Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
Briefly discussed here
The Public Eye (1992) Howard Franklin
Briefly discussed here
Crack-Up (1946) Irving Reis
Previously discussed here
Los tallos amargos (1956) Fernando Ayala
Previously discussed here
Deception (1946) Irving Rapper
Christine (Bette Davis, right) is a pianist who discovers to her surprise that a former lover named Karel (Paul Heinreid, left) has survived World War II. Karel – an accomplished cellist – learns that there’s another man in Christine’s life. No, she’s not married, but she might as well be, since nearly everything she has comes from tyrannical composer/conductor Alexander Hollenius (Claude Rains, center, who steals every scene he’s in). Hollenius feels he can control Christine, even after she marries Karel. When Hollenius agrees to have Karel premiere the composer’s cello concerto, is he setting Karel up to ridicule or something more nefarious?
Deception reunites Davis, Heinreid and Rains from Now, Voyager (1942), and although Deception isn’t a bad noir, it can’t touch Now, Voyager, nor should we expect it to. More soap opera than noir, the film is enjoyable enough, yet was the first time a Bette Davis film lost money for Warner Brothers. Perhaps the best part of the film is spending time in Christine’s apartment, which is to die for. (I won’t tell you whether she or anyone else died for it, however…)
Humoresque (1946) Jean Negulesco
Like Deception, Humoresque relies heavily on melodrama and soap opera conventions, yet I enjoyed it more than I did Deception. In one of her nastiest roles, Joan Crawford (right) plays a self-centered socialite named Helen Wright who thinks violinist Paul Boray (John Garfield, left) is either beneath her notice, someone to be toyed with, or both. It doesn’t matter to Helen that she’s married to a much older man (Paul Cavanagh); she always gets what she wants. Life’s been like that for Helen.
Not so for Paul. We see in flashback that Paul has had to work hard and scrape for everything from his youth. (In the flashback, Paul is played by a young Robert Blake.) After being rude to the grown-up Paul at a party, Helen starts laying it on thick, much to the displeasure of Paul’s mother (Ruth Nelson). Shenanigans, drama, and melodrama ensue.
Humoresque feels more interesting to me, probably because I like Garfield and Crawford so much (not that I don’t like Davis and Heinreid). Although they do stretch out for several minutes, we get at least a couple of complete, uninterrupted works of classical violin music, played with close-ups of the hands of virtuoso Isaac Stern, giving the film (or at least parts of it) an authentic feel. Garfield doesn’t look bad faking it, probably because he had Stern (who was paid $25,000) serving as a consultant.
The film fared much better financially than did Deception. It’s also one of Joan Crawford’s finest performances, her first after winning the Best Actress Oscar for Mildred Pierce and her third Warner Brothers film after she was dropped by MGM.
In a Lonely Place (1950) Nicholas Ray (2x)
One of the absolute greats in the film noir canon, a devastating story of a Hollywood screenwriter with inner demons suspected of murdering a young woman. Eddie Muller mentioned that one element of the film that’s so unusual is that the protagonist in the first half of the film – Bogart (right) – switches in the second half to Gloria Grahame (left). Only a director with the exceptional talent of Ray could pull that one off. An monumental film any fan of noir must see. (Rumors are floating around that the film may see a future Criterion release. Cross your fingers…)
The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) Peter Godfrey
Humphrey Bogart plays Geoffrey Carroll, a struggling painter who painted his first wife as the Angel of Death just before she died. Now he wants to paint a portrait of his second wife Sally (Barbara Stanwyck), again as the Angel of Death. (Do we see a pattern emerging?) The pairing of Bogart and Stanwyck should’ve produced something spectacular, but the longer the film runs, the sillier it gets. As long as you understand this, you might just have a good time with The Two Mrs. Carrolls.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Albert Lewin (2x)
Gorgeously photographed film based on the famous Oscar Wilde story, which I’m sure I don’t need to belabor here. This is the first time I’ve seen the film in at least 20 years and it still looks great. The handful of color scenes are still effective and impressive 70 years later.
Love Me or Leave Me (1955) Charles Vidor
I typically don’t like musicals, but the ones I usually avoid are Broadway musicals, which this is not. Torch singer Ruth Etting (Doris Day, right) is propelled to stardom thanks to a tyrannical manager who is also a Chicago mobster (James Cagney, left). Cagney is magnificent, as is Day, who has several great songs throughout. This is not a light, happy film. Although full of Eastmancolor, the film contains plenty of darkness (literal and metaphorical), softened somewhat by an ending I couldn’t quite buy into.
Young Man with a Horn (1950) Michael Curtiz
Effective story more-or-less based on the life of trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke with Kirk Douglas (center, with said horn) in the role of Rick Martin, a poor young kid who learned to play trumpet under the mentoring hand of trumpeter Art Hazzard (Juano Hernández). Doris Day plays a young singer who has an eye for Martin, but Martin has an eye for the singer’s friend, played by an ultra-cool Lauren Bacall. Young Man with a Horn is a great looking film that never looks flashy, yet gets the job done and is enormously entertaining, as is the case with many Michael Curtiz-directed films. A nice supporting performance by singer/composer Hoagy Carmichael (left) as Martin’s sidekick pianist.
Escape from Alcatraz (1979) (2x) Don Siegel
I first saw this Clint Eastwood movie probably in 1980 or 1981 on HBO. I enjoyed it then and enjoyed it recently, although it’s not nearly as hard-hitting as I’d remembered. It’s totally plot-driven, which is exactly what we expect from a prison escape picture, and Siegel knows how to make it work. Having just visited Alcatraz, watching the film gave me a weird “Hey, I’ve been there!” vibe. I couldn’t help thinking while standing on the island, how crushing it must’ve been for the prisoners to see San Francisco so close (only 1.5 miles away) every day of their incarcerated lives.
The filming took place 15 years after Alcatraz was shut down, so the power plant on the island no longer worked, which forced the producers to literally cable in electricity from San Francisco. The prison itself was in various states of decay, costing the producers $500,000 (close to $2 million in today’s dollars) to restore and paint it to something close to authenticity. Oddly enough, the creepiest feeling while visiting the prison was sitting on those benches in the mess hall.
Escape from Alcatraz is also the fifth and final pairing of actor Eastwood and director Siegel. (Bragging rights if you can name the other five without using the Internet.)
Suspicion (1941) Alfred Hitchcock (3x)
Although it’s not one of Hitchcock’s finest, Suspicion isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon. Shy and sheltered Lina (Joan Fontaine, right) marries handsome but irresponsible Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant, left), who sweeps her off her feet without a penny to his name. But Lina’s family has money… Could Johnnie be trying to kill her for it? Some great Hitchcock moments, especially with lighting and camera placement, but the film suffers greatly from a weak ending that doesn’t satisfy.
I saw Suspicion as part of a local film series called organized by the Annapolis Movie Club and presented by a very knowledgable Ann G. You read more about the group and the series here.
Sunrise (1927) F.W. Murnau
Viewed as part of my 2016 Blindspot series of films, I hope to blog about this silent classic soon.