Thursday, May 28, 2015


(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


(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.


Friday, May 22, 2015


(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


(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. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015


(Post 26 of 50)

Yes, you should see a version of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, the doomed old world romance between Heathcliff and Cathy. But should you see the 1939 William Wyler version with Laurence Olivier? It does have a young Olivier and loads of atmosphere. But it also leaves a lot of the story out, a necessity if you're condense Wuthering Heights into a two-hour movie. But if you want a longer and more faithful version, there's plenty to choose from...But I think you should maybe see this one at least once.

Or maybe you should just read the book. 

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Donald Meek. Englishman Donald Meek was one of the most prolific actors in movies between the mid-30's and mid-40's. He was quite versatile playing all classes and types, with his most famous role being the working class father in How Green Was My Valley. But he could play aristocrats and professionals, like Dr. Kenneth in Wuthering Heights. He also gets bonus points here for being the most likable character in the movie.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


(Post 25 of 50)

It was kind of funny seeing Mr. Deeds Goes to Town after so many years. The plot of a local yokel being taken advantage of by big wigs that end up underestimating him and having the local yokel getting Jean Arthur to fall in love with him could also describe Frank Capra's follow up film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But both movies are fun to watch with lots of laughs, snappy dialogue, the lovely Ms. Arthur, lots of inspirational scenes and certainly both have their share of "Caprcorn." But I'm not complaining. I like Gary Cooper as the everyman Deeds, but I'm glad Capra had to "settle" for Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith. I could picture Stewart doing Mr. Deeds, but can't picture Cooper as Mr. Smith.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Lionel Stander is probably best remembered by some as Max on the show Hart to Hart. But the gravelly-voiced character actor had a career that began in the early 30's and continued through the early 90's, shortly before his death. Some of the movie roles I remember his in include Cul-de-Sac and Once Upon a Time in the West. He is a standout in this early role of Cornelius Cobb in Mr. Deeds. Cobb plays a guy who is trying to help use Deeds at first, but quickly becomes a friend and supporter. I thought almost every line Stander said in this movie was funny. It's also interesting to see him so young, but his comic timing was clearly already solid.

Lionel Stander (sitting), with Gary Cooper and H. B. Warner

Sunday, May 10, 2015


(Post 24 of 50)

When I saw this 1001 listing for an eighty-one minute, Allan Dwan directed, RKO Western featuring John Payne (Payne, not Wayne), I thought it was an interesting choice for inclusion in the 1001 book. The plot revolves around a man who has become well respected in his community only to have a U. S. Marshall come to town to arrest him for murder on his wedding day. Certainly one of the interesting aspects of Silver Lode is figuring out who is going to stand beside him and who is going to turn on him. The plot is simple, but it is a pretty good drama and has some interesting insights into human nature and how easy it is to develop a mob mentality. McCarthyism anyone?

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Dan Duryea. Winchester '73, Scarlett Street, Silver Lode...Dan Duryea really was gifted at playing a slimeball. When he comes to town posing as a U. S. Marshall, we know he's up to no good, but he somehow manages to snooker the town-at least for a little while. His is easily my favorite performance in the movie. 

I'd also like to give credit to two supporting character legacies playing Duryea's "deputies": Alan Hale Jr.(Later the Skipper on Gilligan's Island) and Harry Carey Jr. (whose movie career lasted over a half century). 

Thursday, May 7, 2015


(Post 23 of 50)

After all these years and several viewings, The Apartment remains one of my favorite films. C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) works in a giant New York office where he sits at one of the endless rows of desk which would seem to be a good recipe for making any worker an anonymous drone. The only way to move up for C. C. is to lend out his apartment for the lecherous executives to have a place to take their girlfriends to. Women are pretty much playthings to these guys. The one guy who seems to really respect women and falls for the elevator operator played by Shirley MacLaine is C. C. himself. But C. C. does get a promotion, when he loans out his apartment to the big boss played by Fred MacMurray. But this ends up causing more problems than solving them.

I'm a big Billy Wilder fan and The Apartment has the winning dialogue I associate with his movies. Lemmon is also a very good everyman and I love when he tells a floozy that he is single and she says it must be sad to go home to an empty apartment every night. He wryly responds that he may be single, but that doesn't mean he has an empty apartment. 

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Ray WalstonI could give this to Fred MacMurray as Lemmon's unsympathetic boss, but I'm going with Walston who plays one of the execs who borrows C.C.'s apartment.Walston is brash and he and the other execs schedule their rendezvous at the apartment like they are scheduling business meetings. 

It's certainly not the most memorable role in the film, but Walston is so unflappable in his arrogance, that he comes across as funny and likable despite himself. I grew up watching Walston in the 60's as Uncle Martin in the more that likely dated show My Favorite Martian. But I certainly loved the show when I was four! I was surprised to see that Walston was never nominated for an Academy Award. I would think that his movie stealing 1958 roles in Damn Yankees! and South Pacific would have been good for at least one nod! Walston's later roles included Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Mr. Boothy the caretaker in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picket Fences and some pretty funny AT & T commercials.

Monday, May 4, 2015


(Post 22 of 50)

The obvious similarities between Some Came Running and From Here to Eternity are that both films star Frank Sinatra and both are based on books by James Jones. They both have more than a few elements of soap opera in the story. But I do like Some Came Running, mostly because it seems to be so much a creature of its time. It's a story that wants to get deep into its plot of adultery, alcoholism and a little bit of teen rebellion thrown in, but due to the standards still in place at the time, the story can only go so far. I didn't mind that too much. I liked the teaming up of Sinatra and Dean Martin here and this is generally acknowledged as their best film together. The young Shirley MacLaine's sympathetic floozy also scores some points. The multi-layered plot doesn't tie up as many of the loose ends as I might have liked, but there you have it.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Arthur Kennedy. Five-time Oscar nominee (and never a winner) Kennedy was a reliable supporting actor during Hollywood's golden age, even scoring a Best Actor nomination in a lead role for Bright Victory, a film I saw many moons ago. But generally speaking, his roles were of the supporting variety. In Some Came Running, he plays the returning soldier's older brother who is the responsible one in the family, but has a load of problems of his own including: keeping up his banking business, maintaining his place in his community, dealing with a coming of age daughter and tolerating his really bitchy wife. When he becomes involved late in the film with his pretty secretary, I for one can't blame him. 

Friday, May 1, 2015


(Post 21 of 50)

It has been many years since I've seen To Be or Not to Be, and after watching it again, I think it is rightly regarded as a classic. The story is about a company of Polish actors during the time of the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. The plot is thick with intrigue, but most of all it's also a very funny film. The cast is headed by Jack Benny. Jack later became one of the biggest stars on television during the 50's, where he always made fun of his movie career. But he is great in the lead role and very funny. His delivery at times reminds me of Groucho Marx, who is about the only other person I could picture playing this role of the hammy actor. This is also the last role for Carole Lombard, who died in an airplane crash shortly after this movie was made. She was also great here and her death was a great loss to cinema. I also like the fact that this movie came out right in the middle of World War II. Something to be said for mocking Hitler when he was still a force to be reckoned with. Much credit should also be given to director Ernest Lubitsch and screenwriters Melchior Lengyel and Edwin Justus Mayer. 

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to...Sig Ruman. German born Ruman played a great comic foil in many films, including the classics A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Ninotchka and Stalag 17. In To Be or Not to Be, Sig is a Nazi that just can't seem to get his facts right and despite his best efforts always seems to be duped. A couple of his scenes with Benny are real classics. His Colonel Erhardt seems like it may have been used a model for the incompetent Colonel Klink in the 60's TV show Hogan's Heroes.