced to die in the electric chair. Jerry tries to persuade Rocky to  act cowardly as he goes to the chair so the kids won't look at him as a hero, but he refuses...That is until the last second, when Rocky does what Jerry asks and screams and cries right before his execution. A tear falls out of Jerry's eye and says a prayer as the switch is pulled. He visits the neighborhood kids and tells them that Rocky did indeed act cowardly at the end.

A simple plot, but very well done. The setting of the boys tough neighborhood in the opening shot is impressive and detailed. The movie also gives James Cagney one of his signature tough guy roles. Pat O'Brien has a less showy role as Jerry, but does well enough. And the shot of Rocky screaming before going to the electric chair shown only is shadow is still quite moving and effective.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Humphrey Bogart. It's still funny to see Bogart during his supporting actor apprenticeship at Warner Brothers. He's an evil heel in this movie, and it's just a matter of time before he's gets his in the end. It is interesting to trace the evolution of Bogart's stardom, form these supporting roles to High Sierra to The Maltese Falcon to Casablanca and a series of heroic roles until he returned to bad guy form in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Honorable mention supporting players in Angels with Dirty Faces include: George Bancroft (also of Stagecoach and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), Ann Sheridan (the underrated Warner's 40's leading lady) and The Dead End Kids as the neighborhood punks, who went on to star in many movies of their own as The Bowery Boys.