Claudette Colbert, medium-charming, is paired with Fred MacMurray at his most eagerly straightforward, in a fish-out-of-water movie of cityfolk going country, most famous for creating the oversized characters of Ma & Pa Kettle. There were at least ten more Kettle films plus a TV remake of this movie.
They get a dog, fall in the pigpen, clean up the farmhouse, struggle to impress an implacable chicken buyer, get charity from the bighearted locals, never have any romantic time alone, and endure every first-draft farm-life idea the screenwriters could throw at them. It’s all overstuffed quantity-over-quality, like the breakfast restaurant that stole its name. Fred is seemingly sweet on the rich neighbor (Louise Allbritton of Son of Dracula), leading Claudette to preemptively leave him, but really he’s secretly negotiating to trade in their failing and wrecked farm for her fancy automated one (economics make no sense in this film).
Claudette and the eldest Kettle kid in their fancy plaids:
I’m sad that there’s bird killing in this movie, but at least it’s traumatic to young Bart, who remains gun-crazy but never shoots a living creature again. Going through a teenage Russ Tamblyn phase, he’s sent to reform school for breaking into a gun shop, and years later returns from the army as John Dall (just off playing Brandon-who-thought-he-was-god in Rope). Still gun crazy, he reconnects with his childhood buddies and sees the gun crazy Peggy Cummins (also love interest of Night of the Demon) in a circus. An impulsive Bart steals her away from drunken proprietor Barry Kroeger (Cry of the City) – they get fired, married, and live the high life with absolutely no plan until they end up broke in Vegas, and she talks him into doing holdups. On the run, they’re gonna give up the criminal life after One Last Job, a big one where they get hired by the targeted company and work from the inside. With no traumatic backstory to stop her, Peggy freely shoots civilians during their escape, and trouble quickly closes in when desperate Bart takes them to his hometown to hide out. Such great camerawork, especially in the car scenes.
Mostly I experienced flashbacks of reading this for the first time in one high school’s English class, or performing it in another high school’s drama class. This preceded Lean’s Oliver Twist, which also opens with strikingly-shot whipping-wind outdoor scenes.
Beat out The Ghost and Mrs. Muir for a cinematography oscar, pretty impressive. Standout acting by Bernard Miles (who’d do a Nicholas Nickleby film the next year) as Pip’s decent brother in law, and Finlay Currie (just off I Know Where I’m Going!) as the convict/benefactor… I liked Young Pip better than Adult Pip, surprisingly.
After Blood on the Moon, why not have a Robert Wise double feature? This Robert Ryan boxing drama (premiering just six weeks after he starred in Caught) is something special, taking place in real-time but without the single-shot gimmick of your Rope or your Russian Ark, or the boredoms of your Timecode.
Handsome Robert Ryan is supposed to have been losing matches for 20 years, his girl Audrey Totter (Any Number Can Play the same year) wants him to quit, meanwhile his manager is “throwing” the fight, telling a gangster that Ryan will take a fall, but without telling Ryan, assuming he’ll lose anyway and the manager can keep all the money. Buncha greasy weirdos in this movie, a good sign. Nice focus on the other loser boxers and the bloodthirsty crowd. The happy ending is Ryan winning his fight against all odds, everyone’s mad at him, his girl didn’t show up, then gangsters smash his hand with a brick and she comes and picks him up. Ryan had debuted in the pictues a decade earlier with Golden Gloves, a movie about corruption in boxing.
L-R: Ryan with toady Red (Percy Helton of Criss Cross the same year), manager George Tobias (Greek barber of The Strawberry Blonde) and boxer James Edwards (Manchurian Candidate, The Steel Helmet):
Good-looking movie with a nothing-special ending. Played the commentary for a while – Robert Wise came up as editor, cut Kane and Ambersons, then while working for Val Lewton he started directing, and this was his first A picture. He’s either well-prepared or has a great memory.
Robert Mitchum is set up as an innocent wandering into a feuding town – his camp is wiped out by a cattle herd then he’s given a shitty welcome by a bunch of suspicious fucks led by Tom Tully. Mitchum is just passing through, so they let him drift, but really he’s a hired gun for old buddy Robert Preston (The Music Man himself). But Preston proves to be a villain, and Mitchum falls for Tully’s daughter Barbara Bel Geddes (Vertigo‘s Midge), while her own sister is helping the enemy, whose plot involves getting Tully’s cattle confiscated by the law and buying it back himself. When Walter Brennan’s son is killed, it’s not just a money game anymore, and Mitchum and Bel Geddes (rifleman lovers who met playfully shooting at each other) go out and get bloody revenge.
Wicked Preston and mixed-up kid Phyllis Thaxter:
Opens with a series of insanely awesome process shots as Oliver’s doomed mother trudges through a rainstorm. Oliver grows up in the orphanarium, asks if he can please sir have some more, plays a “mute” following funeral processions, while behind the scenes there’s a scandal-drama involving an amulet that proves he’s from a wealthy family. I took notes on character names and plot details, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find an Oliver Twist synopsis whenever I need. Besides the nice cinematography, it’s just a parade of good performances, actors well-suited to their roles – until Alec Guinness appears as the giant-honkered Jew-monster Fagin. Villain Bill Sykes steals the kid, and after a rooftop chase scene, justice is served.
Something like the eighth filmed adaptation of Oliver Twist, and the last until the 60’s musical version. The kid grew up to direct/produce Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers episodes. Robert Newton, who played Sykes, went on to create the most influential pirate characters in the movies. Oliver’s kindly rich grandpa Henry Stephenson was the kindly neighbor in Cukor’s Little Women. I’m glad to see that even at the time Guinness’s portrayal was considered unacceptable by some – it sure didn’t hurt his career. Kay Walsh maybe overdoes her part, but that didn’t stop her from getting a Hitchcock picture next. Dodger Anthony Newley became a singer/songwriter who’d influence Bowie.
A pretty ok movie, mostly notable for all the definite articles in the credits:
We’re in Russia – all the names and signs and newspapers are in Russian, then halfway through the movie they decided the setting was well established and signs start appearing in English. Captain Anton Walbrook (year after The Red Shoes) visits the card games every night but never plays because he’s determined not to lose. So he visits a creepy bookseller to learn some useful tips:
The creepy bookseller is overdoing it:
Anton learns about a terrible old woman who knows the supernatural secret to winning at games of chance (their big card game is just betting 50/50 on a single-card draw). He pretends to be interested in the pretty girl (Yvonne Mitchell of Sapphire) who works for the old lady (Edith Evans, Ghost of Christmas Past in the Albert Finney Scrooge) by plagiarizing love letters, gets close enough to threaten the old lady, who promptly drops dead, then idiot Walbrook tells the girl his whole scheme. He gets the secret of the cards from the dead woman, wins a fortune then loses it all (and the girl) the same night. Shocktober 2021 Challenge: no more movies from the British, they are simply frightened by everything.
Since Garrick reminded us of Olivier, and Steve was just talking about Shakespeare movies, this came to mind – a very early Criterion DVD I bought on sale and never watched, and now the disc is in storage but the movie’s on Criterion Channel in very nice quality.
Opens with a super sweet model town, this should be the whole movie, minus that typical 40’s movie music that gets so choir-bombastic it overloads everything and just sounds like a dull roar of horrid horns. The play is being framed as a debut performance at the Globe, complete with crowd reaction and backstage shots. Leslie Banks (the Jimmy Stewart of the original Man Who Knew Too Much) returns as narrator before each act. It starts raining at the largely outdoor theater before act 2, then the setting magically shifts to Southampton, the sets in the “real world” looking more fake than the Globe, but it’s nice to get outside.
Olivier’s direction is fine and inventive, but the performances are super-declarative and I’m barely even trying to follow the action, except when Falstaff shows up, dying in bed with sour memories of the King’s final kiss-off speech via voiceover. The change in scenery allows for crowd scenes and big camera crane-ups, but I admit the endless speeches are less engaging without the crowd reactions – but the crowd in the early section was distracting when their laughter competed with the speeches, so apparently I cannot be pleased. I thought the performance style was tuned to the Globe, but once we go offstage they yell just as much, in fact the king’s famous pre-battle Crispin’s Day speech sets a new movie record for yelling. I was surprised to recognize John Laurie – the accent helps. Two women speak French, and either subtitles hadn’t been invented yet or it’s assumed that anyone going to see an Olivier/Shakespeare movie in the 1940’s would know French. Olivier was given an honorary Oscar, after this movie lost all its category nominations to The Best Years of Our Lives.
I mainly know W.C. Fields from Looney Tunes caricatures… his muttering insult comedy is pretty appealing. Not just a harmless old man with a funny drunk routine – when he got creative control of a movie, it turned out mental. He plays a screenwriter for studio boss Franklin Pangborn(!), living out the scenes he’s pitching, while Pangborn interrupts to say these are lousy ideas for a movie.
Fields becomes infatuated with a rich woman in a mountaintop home – she’s played by Marx Brothers regular Margaret Dumont. Unfortunately, the other thing he borrowed from the Marxes is the idea that a comedy should have terribly high-pitched singing. Up-and-coming studio star Gloria Jean plays his niece, who performs painful Snow White scream-singing, and throwing in a shriek-whooping fake gorilla, the movie has unpleasant audio. It ends with a really unexpectedly good car chase, at least!
Fields unplugging his ears after a Gloria song
“The Rival” Leon Errol with Dumont: