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One of the cool things about retro-watching classic Hollywood films are the secondary screens listing the secondary actors and actresses. For example, take "All About Eve" (1950): And I have to give yet-another shout-out to Edith Head, who has won more Academy Awards (8) than any woman in history (Walt Disney has her beat with 22, which could be a difficult number to surpass): : I know two things about "All About Eve" going into the film: 1) It's one of the most famous movies ever made, and 2) I know nothing else about it. That is a *good* combination - I know it has Bette Davis in it (and also Marilyn Monroe from the above screen - if it's even possible, you might not recognize her at first unless you knew she was in the film (*)), and that it won an Academy Award for Best Picture from 1950, but that's about it - if I were writing a review of the film, you'd be getting a *v-e-r-y* pure critique, but I can hardly call what I do "reviews" so much as "calls for discussion" (because I want to enjoy the movie). I'm on the border of doing a separate thread for Gary Merrill - I've seen him in more than enough things where he deserves one: Likewise George Sanders, who not only plays the entitled critic Addison DeWitt in "All About Eve," but also played the scoundrel Jack Favell ten years before in "Rebecca." I've seen so many of these actors over the past month - Hugh Marlowe (who played Lloyd Richards) was an important character in "The Day the Earth Stood Still," released just a year after this was. And can anyone give a better "eat-shit" look than Bette Davis? *** SPOILER ALERT *** We all "know what happens" at the beginning of the film; it's how we get there that's the mystery. Yet, there are hints and clues throughout the movie (Eve (Anne Baxter) getting caught preening in front of the mirror with Margo's (Bette Davis's) gorgeous dress, for example). Interestingly, the one brash person in the world of Margo - Birdie (Thelma Ritter) - is also the one who plays the fool, and I mean the Fool in King Lear: Pay attention to everything she says in the film so you don't need to watch it twice. (*) This is such a great screen shot - remember my comment above about Marilyn Monroe. You can't really see Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), but it captures the essence of the three females *so well* (remember, Monroe wasn't famous yet, and she has a very minor role, but it still represents her in a picture-perfect way): A very interesting thing I noticed about "All About Eve" is the motif in the theme song, which is repeated in numerous places throughout the film - the first five notes are *exactly* the same as the first five notes in that of "Gone with the Wind." Perhaps my favorite exchange of dialogue in the film, between a furious Margo Channing (Davis, the actress) and an equally furious Lloyd Richards (Marlowe, the playwright). An angry screaming match: Richards: "Just when does an actress decide they're her words she's saying, and her thoughts she's expressing?" Channing: "Usually at the point when she has to rewrite and rethink them, to keep the audience from leaving the theater!" Richards: "It's about time the piano realized it has *not* written the concerto!" One thing about Addison DeWitt, the rogue theater critic: He knows what he's doing. Yes, he's corrupt as hell, but he still knows what he's doing, and only someone so full of self-interest would take the time to do the research that he did, all about Eve. If you understand the symbolism of this final scene, I like you, and want you to be a frequent poster in this forum; if you don't, please keep at it, watch as many great movies as you can, read as much as your time permits, and let's discuss things along the way. Likewise, if you understand why this is a genuinely great motion picture, but possibly a touch overrated, please also be a regular contributor (I don't really know why I'm saying these things, because I want everyone to be regular contributors here). "All About Eve" is a must-see for all serious students of film.
With Hollywood westerns, a little bit of research goes a long way - in my lifetime, I've had more success with this genre of movie than perhaps any other, all because I do a little research before choosing what to watch. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) is the twelfth of fourteen collaborative westerns with John Ford and John Wayne (the first and ninth, respectively, being "Stagecoach" (1939) and "The Searchers" (1956)). It is perhaps the most beautiful western I've ever seen. Loaded with famous actors, every single major and minor star outperforms in this deceptively sad meditation upon grief, love, and any of a half-dozen other basic human traits, all attending a costume party in what is most likely mid-19th-century Colorado, and cloaked as a moral dilemma involving the death of another human being. Never have I seen John Wayne play a more important part with less screen time than in this film. Jimmy Stewart is clearly the star - he has to be - but it's Wayne who completes this movie, and who transcends himself in a role so touching that you may feel your eyes moisten in what is one of the most poignant endings of any film I've ever seen. A death itself cannot be considered tragic (everyone who has ever lived, has died), but certain deaths are inherently more tragic than others, and when a piece of history is buried alongside an anonymous hero, lost forever to the earth, and made known only to an audience who desperately wants to jump inside the screen and construct a proper memorial - that cannot be considered a romance, or an action film, or even a western; it can only be classified as a full-blown tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The next time you and your date are hunting around, looking for a movie to watch, remember this thread: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is required viewing for everyone who cares about great film.
I recently commented on my seemingly non-stop run of good luck with American Westerns, but I've just come across two-in-a-row that I'd say were of the "good-but-not-great" variety: "The Magnificent Seven" and "Firecreek," and this makes me wonder - have I been good at selecting Westerns, or have I simply been selecting movies involving John Ford and Clint Eastwood? One problem I see in "Firecreek" is that there's no strongman (yes, the same can be said about "Shane," but I also didn't like Shane). The lead protagonist is a 70-year-old Jimmy Stewart, and the lead antagonist is a 73-year-old Henry Fonda, neither of whom - even in their physical primes - were particularly imposing. I love both of these actors, but this does conjure up notions of two elderly men shaking their canes at each other in the nursing home. Their age doesn't bother me per se (hell, I'm getting there myself), but we have people being beaten, killed, etc., and there isn't going to be any John Wayne riding into town to save the day. Still, the mere thought of Stewart and Fonda being together in the same picture is enough to give me optimism. Two out of the five bad guys played important roles on "Star Trek" episodes, and it's hard to get their Trek portrayals out of my head: Gary Lockwood ("Where No Man Has Gone Before") and Morgan Woodward ("Dagger of the Mind"): Halfway into the movie, I retract what I said about Stewart and Fonda - the primary antagonist has been Gary Lockwood (by a long-shot), and Henry Fonda has been wounded, and barely even noticeable in the film - so far, this is a classic "Wild One"- or "Born Losers"-type film about a gang coming into town (sometimes on motorcycles, sometimes on horses), and making trouble for otherwise-peaceful people who did nothing to ask for it. I'm pretty sure there's going to be something bad that happens, since there's so much movie left, and Jimmy Stewart seems like the one who may rise to the occasion, overcoming his normally gentle nature (refer to "Straw Dogs"). I'm liking "Firecreek" more than I thought I might - it's not a great film, but it does follow a classic model, and so far, is doing it pretty well. *** SPOILERS ALERT *** Uh, yeah ... something bad happened: Bad guys and whisky don't mix, and they were hammered when I wrote that last paragraph. Man, this "wake" the antagonists have is like something out of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (and I'm talking about the "family dinner" scene) - this is pretty creepy stuff while not completely going over the top. In many ways, this is what I would term a "small film" - a movie that deals with relatively minor issues on a less-than-grand scale. Not a boring, period piece, but just relatively compact in overall size. With that said, the music - scored by the well-known Alfred Newman - is arguably more ambitious than the movie. There are times when you notice the music, but shouldn't, and I'll go far enough to say that in a couple of spots, it's a bit maudlin - when a film's music is in balance, you don't really notice it, but there are a couple of times in Firecreek when you do, and I wish Newman had toned it down maybe just ten percent. The music is good, mind you, but it can be just a touch too amped up for the situation. One example is when Stewart leaves his wife (who is in false labor) and rides back into town - that whole scene is a little too dramatized, aurally, and would be better served by a more pensive score. (Of course, that dramatic music could indicate that something is about to, ahem, happen.) Oh my goodness, my "Straw Dogs" comment isn't all that far off. I don't read critics' reviews until after I finish watching films. I don't care what anyone says - of the previous two Westerns I've seen, neither "The Magnificent Seven" nor "Firecreek" are great, but both are good, and "Firecreek" is the better of the two. [I've now read what scant reviews are out there.] "The Magnificent Seven" is wildly overrated; "Firecreek" is slightly underrated.
Believe it or not, "The Seven Year Itch" is the first film I've ever seen with Marilyn Monroe in it. I see in the opening credits that they'll be using Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto #2 - this could be fun, painful, or anything in-between. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** Speaking of painful, there's the beginning, where the "Manhattan Indians" send their wives and children away to escape the summer heat: RIchard Sherman (Tom Ewell), the middle-aged man left in Manhattan while his wife and son go up to Maine to escape the summer heat, plays his role with comic aplomb. He's got "that face" you've seen before, and I remember seeing him in the Emmy Award-winning, first-season episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "The Case of Mr. Pellham" (Season 1, Episode 10) - I guess 1955 was his Ewell's year. Ewell played this role on Broadway also, so he's well-practiced playing the part (and, so far, a perfect choice). Monroe and Ewell start off (I'm writing this as I'm watching) playing their parts with perfect comic ease - Sherman is hilariously smitten with Monroe's character (who has yet to be named), and Monroe is using that "dumb blond" voice which is making Sherman melt. Oh, and the Second Concerto is put to good use here! It's playing itself, not some corny "theme music," and so far it's working out in the best, most respectful way that I could possibly hope for. I'm only thirty minutes into the movie, but up until the point where he's (role-)playing the concerto in a fancy dinner jacket, this movie is just a *great* comedy, and both the acting and the music are delighting me to no end. And it fades into a "dance" that Sherman does with the building janitor, Kruhulik (Robert Strauss) which is so appropriate at this moment - it's like being forced to take a cold shower, and their back-and-forth really adds something to the hilarity of the moment. When I say "hilarious" and "hilarity," and rave about the first 30-40 minutes of this film; I haven't actually laughed at all - I'm just *highly* amused. Seven Year Itch isn't "laugh-out-loud" funny; it's "little giggle" funny, but it's just *so* well-done to this point, and an unexpected joy to watch - I was prepared for something of much lesser quality: Hopefully, it will maintain throughout the film, and if it does, then it must surely be considered one of the great comedy classics - I know it's "famous," but I don't know if it's "lauded" - I haven't looked yet, and am not going to until the film is finished. Goof: When Sherman runs for the refrigerator to get ice for Monroe's visit, he opens a refrigerator, not a freezer (there's a bottle of milk in there); yet, there's a perfectly frozen bowl of ice cubes. I guess this isn't a "goof" so much as a "who cares" - this movie wasn't designed to over-analyze. Aaannnnnnnd ... there's the second roller skate. This is the second film I've recently seen from 1955 that uses the term "tomato" to humorously (and indirectly) refer to a good-looking girl (the first was "Marty," in the scene where Marty's mom is trying to talk him into going to the nightclub - she told him that she heard that it has "lots of tomatoes" (not knowing what the term meant). Another thing I've noticed from TV shows and films from this era is just how popular soda (I'm talking club soda) was as a mixer back then. Seemingly *everyone* has "scotch and soda," "gin and soda," and so-forth. This has nothing whatsoever to do with "The Seven Year Itch," but I've seen it now probably dozens of times. When Monroe runs for the door to get the Champagne, rewind it and look at her shoes: She slides across the floor about a foot while stopping - I'm not sure if this was a mistake or a planned move, but it took some coordination on her part not to fall (not to over-analyze, but I think based on the way she bends her knees, this was a choreographed move; not an accident). Tragically, Marilyn does "The Tongue Thing." But all is forgiven. The look you make upon discovering Marilyn Monroe is in your friend's apartment: This film is much better than I thought it would be: It's genuinely funny, sweet, somewhat innocent, and just good, fun escapism. To state the obvious, Marilyn Monroe was *great* at playing a ditzy blonde, and I don't mean that sarcastically. Incidentally, Alfred Newman (who did the music) is Randy Newman's uncle.