Friday, August 30, 2013

ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959)

Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Post 14 of 14)

Anatomy of a Murder
 
ANATOMY OF A BLOGGER

The 1001 Movie Blogger is escorted through the courtroom to the witness stand and sworn in.

Jimmy Stewart: Sir, you do realize why you are here today?

1001 Blogger: No! I have no clue why I'm here today. All I know I was watching Anatomy of a Murder yesterday and today I find myself in this court. I want to know what I am being accused of!

George C. Scott: Perhaps I can shed some light on this situation your honor. May I approach the defendant?

Judge Welch: It's a bit irregular, but I will give you a little latitude here.

George C. Scott: Take a look at that woman sitting over there, Mr. Blogger…If that is your real name.

(The woman in question is the voluptuous blonde Lee Remick, circa 1959, as she looked in Anatomy of a Murder.)

1001 Blogger: Okay, I'm looking.

George C. Scott: Do you think she's pretty?

1001 Blogger: Impressive...bordering on spectacular. But what's the point of your question?

George C. Scott: Let the record show that the defendant is not blind. He can see perfectly well.

Jimmy Stewart: Just a minute! Are you trying to railroad my client, sir! He deserves his day in court before you just arbitrarily toss him into the clink.

(Stewart slams his right hand down on the prosecutor's table for emphasis.Lee Remick giggles at the outburst and the all the males in the court soak her in for a minute before the trial can proceed.)

Judge Welch:(to the lawyers) Gentleman, gentleman. Have you no since of decency, sir? This is, after all, a court of law!

(A booming German voice from the back is heard as he approaches the bench.)

Maxamillian Schell: Perhaps I can shed some light on things. I say to you your honor, if this man is found guilty, there are others who went along who must also be found guilty!

Judge Welch: I need to stop you right there, sir. I believe you are looking for the Nuremberg Trial, third door to the left.

Maxamillain Schell: Oh my God! I'm so embarrassed. I was never here. (Schell runs out of the courtroom.)

Judge Welch: Now can we get back to-Who are you?

(A white haired man in suspenders approaches the bench carrying a rock.)

Spencer Tracy: Mr. Blogger, have you ever read The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin?

1001 Blogger: Well, yeah. Most of it anyway.

Spencer Tracy: Oh! I wasn't expecting you to say yes. I've got nothing else. Witness is excused. (Tracy returns to his seat.)

Judge Welch: Excuse me, but this is still my courtroom and I don't excuse this witness!

Jimmy Stewart: Hold on here. Can I try something?
(Stewart goes to the bench and instructs the defendant to follow him around the courtroom. Stewart walks past the onlookers and twice around the perimeter of the room back with the 1001 Blogger following closely behind before the blogger ends up back at the witness stand.)

George C. Scott: OBJECTION !!! Counsel is leading the witness.

(Judge Welch pounds his gavel.)

Judge Welch: Any more references to Kentucky Fried Movie and I swear clear I'll clear this courtroom! Do you understand? Will the defendant please sit back down?

(The 1001 Blogger retakes his seat on the witness stand.)

George C. Scott: My colleague here has a question for the defendant.

(A JAG lawyer rises)

Tom Cruise: Did you or did you not order a code red?

1001 Blogger: What's a code red?

Tom Cruise: Um, I'm not really sure. I thought you knew.

(Cruise sits back down and lowers his head.)

(The 1001 blogger now feels a light shining in his eye.
A portly man in a powdered wig drops a monocle into his
hand.)


Charles Laughton: Sorry, your honor. I was using my monocle shining light method to see if this man was telling the truth or if he's just a...LIAR! But to tell you the truth, the thing isn’t really that reliable. Let’s just forget the whole thing. (He sits)

(A short round faced man stands up and begins to scream in German.)

Peter Lorre: (translated into English) Do you all want to kill me?

You just want to wipe me out?

But you can’t murder me just like that!

I demand to be handed over to the police!

I demand to be brought before a real court of law!

Judge Welch: Does anyone hear speak German?

James Stewart: No, your honor.

George C Scott: No, I certainly don’t speak Kraut.

Judge Welch: Sorry, sir. We can’t understand you. You’re going to have to sit down.

(Lorre sits down and buries his head in his hands.)

1001 Blogger: Hello! What about me? I still don't know what I'm being accussed of! This trial is...is

(A short, dark haired man stands and finishes the sentence for him.)

Al Pacino: This trial is out of order! My client is guilty! My...

(Judge Welch bangs his gavel once again and points to a sign above the door of the courtroom which reads-NO PACINO. Al Pacino gestures apologetically with his hands and sits down.)

Jimmy Stewart: My goodness. May...may I have a second to question my own client? Thank you. Mr. Blogger, do you laugh when you hear the word panties spoken out loud?

1001 Blogger: No, of course not. Well, sometimes…

Joe Pesci: (rising) Excuse me. If it please the court. I saw who did this. It was two yoots.

Jimmy Stewart: Objection! Isn’t it reasonable to assume if we have a no PACINO rule that we should also have a no PESCI rule?

Judge Welch: You are quite right, counselor. Sit down, Joe.(Joe mumbles something in Italian, but sits down)

Jimmy Stewart: May I say something now?

(Before he can continue, a lady with a thick Australian accent stands.)

Meryl Streep: A Dingo ate my baby!

(The courtroom looks at her for a moment before ignoring her comment and looking back at the
defendant.)


(Juror #8 stands.)

Henry Fonda: No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's SURE.

Judge Welch: Those are admirable words. But this is not a jury trial!

(Henry Fonda waves apologetically and slumps down in the jury box.)

(A distinguished looking African-American man stands up)
Denzel Washington: If it please the court. This case isn’t just about AIDS. It’s about the severe public hating…our loathing…our fear of homosexuals!

Jimmy Stewart: Aids? You mean like hearing aids?

Denzel Washington: Uh, never mind.

Judge Welch: I think he's referring to congressional aides.

Denzel Washinton: I said never mind! Withdrawn!

George C. Scott: What's a homosexual?

Denzel Washington: Withdrawn! Withdrawn already!

Kirk Douglas: (standing) Gentleman of the court, there are times when I’m ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion.

Judge Welch: Those are harsh words, Mr. Douglas. Do you wish to explain this rather cold indictment of humanity?

Kirk Douglas: Uh, no. I kind of thought you were going to just cut me off like you did everybody else. Just pretend I didn’t say anything. (He sits)

Judge Welch: (Exasperated) I believe we're ready for closing arguments now.

(A distinguished looking southern gentleman stands up.)

Gregory Peck: In the name of GOD, do your duty.

James Stewart: That's good Greg, but I think he was
talking to me. But I don't really have a close. How about you George?

George C. Scott: Me neither. Lets go have a beer. What do you say?

Judge Welch: Great idea. This case is dismissed. You are free to go. Party at Barney Quill's bar!

Everyone cheers as they leave the court for Barney Quill's Bar, leaving the 1001 blogger alone in the courtroom with a confused look on his face. Lee Remick sticks her head back in the door of the courtroom and signals at the defendant.)

Lee Remick: Hey, Mr. Blogger fella! Aren't you coming to the party?

(The 1001 blogger breaks into a smile as he follows her out of the courtroom.)


Sunday, August 25, 2013

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957)

Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Post 13 of 14)

An Affair to Remember

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER IS RELENTLESSLY
ROMANTIC FROM BEGINNING TO END!

Many women love this movie. It’s even referenced at length in Sleepless in Seattle.

Why exactly is that?

Well, the movie I compare it with is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What, you ask? Bear with me.

When Raiders came out, it was lauded as an action-packed thrill ride from beginning to end!

Okay.
With that model in mind, I say An Affair to Remember is non-stop romance from beginning to end! The relationship between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr moves kind of quickly in the film and never lets up, even as circumstance and bothersome fiancees and girl-friends get in the way during the second half of the film.

And funny supporting parts? Not in this one. The two major supporting parts are Cary’s grandmother who is as serious as they come and Kerr’s fiancé who folds like cheap patio furntiure at the inevitability of Kerr being with Grant. There is no time for comedy relief! The romance must never stop! Of course, Grant and Kerr do have a few lighthearted moments during their courtship, but they illicit only a chuckle here and there. Because this love affair is serious business and I promise you again and in block letters that…

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER IS RELENTLESSLY
ROMANTIC FROM BEGINNING TO END!



Friday, August 23, 2013

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant Month (Post 12 of 14)

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Typical but entertaining Alfred Hitchcock thriller about a doctor (Jimmy Stewart) and his ex-perfomer wife (Doris Day) whose son is kidnapped while they are on vacation in Marakesh. They embark on an odyssey that sends them across continents, up a few blind alleys and finally to the Royal Albert Hall in London.

One of my favorite scenes is where Stewart goes to meet Ambrose Hall to get information about his boy, only to find out the Ambrose Hall he goes to is the wrong one! Just one of Hitchcock's misdirections, but a interesting bit of comic relief at a tense time in the movie.

Jimmy Stewart does his usually fine job as the everyman caught up in a situation over his head (Assuming you can call a successful doctor with a beautiful and talented wife an everyman.) And Doris Day is also very good. It makes you wonder how she would have done if she had veered off into more dramatic parts instead of Please Don't Eat the Daisies type roles.

There are also lot of clever touches in the John Michael Hayes script, including much of the banter between Stewart and Day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Film 11 of 14)

Only Angels Have Wings

Action/adventure from director Howard Hawks about South of the boarder airmail carriers who seem to often risk life and limb to the deliver the mail (or nitroglycerin or whaterver). Only Angels Have Wings more than likely invented a lot of the clichés that became standard for the action genre.

Jean Arthur (as Bonnie Lee and that sexy, raspy voice of hers) plays the leading lady who quickly falls for the charms of the rugged boss of the carriers, Geoff Carter (Cary Grant).

As many of the Hollywood films of the era, this has a lot of character actors who were known (at least to me) for other things. Including: Victor Kilian (Sparks) many years later became the Fernwood flasher on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Noah Beery Jr.(Joe Souther), later became James Garner’s sidekick on The Rockford Files. Sig Rugmann (Dutchy), had memorable supporting roles in Marx Brothers movies and Ninotchka. Richard Barthelmess (MacPherson), had earlier played leading roles in D. W. Griffith silent films, and Rita Hayworth (as Judy) later went on to become Rita Hayworth!

But did any supporting actor ever have a better supporting actor year than Thomas Mitchell did in 1939? He has a fine role here as the visually impaired Kid Dabbs, who worships the ground (and the air?) that Geoff walks (flies?) on. That same year he played Gerald O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, the cynical Washington insider in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and took home the best supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the drunken doctor in Stagecoach. It's too bad Mitchell couldn't have played the Tin Man or the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, too!. Oh, well.



Monday, August 19, 2013

WINCHESTER '73 (1950)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Film 10 of 14)

Winchester '73

Creative Anthony Mann western in that the main character is...a Winchester '73 rifle. It may not be as cool as an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, but it practically turns everyone who touches it into Gollum from Lord of the Rings!

It goes through the hands of several characters: Jimmy Stewart (the main star), Dan Duryea (as a depraved heavy), Shelly Winters (during the very brief time she could still play a leading lady), Charles Drake as Steve Miller, (but he gets offed and loses the gun quicker than you can say abracadabra), Tony Curtis (When he was really still more Bernie Schwartz than Tony Curtis) and Rock Hudson as an Indian chief. I'll say that again...Rock Hudson as an Indian chief! But since Rock is playing an Indian, we know he has to get killed half way through the film and lose control of the gun.

Winchester '73 is my favorite of the three Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart movies on the list for what it's worth.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Film 9 of 14)

His Girl Friday

Many consider this remake of The Front Page superior to the original with the two reporters from that play/movie changed to an ex-married couple (Cary and Rosalind Russell). Ralph Bellamy is on hand once again to provide someone to lose the girl to Grant. The pace of this one is brisk, to say the least, and one of the most enjoyable to watch of the Grant screwball comedies. It does seem interesting that it is Russell that carries a lot of the movie in many of the middle scenes film that Grant doesn't appear in.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

ROPE (1948)

Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Film 8 of 14)


While we are on the subject of Alfred Hitchock movies, I'd like to take this time to welcome a guest blogger for this enty, Mr. Spencer Blohm.

Alfred Hitchcock was, indisputably, one of the greatest thinkers and formal innovators the film world has ever known. He had a knack for taking sensational, low-brow content and treating it with the highest level of skill and attention to detail. He would masterfully employ narrative devices and camera techniques to tell stories that were heady and engaging, however lurid the subject matter.


His film Psycho (1960) is heralded as one of the best horror films ever made. It is also one of the most emulated films of all time, and it established the basic formula for the “slasher” film as we know it today. Among the tropes featured in the film are: the disguised, knife-brandishing murderer; the use of Bernard Herrmann's screeching violin sounds to heighten the tension of the murder scenes; and the erotic themes and voyeuristic elements that we’ve come to expect from these horror films.

The film was produced and financed entirely by Hitchcock himself. The film was shot for $806,947.55, and Hitchcock relied on the crew and facilities from Revue Studios where he shot his weekly television program, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Psycho is infamous for its twist ending and a scene where actress Janet Leigh is murdered in a shower. Norman Bates (portrayed by actor Anthony Perkins) is the strangely endearing and seemingly docile recluse who operates the Bates Motel. We are told that he lives with a volatile and repressive mother. What we don’t realize until the end of the film is that Bates actually lives, from time to time, as his volatile and repressive mother, and is compelled to murder women whom he finds attractive.

The film was based on Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name. The story of Norman Bates was based loosely on the true story of farmer Ed Gein, the murderer who made national news in the late 50’s when police found the remains of bodies and other ghastly artifacts from Gein’s grave robbing expeditions littered throughout his Wisconsin home.

Psycho is still present in the collective consciousness. There is a show titled Bates Motel which recently premiered on the A & E network, and there are countless films which have burrowed aesthetically and thematically from the influence of the film. Here are a few notable examples.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Directed by Tobe Hooper

Labeled the “most horrifying picture” of all time by critic Rex Reed, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a hugely successful low-budget horror film about a family of cannibalistic butchers operating out of a remote house in Texas. Hooper helped to cement the slasher formula: a group of teenagers on a summer cruise end up in a desolate area and get killed off one by one except for “the final girl” — played, in this film, by actress Marilyn Burns. A girl gets hung on a meathook. A wheelchair-bound boy is hacked to bits in the woods. Despite its grisly subject matter, the film relies less upon explicit on-screen violence than it does on trick editing and evoking horrific images. Like Psycho, Chainsaw also drew inspiration from the story of Ed Gein. Watch for a clear nod to Psycho in the scene where Marilyn Burns, frantically pursued by the film’s chainsaw-wielding anti-hero Leatherface, finds a taxidermied grandmother in the attic of the house.


Halloween (1978) Directed by John Carpenter

John Carpenter employs all of the tricks of the carnival haunted house attractions in this classic slasher film. The film centers around the story of Michael Myers who, at the age of six, murdered his older sister on Halloween. Fifteen years later, Michael escapes from the mental institution to wreak havoc on his hometown, the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois.

The film contains several nods to Psycho, and the most interesting one could be the fact that he cast Janet Leigh’s daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first on screen role to play the film’s heroine. Donald Pleasance plays therapist Sam Loomis, whose name is taken directly from a character in Psycho — it’s the name of Janet Leigh’s character’s boyfriend. The film spawned a host of sequels and remakes, and is still treasured by audiences to this day. Story and character development take a backseat to visceral thrills and cheap jolts, but the film, like Texas Chainsaw, stands as a superb example of what independent horror filmmakers can accomplish with few principal actors and very little money if they are cunning. Even though most of the film features Jamie Lee Curtis walking through her neighborhood and looking worried while ominous music plays, the film is still horrifying.
Dressed to Kill (1980) Directed by Brian DePalma

It’s Psycho, but more blatantly sexual, in vibrant color, in New York City, and with Michael Caine as the crossdressing, homicidal villain. DePalma has Angie Dickinson play the Janet Leigh role, and the first murder occurs, not in a shower, but in an elevator. DePalma is frequently called a poor man’s Hitchcock. The common criticism is that Hitchcock handled violence and sexuality with infinitely more restraint than the filmmakers who emulated him -- and that DePalma, and all of the filmmakers who came later, fixated on the most tawdry and sensational elements of Hitchcock films and divorced. But let’s not forget that, in the context of his time, Hitchcock was controversial among the censor boards. DePalma re-appropriates tropes and clichés masterfully, and makes a film that was closer to what Hitchcock might have had license to make in 1980, twenty years after the initial release of Psycho.

Author Bio: Spencer Blohm is a film and entertainment blogger for
Direct-Ticket.net where he covers everything from classic musicals to seventies exploitation films. Alfred Hitchcock is his all time favorite director. In fact, it was Hitchcock who inspired Spencer to start reading texts on film analysis. Spencer lives at home with his two cats (Penrod and Hortense) and he loves dill pickles.


____________________________________________________________________________

Just a couple of words from Chris, a librarian on Alfred Hitchcock's Rope.

Rope is Alfred Hitchcock's famous one-shot (or at least as close as a movie could be to a one-shot movie at the time) story of two Leopold and Loeb type thrill killers attempting to commit the perfect crime, only to come under the suspicion of their mentor Rupert, played by Jimmy Stewart.

The two killers are supposed to be homosexual lovers, but of course in 1948 this couldn't be alluded to directly because it doesn't seem there were homosexuals at that time. At least not in a Hollywood studio movie.

Screenwriter Arthur Laurents makes an interesting point in that there was supposed to be an underlying sexual edge to Rupert's relationship with the boys that may have been brought out better if someone potentially more sexual ambiguous like James Mason had been cast in this part. But with Jimmy Stewart in the role, there is no way you could imagine the guy that played Scout Master Jefferson Smith ever being involved with the two young men in "that" way.

Stewart's role in Rope was not tailor made for him the way Capra's or some of Hitchcock's other movies were, but Jimmy Stewart in anything is worth watching in my book.

And thanks again to Spencer Blohm's contribution to today's blog.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Post 7 of 14)

The Awful Truth

This is the first of a series of popular Cary Grant screwball comedies made during the 30’s and 40’s. Irene Dunne plays Grant's wife/ex-wife/future wife. Poor ole second banana Ralph Bellamy is the Oklahoma suitor to Ms. Dunne who we know doesn’t stand a chance of landing her with Grant around.


There are four Grant comedies on the 1001 list (The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday) and the question may come up whether or not that's too many. I wouldn't, but if you make me leave one out, I might omit The Awful Truth, though I don't really want to do that either.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)

Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Post 6 of 14)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Maybe the corniest (And that's not necessarily a bad thing)of all the Capracorn movies that Frank Capra directed in the 30's and 40's. I don't think Jimmy Stewart has ever been better cast as scout leader Jefferson Smith, who gets appointed to the U. S. Senate as someone who wants to do the right thing, which is in direct contrast to what the political power makers that put him there want. And Jefferson's filibuster is of course one of the most famous moments in American movies.

This is the second time I've seen this film and the first time in about twenty years. Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, I've seen at least twenty times. Viewing Mr. Smith again, I noticed more than a few actors and actresses that appeared in both films. Thomas Mitchell as Diz in this film and Uncle Billy in Wonderful Life is the most prominent. But how about Beulah Bondi, who plays Stewart's mother in both films? How about grumpy character actor Charles Lane, who appeared in both films, as well as seemingly hundreds of others up until his death at age 102? How about H. B. Warner, who went from playing Jesus in the silent King of Kings to the Senate Majority leader in Mr. Smith to Mr. Gower,the troubled druggist in Wonderful Life? You also had real bit players like Dick Elliot who was in both films ("Youth is wasted on the young!" is his most memorable line from Wonderful Life. He later went on to play Mayor Pike in The Andy Griffith Show which I include for no reason in particular.

There are others. I know there are others in both movies...but I'll leave that search to Capra film scholars. I'm a busy man, afterall. I've got a life, you know!








Friday, August 9, 2013

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Post 5 of 14)

North by Northwest

“You listen to me. I’m an advertising man, not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives, and several bartenders dependent on me-and I don’t intend not to disappoint them by getting myself killed!”

This Alfred Hitchcock tale of an advertising man (Mr. Cary Grant) was definitely a challenge the first time I saw it (If I can remember that far back) keeping up with all the twists and turns of the plot. Luckily, several viewings later (even when you know what’s going to happen) it’s still fun to watch the events unfold. You can watch it and say to yourself or annoy the person sitting next to you that hasn't seen it by saying out loud: Here's the scene where they get him drunk! Here's the auction scene! Here's the UN scene! Here's the train scene! Here's the Mount Rushmore scene! Here's the scene where the kid extra puts his fingers in his ears before the shot from Eva Marie Saint's gun goes off and neither Hitchcock, the editors or the studio caught it!

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Grant in the role of Roger Thornhill, so maybe critic Richard Thompson is right. Grant might just be the most important star in film history.

Oscar note: The noteworthy screenplay by Ernest Lehman went up against Ingmar Bergman for Wild Strawberries and Francois Truffaut for The 400 Blows for the 1959 Academy Award and they all lost out to the screenplay for... Pillow Talk. Pillow Talk? The Rock Hudson/Doris Day movie? Really? I demand a recount.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

THE NAKED SPUR (1953)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Post 4 of 14)

The Naked Spur

For those more familiar with the Jimmy Stewart of Frank Capra comedies or Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, it may be a surprise to see him playing a much tougher character in Westerns. In fact, he did a lot of Westerns. The two Stewart Westerns that come to my mind first are How the West Was Won and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. But Stewart also made several Westerns with director Anthony Mann, none of which I've seen before going through this list. Obviously, they are well thought of since three of them are on the 1001 list.

In The Naked Spur, Stewart plays bounty hunter Howard Kemp who is set on bringing in outlaw Robert Ryan for the reward. He has to contend with Ryan's girl (Janet Leigh) and is assisted by his crusty prospector sidekick played by Millard Mitchell. He also has to contend with an dishonorably discharged Union soldier played by Ralph Meeker. This small cast are almost the only people in the entire film with the exception of a few Indian extras. But they don't matter anyway, do they?

The Indians don't matter anyway, do they? The gang has a run in with the Indians that is just about to be handled peacefully until the impetuousness of the Ralph Meeker character leads to a bloody shootout where...well, it's at least bloody on the side of the Indians as most of them get gunned down. Damn Yankee soldier.

The great sidekick that never fulfilled his potential: Millard Mitchell plays Stewart's bounty hunting ally here. He also played Stewart's loyal deputy in Winchester '73. I was curious what happened to Millard, as good movie character actors don't grown on trees. Answer: He died of lung cancer at age fifty in 1953, the same year The Naked Spur was released. So let this be a lesson to you kids: Don't smoke! It could stand in the way of you becoming the next Walter Brennan.


Monday, August 5, 2013

BRINGING UP BABY (1938)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (3 of 14)
 
Bringing Up Baby

In this screwball comedy, Cary Grant plays an awkward paleontologist who gets involved in a quest for a missing dinosaur bone with a flighty rich girl (Katherine Hepburn). Hepburn's pets, Baby the leopard and her dog that wants the dinosaur bone for his own sinister purpose, befuddle Grant even more than Hepburn does.

Bringing Up Baby really shows Grant's comedic ability (physical and verbal) and I actually prefer this one to the more popular later Hepburn/Grant teaming, The Philadelphia Story.

They let them get away with that in 1938?: In a memorable scene, Grant is wearing women's clothing and jumps and shouts that he has turned into a fairy! According to Peter Bogdanavich, the strict censors of the time probably didn't even know the double meaning of the word so saw no reason to cut the line from the film.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

REAR WINDOW (1954)


Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month (Post 2 of 14)

Rear Window

During the 1980's, four of the five Alfred Hitchcock movies that were re-released to theaters starred our man Jimmy Stewart (Rear Window, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rope). In Rear Window, Stewart plays Jeff Jeffries, a photographer with a broken leg and an impossibly beautiful society girlfriend (Grace Kelly) who likes to bitch at him about his lifestyle and talk about eating at Twenty-One. Jeffries has little to do but sit around his apartment and spy on his neighbors, who seem to, luckily for the movie audience, not believe in curtains. We, the viewer, get to put ourselves in the postion of Jeffries, also the viewer, and live vicariously through him. Of course, he witnesses foul play from one of these neighbors and putting together the puzzle pieces as to what is going on is most of the fun in one of my favorite Hitchcock movies.

The stuggling (aren't they all) composer with a drinking problem (don't they all) who at least gets the honor of sharing Alfred Hitchcock's cameo.

The sad Ms. Lonelyhearts. Looking for love. Looking for the right man. Who knows, if this had been a Douglas Sirk movie, she might have been the main character. Of course, by Hollywood standards the part of Ms. Lonelyhearts would have then been played by Grace Kelly, who they would have been given big glasses for her to wear to attempt to make her look "plain," but...I digress.

The mysterious and sinister Thorwald, played by Raymond Burr, long before he started doing Independent Insurance Agents commercials in the 70's.

And last, but definitely not least, Ms. Torso, the ultimate fantasy girl, even for someone who has Grace Kelly as a girlfriend.






Thursday, August 1, 2013

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)


The 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book has an index of all of the directors of all of the films listed within its covers. It’s easy to determine that Alfred Hitchcock (with 18 movies listed) is easily the king of the directors. This made me curious which actor had the most listings. Since there is no similar index for thespians, that proved to be a little more difficult to determine. I figured it had to be an American actor, since there are more American movies listed in "the book" than anything else. Humphrey Bogart? John Wayne? Jack Nicholson? Meryl Streep? Bette Davis?

I then counted up the listings under the man that critic David Thomson called, “the best and most important actor in the history of cinema.” Well, with 10 listings in the book, Cary Grant certainly made quite an impact anyway.

One reason for Grant's many listings is his ability to perform in different genres. They include:

A flair for the comedic: The Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby, The Awful Truth, She Done Him Wrong, His Girl Friday

It helps to be in a few Hitchcock classics: Notorious, North By Northwest

An occasional outing as an action star: Gunga Din, Only Angels Have Wings

And we can even throw in a romance for good measure: An Affair to Remember

And there are some pretty good Grant films that didn’t make the 1001 list: To Catch a Thief, Talk of the Town, Charade, Arsenic and Old Lace, Topper.

So ten listings for Cary Grant. That’s got to be the most, right? Well, I was going to finish all the Grant movies this month, but then I realized I hadn’t counted the movies of everyone’s favorite everyman, Jimmy Stewart.

Stewart also appeared in a lot of notable films in different genres which include:

A flair for the comedic: The Philadelphia Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Harvey

It helps to be in a few Hitchcock classics: Rope, Rear Window, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much

Some memorable outings in drama: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Anatomy of a Murder, The Mortal Storm

More than a few Westerns: Destry Rides Again, Winchester ’73, Naked Spur, The Man From Laramie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

15 listings! I think we have a winner. The 1001 book’s proclivity for listing a lot of old Westerns really helped with Jimmy Stewart’s total.

And there are also some pretty good Stewart films that didn’t make the 1001 list: Spirit of St. Louis, You Can’t Take it With You,How the West Was Won, Call Northside 777

So instead of Cary Grant month, I’m going to do Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart month. Some I’ve already listed is previous blogs, so I’m just going to try to stick with some of the remaining ones on the list. However, I have made an exception for this first posting for Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant month since both star in the classic The Philadelphia Story.

Plot summary: Tracy Lord is engaged to George. Her ex-husband C. K. Dexter Haven shows back up for the wedding. Macauly Conner, the reporter covering the story, falls for Tracy, much to the chagrin of Elizabeth Imbrie, also working on the story. Of course, Tracy is probably still in love with with C. K. Dexter Haven. Farce ensues. (Anyone doing a Cary Grant impersonation should do it saying “My name is C. K. Dexter Haven!” slowly emphasizing each syllable)

The Philadelphia Story is an enjoyable enough farce, but for me it not as much fun as some other of the great screwball comedies (My Man Godfrey comes to mind).

There are some memorable moments, I loved Jimmy Stewart’s drunk scene, for example. And the star power of the three leads of Katherine Hepburn, Grant and Stewart is a force. What’s the modern day equivalent? Julia Roberts…George Clooney…Brad Pitt maybe…Oh, no! That’s Ocean’s Eleven!”

Danny Peary’s book Alternate Oscars takes away Stewart’s Oscar for this film and gives it to Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath. He gives Stewart the prize for It’s a Wonderful Life. If only life worked like this! As long as we're doing Oscar do-overs, let's give Jimmy one for Harvey too.