Friday, April 27, 2012

Guess That Actor! Guess That Movie! Answers

Great guesses, Caftan Woman and ClassicBecky!.

The first photo is of Jack Lemmon. The movie is Phffft! (1954), about a divorced couple who'd rather not admit they'd like to remain together. Lemmon here is ignoring his wife (Judy Holliday). I'll bet ticket sellers all over the country were drenched regularly whenever anyone asked to buy seats for this film.


The second is another Columbia Pictures movie released a year later - Tight Spot (1955). It stars Ginger Rogers as a convicted felon who must testify against a mobster. The lady in the photo is Katherine Anderson who plays Ms. Rogers' prison guard. Ms. Anderson worked in exactly two films and four TV episodes before retiring from the screen. She has an uncanny resemblance to Joan Crawford, with whom she plays in Queen Bee (1955).

Patrick The Great (1945) - Donald O'Connor gets Deanna Durbin's hand-me-downs

Deanna Durbin's playful romp It's A Date (1940) at Universal Studios is an original story written by Ralph Block, Jane Hall and Frederick Kohner. MGM famously remade the vehicle for Jane Powell in Nancy Goes to Rio (1950). Between these two releases, in 1945, another remake was released from Durbin's studio - Patrick The Great.


It's the early 1940s and vaudevillian actor, dancer and movie sensation, Donald O'Connor, is joining the war effort. Universal will soon be without one half of a popular duo (the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland of the lot) - O'Connor and Peggy Ryan. To squeeze as much revenue out of this entertainer as they can before his youth and fame (and possibly, his life) are gone, studio bosses slap together several O'Connor films to be rationed throughout the emergency like meat or vegetables.

O'Connor with Frances Dee and Donald Cook
According to the American Film Institute, the last of these short order films boasts a production date of mid-October 1943 to mid-November 1943, and was released two years later.  Considering that Durbin [who would later work with O'Connor after the war in Something In the Wind (1947)] played in the original a scant three years prior to the remake's production schedule, Universal seems to have been scrambling for material.


The original story makes the gender switch well. Instead of a girl and her actress mother inadvertently vying for the same Broadway role, it's a fellow and his father (Donald Cook). New York Times critic Bosley Crowther deems the film "promising" but ultimately disappointing and "all too familiar." The critic goes on to call O' Connor's aggressive manner "irritating," but he couldn't be farther from the truth. This rehashed story is redeemed by Ryan's and O' Connor's vivacity and charm.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Guess that Actor! Guess that Movie!

Do you notice when the same prop pops up in different movies? I usually don't, but I've watched these two films for the first time within 24 hours of each other.

Two different actors in two different films hold a pulp fiction crime drama called "He Stooped To Kill."


 Who are they? In which movie is each playing?


Signup for TCM's 2nd Classic Film Cruise! January 21-26, 2013

Turner Classic Movies will host another classic film cruise.  This time it's in 2013.

From the TCM email:

Join TCM Hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz for the classic movie adventure of a lifetime! You'll savor five days and nights on board the luxurious Celebrity Constellation—watching films, seeing the actors and talent who made them, hearing their stories from behind the scenes, enjoying special panels, and sharing it all with other passionate movie fans like you.

In addition to a beautiful theater, the Celebrity Constellation offers three dining rooms, the CafĂ© al Bacio & Gelateria, an ice-topped Martini Bar, a world-class spa, a full-service casino, and much more. There will be multiple TCM-themed daily events, nightly parties and numerous activities for every movie fan—all as you visit two beautiful islands!

The wind in your hair…the sea air about you…the silvery light of the big screen dancing in your glass—it's classic movie paradise at sea.

Visit TCMcruise.com today to signup for the Pre-Sale and get access to the best selection of cabins. And be sure to check back often for breaking news and special announcements.

Signup early at the TCM Classic Cruise Pre-Sale here: http://www.TCMcruise.com/presale 

The Pre-Sale signup starts now and runs through Sunday 4/29 at 11:59pm EST. Beginning 4/30, all signups will be randomly assigned booking times, which may be used to book starting 5/3.


TCM shares a 2011 Film Cruise Photo Recap here: http://www.tcmcruise.com/event/event-update/id/489
Read about the previous TCM Film Cruise here: Hitchcock Stars Add Glamour To Film-Buff Cruise

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Lured (1947): Lucille Ball and George Sanders in a Murder Mystery

What a wonderful mystery! It does not succumb to the tried and true, if a bit old-fashioned, story arc of gathering a group of suspects into one room at the climax then naming the murderer. If there’s anything that Lured (1947) wants its audience to take away from this film is that Great Britain’s crime-solving skills are up-to-date, serious and as effective as reality will allow. 

Lured constructs shades of a  modern Jack-the-Ripper story,  with  random disappearing women and a murderous fiend on the  loose in London. This narcissistic law-breaker sends the police cryptic typed poems - clues to his crimes. He’s daring them to outsmart him, to play a little game of chess in his twisted world. 

Post-World War II films in the U.S. and across the pond were often not shy in portraying mentally unstable individuals and trying to get to the root anxiety. This movie is one; the police unflinchingly and carefully delve into the murderer’s psychosis, sort of like examining an unexploded bomb. Soberly, the film emphasizes the reality of not catching a criminal soon enough; showing photos of smiling victims, now-deceased, drives home the danger of the situation. It’s meant to feel real.

Coburn and Ball
Charles Coburn plays a Scotland Yard detective who is thoroughly in command of the case, and of the room. He reminds me of American television detectives  and attorneys of the past sixty years or so – Perry Mason, Laura Holt, Lt. Columbo, Adrian Monk. Just as they do, when Coburn plays his cat-and-mouse game with a suspect, it is very intimate. Having done his homework – matching fingerprints, noticing the typewriter errors on the page, checking the brand of paper used, even consulting a poet- the detective  already knows the answers and carefully encourages the perpetrator to unfurl the confession like a budding flower. Coburn has third billing but we see him more often than any other male; perhaps he should be called the leading man of our piece.

Top-billed George Sanders is, at different times in the movie, alleged to be either a villain or a hero, which leads to some wild shifts in tone. At one minute he’s an admitted (though relatively innocuous) cad, the next a suspected criminal mind. In a whole other twist of tone, he’s playing the main love interest with great sincerity, almost like a little boy with his first crush. 

The famously stoic actor even smiles when talking to or thinking of his lady love - not the sly smirk for which he won the Oscar in All About Eve (1950), but the gentle, genuine smile of a man deeply and irreversibly in love. However, his scenes are sprinkled throughout the film, so you don’t realize he’s inadvertently playing three characters. [And you don’t care because George Sanders can seduce anyone.]

Sandwiched between these two men (in the story and in billing) is Lucille Ball, playing a no-nonsense New Yorker who, after her friend is killed, helps the police lure the murderer by using herself as bait. When the police begin to suspect Sanders, her new beau, she’s torn. In a way, it’s a triangle of loyalties. 

Despite the drama, the scenes of a persistent Sanders gently courting a resolute Ms. Ball are funny and charming, giving a much-needed light touch to the film. Lured is filled with red herrings, perhaps a few too many at two hours and twenty minutes. It is nonetheless entertaining with breathless cameos, stirring dramatic music, beautiful costumes and an actual mystery that the audience is not likely to solve until late into the show.
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