I agree that the photos at the top of my recommendations are great photos, that’s why I choose those photos, but the purpose of my blog is to recommend movies, not post photos. So, if you’re going to go to all the trouble of reblogging my posts, it would be nice if you left the words up under them. I get the photos from google. So can you.
Mind you, I am aware that this is the internet and you can do what you want, just keep in mind that I don’t love it when this happens. I can only be somewhat annoyed since they really are great photos, and selecting one that people appreciate is nice, but again, not my purpose. Anyway, that’s all I want to say about that. Carry on.
The Princess and the Pirate (1944) Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan. Dir: David Butler
I am trying to approach this from an unbiased standpoint. You see, I love Bob Hope, he was one of my earliest boyfriends, but I recognize that there are those who do not. The fact that he had his own writing team go over most of the scripts for his movies and write Bob Hope style one-liners and wisecracks doesn’t sit well with those who don’t like his one-liners and wisecracks. I have to say, however, if there is a solid plot present, the one-liners and wisecracks work just fine. The Princess and the Pirate is one of those movies.
It’s my third favorite Hope film. Of course you are asking in your mind, “Well, Jennifer, what are the first two?” I will tell you, but I don’t want to throw focus, so once I do, you must forget. Mmkay? #1 is The Ghostbreakers (which was good enough to be somewhat adequately remade by Martin and Lewis as Scared Stiff) and #2 is Casanova’s Big Night. Now we can move on.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of Technicolor. “But Jennifer, WHY?” Good grief, you’re inquisitive today. Because- and let me preface this with the fact that red is my favorite color- because of the color red. It looks weird in Technicolor, and as time went on, it was abused. The movies got redder and redder and I can hardly watch movies from the 1950’s that are in Technicolor. This, I recognize, is a personal affliction of mine, but if you happen to share this affliction, you will be pleased to know that the visual aftertaste (I just made that phrase up) is not red. It is blue and yellow, but mostly blue. And that’s a good thing because blue in Technicolor is pretty nice.
Okay, ambiguous plot synopsis: you have a princess and you have a pirate and you have a cowardly actor. Guess which one of these is Bob. Guess which one is Mayo. There’s a map and some treasure. There’s a story line about a Princess/peasant romance and running away and stuff. I’m sorry if that wasn’t vague enough, but I’m not at all sorry if it was too vague. You need to believe me when I say you should watch it.
The following is very important to note: My teenaged daughter, who does not like classic movies, saw it a couple of years ago and told me that it didn’t suck. Now, if you convert that review into regular people language and then convert that into a numerically quantifiable expression, it goes something like this: Doesn’t suck = 4.5 stars out of 5. The only rating higher than this on the teenage scale is “it was okay.”
Normally I would tell you all kinds of facts about the film, but honestly, I really couldn’t come by many. I couldn’t find any quotes from the stars regarding the film either. I will have to resort to trivia about the individual stars. I can say that Virginia Mayo, who was lovely and talented and could sing and dance in real life, had her singing dubbed in this and all of her other singing roles. And I can say that Bob Hope turned down two movie roles that ultimately went to Cary Grant (Arsenic and Old Lace, Operation Petticoat). And not much else that the average normal person would find interesting. I mean everyone knows Bob waited until he had outlived George Burns before he died. Okay, no, they don’t know that, but I believe that with all my heart. I think he was like, “George died when he was 100 years and 49 days old, so I’m going to hold off on that until I’m at lease 100 years and 50 days, maybe even 59.” That’s how old he was, you see, and that is the contest that I made up. Let’s completely ignore Arthur Marx’s (son of Groucho) assertion that Hope lied about his age and was, in fact, a year older than he said. And with regard to Walter Brennan, I have yet to meet the person who doesn’t love him.
Look, I know I’m a little scattered in this recommendation, but clearly you must have gotten the notion that you should watch the film, if by no other fact than that I have written about it in my recommendations blog, so really, just watch it.
The Princess and the Pirate comes on TCM today (12/04/13) at 6:15pm Eastern/5:15pm Central.
Gregory’s Girl (1980 according to film titles, 1981 according to everyone else) Gordon John Sinclair (John Gordon Sinclair), Dee Hepburn, Clare Grogan. Dir: Bill Forsyth
Of all the movies I have seen in my life, this sometime-called “coming of age” comedy out of Scotland has had possibly the most profound impact on me. Flashback to the summer of 1982- the summer between 8th grade and high school. HBO got their hands on a copy of Gregory’s Girl and aired it constantly. After the first time I watched it, I checked the schedule and watched it every time it was on thereafter, if I was able. So what if I also recorded it and could watch it whenever I wanted? I did that too but, for some reason, watching something when it is presented to me is more special.
Oh yeah, I started off talking about Gregory’s Girl’s impact on me. Indeed, it was profound. The film is about an awkward teenage boy on his school’s football team (soccer, if you must) and his crush on, and subsequent pursuit of, a girl who tries out for that same football team (not going to Americanize that twice).
There are so many deep meanings and rich undertones in this film, which are, no doubt, why the profound impact that it had on me was so unbelievably life-changing and shallow. Did I say “shallow”? Whoops. What I meant to say was “shallow”.
From a teenage girl’s standpoint, the slight controversy of having a girl on an all-boy team was great. But that’s not what got to me. The relationship between Gregory and his little sister was wonderful. No, that’s not it either. The “well-known (scientific) fact(s)” presented in the film were very educational. Still not what made this movie’s mark on my psyche though.
So, what was it about the film that made such a notable, yet superficial, change in my life, for Pete’s sake? And to what effect? The Scottish accent. And charmingly awkward boys.
Mind you, I had heard Scottish accents before, but only as mimic or caricature, never just “this is how we talk here, no big.” I love no accent better. I never will. The Scottish accent automatically makes a man at least 17% more attractive to me.
And charmingly awkward boys? Prior to seeing Gregory’s Girl, the boys I always liked had been the obviously cute, possibly popular types. Gordon John Sinclair (later John Gordon Sinclair due to there already being a Gordon John Sinclair in Equity) as Gregory was a skinny, gangly even, charmingly awkward and awkwardly charming young man who could easily be classified as a dork. He was beautiful. He opened my eyes to the notion that boys could be uncool and still be attractive. Going into high school, this widened the field of guys I could date to a sizable portion. Or, as it turned out, it widened the field of guys on my radar who would never ask me out to a sizable portion. But that’s neither here nor there. I will always tell myself that was a “Why didn’t you say something?” thing.
I have just one question: Why wasn’t Sinclair sky-rocketed to epic worldwide fame because of this movie? I don’t know. He should have been.
Normally I fill my recommendations with interesting trivia like “this movie was made on a shoestring budget and many of the actors had to wear their own clothes in it”, or “Dee Hepburn (no relation to any more famous Hepburns) was discovered by the film’s director in a tv commercial”, or “Clare Grogan was the lead singer of Altered Images (‘Happy Birthday’, ‘I Could Be Happy’) and the film boosted her band’s career a great deal”, but I’m not going to do that this time out. I’ve chosen to stick to the trivia that it inspired in me instead.
For those who are not accustomed to a Scottish accent, you may want to turn your captions on. They speak very clearly, but Scottish(ly), so that might be an issue for some. Here’s another bit of trivia that I’m not going to include in my recommendation: this film was released to theaters in America, but they dubbed it. DUBBED IT. They felt that Americans either wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t like the Scottish accent. Cretins.
Absolutely DO watch this movie. It is one of the best films that ever came out of the UK.
Gregory’s Girl will be on TCM Monday 11/18/13, at 8pm eastern/7pm central.
Twentieth Century (1934) John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns. Dir: Howard Hawks.
Look at that movie poster. No really, look up at it right now. Does that look like an over-the-top screwball comedy to you? Does the name “Barrymore” mean that the poster necessarily must have his left profile prominently displayed in a dramatic manner? It must. Because it does. However, once you pull the wrapper off the movie (that was a metaphor, folks, I am suggesting that the movie poster is like a wrapper, you see), you basically get a Snickers bar (metaphor again, nobody’s handing out Snickers). It’s sweet and nutty with some nougat. Actually, I have no idea how to draw a parallel to the film with nougat. So just nod and pretend to agree with me and we will move on.
From all accounts, this film could have been something very different than what it turned out to be. It was based on a successful play that was based on a play that was never produced. The studio tried to get other people to write the screenplay but settled on Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht. Two other directors were considered before Howard Hawks. William Frawley was going to be in it but they went with Roscoe Karns instead. Several other women were approached for Carole Lombard’s role. The film almost had its title changed because Columbia was concerned that people wouldn’t know that the Twentieth Century was a train that ran between Los Angeles and Chicago. And the Hays Office tried to get them to take a bunch of religious jokes out. I have no idea who was first in mind for Barrymore’s role but there must have been someone since he didn’t even consider doing it until Howard Hawks asked him to read.
Allow me to toss in an ambiguous plot description. John Barrymore is a Broadway bigwig who takes an unknown lingerie model (Carole Lombard) and makes her a star. They are both well-practiced in displaying histrionics when it suits them (and when it doesn’t) and, surprisingly (sarcasm), their personalities clash. Then other things happen.
Both Barrymore and Lombard can hold their own against each other. They argue and fight on an even ground, though each thinks he/she has the upper hand. It’s pretty hilarious to watch Barrymore and know that his character is a fairly accurate representation of himself blown up to gigantic proportions. Barrymore knew he was kind of a jerk and nobody caricatured Barrymore as well as Barrymore. And Lombard’s performance is what made her a famous comedienne. She was not afraid to take risks and there were all kinds of risks in this movie. Walter Connolly is his usual Walter Connolly self, but Roscoe Karns really stands out as the drinker with all the wise-cracks.
I made mention a moment ago of religious jokes. I make mention of them again because it is unusual to have them in a film from this time. They are irreverent to say the least, and extremely funny. Had they not been funny, there would have been no reason to leave them in when the Hays Office came around.
It is said that this movie is what set the mold for screwball comedies. Maybe, but it’s so farcical, I never really considered it to be one- screwballs are typically more rooted in realistic behaviors and situations than this film. I don’t mind the classification though, and I won’t argue with the experts (expert= someone who is paid to do what I’m doing right now). The most important thing is that it’s funny. It really really is.
Twentieth Century will be on TCM Friday, 11/15/13, at 9:45pm Eastern/8:45 Central
Go West (1925) Buster Keaton, Howard Truesdale, Kathleen Myers. Dir: Buster Keaton
Once again, I find myself having to contain my excitement. I get to talk about Buster again and he’s one of my favorite topics, so I don’t want to come on so strong as to scare anyone away. But, come on!! It’s BUSTER!!!!
All right. Here’s the deal. Buster plays a gentleman who is referred to as “Friendless”. He is down on his luck, sells everything he owns, and rides a train to the middle of nowhere, ultimately ending up on a cattle ranch. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Here are some things of which I have made note in my tiny little head while watching the movie in the past:
Buster Keaton was hot.
He rides on an AT & SF train. That stands for Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe. I cannot see those letters without the song going through my head. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a video for the song. Well, it’s not really a video, it’s a photograph with music playing.
He is very good at knowing where his hat is.
Somebody give him a sandwich.
Sometimes silent film music sucks (may not apply to this version).
Razors are humane.
A little gun is better than no gun at all.
Devil costumes are red.
Buster’s priorities are very much in order.
Now, if you haven’t seen the movie, these don’t mean anything to you. If you have, they might not mean anything, but at least you know what I’m talking about.
This movie contains my absolute all-time favorite reaction face from Buster. It happens when he says something in an effort to impress the rancher’s daughter, she says something back and his face is priceless. If it could be captured in a still image, I would have said image hanging up in every room of my house. It’s that funny.
Facts about this movie that you can read absolutely everywhere:
This was filmed in Arizona and the temperature was often as high as 120 degrees. Since the film could melt, they had to keep the cameras in ice.
This movie was made after Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s fall from public grace and work was hard to for him to find. Buster helped him out whenever he could and actually put Roscoe in this movie to do stunts for one of the bit actresses.
Buster Keaton was hot.
So, okay, maybe that last one isn’t really listed as a fact specifically about this movie. It’s just a general fact.
I am extremely adamant about you watching this movie. Yes, it’s a silent movie. So? You don’t really need people to explain to you what’s going on so much anyway. You’re smarter than that. In fact, I’m gonna say that people who don’t appreciate a good silent movie must be intellectually subpar. This way you will be shamed into watching it, you know like The Emperor’s New Clothes where they said that if you couldn’t see his clothes you were stupid? Yeah, like that.
Vivacious Lady (1938) Ginger Rogers, James Stewart, Charles Coburn, Beulah Bondi. Dir: George Stevens.
Do not watch this movie if you don’t like things that are entertaining and hilarious.
What I should tell you…no, what I MUST tell you, is that this movie contains the best fight scene ever filmed. Ever. And, being made in 1938, that’s saying a lot. And also, it was between two women, and that’s saying a lot more. It’s very funny. You will probably watch it a couple of times before you allow the movie to advance.
This is the film that pushed me over the edge to designate Ginger Rogers as my idol. Well, this and her pig-latin version of “We’re in the Money” from Gold Diggers of 1933 (the recommendation of which is here). Now, because Rogers was a big deal at this point, her legs were insured for $500,000. And because her legs were insured for $500,000, they taped them to cushions and boards during the aforementioned fight scene. Which makes it even more amazing. I’d like to see Brad Pitt try and fight with pillows and wood strapped to his legs in that movie nobody’s supposed to talk about.
Another benefit of Rogers being a big deal was that she was able to pick her co-star. And she picked a guy that she had never worked with before, someone who hadn’t had many leading-man roles previously, someone she happened to be dating at the time- James Stewart. They probably worked better together onscreen than off, since they didn’t marry each other.
Now, after they had begun filming for a few days, Stewart got sick and they had to shut down production. Then he went to work on another movie. They replaced the people who were originally cast to play his parents with Charles Coburn and Beulah Bondi. Bondi ended up playing Stewart’s mother in several movies after this one. I wonder if Fay Bainter hadn’t been recast, would she have been his mother in future projects? We will never know.
Maybe I should take a break from your history lesson to give you a vague plot summary thing. Stewart is a guy with a ne’er-do-well brother who is hanging out in “the city”, clubbing and going to raves and such. Stewart is charged with retrieving his brother and goes to a nightclub to get him. Ginger Rogers plays the girl who sings one song and goes to sit down with the patrons (because that’s clearly how it worked back then). So then other things happen, chaos ensues, families are divided, and then it’s all resolved and “The End” comes onscreen. You move on. Maybe with a happy tear in your eye.
I extolled the virtues of Charles Coburn during Summer Under the Stars in August, with a quick mention of this movie (and its fight scene). So just know that I stand behind every word about him that I won’t be repeating.
I don’t always mention directors in my recommendations, but when I do, I say words about them. So here are some words about George Stevens: Alice Adams, Annie Oakley, Swing Time, Quality Street, Gunga Din, Penny Serenade, Woman of the Year, The Talk of the Town, The More the Merrier, I Remember Mama, A Place in the Sun, Shane, Giant, The Diary of Anne Frank. These words are about him because these are just some of the movies he directed. This is proof that he was awesome. This, on its own, should compel you to watch Vivacious Lady.
But if it doesn’t, we will just go back to my old standby: Watch it because I say so. Because you and I have a mutual trust that cannot be broken, and you know that what I say to you is truer than a lot of things other people say to you. Yes, that is the relationship that you and I have, whoever you are.
Unidentified Movie (1927). Actor, Actor, Dir: Director.
So, Jennifer, why aren’t you telling us stuff about this movie? Don’t worry, I will, but I will not tell you the title, actors, or director, and here’s why: I am not actually recommending it. I don’t mean to tell anyone not to watch it, I’m just not telling anyone to watch it. I only like to talk about movies I recommend here; it’s not a goal of mine to give reviews, especially bad ones. I’d rather talk about what I like than spend time thinking about things I don’t. The thing is, I didn’t completely dislike this movie.
So why aren’t you telling anyone to watch it? I’ll get to that. You’re a little impatient, you know.
I have been wanting to see this movie for years. It has such iconic images and the title’s pretty cool too. I was excited to find it online the other day so that I could watch it in advance of its upcoming airing on TCM. REALLY excited. So I watched it immediately. And I’m so disappointed that I have to write about it. You’re welcome.
I’m not sitting here thinking that nobody is going to guess what movie it is, in fact, I’m pretty sure a lot of people will because of the things I’m going to say about it.
Okay, I’ll just get on with it.
This movie is a lost film that was recreated using still photos and the original script. It’s basically a slide show. And it’s a freaking awesome slideshow. The music is right, the pan and scan photos are great, it really sets the mood. Very creepy, very good. It did the memory of the movie justice.
So, what the hell is wrong with it?? Good question. Let me give you my feeble answer. First, the title has the word “London” in it, but the homes which are depicted in it are country estates. No big deal. Really. Just something I noticed. The main thing is the ending. It doesn’t make any damn sense. Sometimes I think people just end movies when they run out of film. There are things that are not explained- things that need explaining. Not just little things like why they have country estates in the middle of London. Big things. Like why is someone alive when they’ve been dead for five years? And why was it necessary to have five years pass between part 1 and part 2? I will never know the answers to these questions.
I have to say that I did thoroughly enjoy it up to the end but, for me, when a movie has a crap ending, it ruins the movie. And this movie was ruined.
So now that you have deduced what movie I’m talking about, you are welcome to watch it. Or don’t. It will be on TCM at some point this week.
The Passionate Plumber (1932) Buster Keaton, Polly Moran, Jimmy Durante, Gilbert Roland. Dir: Edward Sedgwick
This is my favorite Buster Keaton talkie and I expect to be spending the next few paragraphs telling you why. Before I say all that though, I will tell you what’s wrong with it and why people who don’t like Buster’s talkies just chalk it up to another bad film. I will also endeavor to tell you why it’s not as good as it should be.
What’s wrong with it: It was not a big budget film, even by comedy standards of the day. The writing isn’t consistent. Gilbert Roland was not very good in it. Neither was the violent woman who yells in Spanish.
Why this happened: Buster was on the fast-track to becoming a has-been. Part of the reason for that was because of his arguments with the studio to let him write, produce, or direct his films the way he did when they signed him in the first place. They promised him creative control but they lied. As time wore on he had less and less input while MGM, who controlled their stars like pets, gave him scripts and told him he had to do them as written. His personal life went into a spin, with his marriage on the rocks and then over, and he became a raging alcoholic. It is said that his treatment by the studios strongly contributed to his personal problems. At this point, MGM just wasn’t interested in doing anything beyond fulfilling his contract anymore. They basically ran his career into the ground.
Buster’s talkie critics don’t ever cite specific reasons why they don’t like his talkies, they just say they don’t, exhibiting a tone that indicates it’s Buster’s fault these films weren’t funny. Even if he had played the studio game the way MGM wanted him to, they still wouldn’t have been as good as the ones over which he had control. The studio liked to have complete control. Ironically, or perhaps not, if a film failed, they blamed the star, rather than taking responsibility themselves.
I cannot give you any good reasons as to why Gilbert Roland and the violent woman who yells in Spanish are so bad. I guess they just don’t have all that much talent, though I have seen Roland be competent in other films.
Now, let me tell you why I like it so much, and why one of the things I listed as what’s wrong with it suits me just fine. I like that the writing isn’t consistent. The thing that’s inconsistent about it is that Buster’s character is a nincompoop in one scene, protector in the next, and then smart and sarcastic in the next. Why do I like this? Because it’s the only film I know of in which he was sarcastic. And he’s good at it. The last scene is pretty amazing. The inconsistency gives him the opportunity to show his buffoon side, which is hilarious, and it also makes him a very believable romantic lead.
There are so many hilarious situations in The Passionate Plumber that I can’t see why anyone would completely disregard or hate the movie. If someone had never seen a Buster Keaton movie at all before and they saw this, they wouldn’t sit there with the “His silents are better” bias. They would just laugh. Because it’s funny.
Please don’t deprive yourself of this movie. Give it a chance. I don’t think you will be disappointed.