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:
Romeo/Juliet musical from ballet choreographer Robbins (who directed the Broadway version) and Hollywood’s own Wise, who shared the best director oscar. The movie won ten oscars total, and with its reputation still pretty huge, I thought I’d love it more than I did. In ‘scope and full of color, glad we held out for a high-def version at least.
Puerto Rican girl Maria (Natalie Wood, actually of Russian ancestry but whatever Hollywood) is in love with whitey Tony (Richard Beymer). But she hangs with the PR Sharks, and Tony co-founded the Whitey Jets, and the groups’ leaders (Marie’s brother Bernardo and Tony’s BFF Riff) die in a turf fight. PR Chino loves Maria, reveals that Tony killed her brother. Jets nearly rape messenger-of-peace Anita, who then lies and says Maria has been killed by Chino, who really kills Tony when he runs suicidally into the streets. Maria actually lives, Chino goes to jail and everyone is sad. Most of the songs were quite good though, and the dancing was all great.
Wood was a few years past Rebel Without a Cause and The Searchers, and Beymer would play Ben Horne in Twin Peaks. Riff had been a child star (Russ/Rusty Tamblyn), played the lead in George Pal’s Tom Thumb. Anita was Rita Moreno, star of The Electric Company through the 1970’s. Bernardo was George Chakiris, one of the dancing dudes who likes the Young Girls of Rochefort. Outdoor scenes were filmed not on massive sets but in a crumbling, condemned neighborhood of NYC. Wise followed up with a romance where Robert Mitchum plays a Nebraska lawyer.
Garson Kanin would quit directing during WWII, went on to write Adam’s Rib and Born Yesterday. Written by the Spewack family (Kiss Me Kate) with help from producer Leo McCarey (Ruggles of Red Gap, The Awful Truth). Shot by Rudolph Maté (who’d later direct D.O.A.) and edited by Robert Wise (who’d direct Day The Earth Stood Still, The Haunting and West Side Story). That’s altogether too much talent for one light comedy to stand! It holds up just fine, though
Three years after The Awful Truth, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne again play a couple in trouble. This time it’s not simple divorce proceedings – she has been missing for years, stranded on an island with hunky Randolph Scott (a year before Western Union), and Grant has just declared her legally dead so he can marry young Gail Patrick (the bad sister in My Man Godfrey). But it’s clear from the beginning that Dunne and Grant need to end up back together since, first of all they have kids and this is the 40’s, and secondly Randolph and Gail are never taken seriously by the movie, as romantic mates or anything else. And so that’s what happens, and I suppose Randolph and Gail end up together but I can’t remember for sure. Ends with a bonkers scene, Grant trying to sleep on a broken cot in the attic before he gives up and comes down to join his wife. Something about male stubbornness I guess.
Wikipedia calls it screwball but I think that word is tossed around too much. Bosley Crowther at the Times was in a weird mood, calling it “a frankly fanciful farce, a rondo of refined ribaldries,” also giving thumbs-up to Granville Bates as the judge in two major scenes. Remade with Doris Day and James Garner in the 60’s.
Co-directed with Gunther von Fritsch, but I’ve never heard of that guy.
Watched the first Cat People again, and I still like it. Cool movie. Male lead Kent Smith (later of The Fountainhead and Party Girl) is like a ten-year-old in love, simple and naive, which only makes Simone Simon (who has the most excellent mouth of any actress) more interesting and mysterious. Smith’s character name is Oliver Reed. Oliver Reed the actor was only five when this came out.
Curse, the sequel, has Kent and his friend (now wife) Alice returning from the first movie, now with their young daughter Amy, who is seeing the ghost (?) of Simone Simon in the back yard. Not super interesting movie, and even if it was, I wasn’t paying much attention, but it did have a rollicking Christmas carol singalong. Has a nice spooky part at the end, when the reclusive Old Lady Farren (who the young girl befriends) dies on the stairwell and the woman’s grown daughter threatens to kill Amy since Farren preferred Amy to her own daughter (whom she accused of being an impostor, “my daughter is dead!”). So two “ghosts” in one movie, although clearly daughter Farren is not really dead, and the returned Simone Simon might be in the little girl’s imagination. So, it’s like Cat People, another spook movie that might not contain any actual spooks.
What I learned about life in the 50’s from watching The Day The Earth Stood Still:
Women scream and fall down when confronted with danger
In an emergency, army men ignore women entirely and let them get away.
If a spaceship lands in Washington DC, it’s okay to leave it guarded by two men and some police tape
Scientists necessarily have frizzy hair.
When you ask a US general to summon representatives from every country, the only one they’ll contact is Russia, whom they know will say “no” anyway.
Saying “klaatu barata nikto” can help in a lot of situations, not just when retrieving the book of the dead.
Even aliens believe in God. Lady: “He has the power of life and death” Klaatu: “No, that power is reserved for the almighty spirit”.
Kids say “golly” an awful lot.
The cold war was pretty serious stuff.
Aliens are well-mannered white men.
“The decision rests with you”